The first track I heard from Listen was Lovers On The Sun, and I didn’t know at first that it was Guetta. Indeed, I was rather enjoying the formidable guitars and atmospheric whistles, I thought overall it was an extremely listenable piece of American-influenced alt. But then, like some pathogenic swarm, the typical Guetta synth bleeps started to seep in after the chorus, eventually giving way to a drop that grotesquely dismembered all the redeeming features of the song’s prelude – it was like something out of a Ridley Scott film. I haven’t yet recovered from the trauma.
Listen is dross, its only redeeming feature being the cover art that makes Guetta look like Grigori Rasputin’s socially awkward younger brother. From the moment you move away from the visual and click ‘play’, the experience is dire. Each track, no matter what the opening context may establish it as, descends into monumentally banal beats and electronic timbres that border on the sonically insulting, the sort of sounds you find in the dark depths of one of those Yamaha keyboards they had at school. It’s as if Listen is out to repeatedly hoodwink the listener, pulling you in with the promise of a decent track - whether that be the riddim of No Money No Love, or the balladry of What I Did For Love - before unmasking itself as obnoxious EDM landfill. A significant part of the anger this album will cause is that Guetta seems hell-bent on giving a middle finger to the listener in each and every song.
Furthermore, lyrically, the album is dreadful. The content varies - some is generic and soulless, as exhibited in Bang My Head (Titanium Rip Off #1: “You won’t fall / You will rise above it all”) and Lift Me Up (Titanium Rip Off #2: “Lift me up / Don’t bring me down / I don’t want to be down”). Meanwhile, other tracks are downright abominable, whether that be the inherently dubious simile that forms the basis of Lovers On The Sun (“We’re burning up / We might as well be lovers on the sun”), or the laziness of No Money No Love (“It’s no money, no love / In case you want to hear it again / It’s no money, no love”). Whilst I appreciate that Guetta, in his heyday, was never renowned for profundity, I can’t help but feel that this is slapdash work, even for him. This is only made more obvious considering the terrible nature of the accompaniment.
The consolation for Guetta and his cronies in the past has been the fact that there will always be some people who will lap it up. We all have that housemate who, for some bizarre reason, decides that the playlist on Thursday Arena is the sort of stuff they want to hear on their way up to Campus. But even for this type of connoisseur, I think Listen will be a stretch, as its inadequacy really exposes Guetta’s Day-Glo EDM for what it really is – that being tiresome, cookie-cutter kitsch. If, as I suggested earlier, this is Guetta giving the public a resounding F*** You, then the title is indicative of this. I imagine this modern Rasputin is somewhere, laughing his head off over the fact that someone could be stupid enough to heed the titular advice – to ‘listen’, and subject themselves to this eighteen-track (EIGHTEEN-TRACK!) opus of audio torture.