Most U.S. audiences’ first encounter with French DJ David Guetta came via his production work on Black Eyed Peas’ ubiquitous 2009 single “I Gotta Feeling,” a song whose influence has since rippled out through the pop landscape. Appropriately, any of the 12 songs on the first disc of Guetta’s two-disc Nothing But The Beat could be a radio single, each a spit-shined earworm featuring a cast of familiar Hot 100 faces like Nicki Minaj, Flo Rida, Akon, Usher, Chris Brown, and more getting steamrolled by Guetta’s aggressive beats and soaring synth lines. (The second, instrumental-only disc is a more pure distillation of Guetta’s stadium-sized electro-house aesthetic, though it’s no subtler or less exhausting.)
The album’s title is apt, as artists who might enlist Guetta in service of a hit single are reduced to robotocized session singers on mostly interchangeable club anthems. A shamefully neutered Snoop Dogg is the biggest victim of Guetta’s sonic pummeling on “Sweat,” and while Minaj gets in a characteristically wack-a-doo verse on “Where Them Girls At,” she’s later relegated to the faceless-disco-diva role on “Turn Me On.” Timbaland and Dev’s stuttering, dispassionate contributions to the seedy “I Just Wanna F” stand out from the pack, but it’s more blemish than embellishment. Of Guetta’s deep guest roster, only Sia and Jennifer Hudson manage to keep their heads above the waves of synths on “Titanium” and “Night Of Your Life,” respectively, by amping up their vocals to match the outsized beats. Nothing But The Beat is obsessed with the sex, swagger, and sensation of club culture, and taken individually, its songs are well-made, euphoric paeans to the dance-floor gods; but a deficiency of texture and emotional build causes them to blend into a predictable, exhausting murk of smoke and lasers.