The story of David Guetta: Dance music’s ultimate chameleon

Continuing to flow his way through multiple genres, including his Jack Back alias, David Guetta remains as pivotal and relevant to modern dance music in 2019. One of a small selection of DJ/producers who have managed to adapt to musical trends as the decades have flown by, the French icon’s shapeshifting tendencies have seen Guetta come full-circle from a career that was kickstarted by spinning vinyl on the terrace of legendary Ibiza superclub, Space.

We Rave You takes a closer look at David Guetta: Dance music’s ultimate chameleon.


Releasing his debut single ‘Nation Rap‘ a full 29 years ago, it was David’s first studio album in 2002 which really caught the ear of primetime consciousness. During an era where dance and pop were yet to fully perform the mainstream fusion we’ve witnessed since, flirtations with the likes of Alice Deejay‘s ‘Better Off Alone’ or Positiva anthem ‘Toca’s Miracle’ had threatened to catapult the royalty of the White Isle into bonafide popstar status. Spotting the opportunity to step into the gaping spotlight, Guetta’s album included the now iconic hit ‘Just A Little More Love’. A star was born, though the genre still bubbled vivaciously under the surface of daytime radio.

By 2006, productions like Mylo & Miami Sound Machine‘s ‘Doctor Pressure’ and Joey Negro‘s ‘Make A Move On Me‘ were warming the skin of what proved to be a sizzling summer heatwave with both the Met Office, and the birth of the ‘EDM’ movement as we know it now. Teaming up British dance band The Egg for a reworking of his ‘Love Don’t Let Me Go‘ production, Guetta soared to the top of the dance charts worldwide, paving the way for releases from Fedde Le Grand (‘Put Your Hands Up For Detroit‘) and Axwell (‘I Found U’). However, it wasn’t until the scene exploded at the tail-end of the noughties’ first decade that dance music – and Monsieur Guetta’s career – was catapulted into the mainstream in a way never seen before.


With acts like Swedish House Mafia and Calvin Harris helping to merge the lines between dance and pop, and within weeks, tracks like ‘Miami 2 Ibiza’ and ‘I’m Not Alone’ were dominating the summits of charts worldwide, with lyrics being bellowed across the dancefloors of commercial clubs and student unions on Saturday nights, weekly. Sensing a shift in momentum for the industry, David scored 3 consecutive UK number #1 singles in the space of just 2 months via the releases of ‘When Love Takes Over’, ‘Gettin’ Over’, and ‘Sexy Chick.’ Though many corners of the industry criticised Guetta for amalgamating the lines between R&B, and dance, through collaborations with acts like Kelly Rowland and Akon, the fact remains – David proved himself an innovator during a time of change, and shaped the course of music forever.


Fast-forward to 2011 and Guetta had now become the poster-boy of an entire movement which encapsulated airwaves across Europe – where David was now hosting his mammoth ‘F**k Me I’m Famous‘ residency at Pacha Ibiza – and more importantly, North America. Keen to prove that the success of his ‘One Love’ album was no one-off, Guetta’s follow-up ‘Nothing But The Beat‘ cemented a spot as (still to this day) his most iconic release of all time.

Packing in collaborations with an all-star ensemble including Sia, Nicki Minaj, Usher, Chris Brown, Snoop Dogg, Ne-Yo, NERVO, Jessie J, Daddy’s Groove,, Taio Cruz, Afrojack and Jennifer Hudson, the album also birthed ‘Titanium‘ and ‘Sunshine’, the latter a project alongside the fast-rising new superstar of dance, Avicii. For Guetta, his greatest skill through a triple-decade career has not been the ability to craft long-lasting house music, nor to captivate crowds during live shows, but knowing when to reinvent his image based on current music trends in the same way Madonna‘s longevity in the world of pop flourished by following such a mantra.


It’s not all been plain-sailing for the Parisian, though. Shortly after the release of his 2014 album ‘Listen‘, an album clearly inspired by the country-fused melodies of the Swede’s groundbreaking ‘True‘ production, the foundations of Guetta’s standing in dance folklore started to look a little more shaky than ever before. A viral video of a spaced-out Guetta on the Tomorrowland mainstage soon spread worldwide in a flash, the superstar – eyes gazing firmly into the distance – cutting a forlorn figure following the recent divorce from his wife Cathy.

When awarded the honour of opening the Euro 2016 football tournament in his native Stade de France, Guetta’s legacy was plunged into further ridicule with another hugely popular video showcasing the internet’s cruel yet faceless style of ‘humour’ in which the producer was mocked for his apparent inability to mix; a myth soon dispelled by those had been there for his meticulously planned sets on the wax of a jam-packed vinyl collection in Ibiza many decades previous.


Kickstarting his battle against the haters in the only way he knew, David continued to let his music do the talking. Taking on a second Ibiza residency with his aptly-named ‘BIG‘ shows at Ushuaïa, fans were quick to notice a deeper and darker tone to the Guetta live show experience, with the Frenchman even dropping the techno-peppered flavour of Adriatique‘s ‘Voices From The Dawn‘ during his mainstage set at Ultra Music Festival in Miami during early 2018. Noticing the huge fan reaction to his gritty style, Guetta gave birth to brand-new alias, Jack Back, a home for his deep-house, techno, and tech-house leaning productions.

Alongside the release of his latest studio album ‘7’, where Guetta once again aired his passion for current musical trends, adopting a heavily Latin-feel via collaborations with Saweetie and global superstar J Balvin, David released a ‘B-side’ mixtape packed with one continuous 12-track DJ mix from ‘Jack Back’. Scoring universal acclaim throughout the industry, the release soon saw several Jack Back singles signed to iconic imprints such as Defected and Toolroom Records; labels who, previously, would have dare never touch a David Guetta record.

By the time he appeared with his fellow ‘How Soon Is Now‘ collaborator Sebastian Ingrosso during a surprise night at ADE in late 2018, Guetta had once again twisted the entire industry back around his little finger, and with his universal popularity rising to levels never seen before, had once again secured his title…

David Guetta: Dance music’s ultimate chameleon.


(BA Hons Journalism), 30, London. NCTJ-accredited journalist and dance music lover specialising in interviews, features, editorial work, and reviews.

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