Photo: Daniel Mendoza/Recording Academy
Exclusive: David Guetta Goes Inside Hot New Sia Collab "Flames"
Rewind to 2011: Superstar David Guetta released his fifth studio album, Nothing But The Beat, and one of the LP's infectious singles, "Titanium," featured pop genius Sia, who at that point had just retired from her career as a recording artist to focus on being a songwriter. Co-written and produced by Guetta, along with Giorgio Tuinfort and Afrojack, the song hit the top 10 on charts all over the world, including landing at No. 1 on Billboard's UK dance and UK singles charts.
Clearly, there was something special about the synergy between Sia and Guetta. On March 22 Guetta released a new collaboration with the beloved Australian singer/songwriter, "Flames," which proves their magic musical connection is unwavering.
"We've been working very often together, with Sia, in different ways. Sometimes she's writing on my music or sometimes I'm producing around her song," Guetta told us in South Beach during Miami Music Week. "So this time it was like that. She sent me that song and I loved it."
Guetta's production style is often credited for bringing dance music sensibilities into the pop realm, most notably with his breakout Black Eyed Peas' collab, 2009's "I Gotta Feeling," which blew opened the door for pop records to integrate EDM elements. But finding the right match is not always automatic, even for Guetta.
"It took me a minute to find the right approach to ['Flames'], and I'm very happy with it. That funky bass line, I love," says Guetta. "It's a little bit like I did in 'Dangerous,' the previous record I did. It has that French touch feeling."
For her part, Sia's raw talent and je ne sais quoi actually presents somewhat of a challenge for Guetta, who has to dig deep to discern if what he's hearing is the magnetism of her voice or the makings of a true pop hit.
"Anything she does I love. It's almost hard for me not to like anything that she's singing," says Guetta. "It's funny actually because when we were in the studio, especially around the time of 'Titanium,' she was not the huge star she is now — she had this thing in her that was not out yet.
"We would make four songs a day — it was insane and the thing is everything sounded amazing. … When I'm listening to the song I always try to say, 'What if it wasn't her singing? Would I still like the song?' Because, if you want to know if it's a hit, anybody has to be able to sing it and to relate to it. And of course, not everybody can sing the way she sings."
As a master collaborator, Guetta has learned many of these techniques to take the awe-inspiring talents of some of music's biggest stars such as Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Usher and harness them into an effective accessible record. But his respect for Sia's ability is so strong that it presents a unique production challenge, albeit one every producer would love to have.
"Not only is she a genius songwriter, but she's also an incredible singer and also the way she does her harmonies is completely mind-blowing," Guetta says, still glowing. "I feel like she could sing the phone book and it would be amazing, and plus her lyrics are insane. So when you have the voice the melody and the lyrics, then my job is quite easy, you know?"
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The Frenchman certainly has made things look easy for some time. For two years running, he took home the GRAMMY for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical at the 52nd and 53rd GRAMMY Awards for "When Love Takes Over (Electro Extended Remix)" and "Revolver (David Guetta's One Love Club Remix)," respectively.
"If you want to know if it's a hit, anybody has to be able to sing it and to relate to it." — David Guetta
"There was a lot of hype around me at the moment because I was changing not only the music in my scene but pop ... because I was the one representing this new wave of music. I think this also helped me," Guetta reflects. "I have many awards, but I don't put them all [on display], but the GRAMMYs, definitely. Actually, when I had No. 1 DJ in the world and the [two] GRAMMYs, those are the three."
This weekend, Guetta will headline Ultra Music Festival in Miami, delivering the Sunday night closing set on the festival's main stage. From the perspective of an artist who was seen dance music go through many changes, Ultra has emerged as one of the scene's most special gatherings.
"I have to say that Ultra has managed to become so important that [all the DJs] prepare our set like [nowhere else] in the year. I have those two moments, probably for Tomorrowland in Europe and for Ultra in America — we work days, sometimes weeks, on that DJ set. I see it as like a fashion designer, a new collection. You're presenting your new music."