Musical trends come in waves. At one point, a certain “it” sound pervades the radio waves, and in roughly five years’ time, it passes back down for another preference to emerge. Right now, house music has reached this metaphorical apex, but rather than in the form of your standard garden-variety club track, which hasn’t disappeared since the 1980s, the beats and synths have ingratiated themselves in the form of pop production.
That’s not to say, from an electronic music perspective, that every house-influenced pop song is great. In fact, a large percentage of them simply don’t get “it.” Standard producers attempting the trend and failing slightly, however, are forgivable; after all, they’re attempting to hack it out in an unfamiliar terrain. Those with house credentials behind them (looking at you, David Guetta) turning in a turgid track, on the other hand, have no excuse.
So, out of all the house-influenced pop tracks out there, which ones are worth listening to, and which ones aren’t?
1. Usher – “Climax.” In interviews, Usher repeatedly emphasizes that this song isn’t about sex. What he should be emphasizing is Diplo’s role in the producer’s seat. A slower house-influenced effort, “Climax” isn’t bombastic and shows that Diplo can make an interesting track with restraint.
2. David Guetta – “Night of Your Life,” feat. Jennifer Hudson. Aside from a somewhat-unusual turn from Hudson as a disco diva, “Night of Your Life” seems to pull out all the house music clichés: thudding beats, sizzling synths, and anthem-worthy belted lyrics. Yet, this is the formula Guetta uses on most of the first disc of Nothing But The Beat, but unlike “Titanium” and “Turn Me On,” “Night of Your Life” sounds dance floor appropriate without the remix treatment.
3. Madonna – “Girls Gone Wild.” Ale and Benny Benassi produced this one, and Avicii did a killer, if not better, remix of the track. A good deal of Madonna’s back catalog is dance floor-friendly, but the house vibe is (inevitably) turned up on this track. The cheesy effects, fortunately, are nonexistent.
4. Rihanna – “We Found Love.” Excluding the “Tainted Love”-sampling “S.O.S.,” most Rihanna singles are better pop songs than dance floor jams. Calvin Harris, however, was behind this one, and this pop song sounds more like a collaborative effort.
1. Black Eyed Peas – “I Gotta Feeling.” Although this track is considered the catalyst of the entire modern pop-house sound, it’s one of the weakest. If David Guetta weren’t attached to it, could it even be considered a crossover track? Worse, it essentially resulted in the most annoying act in hip-hop producing two electronic-influenced albums.
2. David Guetta – “Where Them Girls At.” Grammar in the title aside, this track embodies the two aspects pervasively wrong with house-influenced pop: multiple guest appearance and a house track that doesn’t sound like house. A boring music video that features a bubble floating around Los Angeles doesn’t help, either.
3. Benny Benassi – “Spaceship.” What happened, Benny Benassi? True, you made Madonna’s “Girls Gone Wild” better than it likely should have been, but this song, with three guest artists and lyrics laughably bad for dance music, became the gateway to eventually collaborating with Chris Brown.
4. Skrillex – “Breakin’ a Sweat,” feat. The Doors. When doesn’t a collaboration work? When your sounds and the guest artists’ are the musical equivalent of oil and water. Skrillex’s brand of grimy, dark dubstep works well in many instances, but “Breakin’ a Sweat” is not one of them.
5. Flo Rida – “Good Feeling.” What do you do when you can’t get a reputable electronic music producer in the studio? You sample a track and rap over it. Essentially, “Good Feeling” is Avicii’s “Levels” with some lyrics on top. There are some songs that just shouldn’t be touched, and Avicii’s recent anthem should be kept in its lyric-free state.