Seven years ago, the kids couldn’t get enough of arena-ready electronic dance music. Scan the Hot 100 today, and the subgenre looks like an endangered species.
So producers who once waltzed to the top of the charts have been forced to drastically change their approach. Some have been trendy: The Scottish titan Calvin Harris made an album composed entirely of rap and R&B, bowing to the genres that own the streaming-verse. Others have been bold: Skrillex re-made himself as behind-the-scenes Top 40 player with unexpected melodic sensitivity (see Justin Bieber’s “Sorry”), finding other ways to sneak his music into arenas.
French DJ-producer David Guetta hopes to be both trendy and bold with his new double album 7. The first part is business as usual, stuffed to bursting with the type of cross-genre collaborations that made Guetta a global star. Afro-house is now an international dancefloor presence, so South African producer Black Coffee shows up on “Drive.” Reggaeton appears more unstoppable with each passing month, so Colombian superstar J Balvin takes the lead on “Para Que Te Quedes.” Lil Uzi Vert phones it in on behalf of the disruptive SoundCloud rap generation on “Motto.” There appears to be no musician who doesn’t fit, somehow, in Guetta’s collaborative Venn diagram.
That includes a producer named Jack Back, the man responsible for the second half of 7 — hammering, mostly instrumental tech-house; less varied than part one, though more utilitarian. Jack Back released one single in 2012 and then vanished. He reappeared in August with several new songs. His identity remained unknown, or at least, not officially proclaimed.
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Until last week’s big reveal: Guetta and Jack Back are one and the same. The producer celebrated the announcement by releasing the Jack Back Mixtape. All 12 of those songs now reappear as the second part of 7. It would have been bolder, of course, if Guetta had dropped an album under a fake name and kept his identity secret. But there’s no point in being bold when there’s money to be made by hedging bets.