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In this country, even the most prominent DJs can walk the streets without attracting attention — and most of them like it that way. But in his native France and much of Europe, David Guetta is on another level entirely. There he's a mainstream celebrity, thanks to hit singles such as 2001's "Just a Little More Love," cameos in ads for products like L'Oreal hair gel and public appearances with his striking wife, Cathy. The two have been called clubland's version of David and Victoria Beckham, and Guetta would love to replicate this renown stateside. "Hopefully it is going to become the same in America one day," he says, his thick accent animated by a buoyant laugh.
Pop Life, Guetta's latest CD, is an unabashed bid to affect a crossover globally as well as locally. "Love Is Gone" and "Delirious" merge dance-music sensibilities with big hooks and accessible melodies, and the disc's packaging features flashy images of Guetta as shot by Jean-Baptiste Mondino, among Madonna's favorite videographers. Clearly, the DJ has come a long way since the late '80s, when he spun house music at venues known only to scenesters — but that doesn't mean he rejects dance sounds with less populist aspirations.
"There's still a very strong underground scene, even in Europe," he points out. "What I always wanted to do is, at the same time, stay faithful to my community, but also put this music where it should be — as strong and as solid as hip-hop or pop or rock. And I think in order to do this, you need to, of course, produce good music, but also come with some good videos and good pictures for the cover of your album."
Guetta understands the importance of image, and he's used it to his advantage throughout his career. He and his wife made their reputation as star magnets via Le Bain-Douche, a Paris club run by the couple that attracted what he describes as "a mix of glamorous people and really crazy ravers," and expanded the concept with events in Ibiza staged under the banner "Fuck Me I'm Famous." The name "was a way to take the piss out of my own lifestyle," Guetta says, and plenty of luminaries, including attendees from Diddy to James Blunt, apparently get the joke. According to Guetta, "You can be nasty with the people you love."
Whether the American public will prove just as accepting remains an open question. Guetta, though, has seen positive signs during appearances on this side of the pond, "with people knowing the words and there being a really big interest from the people." For that reason, he says, "I don't see why this place would be the only one where dance music is so underestimated."
Visit Backbeat Online for more of our interview with David Guetta.