To hear David Guetta tell it, Nicki Minaj's singing voice is as shocking as being struck by lightning after being crushed by a meteorite. Oh man. How will the club cope with another David Guetta song or a pop-oriented rapper doing a hook? Granted, it's hard to blame Guetta for hyping up "Turn Me On," as his past few singles registered not a volt of shock, and Nicki Minaj doing a guest verse is even less surprising. But he's setting awfully big expectations here. Can he deliver? Listen to "Turn Me On" below:
Turns out David Guetta hyped the wrong thing; he's finally remembered how to write a song. "New" is a relative term, because "Turn Me On" could be a more straightforward "Judas," its sound decluttered to make room for dance-music soars and comedowns. Anyone who's ever been to a club knows how it works: keep things quietly simmering on the verses, turn up the heat so you can suddenly shut it off as your vocalist roars out of the steam, willing hands into the air and summoning a chorus out of nothing. They're dynamics by template, but for a while, it seemed like Guetta forgot what dynamics even were.
But back to that vocalist. Nicki Minaj doesn't have an extensive track record with singing. "Super Bass" was mostly Ester Dean's doing, and "Your Love" was nearly sunk by its sung lines. The Internet hasn't quite figured out whether we're hearing Ester or Nicki here, but whoever's singing isn't doing it well. The autotune doesn't enhance her voice so much as drip over it, leaving crackles and fractures everywhere, and when she soars, she's encumbered by the weight of all these digital artifacts. Autotune, used well (and it can be used well), can make a diva sound impossibly huge, her voice and emotion towering above the world. Here, Nicki--of all people--sounds tiny and overwhelmed. None of the lyrics' desperation registers at all.
What's shocking here is that Guetta didn't realize this. Kelly Rowland would have obliterated this track, as she did on "Commander; and if Rowland's fled her dance-diva career, why not Rihanna? "Turn Me On" also sounds like "Only Girl (in the World)," and Guetta's worked with her before too, albeit on the dull "Who's That Chick," which limits her voice to about half an octave. It's starting to seem like Guetta just doesn't know what to do with vocalists anymore, ditching quality (longtime collaborator Chris Willis isn't even on Nothing but the Beat) in favor of fanbase-baiting quantity. All that matters is the name and the feature credit; it doesn't matter which songs they're assigned to or how well they fit their strengths. Aside from the track, the best part of "Turn Me On" are the few bars in which Nicki raps. If only Guetta had noticed this.