I love the honesty of DJ-producers. I was talking with Nicky Romero, a star in his own right who was mentored by superstar David Guetta, so I asked him to tell me Guetta’s big secret in creating a hit song.
“There’s no trick on a song. He always listens to existing hits, and then takes good parts out of that to create his own,” Romero said.
And now Romero is paying it forward by promoting and producing upcoming DJ-producers the way Guetta propelled him.
“He really helped get my music out there to a larger audience. So I try to do the same thing to artists that I can help,” Romero said.
Romero, who performs Saturday at Light, tours with those DJs he’s mentoring. Each has a skill.
“It’s a little bit like a circus. Everyone has their specialty. One is good at throwing rings. One is good at walking through fires. There are more techy guys opening up, and more banging guys at the end of the night.
“I’m super happy to bring that stuff to a bigger audience, because it’s quality music, and I think there isn’t enough quality music, sometimes.”
Romero, a native of the Netherlands, believes electronic dance music has become so “hard” sounding — all those hard kick drums and such — that the next step in EDM is to record songs with old-school music instruments.
“I feel like there’s a limit to what people like for music to be ‘hard,’ ” he said.
“I’m already looking forward to looking to this sort of more groovy stuff. I’m looking for the emotion. And I feel like a lot of music is missing the emotion right now. And the real organic instruments bring the emotion back. So I will try to involve that in the plans for my album next year.”
Which instruments does he want to bring back?
“It’s hard to say. I would use the guitars a little more — real ones — I want to make a song floating around the guitar riff, instead of around the beats. And I would love to use some horns and that kind of stuff, and strings like I did in ‘Symphonica,’ because I think that’s really cool.”
I told him my theory, that DJs hire so many female vocalists to sing on their electronic songs, because the female voice is a shortcut to emitting emotional resonance.
“I agree,” Romero said. “There is one song (with an emotional male vocalist), ‘Don’t You Worry Child (by Swedish House Mafia featuring John Martin).’ I’ve got to give it to John Martin on that one, because for a male vocal, he really nailed it. But normally, I agree.”
Doug Elfman’s column appears on Page 3A in the main section on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He also writes for Neon on Fridays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.