The history of pop music is littered with what can be referred to as victory lap singles—the kind of songs released by an artist just as their popularity appears to be peaking, where the song basically sounds like the artist celebrating their recent success for three and a half minutes. They never reflect much effort on the part of the artist, they often sound incoherent (or at the very least poorly edited) and nine times out of ten, they sound like drugs were prominently involved in some way. In a best-case scenario, they can feel intoxicating, like a second-hand buzz scored off the artist’s commercial (or pharmaceutical) high, but more often, they just sound arrogant and off-putting, and they (somewhat ironically) can even signal the beginning of the end for the artist.
Needless to say, David Guetta’s “Where Them Girls At” is one of these victory lap singles, and it falls squarely in the latter category. Guetta’s surprising 2010 success, which saw him score hits with musical celebrities like Akon, Rihanna, Fergie and Kid Cudi and bring European-style dance music to US shores in a way that no one else had in over a decade, seemed to imbue him with the belief that all he needed to do for a hit single was to slap a couple high-profile guests over a phoned-in, fist-pumping house beat. Sadly, he may not have been terribly far off, as the song debuted at #14 on the Hot 100 off high iTunes sales, but “Where Them Girls At” destroyed any claim that Guetta could have to artistic credibility, a clichéd retread that pushed his musical over-exposure to unstable levels.
The most despicable part of “Where Them Girls At,” aside from the fact that it needlessly tries to extend Flo Rida’s way-longer-than-15-minutes-of-fame, is how blatantly the song rips off “Sexy Bitch,” David Guetta’s stateside breakthrough single from barely over a year prior. The dynamics are the same, the synth hook is the same, the structuring is the same—you could sing Akon’s “Sexy” verse and chorus over the “Girls” instrumental and only the most discerning of pop ears would even be able to tell that anything was unusual about it. Not that Guetta’s color palette has ever been particularly wide—he’s always been formulaic to an extent, and was never particularly apologetic about it—but to recycle his biggest hit so blatantly, and so soon after the fact, is unforgivably insulting to us as listeners and pop fans.
Meanwhile, neither of the guests involved seem particularly into rising above Guetta’s beat-ass production by elevating their own games. Flo Rida, who five years into his career has still yet to come up with a single memorable rap lyric, isn’t exactly used to being a scene-stealer, and his rote-as-rote-gets chorus (“Where them girls at, Where them girls at / So go get them, we can all be friends”) isn’t even memorably annoying enough to get stuck in your head at inopportune moments. More disappointingly, perennial Best Supporting Actress candidate Nicki Minaj isn’t particularly game either, doing her “repeat certain lyrics and spit some gibberish noises and let’s see if we can’t stretch four bars to sixteen” thing and getting out before too much of the song’s stink can really cling to her.
The end result is a song that doesn’t seem designed to please anyone except whoever runs the Saturday Night Dance Party on your local Top 40 station, an anthem for being so shitfaced at the club that you couldn’t possibly care less about what music is playing as long as it has a pulsating house beat and an unchallenging sing-along chorus. To call it Lowest Common Denominator music would almost be giving its intentions too much credit, though—rather, it’s just the sound of a lazy DJ who believes he can do no wrong, and who is going to find out sooner rather than later that he doesn’t have nearly as much credit with the American public as he thinks he does.