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Who's That Chick

by David Guetta
feat. Rihanna

The thing that really struck me about this track is the satisfying way the various vocal melodies and bass/synth riffs bounce off each other rhythmically, and how they both interact with the regular kick-drum pattern. Looking into this more closely, the one thing that I noticed particularly was how David Guetta has used repeated 3/16-note and 3/8-note groupings. It’s a common dance-music trick to use these time values for stereo delay special effects, as the repeats remain more audible by virtue of avoiding the masking effects of the main drum beats, even though they still lock in with the overall groove. However, these time values can also be used to construct simple repetitive (and therefore easily memorable) melodies/riffs which nonetheless create interesting syncopations against the main beat.

You can hear the 3/16-note pattern as soon as the vocal comes in, starting in sync with the kick drum, and then free-wheeling until a surreptitious 2/16-note duration brings it back into sync with the downbeat two bars later:

A miniature version of the same idea forms the first two beats of every bar of the main bass/synth riff from 0:19, at which point the vocal line simultaneously takes up another two-bar 3/8-note-based pattern:

You can also hear the ghost of this 3/8-note idea in the vocal link to the chorus at 1:36, and in the kick-drum pattern of the middle section at 1:53 (where the vocal line briefly assumes the four-square rhythmic role normally taken by the kick):

While this use of rhythmic patterns is interesting in its own right, what I like about what David Guetta has done here is that he’s carefully chosen the moments for syncopation so that it supports the music. For example, I love the way that all the rhythmic complexity in the backing suddenly vanishes during the last two beats of every two-bar cycle in the pre-choruses (0:19 and 1:23), which gives a real lift into each section boundary, and also the way the main ‘who’s that chick’ hook-line suddenly returns to a simple eighth-note pattern:

Somehow, this always manages to take me a bit by surprise every time!