it was a banging, banner year for EDM, as the beat of club culture infiltrated the mainstream
best dance recording
LABEL: Levels/Atom Empire/Interscope
PRODUCERS:Tim Bergling, Ash Pournouri
From Super Bowl ads to weddings across the country, "Le7els" was omnipresent this year. Upstart DJ/producer Avicii married an Etta James vocal sample to a sweeping synth melody, as hummable as any top 40 hit. The result was both DJ-friendly and palatable to a mainstream audience, pushing EDM further toward the crossover line. Sold to Interscope for a cool $1 million, "Le7els" reportedly made its money back and then some, in the process launching Avicii as a formidable touring force and securing his alliance with Ralph Lauren Denim Supply.
Calvin Harris Featuring Ne-Yo
LABEL: Ultra Music
In the dance music world of the '90s, this track might have been over-sung by a female diva. But instead, DJ/producer/hitmaker Calvin Harris tapped crooner Ne-Yo, simultaneously revamping the classic motivational dance anthem and today's more aggressive R&B-in-the-club cocktail. There's no shout-chant, no rap, and Ne-Yo doesn't do any runs, making "Let's Go" one of the smoothest floor-burners of the current EDM era and one of Harris' biggest hits.
Skrillex Featuring Sirah
LABEL: OWSLA/Big Beat/Atlantic
The title track from Grammy golden boy Skrillex's third EP is cockier and rockier than his "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites," which won in this category last year. The guitar-led cut forgoes the usual thunderous bass drops of American dubstep for a steady energy level, with the Skrillex hallmarks of squelch, synth and chopped-up vocal samples pinging like Pop Rocks throughout.
"Don't You Worry Child"
Swedish House Mafia Featuring John Martin
PRODUCERS: Steve Angello, Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso
MIXERS: Steve Angello, Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso
More Journey than Daft Punk, Swedish House Mafia's sixth and final single (the group announced its disbandment in June) is a power ballad set to a beat. Driven by the emo-strain of vocalist John Martin, "Child" is a spiritual song about fathers, sons and yes, God's plan, that just happens to have an epic hands-in-the-air breakdown smack in its middle.
"I Can't Live Without You"
LABEL: Cut The Bull Entertainment
After the announcement of its nomination, Walser's guitar-led dance/pop vocal with singer Olga Levit went from roughly 200 YouTube views to more than 273,000. Singer/songwriter Walser, a complete unknown, secured his nomination by lobbying voters through Grammy365.com. The Liechtenstein native also manages other acts, like bikini-clad DJ troupe the Glamour Girls, and has a music industry how-to book, "Musicians Make It Big."
Best Dance/Electronica Album
LABEL: Ultra Music/Dim Mak
First-time nominee Aoki's debut lives up to its name, creating a fantastical world made up of colorful collaborators, from Lil John, Kid Cudi and Travis Barker to LMFAO, Weezer's Rivers Cuomo and Will.i.am. Unflagging in its energy, the collection injects EDM bass power into Dim Mak founder Aoki's wide range of influences, like punk, hip-hop, noise-rock and pop.
The Chemical Brothers
EDM legends before there was EDM, Chems Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons have won this category twice before (2006's Push the Button, 2008's We Are the Night). Tracks from those sets appear on Don't Think, a companion to the concert film of the same name made up almost entirely of previously released material. But listening to the funk-infused breaks and psychedelic swoops of the duo's nearly 20-year catalog in rapid succession shows just how inimitable it truly is.
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LABEL: Mau5trap Recordings/Ultra Music
Despite the loudness of his punk-rock persona, the music of Deadmau5, aka Joel Zimmerman, is measured and orderly, a study in electronic elegance. His fourth studio album follows the formula of previous releases, sprinkling choice collaborations ("Professional Griefers" with Gerard Way, "Telemiscommunications" with Imogen Heap) among a dominantly instrumental collection of soundscapes. It's heavy, dark and more fastidious than its creator might admit.
Fire & Ice
LABEL: Ultra Music
The long-overdue first nomination for this EDM veteran honors the most ambitious of his seven albums -- a double featuring peak-hour ("Fire") and chilled-out ("Ice") mixes of the same 10 songs. Known for sing-along melodies and lyrics so emotive that fans get tattooed with them, Kaskade (aka Ryan Raddon) turns in some big-room moments on Fire & Ice, like deep-in-love song "Eyes" and straightforward electro-rocker "Lessons in Love" with Neon Trees.
Legend has it that Skrillex, aka Sonny Moore, phoned up his label team a week before Christmas last year and unexpectedly announced that Bangarang was ready for release. It dropped Dec. 23, not necessarily ideal to anyone, except its creator. If Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites was Skrillex staking his claim, Bangarang is him building the ranch. Produced entirely by Moore on his laptop, the confident collection goes from the drop-powered rowdiness of "Kyoto" to the sweetness and light of "Summit" with Ellie Goulding.