The 10 Best Dance/Electronic Songs of 2015
Following dance/electronic music can feel overwhelming these days. The democratization of digital technology has enabled anyone with a laptop and a learned hand to produce industry-standard output, while a market favoring single releases over larger bodies of work means new music is constantly being fed to the masses.
In light of this stiffly competitive climate, this year's best songs list will only reflect original mixes; remixes will be ranked on their own separate list. Similarly to our best dance/electronic albums list, Billboard has taken care to represent a variety of different styles -- from main stage EDM anthems and radio staples to underground gems and experimental endeavors. Here are our picks for this year's 10 best dance/electronic songs:
10. Einmusik ft. Valentine – "Sleep Talk"
No hype needed here. The German producer keeps a low stateside profile, but Samuel Kindermann has been producing stunning and melodic house music (or as he calls it, “intelligent house music”) for more than a decade. With chills-inducing verses perfectly timed above a throbbing bass arpeggiator, Einmusik aces the delicate balancing act between accessibility and artistic integrity on this dreamy cut from his I.D.C. album.
9. Nero – "Two Minds"
Nero's excellent sophomore effort Between II Worlds is stacked with praiseworthy songs (case in point, crushing lead single "Satisfy" landed on last year's list following its May release), but "Two Minds" finds the trio at an apex of accessibility. Like the Bo Jackson of bass music, it's almost unfair how effortlessly the traditionally broken-beat outfit adopts four-to-the-floor here.
Disclosure's Guy Lawrence told Spin that Lorde was "involved with every aspect" of highly-anticipated collaboration "Magnets," and it shows on Caracal's strongest single. The New Zealand native's seductive voice carries a commanding energy that enables the Lawrence brothers to take a comfortable production backseat with softly pulsing synths and off-kilter percussion. While the duo mastered the art of audio alchemy with unheralded artists on their first album, they prove more than capable of rising to a marquee star's level here.
7. Four Tet – "Morning Side"
Paying tribute to his Indian heritage in the form of a sprawling electronic raga, Kieran Hebden sets esteemed Indian playback singer Lata Mangeshkar's sampled voice from "Main Teri Chhoti Bahna Hoon" against a 20-minute sunrise synthscape. Arrestingly beautiful in composition and understated in approach, it's refreshing to hear a producer of Four Tet's caliber throw caution and convention to the wind in such a lovely way.
6. Eric Prydz - "Opus"
Proper progressive house has an enduring flag-bearer in Eric Prydz. The Swedish veteran's nine-minute masterpiece lives up to its lofty title in perfect symmetry, as arcing synthesizers accelerate to a midpoint of interstellar climax before slowing to match their starting tempo. Prydz's impeccable production even earned him a remix request from Four Tet and a rare complimentary tweet from deadmau5. Keep an eye out for his debut album of the same name arriving next February.
5. Galantis – "Gold Dust"
Linus Eklow (Style of Eye) says the Swedish super-duo "captured something magical" when they wrote "Gold Dust," and the big room ballad's spell hasn't worn off 10 months post-release. Pairing poignant lyrics with a stirring piano line, the second single off their full-length debut Pharmacy (first single "Runaway (U&I)" occupied this spot on last year's list) builds to its melodic climax with an elegance few producers other than Eklow and Christian Karlsson (of Miike Snow and Bloodshy) can pull off. No one made more meaningful and moving main stage music than Galantis this year.
4. Nicolas Jaar - "Fight"
After turning the page on his psych rock side-project Darkside last fall, Nicolas Jaar brought his solo material back to the fore in 2015. The Chilean-American virtuoso released Pomegranates, a surprise soundtrack to a 1969 Soviet art film, and captivated fans with his wide-ranging Nymphs EP series. "Fight," the fourth and final Nymphs installment, finds Jaar at his best, leading listeners through a gale of dissonant analog noise, diced vocals and eerily ebbing pads to the brink of a brilliantly crafted bass drop. Instead of straddling the line between eccentricity and accessibility, Jaar sticks a foot on each side and marries the contrasts in memorable fashion.
Unlikely musical marriages bear the best fruit when artists can both complement each other’s strengths and present them in a new light that broadens their appeal and challenges assumptions (just ask Jack Ü and Bieber). Jamie xx’s feel-good summer jam did just that, casting Young Thug, an Atlanta-bred rapper of Haitian descent, and Jamaican dancehall MC Popcaan in a temperate calypso daydream punctuated by cheery steelpan rhythms and an unimpeachable Persuasions sample. Nothing feels forced about this diverse meeting-of-minds, and that’s an impressive feat.
Skrillex recently described this collab as a “turning point” in both his and Bieber’s careers, and it’s easy to see why. In the span of a song, Skrillex and Diplo became crossover forces with their first top 10 hit, while the troubled pop star used that priceless edge-by-association to reinvent himself as a serious artist coming of age -- and confounding millions of listeners who had hated him before. The chart success of “Where Are Ü Now” speaks not only to the mainstream's growing appetite for electronic music, but to pop music’s (presently) open-minded format as well.
The Grammys got it wrong. It’s rare that a dance record of this quality reaches this level of ubiquity -- after all, this is Spotify’s most streamed song of all-time as of Nov. 2015. Despite being independently released, the infectious three-minute single became the poster child for dance crossover, dominating both radio and festival play and hitting No. 4 on the Hot 100. By Billboard’s measure, “Lean On” was the dance/electronic song of the year.