It's one thing to create a moment as an artist; it's a whole other thing to capitalize on that moment, build upon it and make it a jet-setting year where you simply fly by the competition.
Billboard Dance has rounded up 12 artists who have caught our attention all year long with forward-thinking music, cunning strategy and immersive branding that compels listeners to become part of their tight-knit community.
Without further ado, here are the dance and electronic artists (in alphabetical order) who dominated 2018.
One of the most buzzed-about dance mysteries this year has been 1788-L, the enigmatic producer whose hypnotic soundscapes and glitchy aesthetic have captivated the Reddit and SoundCloud community by storm. His razor-sharp productions have also attracted the likes of Rezz, Ekali and bass headliners Zeds Dead who signed the up-and-comer's debut EP to their label deadbeats. Named as one of Billboard Dance's artists to watch back in May, his touring footprint is set to grow exponentially in size very soon with performances confirmed at Snowglobe, Lights All Night, and OMFG for New Year's Eve week, plus a mini run booked in Australia and New Zealand for the top of 2019. -- DAVE RISHTY
2018 was a big year for 3LAU in many regards. For one, he released his debut project Ultraviolet in February, which marked a big milestone for him as an artist as it eloquently captured his style and brand. The LP rose to No. 7 on Billboard's Top Dance/Electronic Albums and was paired with a solo headline tour. He performed at festivals like Spring Awakening and Moonrise, and also threw a festival of his own called OUR Music Festival in partnership with Prime Social Group and SingularDTV. Together, they successfully pulled off the first blockchain-powered festival and hosted mainstays like Big Sean and Zedd. -- D.R.
Amelie Lens has cemented herself as one of techno’s most indomitable forces today. The Belgian DJ has experienced a meteoric rise to success, primarily fueled by her pummeling live performances and predilection for acid-tinged techno. It’s no coincidence Lens has found herself associated among the underground elite -- names like Adam Beyer, Pan-Pot and Richie Hawtin -- as she’s cultivated one of the most insatiable fan bases around. However, where others have taken decades to get to such respective heights, the 28-year-old has done it in a matter of years. In 2018, Lens’ career hit new heights. Performing around the globe week in and week out, she embarked on a rigorous international tour schedule, selling out nearly every venue she played. -- MICHAEL SUNDIUS
House music saw a resurgence in 2018, and its crossover into the limelight was thanks to none other than Calvin Harris. “One Kiss” featuring Dua Lipa ruled the airwaves for most of the year. The thumping single, with its distant horn hook, reached No. 2 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart and No. 26 on the Hot 100, then grew more legs with high-profile remixes from ZHU, R3hab, Jauz, Oliver Heldens and more. He rounded out the year with another smash, this time alongside Sam Smith on a song called “Promises.” It peaked at No. 4 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs Chart and No. 65 on the Hot 100 -- but strong originals weren't all the gold Harris struck in 2018.
Harris started the year by announcing his residency extension with Hakkasan Group in Las Vegas through 2020. It's an exclusive deal, meaning he didn’t have to worry about festival dates or hectic tour schedules, and he still topped the Forbes’ highest-paid DJ list for a sixth year in a row. He furthered his house sound with fat, rumbling horns on a bombastic remix of Halsey and Stefflon Don’s “Alone.” He was immortalized with a wax figure at Madame Tussaud’s in New York City, then followed that news with a smokin’ set of production for Normani’s two-song debut solo EP, “Checklist” and “Slow Down.” He finished the year by singing on fellow producer Benny Blanco’s original “I Found You.” We honored “One Kiss” with the top spot on our Best Dance/Electronic Songs of the year list earlier this month, and we’re on edge to see what new horizons Harris will explore in the years to come. -- KAT BEIN
Forget the Kardashians -- it's hard to keep up with Diplo. The superproducer launched two new side projects this year, LSD and Silk City, the latter of which has already been nominated for a Grammy for best dance recording thanks to "Electricity" featuring Dua Lipa. Under Diplo's solo project, he dropped his California EP, which boasts features from Lil Xan, Trippie Redd, Santigold and more. The Mad Decent boss also partnered up with his go-to collaborator MØ on a handful of records, as well as with Ellie Goulding on "Close To Me," which is quickly climbing the Hot 100. Speaking of Mad Decent, the independent label co-released Poppy's Am I A Girl? album, delivered some of Boombox Cartel's strongest performing records to date, and brought out the Mad Decent Block Party event series to Pakistan. Ah, also his Major Lazer project released a 25-track Major Lazer Essentials compilation and took part in Cashmere Cat's "Miss You" which peaked at No. 10 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart. -- D.R.
There's no doubting Illenium's fervent fan base. He's developed intro a true dance festival headliner and is already starting to get his feet wet in the indie and pop world. His sold-out Awake 2.0 headline tour called upon some of the biggest hard ticket venues in San Francisco, New York and Chicago. Following each of the three epic live performances he held at New York's Terminal 5, he announced that he will be upgrading to a turn at Madison Square Garden in 2019. (Previous electronic acts to play there include Swedish House Mafia, Above & Beyond and Armin van Buuren.) Music-wise, collabs were a focus this year, dropping "Gold (Stupid Love)" with Excision and "Don't Give Up On Me" with Kill The Noise and Mako. He also released a beautiful official remix of Halsey's "Without Me," which currently sits at No. 2 on the Hot 100. -- D.R.
Louis The Child
This year brought the Chicago "kids" six top 50 hits on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart, from "Breaking News" with Raye (No. 45) to "Better Not" with Wafia (No. 12), its highest-charting single to date. A year of killer performances kicked off with Holy Ship in January, moved into a hot spot at Coachella, brought more L.A. fun at HARD Summer, and included a headline slot at Electric Forest. At the top of the year, the duo collaborated with fellow Chicagoan Whethan on a six-track EP called Honey, harnessing the youthful star power of a city's brightest beacons, but it was LTC's own Kids At Play EP that stands as the pair's crowning achievement. The duo still has yet to drop a full-length debut studio album, however, and we greatly anticipate that body of work in the year or years to come. -- K.B.
I spy with my little eye someone with a cooking show, a gaming show, nearly 25 million YouTube subscriber and collabs with A-listers like Bastille. If one thing's for sure, it's that Marshmello is everywhere. He's on Good Morning America, The Ellen Degeneres Show, the cover of Forbes 30 Under 30 and around Halloween time, he multiplies by the thousands as kids dress up as him for the holiday. By the numbers, he's a superstar. On Spotify alone, he pulled in approximately two billion streams and reached 114 million fans, according to his 2018 Wrapped graphic. What started out as a project on SoundCloud with a string of bootlegs a few years back has exploded into an worldwide sensation that beams with positivity. The sky is the limit for Marshmello (that is, until Elon Musk gets involved). -- D.R.
Michael Brun has been punching above his weight all year and it's been paying off every step of the way. He collaborated with J Balvin on a song called "Positivo," which ended up being the official anthem for the 2018 Russia World Cup. Brun later joined Balvin on his arena tour, and sold out a solo headline tour of his tour that promotes his Haitian upbringing and culture. He's also been empowering other Haitian artists by helping fund proper studio spaces, and even featuring some of the artists on his records. -- D.R.
Peggy Gou has transcended the role of DJ into a veritable cultural icon. The Korean-born, Berlin-based artist melds the worlds of music production, fashion, and DJing into one -- all with an effortless, cosmopolitan flair. In the booth, she’s proven one of the underground’s most fearless performers, often combining genres as disparate as Italo disco with minimal dub techno. In 2018, Gou solidified not only her identity as one of the underground’s most coveted selectors, with notable performances at festivals like Awakenings and Dimensions, but her ability to compose polished, sophisticated dance tracks. Teaming up with indy powerhouse Ninja Tune, Gou brought 3-track EP Once to light, her first since 2016. Standout track “It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)” proved an instant-classic, leveraging Gou as a time-enduring dance artist with vision well beyond her years. -- M.S.
The Dutch DJ and producer went independent in 2018, betting on himself and his team when he wrote and self-released his electro-folk hybrid Album1 on his label bitbird. He poured his heart and soul into an intimate sound, harnessing the organic textures of cassette recordings, street noises and nature sounds into something that feels as emotionally exhilarating as it is experimental. Three of its songs hit the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart, including “Lift Me From The Ground” (No. 39), “Show Me” (No. 42), and “Brighter Days” with Bipolar Sunshine (No. 49). He also hit the chart with Yellow Claw via “Summertime” (No. 39). We rewarded him with the No. 2 spot on our Best Dance/Electronic Albums of the Year list, and he gave back to fans with an eye-popping tour production you’ve got to see to believe. All year, he stormed stages with guitar in hand, from Ultra Music Festival in Miami to the Tomorrowland main stage and HARD Summer. The bitbird label, in turn, saw additional successes from DROELOE, Taska Black, Flaws and Marcioz, earning a spot on our Best Independent Dance Labels list. As the Album1 tour wraps up, we’re eager to hear what else Holo and his crew of brave songwriters has up their sleeves. -- K.B.
Yaeji is a breath of fresh air in the dance world. Providing an intimate, lo-fi spin on the traditionally male-dominated world of hip-house, she’s proven a breakout talent with the music to back it up. Based in Brooklyn, the Korean-American producer has come to occupy her own niche. Commercial enough to attract the attention of viral media platforms like 88rising, yet credible enough to perform at legendary Berlin institutions like Panorama Bar, she wields a singular appeal. Though having only released two EPs to date, Yaeji’s music has found a global audience in the form of 30+ million streams on Spotify alone. Meanwhile, her swanky, technicolor music videos showcase an artist with burgeoning cultural relevance. With debut performances at festivals like Coachella and Sónar Barcelona in 2018, Yaeji’s career is just taking off. -- M.S.