Diplo's 15 Best Songs: Critic's Picks
Who is Thomas Wesley Pentz? It's complicated.
On most stages, he's Diplo, the DJ behind futuristic heavy-hitters like "Be Right There" and "Revolution." But he's also a founding member of electronic supergroup Major Lazer, and one-half of Grammy-winning dance duo Jack Ü, alongside Skrillex. Behind the scenes, he's a coveted producer, who has worked with the likes of Beyoncé, Madonna, Justin Bieber and Rihanna. But at his desk, he also spearheads record label Mad Decent, where he handles an strong roster including Valentino Khan, NGHTMRE and Party Favor.
Did we mention his many personalities are also the focus of a new TV show?
With an artist as ubiquitous to dance music as Diplo, it's not easy to break down his monstrous catalog into 15 top hits. In fact, we opted to leave all Major Lazer tracks out, lest they dominate the countdown.
Billboard Dance has rounded up the best Diplo songs of all time, and you can run through them below.
15. Diplo feat. MØ - "XXX 88"
We've long been familiar with Diplo's magic touch for club anthems and grimy drops. But teaming up with Danish dark pop star MØ for "XXX 88," it's clear how far Diplo's creative range can really go. The track is a masterful piece of electro-pop, combining triumphant horns and pulverizing, tropical beats with MØ's breezy vocals and compelling lyrics -- "Love is a dangerous business you know/ Who's gonna care for your bleeding soul?"
14. Diplo & Swick feat. TT The ARTIST, Lewis Cancut - "Dat A Freak"
Diplo also has a talent for capitalizing on current trends, and his bumping, booty-centric track "Dat A Freak" is no exception. Just as twerk was making its entrance in pop culture, Diplo dropped this gem with Melbourne's Swick, offering a winding, quick-paced, Egyptian-tinged tribute to the dance -- and an animated, backside-filled music video to boot.
13. Diplo feat. Liz - "Set Me Free"
"Set Me Free" is a wild, pitched-up bass ride that employs bouncy keyboard chords and sugar-sweet vocals from Mad Decent singer Liz, before transforming into a throbbing beat after the drop. Check out the track's playful visual to watch Diplo make pancakes and lounge around in a robe emblazoned with his stage name before joining a rowdy rave.
12. Diplo feat. Lazerdisk Party Sex - "Set If Off"
Let's get this first part out of the way -- yes, that is an infinite stripper pole. But the bizarre music video concept for "Set It Off" is admittedly mesmerizing, as is the song itself. Taken off the producer's 2012 Express Yourself EP, this Diplo song pairs chipmunk-like, helium-filled vocal slices with maddening build-up and a twitchy, glimmering instrumental. The hypnotic result is as easy to shake and dance to as it is to get lost in.
11. Diplo & Sleepy Tom - "Be Right There"
There's a reason this collab between Diplo and Canadian producer Sleepy Tom gives off major '90s vibes. The punchy house track incorporates vocals from Jade's 1992 hit "Don't Walk Away," honoring the original chart-climber while giving it a fresh, funky dance feel. The result is nostalgic, euphoric and infectious all around.
10. Diplo, Steve Aoki, Deorro feat. Steve Bays - "Freak"
It's safe to say fans went nuts back in 2014 when two of the biggest names in dance (Diplo and Steve Aoki) united for the grungy "Freak," along with Deorro -- amid the madness of Miami Music Week, at that. The hyped-up match delivers, with a rolling snare drum, thudding bass line and vocals from Hot Hot Heat singer Steve Bays. Just be warned -- if you didn't catch the hint from the track's title already, this video is NSFW.
9. Skrillex feat. Diplo, CL, G-Drago - "Dirty Vibe"
With its grimy beat and biting, wickedly dark verses from South Korean rappers G-Dragon and CL, "Dirty Vibe" is just that. Clocking in under three minutes, the Skrillex track is one of Diplo's briefer works, but the short-and-sweet run time is just enough for the track's blaring, chaotic clamor to reach its peak. Don't miss the devilish music video, either.
8. TroyBoi feat. Diplo, Nina Sky - "Afterhours"
Gotta love a dance track that turns late-night partying into a near-sacred act. On this entrancing song by British artist TroyBoi, Diplo and singing sister duo Nina Sky throw it back to the concert- and club-goers that keep their music alive until the early hours, weaving a twisty, clanging drop along pump-up verses ("These after hours got me charged up"). But the best part is the track's cityscape music video, which follows late-night workers from the halal truck server to a woman closing up a boutique before they hit the streets.
7. Diplo feat. Faustix & Imanos, Kai - "Revolution"
Diplo and Canadian vocal powerhouse Kai make a stellar partnership with 2013's "Revolution." It's a fitting pick for our top 10, as Diplo is often thought to have led a revolution of sorts in dance music itself, taking on an adventurous array of approaches, mixing genres and helping to bring dancehall into the mainstream spotlight. Let this brooding, trap-tinged whip of a club jam be a testament to that creativity.
6. Diplo & Tiësto feat. Busta Rhymes, "C’Mon"
"We got 'em hypnotized," roars Busta Rhymes in the outro for this 2011 Tiesto-Diplo collab. And by that point, he's right. "C'Mon" is built on metallic, pulsating synths that seems to grind on toward its tipping point forever -- in a great way. You might get whiplash from the track's snappy "c'mon!" interjections, but you'll be pulled right back in to its tidal wave of a beat.
5. Diplo & Skrillex feat. Kiesza - "Take Ü There"
Our ranking wouldn't be complete without a few songs off Skrillex & Diplo Present Jack Ü -- starting with the Kiesza-featuring "Take Ü There." The lurching track builds up with impossibly-high vocals and a rapid-fire drum kick, only to surprise listeners with a heavy, trap-like drop and the random grungy, monstrous "hey." It's a lot of ground to cover in just under four minutes, but the trio pull it off with ease.
4. Diplo & GTA - "Boy Oh Boy"
It's hard to find a track that can kick up the dance floor as quickly as the near-iconic beat on "Boy Oh Boy." This Diplo song, featuring Miami dance duo GTA, hinges on a single, repetitive four-second tune looped at various speeds -- the sample is just that good. The cartoonish "boy oh boy" vocal in the background turns almost sinister when placed against the track's grungy sound, the perfect dose of mockery to compliment the rest of 2014's Random White Dude Be Everywhere.
3. Diplo & Skrillex feat. Kai - "Mind"
Diplo once again enlists Kai for this darkly lit, pop-tinged jam, another gem off his and Skrillex's collaborative album as Jack Ü. Kai's smoldering vocals are the perfect match for the glassy, gum-popping drop and Skrillex's catchy hook -- "I'ma show you how, show you how, show you how... to love again." One year after Skrillex and Diplo revealed the hugely successful Jack Ü project through a 24-hour DJ set, the team celebrated by releasing a fittingly joyful music video for this track (above).
2. Diplo feat. Nicky Da B - "Express Yourself"
Diplo tries his hand at New Orleans' energetic hip-hop genre of Bounce in this gritty collaboration with Big Freedia prodege Nicky Da B. Though explosively upbeat, the track released in 2012 has a somewhat somber history -- Nicky passed away at age 24 just two years later. But his fiery, genre-swapping spirit lives on in the adventurous track, not to mention its colorful, hypnotic video.
1. Diplo & Skrillex feat. Justin Bieber - "Where Are Ü Now"
All hail the breakthrough song of Jack Ü, a record that debuted at No. 1 on the Dance/Electronic Albums chart in March 2015 and is still in the chart's top 25 as of publishing. This Bieber-fronted Skrillex & Diplo track quickly became a club mainstay when it dropped just one month shy of Ultra Music Festival, and was named one of Billboard's top tracks of the year.
It charms pop and electronic listeners alike with blissful, chopped vocals, a beat taken from an Indian tabla and a swerving, flute-like riff that, after mystifying both fans and industry top dogs, was revealed to be Bieber's own pitch-shifted voice. While the album itself snagged a Grammy, "Where Are Ü Now" took home the prize for Best Dance Recording. Somehow, the track still feels fresh two years down the line, and at this point, we're not sure it will ever lose that shine.