Honorable mentions include Kayzo and K?D, whose cult fanbases helped them exceed expectations in the live space.
2017 has been an incredibly competitive year for artists in the dance and electronic space. In a market that's overly saturated with producers releasing tracks at a swift pace and deploying clever marketing campaigns to enhance their project, it takes an impressive blend of music, branding, strategy and execution to stand above the rest.
Billboard Dance weighed numerous factors in deciding these superlatives, including fan engagement, hard ticket sales and more. Without further ado, here is your breakout artist of the year, as well as two acts who are well-deserving of an honorable mention.
Breakout Artist of the Year: REZZ
At the end of 2016, REZZ was turning heads with her Something Wrong Here EP, but as it turns out, everything was going right. This summer saw REZZ drop her debut LP Mass Manipulation, and its eight tracks of mind-warping, dark, techno noise are a jungle gym for your ears. The release clicks and whizzes through strange, cynical soundscapes while pushing you to the edge. She even expanded the LP with a 60-page comic book.
Her freaky live show helps her administer the shadows to fans all around the world, and her mind control appears to be working. The album peaked at No. 16 of the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart and Madeon called her the "most exciting new project in this world." No doubt she's going to continue her journey toward dance domination in 2018. We can't wait to hear what mischievous music awaits.
Runner Up: Kayzo
Kayzo got his start when he won Insomniac's "Discovery Project" new artist search in 2012. He performed his first-ever DJ gig at Escape from Wonderland, and has been rising a steady wave of fan adoration ever since. He's buddies with Zeds Dead, who brought him on stage as part of their Deadbeats showcase in San Francisco this Halloween, but most of his bass-shaking music saw release this year on tastemaking label Monstercat.
The Houston native made his name as a rare stateside champion of hardstyle, but he's nowhere near one-dimensional. He brings a lot of rock instrumentation to the table and isn't afraid to get pretty or let his emotions show. “Without You,” his collaboration with SLANDER, showed fans a softer, future-driven sound, just as “Over The Edge” showcased his sweet, romantic side. In 2018, we fully expect Kayzo to continue to showcase his diversity as he rises even further into the spotlight.
On The Bubble: K?D
At 20 years old, K?D is still pretty fresh faced for dance music, but all it takes is one listen to “Lose Myself” or “Distance” to realize just how sophisticated this up-and-coming producer's ear is. He brings a bit of mystery to his persona and playful innocence to his body of work. It's fun music, and it's getting a lot of notice in the streets. With only four official songs on the market, he's very much just getting started, but we're pretty certain 2018 will be a year where K?D becomes a common name in dance music circles.