In the spirit of looking back to understand what came next, these 10 moments made 2010 an unforgettable -- and influential -- year in dance music.
1. Pop Go the Dance Categories At the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards
Jan. 31, 2010, was a big night for pop stars. The 52nd Annual Grammy Awards saw Beyoncé take home six trophies, breaking the record for most wins by a female artist in one night.
Further down the winners list, the ever-evolving dance categories also went pop. Lady Gaga won best dance recording with her high-gloss "Poker Face," beating out a group of nominees that included Britney Spears and Madonna. Gaga’s debut LP, The Fame, claimed best electronic/dance album, ahead of veteran big beat duo The Crystal Method and chart strivers LMFAO and David Guetta.
In 2011, the nominees for best dance recording were all women or women-led acts. (That shifted in coming years, mirroring the growing predominance of solo -- and male -- DJ-producers on festival lineups.) But by 2012, it felt almost normal to see Madonna as Avicii’s special guest at Ultra Miami.
2. Robyn’s "Dancing on My Own" Shimmers to Life
Robyn was a proven talent by 2010, but "Dancing on My Own" set a new high-water mark for her cut-glass electro-pop. At a time when EDM bangers coasted on commands to jump and make noise, the Swedish singer went right to the melancholy of a night out. Over a clean, driving beat, Robyn delivered the definitive 2000s anthem for dancing through heartache.
Released on Nov. 22, 2010, Robyn’s Body Talk LP inspired a decade of similarly empowered electro-pop from the likes of Tove Lo, Ellie Goulding and Charli XCX. Meanwhile, "Dancing on My Own" fell in with a dubious music trend of the 2010s: slow, mournful covers of exhilarating dance songs. In this case, Britain’s Got Talent alum Calum Scott climbed the U.K. charts in 2016 with his piano-led version.
3. Swedish House Mafia's 'One (Your Name)' Hits Big
Before Swedish House Mafia, Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello were well-liked big-room house DJs. As Swedish House Mafia, they became superstars.
In 2010, the trio released its breakout single, "One," followed by the vocal version featuring Pharrell, "One (Your Name)." The original is expertly crafted for fist pumps in the club -- or indeed, on the sand of Miami’s South Beach, where the DJs staged the ambitious mini-festival Masquerade Motel in 2011. The Pharrell-assisted version hit big on radio, introducing Swedish House Mafia to eager kids who’d never seen the inside of a club.
If there’s a foundational text for the EDM years to come, it might just be this "One."
4. Skrillex Goes Stratospheric With "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites"
No dance act -- not even Swedish House Mafia -- had a more consequential 2010 than Skrillex. The From First to Last frontman started anew with My Name Is Skrillex, an EP of crunching dubstep with hyperactive titles such as "WEEKENDS!!!" and "F--king Die 1."
In the same year, he doubled down with Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites on deadmau5’s label, mau5trap. With its riot of bass wubbs, splintered vocals and that scream of “YES OH MY GOD!” the title track is maximalist dance music at its most defiant.
Despite fueling the nightmares of dubstep purists, the EP put Skrillex on the path to headlining festivals. It also led the producer to lasting friendships, including with Porter Robinson, who broke out in 2010 with "Say My Name."
5. Tiësto Closes the Coachella Main Stage
How do you follow Faith No More and Muse at Coachella? With Tiësto, of course. The Dutch DJ’s main stage closing set in 2010 signaled a new era for the desert festival, with dance music spreading its wings outside the Sahara stage.
2010 wasn’t Tiësto’s first time in that slot, either: In 2007, the year after Daft Punk’s epochal Sahara set, he followed Red Hot Chili Peppers. However, his second go-round started something. Five years later, Kaskade played to the weekend’s biggest main stage crowds. Then in 2016, Calvin Harris became the festival’s first top-line DJ headliner.
“Tiësto on the main stage changed the game,” A-Trak says in the recently released Coachella: 20 Years In the Desert doc.
6. Flying Lotus Charts New Heights on Cosmogramma
Running counter to mounting EDM mania, Los Angeles beatmaker Flying Lotus blessed 2010 with something entirely his own.
The producer’s third album, Cosmogramma, remains an intense, virtuosic and sometimes exhausting listen. Inspired in part by FlyLo’s great aunt, the jazz icon Alice Coltrane, the album brought an element of unpredictability missing in other major releases that year. It also featured a superfan by the name of Thom Yorke.
Just weeks before Cosmogramma dropped, FlyLo played a scorching set in Coachella’s Gobi tent, rocking out on his laptop and controllers against a backdrop of exploding colors.
7. Kaskade Enters a New Decade With Dynasty
Unlike many of his big-name peers, Kaskade has always cared about making albums. The DJ and producer slinked onto the scene in 2003 with his debut LP, It’s You, It’s Me, featuring the deep house classic of the same name.
At the 2010 edition of Electric Daisy Carnival in LA, Kaskade played the main stage between Swedish House Mafia and deadmau5 - a long way from the intimate house clubs of San Francisco and Chicago.
Released on April 27, 2010, Kaskade’s sixth studio album, Dynasty, nodded to his past while playing to the present moment. Featuring collaborations with EDX, Dragonette and Tiësto, plus vocals throughout from frequent collaborator Haley, Dynasty launched its supremely chilled creator into a crazy decade.
8. Richie Hawtin Makes History at Movement Detroit
Growing up in Windsor, Ontario, Richie Hawtin would sometimes look across the Detroit River at techno’s birthplace. He began making trips to the Motor City in his teens, leading to the creation of his Plastikman alias. Throughout the ‘90s, the distinctive Plastikman iconography appeared on steely techno 12-inches such as "Spastik," "Plastique" and "Sickness."
In 2010, Hawtin, now one of the scene’s most in-demand DJs, went back to his “darker and deeper” Plastikman alias. The resulting live tour included a main stage spot at Movement Detroit. It was Plastikman’s first appearance in the city since 1994. Working his machines in the shadows behind a concave video screen, Hawtin drew a capacity crowd to Hart Plaza’s amphitheater and in doing so forecasted the ubiquity of techno -- EDM's darker, cooler cousin -- to the dance scene's coming decade.
9. EDC Enters the Eye of the Storm
2010 is a troubled chapter in the history of Insomniac’s behemoth Electric Daisy Carnival. At the time, the festival called the L.A. Coliseum home, and this was its biggest selling year to date.
The event brought a flashy lineup and state-of-the-art staging, but the view on the ground was starkly different. More than 200 people were injured rushing barriers and climbing fences, leading to a dangerous crowd crush. Sasha Rodriguez, 15, died in hospital from MDMA intoxication after attending the event. (Age of entry for the event was 16-plus.)
In the fallout, L.A. officials pursued stricter health and safety measures at the city’s dance massives. EDC left the Coliseum for its new home in Las Vegas in 2011, but its controversial final year in Los Angeles had lasting repercussions for local dance promoters.
10. LCD Soundsystem’s This Is Happening Sets Up a Sort-of Goodbye
Coming out of the aughts, James Murphy’s massively influential dance-punk project LCD Soundsystem had nothing left to prove. And yet despite all his accolades, the frontman still had some things to get off his chest.
Enter LCD Soundsystem’s third album, This Is Happening, from May of 2010. Its songs -- among them the classics "Dance Yrself Clean," ‘"I Can Change" and "You Wanted a Hit" -- showcased a band at the peak of its powers.
Within a year, LCD played its last-ever show at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Murphy’s reasons for ending things were both sincere and tactical. “My theory was, if I make it our last show, we’ll sell [MSG] out in two weeks,” he later told The New York Times. “It wasn’t a total lark, but it was a bit larky.”
Sure enough, the hipster heroes were happily back five years later to headline Coachella. This saga started in 2010, but its lesson is timeless: Never trust an amicable band breakup.