It’s perhaps hard for all of us entrenched in the dance universe to bear in mind what a small world it ultimately is, statistically speaking. In the United States, dance and electronic music made up just 3.3% of total recorded music volume in 2021, which means that all of our efforts — all of our emails, all of our late nights and all of our sweat expelled on the dancefloor — are contributing to a scene that’s perhaps easy for other sectors to write off as humble, hard to see, “not the commercial juggernaut it once was.”
But inside it doesn’t feel that way, does it? Inside, it seems that new genres are developing, new markets are opening and new stars are breaking through while veterans are finding success in reinvention. Meanwhile, dance clubs and festivals are doing “amazingly well,” after an existentially fraught two years from which other realms of live events are still struggling to return. And when two of the biggest musical icons in pop history looked for reinvention this year, they came to clubland.
Indeed, while the commercial viability of dance music isn’t making waves like it did during the EDM heyday, the scene has in ways never felt healthier. The genre made an imprint in most realms of recorded music in 2022 — via fusion with sounds from pop to hip-hop to Latin, with creativity and quality at a high and with the sorely-needed diversification of the scene finally starting to happen — though with much work still to be done here and in relation to how we better protect the people and places in the scene that are its founders and foundation.
Driving it all, of course, was the music. It’s cliché at this point to say that dance/electronic is really just a blanket term for dozens and dozens of other genres — many of them wildly different and fairly laughable to compare — but that fact remains true, with this dizzying sonic taxonomy synthesizing a world that feels not just massive, but culturally significant and ultimately unstoppable.
These are our 50 favorite dance tracks of 2022, presented alphabetically by artist.