To cover dance music requires casting a wide net across seemingly disparate genres and the ever-colorful cast of DJs, producers, vocalists and other assorted characters that occupy them. But whether discussing house, disco, techno, tech-house, bass, trance, dance pop or straight-up E-D-M, a smash is a smash and you know one when you hear it.
The first six months of 2019 have brought us a barrage of new music in the ever-prolific dance/electronic space, with relesaes from mega-stars and up-and-comers alike occupying our ears space from January on. Here, in no particular order, we present our 32 favorite dance tracks of 2019 so far.
Peggy Gou, “Starry Night”
Peggy Gou definitively broke through last year with the release of her single “It Makes You Forget (Ithegane),” a polished but playful song that pulled summer closer with each listen, and which was also included on the FIFA 19 video-game soundtrack. Would Gou storm 2019 with that arena-sized momentum? So far, the answer is a resounding yes. This past May she launched her Gudu Records label with a new EP, Moment, the crown jewel of which is “Starry Night,” a track radiating the same mesmeric aura that made “It Makes You Forget” so memorable. The acid-dipped disco number, brightened by bold piano chords, provides a warm base for Gou’s cool vocals, which switch between singing in Korean and bursts of English — “Ocean! Starlight! Moment! Now! Us!” — that seem to encourage living in the moment. — KRYSTAL RODRIGUEZ
Gesaffelstein, “Lost In The Fire (Feat. The Weeknd)”
Hold on to your hat and clutch your pearls: Gesaffelstein’s first-ever Billboard Hot 100 top 40 hit as a lead artist is one of the most NSFW breakthroughs of recent years. The second single from the French producer’s sophomore LP Hyperion, “Lost In the Fire” is a steamy, slinky, foul-mouthed bedroom banger built on sci-fi synth work and midnight moods. It definitely mirrors some of fellow Yeezus collaborators Daft Punk’s work with The Weeknd, but channeling one’s inner Daft Punk has never been something to discourage. The music video also features some stunning views of the mecha-Gesaffelstein, the head-to-toe metallic monster that is the producer’s new look. Pop has rarely seemed so menacing. — KAT BEIN
Sofi Tukker & Zhu, “Mi Rumba”
Sofi Tukker’s vocals and Zhu’s dually deep purr and ethereal falsetto may seem like a strange pairing, but the result on “Mi Rumba” is so alluring that you, like us, may set this one on repeat. A voyeuristic, wonderfully erotic escapade set at 120 BPM, the track matches Sophie Hawley-Weld’s Spanish-sung interludes and Zhu piping “Let me watch your hips slow motion like a rumba/ We can work your body like they do it in Cuba,” for a production that is pure, floor-thumping dance music. — MORENA DUWE
Griz, “I’m Good”
At 29, Griz is already a wizard of explosive, feel-good funk. “I’m Good” is his latest masterclass, a splatter of serotonin over majorly major-key trap production. Pulled from April’s Ride Waves, an album full of flashy features, this sax-y bop is a reminder of why star rappers Snoop Dogg and D.R.A.M. signed on to the LP in the first place. Mixing a pinch of skittering piano with a dash of schoolyard drumline chants, Griz comes up with a track that captures what it must feel like to land your dream job and a kickflip at the same time, with all your crushes and exes looking on from the sidelines. It’s that fun. — DYLAN OWENS
Chris Lake, “Stay With Me”
There are a few stars on Chris Lake’s May tech-house thumper “Stay With Me.” The first is his wife, Gita Lake, who delivers the song’s feathery siren-call vocals. (On Twitter, Lake explained that it was Gita who encouraged him to make the track ahead of a big show in Los Angeles, and that she recorded her vocals in their bedroom the same day he debuted it.) The second is the walloping hook, which hits like a sucker punch when juxtaposed with the minimal track — the third, more low-key star that creates the foundation for the other two to shine. — KATIE BAIN
Monét X Change, “Beyoncé”
RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 4 winner Monet X Change took a well-earned victory lap with this February’s Unapologetically EP, the highlight of which was this strutting two-step. With a spoken-word swagger that more than justifies its rhyming of “Solange” and “Maserati” with “Beyoncé,” the Akira Shelton-produced banger spits out rapid-fire gems (“Keepin’ it C-U-Next-Tuesday…”) in a “212” cadence, proving entirely unstoppable for its all-too-brief 2:57 runtime. So imbued is “Beyoncé” with the spirit of its indomitable titular superhero that halfway through, Monet starts snapping entirely in Bey lyrical fragments, almost involuntarily: “Get in formation, girl, a bitch is irreplaceable/ Who run the world? Me!” — ANDREW UNTERBERGER
Toro y Moi, “Laws of the Universe”
Any song that references both ’90s Nicktoons and classic LCD Soundsystem is an automatic winner. Even among the multicolored funk of January’s Outer Peace, “Laws of the Universe” is a brilliant stand-out. It’s both sexy and cartoonish with vintage appeal and modern edge, with Toro y Moi mastermind Chaz Bear’s vocal delivery relaying just enough boredom — and as soon as you feel comfortable in this song’s wacky groove, it abruptly ends, leaving you craving more. You’d want to go to this party and look bored, too. (James Murphy is spinning, so it has to be cool.) – K. Bein
Martin Garrix feat. Bonn, “No Sleep”
The beauty of “No Sleep” lives in its flexibility in size and sound. Written by Albin Nedler and Kristoffer Fogelmark, who’ve both worked with Avicii, MØ and 5 Seconds of Summer, alongside Garrix himself, “No Sleep” unfolds like a piano ballad for the EDM generation. Part pop saga, part festival anthem, the track ebbs and flows through radio-friendly melodies and mainstream dance chord progressions — you could easily hear this song at Tomorrowland and on your mom’s car radio alike. Where Swedish vocalist Bonn, who previously collabed with the Dutch superstar on “High on Life,” lays down the groundwork for a sensitive pop song, Garrix supersizes “No Sleep” into a neon-rave beast. Released this past February, “No Sleep” has since peaked at No. 12 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart. — JOHN OCHOA
Hot Chip, ‘Hungry Child’
In these trying times, it’s a good thing we have Hot Chip. While the group’s new album, A Bath Full Of Ecstasy, raises a smile with its title, there’s nothing ironic about the house-fueled highs of its lead single, “Hungry Child.” Propelled by Alexis Taylor’s aching vocals, this is six minutes of pure release, condensing the sensation of a hazy night on the dancefloor. For a song this rapturous, “Hungry Child” is now tinged with real sadness. A Bath Full Of Ecstasy saw Hot Chip work with outside producers for the first time: The xx collaborator Rodaidh McDonald and French house trailblazer Philippe Zdar, who died this month at 52. In the wake of tragedy, “Hungry Child” feels like an ecstatic tribute to everything Zdar believed in. — JACK TREGONING
Fisher, “You Little Beauty”
On his 2018 breakthrough single “Losing It,” Australian producer Fisher found the perfect balance of mainstage deep house and mainstream EDM. It’s a winning formula: The track secured the breakout artist his first Grammy nomination, for Best Dance Recording, in 2019 and also earned him millions of plays across streaming platforms. Add that to a worldwide following that spans underground and mainstream audiences alike.
Fisher revisits the same approach on “You Little Beauty,” his first original release of 2019. A direct descendant of “Losing It,” the new track falls somewhere between tech house minimalism and vintage vocal house gloss: thick, laser-like synths melt over a playful bassline and classic house hi-hats and a four-on-the-floor kick that’ll light up any dance floor, anywhere. A calculated composition, it’s enough to excite newcomers to the deeper shades of house and entice tech house purists with equal measure. Built around a soulful vocal sample of “Love Sensation” from disco and house icon Loleatta Holloway, itself a resampled staple in electronic music, “You Little Beauty” comprises all the elements of a modern festival anthem and a future classic in the making. — J.O.
Nora En Pure, “We Found Love”
Some bangers wring you out; others rein you in. Nora En Pure’s “We Found Love” is squarely in the latter camp. It’s one of those special weapons against traffic, lines at the post office or whatever stresses the day may bring — three minutes worth of an isolation tank music, washing through a pair of headphones like a cool tide. That’s due in no small part to fellow house hero Ashibah, whose moonbeam vox floats sweet nothings over the blissful slice of deep-house: “I’m where I’m supposed to be / Promise you’ll stay with me.” It’s a distillation of the “oh my god, am I in love with this person?” moment that rom-com obsessives and festival hook-up veterans know all too well. In other words, we found your end-of-the-night summer anthem. — D.O.
KH (a.k.a. Four Tet), “Only Human”
When Four Tet tweeted “The sample has been cleared” back in February, trainspotters previously let down by Shazam rejoiced en masse. Since last year, a track (allegedly his edit of Nelly Furtado’s “Afraid” from her 2006 album Loose) had been making the social media rounds and was a constant source of “ID???” comments after playouts from tastemakers like Ben UFO, Joy Orbison and Midland. As Four Tet explained, it was only after he received a video of himself rinsing it at Dekmantel that he decided he should try to release it. The blocky, percussive track — a highlight at his recent Coachella showing — is made for rumbling through dark dancefloors, propelled into euphoria by whirlwind loops of chanting voices. More than a celebration of Furtado via sampling, “Only Human,” released under Four Tet alias KH, is an example of how the producer born Kieran Hebden flexes his ability to mesh popular music and warehouse-friendly electronics in a way that elevates both forms. Thankfully, it’s an “ID???” no more. — K.R.
CamelPhat & Jake Bugg, “Be Someone”
Grammy-nominated British duo CamelPhat teamed with singer, songwriter and fellow Brit Jake Bugg for “Be Someone.” Out June 5 via RCA, Bugg’s lilting vocals over CamelPhat’s signature darkly melodic house together create a summery sonic cocktail sure to be sipped at clubs and festivals all season. As the song crescendos over a hypnotic bassline, the narrative shifts from a tale about the dazzling facade of fame and fortune to a motivational mantra, the refrain repeating “Here to be someone/ Tryna be someone” just as that delicious climax drops. An instant anthem, the track is a reminder that out on the dancefloor, anyone can be someone. ?– M.D.
Bassnectar & Peekaboo feat. Born I, “Illusion”
A headbanger and a half, this tune is the third track on Bassnectar’s Reflective (Part 4) EP. The series focuses on collaboration, with “Illusion” partnering with bass up-and-comer Peekaboo and frequent vocal partner Born I to create an audible roller coaster of whiplash sounds. “Illusion” tears through the fabric of space-time and forces you to higher levels of bass consciousness. This song, built to be blasted full volume and destined to be a high point of any Bassnectar set, is made even more mind-blowing when set to the psychedelic visuals of director Nohista of the Moment Factory company. Push this one to 11 and beyond, and get the place moving. — K. Bein
Alison Wonderland, “Peace”
“I never feel good enough,” Alison Wonderland told Billboard in her March cover story. That plain-spoken candor, a world away from the #soblessed bravado peddled by many of her peers, returned on Wonderland’s latest single, “Peace.” It follows her January team-up with Dillon Francis, ‘Lost My Mind’, which offset its raw lyrics with some cathartic bass drops. “Peace,” on the other hand, strips back the festival-readiness and puts the emotion right up front. For a song that opens with the line, “Nights are numb, days are dead”, ‘Peace’ builds to a surprisingly resolute — if not entirely hopeful — mantra. On Twitter, Wonderland told fans she wrote ‘Peace’ to find closure. What better place than right out in the open? — J.T.
Teddy Pendergrass, “Life Is a Song Worth Singing” (Jamie Jones Remix)
It’s been nearly a decade since Teddy Pendergrass’s death, but his legacy as one of soul music’s greatest artists remains. Alongside a new documentary premiered earlier this year, Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don’t Know Me, Mixmag (whose parent company, Wasted Talent, co-produced the doc) recruited some of today’s top dance stars to pay tribute to Pendergrass in a remix package. Among the group is Hot Creations co-founder Jamie Jones, who took the disco bassline of 1978 single “Life is a Song Worth Singing” and drove it home to Studio 54 with dramatic strings and synth work that recalls Donna Summer epic “I Feel Love,” while acid licks bring it back to the present. Jones’ focus on specific lyrics like “Only you generate the power to decide what to do with your life” mixes the otherwise carefree joy of the dancefloor experience with introspection, hope and resilience — all sorely needed today. — K.R.
Major Lazer, “Can’t Take It From Me”
Major Lazer saw a major shake-up this year, with Houston native Ape Drums stepping in beside Diplo and Walshy Fire after Jillionaire’s exit. Of course, personnel changes are nothing new for the group, which launched back in 2008 as an outlet for Diplo and Switch. “Can’t Take It From Me,” which dropped ahead of the new lineup’s debut at Governors Ball in New York, is very much the Major Lazer you know. Skip Marley is a perfect foil, selling the message over crisp and unfussy production. It remains to be seen whether “Can’t Take It From Me” turns up on that elusive next album, Music Is the Weapon, but Diplo and co. followed it swiftly with “Make It Hot” alongside Brazilian star Anitta. Some things change, but Major Lazer hustles on. — J.T.
Holly Herndon, “Frontier”
Much has been made about the amorphous relationship between humans and machines on PROTO, the fifth studio LP by Berlin-based artist Holly Herndon, and nowhere else on the album do the two forms of intelligence come to a lusher or more ecstatic synthesis than on knockout single “Frontier.” Inspired by traditional Appalachian Sacred Harp singing, done a cappella, the track builds to a crescendo of voices that obfuscate the difference between human and machine, but which nonetheless elicits the biologically innate goosebump response. –– K. Bain
Dog Blood, “Break Law”
Aside from the occasional high-profile festival set and social media teases, things have been quiet with Dog Blood, the super-duo composed of electronic megastars Skrillex and Boys Noize. It’d been more than five years since we last heard new music from the twosome—they released their last EP, Middle Finger Pt. 2, in 2013 — an eternity in dance music. Last month, Dog Blood finally broke the silence with Turn Off the Lights, a raucous four-track EP that kicks you in the face before it sucker-punches you in the gut. That’s largely thanks to opening track “Break Law,” a monster tune spewing out loads of distorted noise atop layers of trunk-rattling bass. Both producers’ production prowess and technical aptitude are on full and equal display here: Skrillex’s crisp and calculated drum work aggressively collides with Boys Noize’s savage, acid-washed techno grind. The end result is an electro whirlwind years in the making, and very much worth the wait. — J.O.
Róisín? Murphy, “Incapable”
Is it better to have danced together and lost than to have never danced at all? Veteran underground pop hero Róisín Murphy does Robyn’s signature hit one better on “Incapable” by writing an ecstatic tearjerker about failing to make the connection in the first place: “Never had a broken heart/ Am I incapable of love?” she belts on the chorus. Sounds dramatic, and it is, but over a frisky, eight-minute, two-chord bounce, it’s also unexpectedly playful and supportive, even as Murphy hits her height of despair: “I don’t know if I can love, in all honesty/ I don’t know if that’s what I’m feeling!” The message, as with “Dancing on My Own”: Heartbroken or not, the dance floor will always be there for you. — A.U.
Diplo, “New Shapes”
It’s fitting that Diplo’s best song in years is called “New Shapes.” The genre-agnostic 40-year-old is a beat doctor without borders, floating from Bieber collabs to whatever catches his ear in a given year. We’ll have to wait a bit longer to see how his country album pans out, but until then, we’ve got Europa, an EP of hat tips to what’s poppin’ in the club scene across the pond. Lead single “New Shapes” is an understated bit of club-trap brilliance, all atmosphere — fog-bank synths and teeth-chattering beats — with French-British MC Octavian huddled up in a hoodie, crooning bitterly about the girl problem du jour. For a typically maximalist producer, “New Shapes” is more Burial than Major Lazer — Diplo in the dark. — D.O.
James Blake feat. André 3000, “Where’s the Catch?”
Coming three years after The Colour in Anything, expectation was high for James Blake’s fourth album, Assume Form. After memorable turns on Black Panther: The Album, what new shades would we hear in his sound? The answer: loved-up earnestness sparked by his relationship with actress Jameela Jamil. However, Assume Form also gave us collaborations with the likes of Metro Boomin, Travis Scott and Rosalía, reflecting Blake’s cachet in the hip-hop and R&B orbit. On “Where’s The Catch?” the producer meets OutKast’s inimitable André 3000 with a steady kick-drum and fluttering piano. André was recently spotted playing a flute on a stroll around LAX, an incident that stops just short of a Key & Peele sketch. We know he does eccentric well. ‘Where’s The Catch?’ reaffirms his command. — J.T.
It’s been over a year since Avicii’s tragic death, in April 2018, and the global dance music community is still reeling. For many worldwide dance fans, TIM — Avicii’s final artist album, released posthumously earlier this month — is the bittersweet valediction closing out an era of electronic music history largely defined by his indelible melodies and sweeping soundscapes. Much like TIM as a whole, “Heaven,” the album’s third and final single, offers many moments of reflection and relief. The track, which has hit No. 83 on the Hot 100, is built on the key elements of the classic Avicii sound: sparkling piano chords, lush production, panoramic vocal melodies (care of Coldplay frontman Chris Martin) and touching lyrics. Originally written and recorded in 2014, “Heaven” was completed by Avicii in 2016 — and for just a moment, it takes listeners back to a time when Avicii defined EDM as a sound and lifestyle, only to ultimately serve as a reminder of his untimely demise. It’s a bittersweet dichotomy: a snapshot of a life and career that could have been and a final send-off offering closure for Avicii fans around the world. — J.O.
Marie Davidson, “Work It” (Soulwax Remix)
French-Canadian music maker Marie Davidson is one boss lady. Her original tune puts your nose to the grindstone with relentless rhythm and punctuated vocals, but this Soulwax remix works the hard-hitting beat into an even sweatier mess. The synth growls a little edgier, the pulse blinks a little funkier and the whole club dances like it’s gunning for that promotion. Davidson’s inspired vocals will have you putting in extra hours whether you’re getting paid or not. It’s all about working for yourself, after all, and that’s a message we can get behind. This remix has been a huge hit in Ibiza, and we have it scheduled in our weekend rotation for the foreseeable future. — K. Bein
DJ Snake, “Loco Contigo”
Is there any big-name dance star who sails between trends quite like DJ Snake? The French hitmaker has made breezy opportunism his brand, flitting wherever the charts dictate. That malleability suits the shadowy persona we see on Instagram — the sunglasses and prayer hands always just so, giving nothing away. (How many fans have heard him speak beyond main stage commands?) Following the success of the Latin-tinged and star-studded “Taki Taki,” DJ Snake hit the bilingual jackpot again with “Loco Contigo,” featuring Tyga and “Mi Gente” creator J Balvin. With its easy beachside strut, this is another savvy departure from the DJ Snake bangers of old. Let the Spotify plays stack up. –– J.T.
The Chemical Brothers, “Got to Keep On”
The legendary U.K. duo’s ninth studio album No Geography is a strong contender for our favorite LP of the year, and “Got to Keep On” is a soulful, disco high point. The secret to this single’s ecstatic groove is in the mid-section breakdown–you’ve ridden its breezy, repetitive hook to dance floor bliss for two minutes when, suddenly, the melody quiets. Your ears fill with chatter and whistles as you’re sonically transported you to a party atmosphere. A man’s voice — a sample from a 1968 dial-a-poem phone service — booms and crackles. “And the rain falls down like tears” he repeats over an escalating, whirring techno synth. The tension becomes almost maddening, and just when you’re about to scream, the chime of exultant disco bells gives sweet release. All you can do is put your hands up and surrender to the perfect groove. — K. Bein
Daphni feat. Paradise, “Sizzling”
Dan Snaith’s Daphni project had allowed him to do more straightforward club music than he’d traditionally released under his Caribou alias, but he’d never gone full Paradise Garage until this June’s “Sizzling.” An edit of Bermudian group Paradise’s post-disco 1981 single “Sizzlin’ Hot,” Snaith essentially ups the RPM setting of the original from 33 1/3 to 45, turning an already fairly nimble horn-led groove into a full-band race to the finish line. You think you’ve acclimated to the song’s accelerated pace, alarm-clock cowbell and practically out-of-body vocal exhortations — and then a little over two minutes in, the beat really kicks in. Just in time for summer? Hell, it basically got us there a couple weeks ahead of schedule. –– A.U.
Jayda G, “Leave Room 2 Breathe”
How many albums this year have fused environmentalism, academia and throwback odes to phone-free dancefloors? Precisely one: Jayda G’s Significant Changes. The disco- and house-devoted producer recorded her debut album while completing a master’s degree in Resource and Environmental Management — mirroring her thesis, the album opens with “Unifying The Center (Abstract)” and builds to ‘”Conclusion.” “Leave Room 2 Breathe,” featuring vocalist Alexa Dash, is the album’s gleaming centerpiece: True to the title, it’s seven minutes of unhurried groove (and a touch of cowbell), ushered along by the refrain, “Slow it down baby, don’t ruin the flow.” It’s a neat distillation of Jayda G’s refreshing presence on the house and techno circuit, where her free-ranging DJ sets pop with color. Get in the flow. — J.T.
Jess Glynne & Jax Jones, “One Touch”
A protégé of deep house champion Duke Dumont, U.K. producer Jax Jones specializes in piano-heavy house anthems boasting soulful melodies and sonorous chords strong enough to take you to church. That sentiment is doubled in strength on the Jess Glynne track “One Touch,” co-written and co-produced by Jones. Released in May 2019, as part of a deluxe reissue of Glynne’s 2018 album, Always in Between, “One Touch” resonates with classic house vibrancy, updated with a “touch” of modern dance-pop shine. While the track bangs with club-ready energy, Jones’ production takes a backseat to Glynne’s powerful vocals. Glynne, who first wowed dance fans in 2014 with a pair of international hits in Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be” and “My Love” from U.K. producer/DJ Route 94, delivers a touching, undeniable vocal performance that helped deliver “One Touch” to No. 15 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart earlier this month. — J.O.
JOYRYDE, “Im Gone”
Of all Joyryde’s productions, “Im Gone” is one of the most perplexing. It’s a mind-bending exploration of classical chords, bass house grooves and assaultive breakbeat rhythms; a patchwork collage of sounds, moods and textures — but that’s not what makes it so baffling. What’s really wild, is that the English producer doesn’t even remember making parts of it. “I started it while recovering from back surgery on maximum strength opioid pills,” he told Billboard Dance in February. “I realized what it was like to feel my mental health slipping. I’m grateful to have music and JOYRYDE in my life because that’s what pulled me back into the strongest version of myself I’ve ever been.” The single marks the first from a forthcoming album inspired by his recovery. — K. Bein
Diplo, “Hold You Tight”
Yes, Diplo is making three appearances on this list, but bear with us, as the confoundingly prolific producer has released a barrage of projects across myriad genres in the first half of 2019. An effervescent slice of pure dance floor bliss, “Hold You Tight,” comes from Higher Ground, his four-track house EP, and we can’t get the song out of our heads, nor do we want to. –– K. Bain
Antony & Cleopatra, “Why Don’t You Just Call Me”
Antony & Cleopatra, the rising London-based duo composed of Australian-born songwriter/producer Alexander Burnett (“Antony”) and U.K. singer/songwriter Anita Blay (“Cleopatra”), specialize in creating vintage-meets-modern house music. Their style lifts all the best elements of classic house and disco music—sensual diva vocals, layered textures, glittering synths, body-moving rhythms—and updates the sounds with R&B flavors and modern-day electronic sensibilities.
While their sound leans into pop territory, Antony & Cleopatra are U.K. dance music to the core. “Why Don’t You Just Call Me,” their newest single, captures the duo’s essence. Mixing disco-house melodies and highly filtered synths, the track is equal parts late-night R&B, deep house sexiness and dance-pop revelry. Both band members contribute vocals, with Antony’s silky flirtations kissing Cleopatra’s anxious yet hypnotizing coos. Like fellow U.K. breakout dance acts Disclosure and AlunaGeorge, Antony & Cleopatra inject their house-fueled sound with a keen appreciation for enhanced production and pop-structured songwriting. And just like their countrymen, they’re well on their way to international stardom. — J.O.