It’s easy to get lost in the mix, especially for dance and electronic artists, where there’s profuse competition and an endless supply of music being released on a daily basis. For acts that have been able to break through the noise, though, there are different levels to each one’s success.
There are those who are emerging, on the rise, thriving and and a select few who are straight up dominating. Billboard Dance has rounded up a group of the latter who are simply crushing in the dance music space and beyond, owning their project and executing their vision to a tee. See below for the list, ordered by last name (if applicable) alphabetically.
Steve Aoki continually proves to be one of the hardest-working artists in the music business. Amid his rigorous touring scheduling and running his Dim Mak record label (which has been in operation for over two decades now), the multi-faceted figure managed to pump up some of his strongest work to date; and from a streaming standpoint, his best work yet. His “Just Hold On” collaboration with former One Direction member Louis Tomlinson was released at the very end of 2016, but gained significant steam this year on Spotify and radio. It peaked at No. 52 on the Hot 100 — his highest ranking on the chart to date — and has accrued over 300 million streams on Spotify.
To fuel the fire, Aoki dropped his star-studded Kolony LP which features everyone from Migos and Lil Uzi Vert to 2 Chainz and Gucci Mane. The album entered the Billboard 200 and had “Lit” from the project make its way into Hot Dance/Electronic Songs, peaking at No. 34.
In an age where content is king, the Dim Mak boss has actively stayed ahead of the curve as well with television showings and his signature Aoki jump, with stars from around the world. He’s now ending the year on two high notes: “All Night,” which is a collaboration with Fifth Harmony‘s Lauren Jauregui, and a remix of “MIC Drop” by K-Pop supergroup BTS. The latter has already racked up 30 million Spotify streams and earned the group a live performance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. — DAVID RISHTY
?At age 30, Felix Cartal’s music career has spanned many genres. He signed with Dim Mak in 2009 and dropped his gritty four-track Skeleton EP, which features intense electro synths and metallic basslines. Skip to 2014 and you’ll hear some feet-tapping dance-pop melodies with “Young Love” featuring Koko LaRoo. Jump to 2016 and fans are presented with “Fakin It,” a chill house collaboration with Kaskade that features the whispery vocals of Ofelia K. Cartal’s constant shift in sound since 2009 can be seen as one of two things: a natural evolution or a continuous need to hop on what’s next, genre-wise.
Based on the producer’s newfound sound and vision for the project, however, it looks like Cartal is now leading the charge and owning it. The momentum from 2016 carried into 2017, with “Get What You Give” and “Killing Time” with R3hab. The former single even made its way into the Canadian Hot 100, peaking at No. 88 on the chart, thanks in part due to its success on Top 40 radio in Canada. — D.R.
Black Coffee is experiencing a well-deserved rise to fame. In 2017, the South African DJ had arguably his biggest year yet, fueled by a seemingly endless string of new accomplishments. In February, he was named one of the first residents of the newly minted Hï Ibiza, before being selected as the newest addition to the Beats 1 radio family in July. In September, he was crowned the Best Deep House DJ at the DJ Awards, after winning the same award the year prior. Black Coffee’s biggest breakthrough, however, arrived when Drake sampled his 2010 hit “Superman” on “Get It Together,” taken from the Canadian MC’s More Life playlist. The song, which is currently sitting at 86 million streams on Spotify, has helped usher in a new wave of commercial visibility for the flourishing South African star. — MICHAEL SUNDIUS
Maya Jane Coles
Earlier this year, the wildly popular electronic rock veterans Depeche Mode needed to pick an opener for multiple European tour dates, and they turned to Maya Jane Coles. That’s just the latest mainstream embrace of this underground, resolutely independent DJ/producer. Coles also turned in a BBC Essential Mix this year, remixed Depeche Mode’s “Going Backwards” single, and held down a jet-setting gig schedule that included stops at Coachella, Tomorrowland, Rock in Rio and Ibiza. On top of that, Coles released her sophomore album, a 24-track double LP; she produced, wrote, engineered, arranged and mixed every single track.
At this point, she might not stay in the underground for too much longer. “[Depeche Mode’s] fan base spans such a huge, diverse range of people,” she told DJ Times. “It’s what I want to reach with my music.” She signed with EMI as a producer in 2017 — a mass following could be hers in the near future. — ELIAS LEIGHT
Bass ain’t dead. In fact, it’s heavier than ever, thanks in large part to this Canadian producer. He released an 18-track remix album for his 2016 LP Virus, but the real kick came from the debut of his bass festival Lost Lands. Always one to push the decibel limits, he brought a whopping 400,000 watts to the stage production, so each sonic boom reverberated in your chest like the stomp of a T-Rex. He packed the lineup with legends and up-and-comers to prove that bass comes in all kinds of shades and styles. The successful fest will return in 2018, and we can almost guarantee it’ll be even bigger and louder. — KAT BEIN
If you went to a dance music festival this summer, chances are you heard this dude’s name get dropped a lot. The Denver-based producer played to expanding crowds from Electric Forest to Red Rocks, gaining steam in the wake of his debut album Ashes, all the while writing and recording his 2017 follow up, Awake. The album dropped in September and peaked at No. 108 on the Billboard 200. It featured more organic instrumentation, and saw him flex his songwriting muscles while daring to be more intimate. Tired of DJ sets, he wrote Awake with the intention of performing it live. He’s joined on the road by his buddies and collaborators Said The Sky and Dabin, as he performs new cuts and old favorites in the style of some electronic Taiko-drum-hitting band. It’s stage two in his ever-evolving career. — K.B.
Nina Kraviz has staked her claim as one of the most fearless DJs around. In 2017, she made it abundantly clear that she’s just as comfortable spinning techno and acid on the main stage as she is trance, hardcore, or drum ‘n’ bass. She further became synonymous with the killer closing set this year, being tapped for closing duties everywhere from EXIT and Tomorrowland to Time Warp and Awakenings. In October, she delivered her second-ever BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix, before finishing the year strong as Mixmag’s ‘DJ of the Year.’ Ultimately, Nina’s impact in 2017 is perhaps best exemplified by the virality of her live videos. On her Facebook page alone, for instance, clips of her performances this year exceed three million cumulative views. — M.S.
The Black Madonna
Few dance artists possess the ferocious funk and soul of The Black Madonna. The Chicago fixture is unashamedly headstrong not only in her musical endeavors — like her disco-dipped “He Is The One I Hear” — but in her fight for human rights and acceptance, ranging from LGBTQ advocacy to equal pay and even her unapologetic tweets at the Trump administration. The newfound empress of the underground has made it her mission to play and produce with a purpose, embodying the unity and resistance electronic music culture was built upon.
With a slew of sold-out international gigs, a defining summer residency at DC-10 Ibiza’s most in-demand party Circoloco and a relocation to London in 2017, The Black Madonna has found yet another home: a coveted residency show on dance monolith BBC Radio 1, set to launch in 2018. Like Willy Wonka’s elevator, the DJ/producer/activist is smashing all glass ceilings on her way into a labyrinth of pure imagination. — JORDAN DIAZ
?The meteoric rise of Marshmello has been nothing short of mesmerizing. While there have been a handful of eye-rollers who’ve seen his helmet branding as a gimmick, let’s talk about one aspect of the project that can’t be argued: the numbers. Marshmello has three hits on the Hot 100 right now: “Wolves” with Selena Gomez at No. 21, “Silence” with Khalid at No. 30, and “Danger” with Migos at No. 82. Keep in mind “Danger” was released on Dec. 7, two weeks ago. The three A-list singles have collectively garnered over half a billion streams on Spotify.
On the live front, Marshmello moves hard tickets by the thousands like its his day job (mainly because it is his day job). He sold out his January 12 performance at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (8,500 capacity) in San Francisco in September, and plans on selling out the January 13 showing as well. The most impressive statistic encompassing Marshmello’s career though is how quickly everything grew: His project launched in March 2015 on Soundcloud and has grown exponentially since then. He is a streaming giant, radio favorite and concert-crusher… all while keeping it mello. — D.R.
Two years of silence ended in April when ODESZA suddenly slipped two new singles into the world. “Line of Sight” and “Late Night” announced the coming of a new album. We couldn’t have known then that A Moment Apart would garner a Grammy nomination for Best Dance Album. We only knew that the Seattle duo had ambitious plans. The set dropped Sept. 8, showcasing a more mature ODESZA sound, somehow more intimate and even more grandiose than its In Return predecessor. It also features cross-genre collabs from Leon Bridges and Regina Spektor. It peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200.
A performance on Jimmy Kimmel brought them to American living rooms, and when this fancy new tour kicked off, fans were stunned to find ODESZA transformed into one of the most exciting live acts of the year. Symmetry, motion, light and music play off one another as the duo brings its music to life in new dimensions, both sonic and visual. A full-on drumline and loads of special guests across the tour helped the celebratory performances stand out from the crowd of DJs-turned-live trend hoppers. The Grammy nominations prompted the band to add 14 more dates to the tour. We’ll see what happens if they win. — K.B.
True or false: R3hab released more than 20 tracks in 2017, including remixes, and racked up approximately 200 million Spotify streams. For those who’ve been sleeping, the answer is “true”. The Dutch DJ and producer dropped his debut LP Trouble in September, and saw great success with the VÉRITÉ-featuring title track, which soared to No. 6 on Dance Club Songs. The album peaked at No. 9 on the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart. Amid his slew of original releases though, he still frequently reminded everyone he’s the remix king: From Bruno Mars‘ “24K Magic” and Alina Baraz‘s “Electric Touch” to Halsey‘s “Now Or Never” and Rita Ora‘s “Anywhere,” R3hab’s name has been everywhere — and most importantly, next to all the other right names. — D.R.
Solomun has become more than a household name in dance music, but a veritable international powerhouse. Such became evident in 2017 with the pervasiveness of his brand: from his stacked Solomun+1 parties in Ibiza, to his headlining set from Coachella’s Yuma Tent. As the creative force behind Diynamic, this year saw the long-standing veteran cement his independent imprint as one of the most influential underground labels in the world, evidenced by the mass appeal of the imprint’s Four to the Floor series. Lastly, on top of all of this, Solomun managed to snag a Beatport No. 1 with his Renaissance Remix of the 1990 rave classic, “The Age of Love.” — M.S
Most artists get a comeback story when they come out of retirement. This L.A. beat queen almost died. Doctors discovered that the artist born Jennifer Lee was suffering from a rare brain condition called moyamoya at the end of 2015. She was rushed to emergency surgery, but when she awoke she could no longer speak or understand music, let alone compose it. The 30 year old, who said nothing of the ordeal until this summer, trained herself back to normalcy in time to play Coachella three months later. In 2017, she released Lune Rouge, an 11-track album that is as much a celebration of the human spirit as it is cinematic, emotionally-resonant beats. Single “Don’t Call Me” featuring Yuma is a standout, with more than two million streams on Spotify. — K.B.