At 19, Porter Robinson was a self-taught producer-DJ from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with an affinity for Japanese culture and the glitchy electronic beats of video game Dance Dance Revolution. Now 24, the dance wunderkid has risen from prodigy of greats like Zedd and Skrillex to a dance force known for challenging the genre’s status quo, releasing his acclaimed debut album Worlds in 2014.
Success came fast for the young artist, whose 2011 Spitfire EP was the first release off Skrillex’s OWSLA imprint. While the DJ embarked on a hiatus from new music come 2015, which he’d later attribute to struggles with depression and self-doubt, he broke out in 2017 alongside his best buddy Madeon with “Shelter,” a collaborative single and tour that marked a new chapter.
Robinson quickly followed that project with Virtual Self, an alter-ego moniker dedicated to modernized takes on late-90s and early 2000s happy hardcore, drum’n’bass and Internet forum nostalgia. In 2019, he launched a self-curated music festival called Second Sky in northern California, and it’s confirmed for a second year in 2020.
While the world still waits for new music from Porter Robinson proper, there’s plenty of material to work with — especially given the artist’s wide range of influences, which include everything from anime and viral YouTube series to games like The Legend of Zelda.
Don’t know where to start? Follow along below, as Billboard Dance rounds up the 10 best Porter Robinson songs so far.
10. Porter Robinson – “Flicker”
Out of all the tracks from Worlds, “Flicker” stands out as possibly the most intricate. This one’s got everything, from funky beats fit for a summer barbecue to chopped-up Japanese vocals and heavy synth overflow. Combined, the track elicits a warm and fuzzy nostalgia — not to mention an inescapable urge to dance.
9. Porter Robinson – “100% in the Bitch”
“You bitch,” begins this Spitfire track, spoken through the YouTube user bumnumba1, whose profanity-filled “Namasensei’s Japanese Lessons” video Robinson sampled. It’s a clever (albeit vulgar) twist on Robinson’s well-known interest in Japan, and the fiery, saturated dubstep beat is an undeniable hit.
8. Porter Robinson – “Sea of Voices”
A stark contrast with “100%,” this serene Worlds song shows just how wide-ranging Robinson’s talent really is. Choir-like vocals wash over the clink of what sounds like wind chimes in the five-minute, largely instrumental track, culminating in a thumping, muffled drum session that sounds straight out of a rock band. With its tranquil, atmospheric vibe and mystical lyricism (“we’ll stir our spirits till we’re one”), “Sea of Voices” is like a therapy session for the ears.
7. Porter Robinson – “Unison”
A track near-universally recognized among dance club crowds, “Unison” is a force in the genre. Though the standout song — further popularized with a remix by then newly formed duo Knife Party — comes off 2011’s Spitfire, our guess is that you can still hear echoes of its razor-sharp chord progression and dubstep-infused drop across dance floors today.
6. Porter Robinson – “Divinity”
With this upbeat offering, Robinson again bridges the line between dance and synth-pop and surprises the listener at every turn. A gaping contrast in energy between the intro and chorus help the latter sound bigger and brighter than ever, exploding from smooth, underwater-sounding vocals into a cacophony of clashing cymbals, glitchy melodies and — because this is Robinson we’re talking about — plenty of video-game blips. It’s enough to make even the most die-hard ravers weep.
5. Porter Robinson – “Say My Name”
Our list wouldn’t — couldn’t — be complete without throwing it back to one of the Porter Robinson songs that put the producer on the map. With 2010’s “Say My Name,” we hear the very beginnings of the DJ’s 8-bit techno sound, now a signature. Coupled with the catchy (and just goofy enough) tagline “say my name, and you can say it with honoooor,” the track was quick to win over dance listeners. Never mind that Robinson was in his mere teens at the time.
4. Porter Robinson & Mat Zo – “Easy”
Pure joy — nearly seven minutes of it. That’s what we get from this progressive house collab with British producer Mat Zo, which dropped back in 2013 along with an anime music video. With charming vocals, piercing chords and the bubbliest of choruses, it’s the type of track that doesn’t age with time, making it all the more legendary.
3. Porter Robinson feat. Madeon – “Shelter”
For Robinson’s most recent single, he employs the help of a childhood friend, French producer Madeon. The result is pure euphoria — the glimmer of synths meets video-game-esque chimes, a throbbing bass line and chopped-up vocals, a signature of both Robinson’s (see “Flicker”) and Madeon’s. And we haven’t even mentioned the best part: Like “Easy,” “Shelter” also came with a futuristic anime music video in tow, produced in partnership with A-1 Pictures and Crunchyroll.
2. Porter Robinson – “Sad Machine”
Leave it to Robinson to craft a song about a human-meets-robot romance — and one that absolutely works. “Sad Machine” takes a sugar-sweet, synth-pop direction, Robinson singing a sweet duet alongside a female Vocaloid voice. The glitchy, techy love song speaks to Robinson’s connection with the video game community, a theme that runs across the rest of Worlds but comes to a head on this stunning track.
1. Porter Robinson – “Language”
With the Spitfire EP, Robinson became known for aggressive, heavy-hitting house music. But on “Language,” one of his first singles following the project’s start, Robinson takes a detour toward a more delicate, trance-like sound. And the risk pays off: Listeners are left swaying when the track’s piercing vocals hit around the 3-minute mark, but pumping fists to lush synths, a thumping bass kick and euphoric chords shortly after. It’s no surprise “Language” is one of the best-known Porter Robinson songs — and our most-loved.