There are few names more synonymous with dance music than Tiësto, the Dutch DJ and producer often hailed the “godfather” of the genre. It’s a well-deserved title for the Grammy-winning electronic music behemoth, who not only conquered the underground worlds of house and trance but, as the first DJ to play a major stadium setting, was instrumental in dance music gaining mainstream recognition.
Nearly two decades since his remix of Delirium’s Sarah McLachlan-featuring “Silence” catapulted him to fame, the 48-year-old DJ born Tijs Verwest continues to pump out tracks that outsell artists half his age.
How can anyone begin to condense such an iconic career into 20 best tracks — and is it even possible? Join Billboard Dance as we do our best to try, below.
20. Tiësto – “Century”
“Hello, can you hear me?” This Kaleidoscope Tiësto song has an epic feel, with a cascading electronic beat that ushers in an otherworldly, echoed vocal to repeatedly ask the question. It’s easy to get lost in the trance track’s six-minute run, and its call to “put your hands in the air for a century” fits the track’s timeless sound.
19. Tiësto feat. Showtek – “Hell Yeah!”
This rollicking, buzzy Tiësto song lives up to its title, melding a synth-heavy, glitzy dance floor anthem with collaborator Showtek’s speaker-blasting hardstyle. Listeners get a breather around the 2:45 mark, but not for too long. The beat quickly jerks back into a thumping, bass-heavy beast. Hell yeah.
18. Tiësto – “Elements of Life”
As the title track off Tiësto’s Grammy-nominated 2007 album, it’s not surprising that this ambitious song made the list. Over eight minutes, Tiësto takes listeners through a range of textures, from a fuzzy, organ-like introduction to a breathless, chugging bass beat and glistening, overlapping synths. And it wouldn’t be a Tiësto track if it didn’t eventually transform into a dance club jam. Perhaps one of the most diverse Tiësto tracks yet, “Elements Of Life” will have listeners discovering something new with each replay.
17. Tiësto – “Urban Train”
One of the many now-iconic gems off Tiësto’s first album, In My Memory, “Urban Train” sounds almost otherworldly, weaving Kirsty Hawkshaw’s feathery vocals through skidding electronic effects and a sweeping, galactic dance-floor beat.
16. Tiësto feat. Nelly Furtado – “Who Wants To Be Alone”
Tiësto brings on a major pop name — Nelly Furtado — for this throbbing Kaleidoscope track about staying out “‘till the sun comes up.” Slightly more downtempo than Tiësto’s usual bangers, “Who Wants To Be Alone” is a revitalizing chance to catch your breath on the dance floor, particularly when Furtado’s ethereal, echoing vocals take full reign around the 3:15 mark.
15. Tiësto feat. Hardwell – “Zero 76”
Tiësto joins forces with another Dutch producer powerhouse — Hardwell — for this dancefloor bomb. Beneath its buzzy synths and jittery percussion, the zooming electronic track is an ode to the duo’s hometown — the city of Breda, Netherlands — where the country phone dialing code is, you guessed it, +076.
14. Tiësto feat. C. C. Sheffield – “Escape Me”
It’s hard to believe the Tiësto and C.C. Sheffield dance floor jam “Escape Me” dropped in 2009 — eight years later, it still feels fresh. With its glitchy, shimmering riff, disco-tinged beat and Sheffield’s seductive vocals, it’s hard not to nod in unison with the singer as she calls on listeners to “forget about the future,” a phrase that here sounds less like a mourning call and more like a battle cry.
13. Tiësto – “Chasing Summers”
Tiësto seems to pay homage to dance music mecca Miami — and its Ultra Music Festival-goers — in “Chasing Summers,” a fiery track which quickly became the anthem of his Club Life tour when it dropped back in 2012. With a characteristically melodic intro, the track quickly morphs into a blaring progressive house hit that’s as bright, electrifying and party-heavy as the city it tributes. This Tiësto song hit No. 20 on the Dance/Electronic Digital Song Sales charts.
12. Tiësto feat. Steve Aoki – “Tornado”
This twisting, distorted, grungy dance track could not have a more fitting title. “Tornado” is just that, invading the airwaves with a whirling storm of grimy, dubstep-tinged beats and siren-like calls. Destructive in the best way, this Steve Aoki-featuring record feels made for blasting.
11. Tiësto feat. Wolfgang Gartner – “We Own The Night”
Tiësto recruits Wolfgang Gartner and vocalist Luciana for this uber-confident party anthem, and it’s no mistake the bopping track is featured on volume two of Tiësto’s Club Life compilation series. Often interpreted as an ode to DJs themselves, the spooky, James Bond-esque melody brings an epic glory to the track, while a zippy club beat bubbles to the surface to compliment Luciana’s tempting interjection, “if it feels good, do it.”
10. Tiësto – “Red Lights”
Compared to his early work in trance, 2014’s “Red Lights” shows Tiësto trying his hand at acoustics and a more pop-driven progressive house sound. The experiment pays off: “Red Lights” peaked at No. 2 two on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart and No. 5 five on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs charts. The uplifting track about letting go of inhibitions lures listeners in with tender guitar strums and a slightly tropical beat before morphing into a classic Tiësto jam, pulsing synths, supersonic drum beats and all.
9. Tiësto feat. Diplo – “C’Mon”
Given both of their prevalence in the world of dance music, It was only a matter of time before Tiësto linked up with DJ and mega-producer Diplo. The moment finally came in 2010 with “C’Mon,” a track that’s since become instantly-recognizable among electronica crowds. This one’s practically made for the music festival stage, with its surging bassline, glistening synth riff and roaring interjections courtesy of Busta Rhymes.
8. Tiësto & KSHMR feat. Vassy – “Secrets”
Tiësto dropped another festival season anthem in the spring of 2015 with the KSHMR collab “Secrets,” a sumptuous blend of trance and progressive house that features the DJ’s characteristic high-power zippy synths alongside Aussie diva Vassy’s sultry purr: “I’ll take you on a ride, if you can keep a secret.” The track was sure to enrapture crowds at Ultra Music Festival where Tiësto performed it just weeks later, and its bubbling, mischievous feel has yet to go stale.
7. Tiësto – “Maximal Crazy”
Make way for the grungy, energetic festival heavy-hitter so bewitching, Tiësto once played it seven times in a row to continuous cheering. The title perfectly sums up the spirit of the song, which — with its energetic synths, roaring drop and hyped “like this, like that” interjections — was made for die-hard ravers.
6. Tiësto feat. Sneaky Sound System – “I Will Be Here”
Fans can thank “I Will Be Here” for bringing dance floors everywhere yet another iconic beat. Coupled with the chilling, pop-tinged vocals of Sneaky Sound System’s Connie Mitchell as she belts out motivational lyrics, the pounding electro melody is a club mainstay.
5. Tiësto – “Love Comes Again”
Tiësto teams up with fellow trance pioneer BT (Brian Transeau) for this hopeful single off Just Be. Whether you’re a die-hard fan of the ebullient, trance-tinged track or not, all modern dance music fans owe something to “Love Comes Again,” just one of the numerous Tiësto tracks that helped shape early 2000s house music.
4. Tiësto – “Traffic”
While many DJs and musicians have attempted to remix this classic Tiësto song, it’s hard to beat the original. A pounding blend of clashing drums, a trance beat courtesy of Sean Deason’s “Psykofuk” and that iconic synth line makes “Traffic” a go-to for Tiësto sets today just as much as it did in 2003.
3. Tiësto – “Lethal Industry”
Let’s throw it back to Tiësto’s debut studio album — 2001’s In My Memory — to give this edgy, industrial masterpiece its due. The piercing, ever-so-slightly medieval chords of its hook are still instantly recognizable years later, and have since earned the track dozens of remixes. Spoiler alert: None stand up quite to the rapture of the original.
2. Tiësto feat. Tegan and Sara – “Feel It In My Bones”
An international trance legend like Tiësto and Canadian sisterly indie duo Tegan and Sara may seem like an unlikely match. But they made a stellar team for 2009’s “Feel It In My Bones,” a glimmering, trance-turned-pop tune about an unshakable obsession. While Tegan and Sara Quin wrote and sung the track’s haunting vocals, Tiësto provides a throbbing, celestial-sounding house beat. And it’s actually not the first time the two acts have collaborated — a year or so before, Tiësto remixed the singer-songwriter duo’s “Back In Your Head.”
1. Tiësto – “Adagio For Strings”
Unleashed as the fourth single off Tiësto’s second studio album Just Be, this electronic cover of the classical 20th-century Samuel Barber composition brought the DJ superstar status. Not only did the now-legendary trance track help snag Tiësto an invitation to perform at the opening ceremony of the 2004 Olympics, but it’s now thought to be one of the greatest dance records of all time — and it’s not hard to see why. While the original was meant to be a mournful piece, Tiësto’s version amps up the beat with pulsating basslines, rapid-fire percussion and bone-chilling string sections.