It’s rare to bear witness to the emergence of a new musical moment, but — in clubs and festival fields and inside our headphones — we collectively experienced the birth of modern dance music this decade. As the music evolved from its house and techno origins in Chicago, Detroit and New York, crossed back over into the States from Europe — where the sound had matured in the ’90s and ’00s — it created a bonafide youth movement, fueled by bass drops and confetti blasts. It was loud. It was fresh. It was thrilling. It was ours.
As dance music bubbled up into the mainstream throughout the 2010s, the sound splintered into genres, subgenres and sub-subgenres, with superstar producers establishing the sound and earning potential of the scene and bedroom producers evolving the music in as many directions as the decade’s emerging technology allowed them to move in.
With the spectrum of the genre thus continuously widening, the scene’s countless artists, parties, festivals, labels, songs and genres could sometimes seem disparate, but altogether these pieces added up to nothing less than a dance dance revolution that generated excitement, money, power struggles, controversy, joy and which ultimately — and most importantly — made millions of us dance our asses off.
Here, Billboard Dance presents the 60 dance tracks that most defined the decade. Read our list below, and find a Spotify playlist of all 60 at the bottom.
60. Chris Malinchak, “So Good to Me” (2013)
With mainstream dance music sounding as thick and aggro as it had been in decades, Brooklyn DJ Chris Malinchak owned the summer of 2013 — overseas, anyway — with the subtle and impossibly sweet floor-filler “So Good to Me.” Built around a warm synth blanket and brilliantly deployed vocal samples from the classic Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell duet “If This World Were Mine,” the song is as sublime as any originally composed love song of the ’10s, with a pulsing beat you can actually feel the blood pumping through. A throwback? The past wishes. — ANDREW UNTERBERGER
59. Oliver, “Light Years Away” (2014)
Fools Gold DJ duo Oliver’s 2014 electro-house banger sounds like how you might’ve imagined Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy score if it had been pitched a half-decade earlier; ’80s nostalgia with a gleefully cyber-dystopic edge. The drops might not have been able to compete with Skrillex bass bombs at EDC, but the tension that builds up with each revving of the bass makes the title hook a surprisingly satisfying shout-along. — A.U.
58. Shiba San, “Okay” (2014)
One of the most unforgettable basslines of the decade, Shiba San’s “Okay” rumbled through the dance world upon its 2014, helping establish the signature quirky, bouncy, bass-y Dirtybird sound. Five years later, its build-up, undulating low end tones and face-slapping drop — punctuated by a chorus consisting solely of “okay” — is still heard at least once at any given American music festival. Five years later and it’s not unusual to hear those on the dancefloor attempting to sing along to the melody or ask, “What’s that one song that goes ‘dugga dugga dugga dugga dugga dugga dugga doom…doom-doom?’” Those in the know always knows the answer. — MORENA DUWE
57. Lana Del Rey, “Summertime Sadness” (Cedric Gervais Remix) (2013)
It might be hard to remember a time when Lana Del Rey wasn’t considered one of the generation’s most beloved singer-songwriters, but her first taste of international pop success was largely credited not to her own work. That came thanks to the high-octane 2013 remix of Born to Die ballad “Summertime Sadness” — from Cedric Gervais, the French DJ and producer who had just experienced relative success with his rave anthem “Molly.” In a 2013 interview, Gervais explained that while bigger name artists began had thus begun seeking remixes from him, it was Del Rey’s voice that interested him most, and captivated by the track’s romantic vocals, he produced the remix in a single day.
With Gervais’ touch, it became the unavoidable anthem of the year. The “Summertime Sadness” remix became Del Rey’s first (and to date, stilly only) single to reach the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, simultaneously raising her profile, and earning Gervais a Grammy win for best remixed recording, non-classical. — VALERIE LEE
56. Alesso feat. Matthew Koma, “Years” (2012)
The “Clocks” for the EDM age, with Swedish progressive house producer Alesso oscillating between a cascading piano twinkle and a chest-punching synth overload, while jack-of-all-toplines Matthew Koma waxes rhapsodic with future nostalgia. “These will be the years,” Koma promises. And they were. — A.U.
55. Green Velvet & Patrick Topping, “Voicemail” (2014)
Green Velvet, an underground legend cured to perfection by the 90s rave scene, brings his unflappable brand of pulsating techno to this 2014 dance hit. Paired with British DJ/producer Patrick Topping, “Voicemail” samples a series of, well, voicemails, with these deadpan monologues — “I’m not calling to have you put me on the guest list for tonight, but I was wondering if I could ride with you. I have to get my hair and nails did, so please tell the limo driver to wait for me” — played over repetitive techno beats. It was an absurd instant classic that delivered the sound of the dance scene’s origins to new audiences. — M.D.
54. Nicolas Jaar, “Time For Us” (2010)
A decade on from its release, “Time For Us” remains a serious vibe, with the seven-plus minutes of Nicolas Jaar’s breakout tune feeling preserved in the amber of 2010. Jaar was a 20-year-old Brown University student when he handed over “Time For Us” to Wolf + Lamb, the white-hot record label run by the DJ duo of the same name. With woozy, cerebral club kids like Seth Troxler, Michael J Collins and Soul Clap among its ranks, Wolf + Lamb was a perfect launchpad for Jaar ahead of his star-making 2011 album, Space Is Only Noise. “Time For Us” is bare-bones, but luxurious, combining Jaar’s natural headiness with a strong club instinct. There’s a plaintive piano line and slow-chugging bassline set against background whoops and chatter, before Jaar’s tranquilizing vocals slide in. — JACK TREGONING
53. Alison Wonderland, “Good Enough” (2018)
The lead track from Alison Wonderland’s sophomore album, Awake, “Good Enough” is a dark, frenetic meditation on worthiness and self-esteem, outfitted with the Australian producer’s own cello playing. Since her ascent, the artist born Alison Scholler has been an outspoken advocate of mental health in the electronic music realm, using her work, and her Twitter account, to frankly discuss the challenges of wondering if anything is ever, in fact, good enough. It’s an existential question we all deal with in one way or another, and one that fans of this massive, bass-y track answered with a resounding “yes.” — K. Bain
52. Jai Paul, “BTSTU” (2011)
In a scene overrun by spotlight seekers, Jai Paul is a true exception. Back in 2010, the London-based producer casually uploaded a demo called ‘BTSTU’ to his MySpace page. Before long, tastemaking DJs everywhere were desperate to play it out. XL Recordings, then home to the likes of M.I.A. and Vampire Weekend, swooped on the track and released it officially as “BTSTU (edit).”
For a debut single, it felt instantly iconic. From the opening lines — “don’t f-k with me, don’t f-k with me” — the song flits from light to dark, with heavy rumbles offsetting the flashes of clarity. Both Beyoncé and Drake sampled “BTSTU (edit)” — the kind of exposure young producers dream about. But chasing fame was never Jai Paul’s thing. Instead he retreated for most of the decade, only emerging in 2019 with two new songs, “Do You Love Her Now” and “He.” No surprises here: they’re also brilliant. — J.T.
51. Peggy Gou, “It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)” (2018)
Ever hear of the state of flow? It’s that perfect pocket of rhythm and creation wherein the world seems to bow toward your whim. It’s a divine way of being, and it’s a mind-clearing magic Peggy Gou finds in her music-writing process. “It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)” distills the moment into six-and-a-half minutes of retro house gold. It’s tropical and mysterious with a rambunctious beat and an infectiously funky synth line, while Gou’s honey-drip singing voice lends a calming hand. This song slinks around the room like a powerful woman in a gauzy caftan, the kind of presence you hope lingers. Listen to it enough times, and you might fall into a state of flow, too. — KAT BEIN
50. Tim Berg, “Seek Bromance” (2011)
Before he was one of the world’s most famous DJ/producers, Tim Bergling — soon to be known as Avicii — was one of many users on Laidback Luke’s online fan forum sharing his tracks and asking for production advice from his home in Stockholm, Sweden. Who knew (aside from LBL, who recognized the budding artist’s potential) that the artist would soon be sharing his music with the world? One of his best-known songs pre-breakthrough was “Seek Bromance,” under his Tim Berg alias.
A vocal version of his previous single, “Bromance,” “Seek Bromance” even then possessed the hallmarks of an Avicii hit: stadium-sized synth leads, infectious melodies and earworm lyrics that echo in your head far beyond the song’s last note. “I will give to you the love you seek and more,” singer Amanda Wilson repeats in the chorus. A promise of acceptance and unconditional love, it felt like the embodiment of dance music’s PLUR lifestyle. — KRYSTAL RODRIGUEZ
49. The Chemical Brothers, “Got To Keep On” (2019)
Since 1989, Manchester’s Chemical Brothers have popped some of the block-rockin’est beats ever produced. Never one to cling to trends, the duo opened 2019 with a breathtaking album that blended hard, mechanical intensity and ethereal disco groove with hip-shaking funk and vocal samples from 1960s poets. Single “Got To Keep On” is a cinematic celebration in your ear, a rush of dance floor ecstasy with a chaotic build and church-bell release that explodes inside your own cells. The music video, directed by The Chemical Brothers’ longtime collaborator Michel Gondry, features a psychedelic Soul Train to bring each cocky hit to life. It’s a highlight of the group’s live show, and a certified new classic for the ages. — K. Bein
48. Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynne, “Rather Be” (2013)
During a moment in dance music when the prevailing trend was to make music that rattled skulls, U.K. trio Clean Bandit ascended with a sweet, swirling love song outfitted in strings and Jess Glynne’s sunbeam of a voice. The melody was undeniable, the production was effervescent, and these pieces put together won Clean Bandit the 2015 Grammy for best dance recording. — K. Bain
47. Bassnectar, “Bass Head” (2011)
The great commercial breakthrough of “EDM” may define the decade, but without dubstep as a gateway, it may have never taken hold. The wobbly, bass-centric sound hit every nerve in America’s collective collegiate youth, turning Greek-life gym rats and edge-dwelling nerds into kindred headbangers. It was all the rage to, well, “rage,” and no one hit the speakers harder than the Bay Area’s long-haired Bassnectar.
A master of genre-hopping mayhem with brutal low-register grooves, his live sets have shut clubs down with pure decibel force. It was a problem that plagued his 2010 tour in support of the Timestretch EP, a collection of hip-hop and dub-infused tunes that pit hair-raising melodies with layers of quality sound design in a bossy but psychedelic package. “Bass Head” was particularly beloved, as it gave dubstep fans a term by which they could rally together. To this day, Bassnectar’s Bass Heads are some of the most devoted fans in the industry, loyal to a nearly frightening degree. — K. Bein
46. Hannah Wants & Chris Lorenzo, “Rhymes” (2014)
Daft Punk’s “Technologic” has been sampled nearly 30 times, most famously by Busta Rhymes in his 2005 hit “Touch It.” In 2014, Hannah Wants and Chris Lorenzo paid bass-riffic homage to both brain-melting jams with one deliciously dank house groove. “Rhymes” takes the rapper’s low-end approach and freaks it, 4 a.m. style, with wide-eyed synth hits and shaky-knee rumbles. This is smoky warehouse rave stuff, the kind of bleep-bloop bass music you listen to in the dark while someone waves a glow stick in your face. It’s also got one helluva half-time breakdown. — K. Bein
45. Camelphat & Elderbrook, “Cola” (2017)
Camelphat’s hypnotic bassline, combined with Elderbrook’s velvety vocals, fused into an undeniable dance track just as at home in clubland as in the festival fields. Recorded in 2017, “Cola” quickly became beloved throughout several dance scenes, with fans and fellow producers proud to see a member of electronic underground rise to the status of Grammy nominee. — M.D.
44. DJ Koze, “Pick Up” (2018)
Was there a more pervasive or perfectly suited song for clubbing in 2018 than “Pick Up”? From the time of its April release to 2018’s end, DJs and dancers spent the penultimate year of the decade falling in love with the lead single off DJ Koze’s record, Knock Knock. A masterful blend of Gladys Knight & the Pips’ “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” and “Pick Me Up, I’ll Dance” by Melba Moore, “Pick Up” increased Koze’s usual degree of melancholy without sacrificing any of the playfulness that’s otherwise defined the German DJ’s work.
Whether by divine alchemy or simple production savvy, Koze made a record that simultaneously embodies the downtrodden mood of the late 2010s and provides a much-needed balm for it. Like the best disco records, “Pick Up” doesn’t wallow in its heartbreak for too long before permitting its heavily filtered bass line and galloping percussion to pick itself and listeners right back up. — ZACH SCHLEIN
43. Icona Pop feat. Charli XCX, “I Love It” (2012)
On the 2012 single “I Love It,” Icona Pop were the people we wished we could be after a horrible breakup. The song itself feels like an exercise in purging, its vocals half-sung, half-shouted atop maximalist synths revving with chainsaw-like ferocity. Throwing your ex’s clothes down the stairs, totaling the car you shared and probably fought in too many times to count: both things you might have wanted to do out of sheer pettiness, but could only play out in your head like the protagonist of your own life’s movie. “I Love It” gives you the adrenaline rush and catharsis of all that without actually doing it. An added bonus, it also introduced to the world the songwriting genius of Charli XCX. — K.R.
42. Major Lazer, “Original Don” (Flosstradamus Remix) (2011)
You know you did your job right when your remix outplays the original — but when the remix fire-starts its own musical movement that sets the pace of electronic output for a solid two years, you can only be Flosstradamus. The Chicago-based duo (now a solo project) got its start making indie-electro and juke-style beats, but when it gave Major Lazer’s hardstyle one-off an 808-laced, half-time rework with booty clap bass and distant chants of “hey,” it made hip-hop’s decades-old trap style a staple of the electronic world.
Looking back, the composition is incredibly simple. Flosstradamus and a million other trap producers would grab the genre and take it to unforeseeable heights until it basically became a dubstep-like race to be the hardest, trappiest, gun-shottingest project in town. But it pretty much all started here, where Flosstradamus made its name, and dance music was never the same again. – K. Bein
41. Yaeji, “Raingurl” (2017)