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200 Greatest Dance Songs of All Time

From Chic to Skrillex, from Chicago house classics to festival rave anthems, from songs that filled the floor at the Loft and the Warehouse to ones that blew up on TikTok.

Daft Punk

What do we mean by “dance songs”? Good question. In a sense, any song that ever got any one person moving in any perceptible direction is a dance song. The Beatles made great dance songs — as did Slayer. Nearly all the hip-hop and reggae ever made is great dance music. But to make our list of The 200 Greatest Dance Songs of All Time, a song had to be part of “dance music culture.” It’s a more specific world, but an enormous one too, going back nearly fifty years and eternally evolving right up to today and into the future.

After paying homage to the godfather of the extended groove, Mr. James Brown, our story of dance music begins in the mid-1970s with disco, and moves into early Eighties club sounds like electro and Latin freestyle. It gets born again when disco is re-engineered as house music in Chicago and techno in Detroit, and mutates with almost comic velocity into the Nineties rave explosion that produced everything from jungle to trance to gabba to garage, and eventually the EDM and dubstep bonanzas of the 2000s. These sounds all had peak moments of exposure, but they never fade away: drum ”n’ bass is having a new moment right now, and there are house songs here from the past few years.

The list doesn’t attempt to incorporate every ripple in this oceanic confluence of sub-genres. We were looking for tracks that seemed to transcend and feel more universally canonical, and we were especially mindful of the moments where dance music has intersected with the wider musical world– with synth-pop, hip-hop, funk, Miami bass, R&B, indie-rock, Latin music and pop. That’s why you’ll see Prince, Robyn, Britney Spears, Shakira, and Justin Bieber in here bumping up against Adonis, Frankie Knuckles, Moodymann, Goldie, and SOPHIE.

If you’re wondering how we got to a summer where Drake and Beyonce are suddenly releasing house records, this is that story — or, at least, our version of it.

Video Editor, Brian Lynch for Rolling Stone

Visual Credits (in order of appearance): Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get You Out of My Head, Crystal Waters – Gypsy Woman, Beyonce – Blow, Corona – The Rhythm of the Night, Madonna – Sorry, Britney – Till the World Ends, Madonna – Vogue, Daft Punk – Get Lucky, Robyn – Dancing on my Own, Joey Beltram – Energy Flash, Azealia Banks – 212, Rihanna & Calvin Harris – We Found Love, DJ Snake & Lil Jon – Turn Down for What, Sylvester – You Make Me Feel, Piri – Soft Spot, Chic – Le Freak, Dee-Lite – Groove is in the Heart, Donna Summer – I Feel Love, Prince – When Doves Cry, Erik B & Rakim – Paid in Full, First Choice – Let No Man Asunder, Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop ’Til you get Enough, A Guy Called Gerald – Voodoo Ray, Grace Jones – Bumper, Marshall – Move Your Body, Internet sensation kid 1997 in Berlin, Whitney Houston – It’s Not Right. Licensed Tracks/SFX (in order): Biodynamic modulated stutter riser, Dance like crazy – Ikoliks, Our Vibe – Superlative, Dance Out There – Alejandro Molinari, Pineapple Disco – Audiopanther, Bring It – Naems, Blurry Stars – Nbdy Nprtnt, Dark Future – Skygaze, Taika Promo (Rolling Stone VO). Song Samples (in order): Erik B & Rakim – Paid in Full, Dee-Lite – Groove is in the Heart, Madonna – Vogue, Azealia Banks – 212, Sylvester – You Make Me Feel, Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop ’Til you get Enough, Marshall Jefferson – Move Your Body, DJ Snake ft. Lil Jon – Turn Down for What, Dee-Lite – Groove is in the Heart, Whitney Houston – It’s Not Right

From Rolling Stone US


Kraftwerk, ‘Trans-Europe Express’ (1977)

“I remember we went to a loft club in New York around the time of Trans-Europe Express, and the DJ had pressed his own record, using our tapes of ‘Metal on Metal,’ but extending it on and on and on,” Kraftwerk’s co-founder Ralf Hutter said. “We were fascinated.” But of course: Kraftwerk’s clean-lined synthesizers-only grooves were both cuddly and powerful, and every subsequent electronic musician owes them, full stop. Not only was “Trans-Europe Express” big with New York hip-hoppers — it forms the bedrock of Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force’s “Planet Rock” — it was a key blueprint for the dance music, and pop, of the future. “The spirit and language of what we do is also understood in Detroit’s techno scene — Derrick May, Underground Resistance, and Rolando,” Hutter noted proudly.–M.M. 


Madonna, ‘Vogue’ (1990)

Madonna had engendered so much controversy by the time she released “Vogue” in the spring of 1990 that, she explained, “I thought MTV might not play my ‘Vogue’ video. You can see my breasts through my dress.” But the song, inspired by the Black drag balls in Harlem immortalized in Paris Is Burning, and later fictionalized in Pose, was and is irresistible. Producer Shep Pettibone fashioned the track on spec and Madonna snapped it up. “She came into the studio and said, ‘I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to call it ‘Vogue,’” Pettibone recalled. Her lyrics inspired Pettibone to add the arrangement’s crowning touch, the insistent piano. “She wanted to keep it very underground, and I was like, ‘Just trust me. Let me do what I do.’ Which she did.” Good move.–M.M.


Disclosure feat. Sam Smith, ‘Latch’ (2013)

“Most things lead back to disco,” Howard Lawrence of the London house duo Disclosure said in 2014. “People like Nile [Rodgers] and Chic, the way they structure songs, with verse and chorus, [reflects] the way we produced the songs for Settle.” That 2013 debut became an instant classic, in no small thanks to Howard and his brother Guy’s sharp taste in vocalists — Jessie Ware, AlunaGeorge, and most famously Sam Smith, the latter making his recorded debut as the star of the album’s first single, “Latch,” belting the smooth refrain in a taffy-like falsetto over equally stretched-out bass. “He was born a famous singer,” Howard Lawrence said of Smith. “His personality doesn’t suit not being famous.”–M.M.


Robin S., ‘Show Me Love’ (1992)

Beyoncé knows it, Charli XCX knows it, and if you don’t know it by now, put a pause on this list and go listen to it. “Show Me Love” brought house music into a whole new era when it rose into the mainstream in the early 1990s, made all the more impressive by the fact that diva vocalist Robin Stone had the flu when she recorded her lines. “You hear all of that emotion because I was struggling,” she told Jezebel in 2014. “That’s what you hear, frustration.” Her rawness cuts through the song’s ice-cold 4/4 beats, cementing it as one of house’s most iconic (and most sampled) anthems. —C.S.


On the House and Marshall Jefferson, ‘Move Your Body (The House Music Anthem)’ (1986)

With vocalist Ricky Dillard belting “Gotta have house! Music! All night long,” the rising sound of Chicago got its defining anthem early. Cut in the summer of 1985 and subtitled “The House Music Anthem” as a tweak to Trax Records owner Larry Sherman, who didn’t think house music and pianos went together (!), writer-producer Marshall Jefferson watched as the song detonated clubs from New York to Ibiza to London, from dubbed cassette copies traveling from DJ to DJ. People were already singing along to it by the time Trax Records released the 12-inch in 1986. Jefferson had gotten a hint of it when he brought the demo to DJ Ron Hardy of the Chicago club Music Box: “He played it six times in a row. He told me not to take it to anybody else. He wanted an exclusive on it.” But nothing this catchy stays a secret for long. And nobody doubted that house music and pianos belonged together ever again.–M.M.


Robyn, ‘Dancing on My Own’ (2010)

Heartbreak on the dance floor has been a running theme in pop from the beginning, but few songs have combined groove power and bittersweet emotion with the precision of Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own.” Robyn and co-writer Patrik Berger worked on the song diligently, filling a notebook with lyrics until they had what they wanted: “Every single word needed to feel right,” Berger said. Robyn was after something that had the feel of “Prince songs, Eighties rock ballads and queer electronica.” A number of TV syncs, including Girls, Orange Is the New Black, and The Masked Singer, and covers by Kings of Leon and Kelly Clarkson have kept it in the spotlight. But it’s Robyn’s powerhouse original that never quits. Somewhere right now, somebody on a dance floor is singing along with it.–M.M.


Shannon, ‘Let the Music Play’ (1983)

When Shannon Green, an opera-trained vocalist from Washington, D.C., who had fronted a jazz combo in the late Seventies, first heard “Let the Music Play,” she said: “The first demo tape of it that producer Mark Liggett played me was very different. The singing was the pits! In the studio I just tried to be creative and put my own feelings and ad-libs over the music, which I could tell was smokin’ hot.” Shannon made it even hotter. A classic romance-on-the-dance-floor narrative, “Let the Music Play” was the breakout hit for freestyle, the largely Latino-driven cross between disco, R&B, and hip-hop. Producers Liggett and Chris Barbosa made a state-of-the-art groove using Roland’s TR-808 drum machine and the TB-303 bass synthesizer (minus the “acid” filtering). And the song’s near-instant leap from club hit to radio favorite — it went Top 10 pop — announced that dance music, and pop, had entered a new era.–M.M.


Indeep, ‘Last Night a D.J. Saved My Life’ (1982)

Dance music is full of one-shot hitmakers, chancers who caught a groove at the right time and rode it for everything they could. Indeep’s “Last Night a D.J. Saved My Life,” written by producer-musician Michael Cleveland and sung by the tart Reggi Magloire and sweet Rose Marie Ramsey, is one of the greatest examples: Cleveland’s monomaniacally grinding rhythm guitar and bass tandem, accompanied by deliciously behind-the-beat claps, are catnip unto themselves. But the lyric and vocal really put it over — this is a DJ capable of fixing “broken hearts with a song.” “I write the songs,” Cleveland once explained to Billboard, “but my sensibility is rooted in what women tell me.”–M.M.


Frankie Knuckles and Jamie Principle, ‘Your Love’ (1986)

Frankie Knuckles was already the most powerful DJ in mid-Eighties Chicago, and a burgeoning remixer, when he began to take record making seriously. “The turning point was Jamie Principle,” he said in 2011. The young singer-songwriter, convinced by the creativity of Knuckles’ DJ’ing, asked Frankie to produce him. “He was like, ‘This is all new for me, too. I’ve got patience, I trust you. I know you’ll know what to do,’” Knuckles recalled. The instinct proved correct: Knuckles got to the heart of Principle’s “pages and pages and pages of lyrics for one song.” “I just figured, ‘Let me try and thin this out and concentrate on what’s sweet about it, what’s innocent about it, what’s natural about it,’” Knuckles said. The result was “Your Love,” the pinnacle of house music’s heartfelt early years, created not in a studio, but in the DJ booth of Knuckles’ mid-Eighties club, the Power Plant. “I’ve had so many people tell me it’s probably the single most influential song in house music,” Knuckles said proudly.–M.M.


Chic, ‘Good Times’ (1979)

Disco’s greatest party anthem still gets anyone and everyone out on the floor. Chic’s 1979 classic instantly connects on every level — a lyric whose euphoria consistently undercuts itself, never becoming bland; wire-taut strings that give wings to Raymond Jones’ celebratory piano and Nile Rodgers’ jangling funk strut; and the bass line of all bass lines. Bernard Edwards’ low end is a crawling king snake that darts and slithers through the metronomic beat — and it gets an extended showcase. “What we do is we break it down to almost nothing, and then we rebuild the track in the listeners’ ears. You hear one instrument coming in at a time,” Rodgers said years later, adding: “You really hear us take it to a higher art form in the song ‘Good Times.’” The string slices over Edwards’ extended bass solo made it irresistible to DJs (start with Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel”), rockers (Queen’s outright rip-off “Another One Bites the Dust”), and everybody else — numerous other tracks rewrote that bass line throughout the early Eighties. The early Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis catalog is heavy on Chic rewrites. May the “Good Times” never end.–M.M.


Daft Punk, ‘One More Time’ (2000)

Daft Punk showed that house and techno could have elastic pop appeal with their classic 1997 debut, Homework, still the greatest dance-music album ever made. When Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo returned, they raised the stakes even higher with 2001’s Discovery and its rapturous lead single, “One More Time.” It’s their most beloved track, piloting the filter-house thump of their previous music into a whole new stratosphere or triumphal pop excess and eventually becoming a platinum single in the U.S . For the song’s vocal, the duo turned to New Jersey house music artist Romanthony, drenching his impassioned performance in Auto-Tune in a bold, somewhat contrary move that would end up having an enormous influence on the next couple of decades of pop music. “One More Time” felt euphoric but elegiac, a reassuring disco classic for a weird new century, and it helped turn the French robots into two of the most unlikely stars in music history. —J.D.


Donna Summer, ‘I Feel Love’ (1977)

The impetus was simple: For their fourth collaboration, Donna Summer and her producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Belotte were making I Remember Yesterday, a pastiche of past musical styles, so to finish it off, they needed a track that would signify the future. Moroder decided to create every instrument using a Moog synthesizer, and he brought in an engineer named Robbie Wedel to generate each individual sound, from bass to hi-hat. Summer, too, got into the robotic swing of things, stretching her long vowels around the pulsating track, until “I Feel Love” ignited. It’s simply impossible to imagine the future sound of dance music without it. “This is it — look no further,” Brian Eno said as he thrust this seven-inch single into David Bowie’s hand while they were working in Berlin in 1977. “This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next 15 years.” More like all of pop, forever.–M.M.