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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


MFSB, ‘Love Is the Message (A Tom Moulton Mix)’ (1973)

When Philadelphia International’s co-founder Kenny Gamble enjoined Tom Moulton to remix the label’s back catalog for the Philadelphia Classics double LP, he was confused that Moulton wanted to include “Love Is the Message,” an album track. “It wasn’t a hit,” Gamble protested. But Moulton insisted — and then turned it into the ultimate in disco opulence, the theme song for David Mancuso’s foundational NYC disco, the Loft. “It’s just one of those great, great songs, and I don’t think you could tell it all in three minutes,” Moulton said. “That’s why it’s 11 minutes — because I think it’s classical, symphonic. It has everything that you want in a song.” —M.M.


Avicii, ‘Levels’ (2012)

Avicii wasn’t the first EDM star to sample Etta James’ “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” — Pretty Lights’ “Finally Moving” had appeared five years earlier — but he was the one who figured out that James’ “Sometimes I get a good feeling” vocal could be a heaven-sent festival main-stage fist-pump-along over the careening keyboard hook he’d concocted. He premiered “Levels” — then still untitled — on his December 2010 edition of the BBC’s Essential Mix, and when it finally appeared 10 months later, it raced up the charts throughout Europe, reaching Number Four in the U.K. and even making it to 60 on the U.S. Hot 100. —M.M.


Omni Trio, ‘Renegade Snares (Foul Play VIP Remix)’ (1993)

The alias of Rob Haigh, a Londoner who’d grown up on post-punk, krautrock, and dub, Omni Trio was one of the most purely creative of drum-and-bass’ pioneering producers, turning drum samples into objects of shadow play and overlaying them with cinematic atmosphere. His original “Renegade Snares” was epic enough — Haigh crafted the beat from “single shots” of percussion (individually sourced snare, hat, and tom hits, then combined) and led with a piano part as awestruck as the ending of E.T. But his compatriots Foul Play did him one better by turning it into a percussion symphony, tweaking the snares till they twist like a helix over a darting sub-bass. “Renegade Snares (Foul Play VIP Remix)” was proof that drum-and-bass had reached artistic maturity. —M.M.