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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


Jessie Ware, ‘Running (Disclosure Remix)’ (2012)

“I’m so in love with dance music,” said U.K. soul singer Jessie Ware. “You’ll find me at the dance tent with all my friends at any festival.” No surprise, then, that Ware’s music is at its best when it’s most danceable (see her 2020 neo-disco classic What’s Your Pleasure) or that she has collaborated with fellow Londoners Disclosure, who turned in a U.K. garage rinse of her debut’s standout, “Running,” that decisively sharpens its contours. The beats click and shudder, the bass zooms, and Ware’s clipped phrasing is rendered even more exciting over all the syncopation. “One of my most joyful moments,” she later said, “was singing the ‘Running’ remix with Disclosure at Coachella.” —M.M.


Model 500, ‘No UFO’s’ (1985)

Juan Atkins invented techno, full stop — he conceived it and named it — and one of its many aspects that he pioneered was the use of multiple aliases for different types of work. “I always felt that if I was going to have a hit record, it would be as Model 500,” he said in 2012 of his first and best-known alias. Lush and insistent, “No UFO’s,” the first Model 500 12-inch, set the template for the Detroit approach. “They make these synthesizers and keyboards with functions that allow you to get as close to a human feel as they possibly can,” he said in 1997. “I think this is the beauty of Detroit, we were able to put that emotion into our music.” —M.M.


Loose Joints, ‘Is It All Over My Face’ (1980)

Enter Arthur Russell — cellist, classical composer, disco heathen, and total dreamy weirdo who tore up the pop and disco rulebooks. His short-lived team-up with DJ Steve D’Acquisto, Loose Joints, kicked off with what may be disco’s most hypnotic record. With its muddy groove and its very different female and male vocals on either side of the 12-inch, “Is It All Over My Face” is like Sly Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On after a long night at Xenon, full of dark corners and flickering shadows, seeming to follow nothing so much as its own deeply idiosyncratic internal logic. —M.M.


Missy Elliott, ‘Get Ur Freak On’ (2001)

“It could be about dancing, the bedroom, whatever. You’re cleaning your house? Get your freak on!” Missy Elliott said of her most head-turning hit in 2001. The tempo was a brisk 178 BPM, the speed of drum-and-bass, while the instrumentation — a head-knocking riff played on a one-string Punjabi tumbi, a tabla coming hard on the downbeat — came from South Asian bhangra. Missy rides the swerving rhythms expertly — her verve and the track’s sheer newness shot it into all kinds of DJs’ playlists, most memorably DJ /rupture’s shattering 2001 set Gold Teeth Thief. —M.M.


Madonna, ‘Into the Groove’ (1985)

Madonna was fond of describing her love of the dance floor with her usual provocation: “I always thought of it as a magical place — even if you’re not taking ecstasy.” On “Into the Groove,” her single purest tribute to dance, Madge paints the dance floor as a place of liberation and transgression. “At night, I lock the doors so no one else can see/I’m tired of dancing here all by myself,” she sings, before asking the boy dancing across from her to “live out your fantasy here with me.” —C.S.


Hercules and Love Affair, ‘Blind’ (2007)

“‘Blind’ was about growing up a gay kid, my immediate family and social group rejecting me, and asking why I was born into this situation,” Andy Butler of Hercules and Love Affair told The New York Times. “But knowing that as soon as I could escape, I would, and that I would find freedom and solace.” After writing it in 2004, Butler spent three years re-making the track until it was a romping, biting club anthem, sealed with a vocal from Anhoni (then Antony), who belted it out in true diva fashion. “Blind” became a U.K. hit in 2007, and in 2008, Frankie Knuckles’ remix, his first new work all decade, became an instant entry into his canon as well. —M.M.


Underworld, ‘Born Slippy .NUXX’ (1995)

One of the great film climaxes of the Nineties came during the heist sequence of Trainspotting, set to Underworld’s pounding, epic 10-minute ode to “Shouting, lager! Lager! Lager!” The song had taken “over two years to finish writing,” Karl Hyde, the group’s frontman, said. “The lyrics are pretty close to home. It’s about feeling like a slab of meat … coming out of the Ship in Wardour Street, which is an old haunt of ours. The track is highly ironic in the sense that I’m not praising lager at all. Well, not entirely.” —M.M.


Weather Girls, ‘It’s Raining Men’ (1982)

The whole disco story in one song: Black women, Eurodisco gay men, gospel, sex, the apocalypse. A hit, too — also part of the disco story. The writers are Paul Jabara, who’d penned Donna Summer’s “Last Dance,” and session keyboardist Paul Shaffer, David Letterman’s late-night bandleader; the singers are Izora Armstead and Martha Wash, previously known as Two Tons o’ Fun, and sometimes backing singers for the fabulous Sylvester. “We walked out laughin’ at the song,” Armstead told David Fricke. “I totally fell out over the song. My husband, who’s one of our managers, brought the tape home that night. … Next morning, he told me, ‘That song is gonna be a hit.’ I told him he was crazy. Who’d want a silly song like that?” The answer: everyone. —M.M.


Corina, ‘Temptation’ (1991)

Not to be confused with Corona, the Eurodance group responsible for “The Rhythm of the Night” four years later, Corina was the native New Yorker who played Frida Kahlo in the Tim Robbins film Cradle Will Rock in 1999 — eight years after scoring a Top 10 hit with this bright, hard-as-a-pinball freestyle banger. Freestyle would be outmoded soon, and you can hear the differences here from the Eighties stuff — it’s breakbeat-driven, rather than by a drum-machine pulse. Moreover, “Temptation” features a coolly equanimous lyric (“Temptation is a part of life/It doesn’t matter if it’s wrong or right”) that the singer handles expertly. —M.M.


Quad City DJ’s, ‘C’Mon N’ Ride It (The Train)’ (1996)

The Quad City DJ’s were a production team from Jacksonville, Florida — Jay Ski, C.C. Lemonhead, and JeLana LaFleur — who defined the Florida bass sound with hits for 69 Boyz, 95 South (they produced “Whoot, There It Is”), and Dis-n-Dat. But their all-time dance-floor bomb was “C’mon N’ Ride It (The Train),” which reached Number Three on the Billboard Hot 100. Built on a down-and-up bass line and driven by subtle but pervasive percussion, not to mention many repetitions of the word “choo-choo,” “C’Mon” remains a universal tonic — if you can’t get a crowd moving to this one, you’re hopeless. —M.M.


X-101, ‘Sonic Destroyer’ (1991)

The classic lineup of Detroit’s Underground Resistance — “Mad” Mike Banks, Jeff Mills, and Robert Hood — was together only a short time, but they were the most explosive techno combo ever, with Banks continuing the project with other collaborators. Hood would describe the UR side project X-101 as “Jeff at the 909, me at a Juno 106 [synth], Mike at the 303, just going for it,” and you can hear that unmitigated glee in the way they attack the strafing synth riffs of “Sonic Destroyer.” Over in Europe, a whole lot of producers copied the hell out of it. —M.M.


Grace Jones, ‘Pull Up to the Bumper’ (1981)

When it comes to vehicular double entendres, “Pull Up to the Bumper” walked so that  “Little Red Corvette” could run. Blending together a who’s who of dance subgenres at the time — New Wave, funk, disco, and reggae — Grace Jones elevated the track with her infectious, angular swagger, winking to the audience even as she was forthcoming about her propositions: “Pull up to the bumper, baby/Drive it in between.” Ironic that a song with such an, ahem, affection for automobiles earned a mainstream radio ban. —C.S.


CeCe Peniston, ‘Finally’ (1991)

A military brat, theater kid, and pageant queen (Miss Black Arizona 1989 and 1990) from Phoenix, CeCe Peniston was singing backup on a session for an A&M Records artist when an A&R person invited her to “get [her] own single together.” Peniston grabbed an old poem from a college notebook: “I came up with the melody and the lyrics to ‘Finally’ and then RK [Jackson] and Felipe [Delgado] put the music to it.” The original mix (including a dated rap) was already a giddy, radio-ready house jam, but with David Morales’ “Choice Mix” — adding a prominent new piano line played by Eric Kupper — “Finally” was sealed as a club classic, and his remix became the standard version. —M.M.


The Chemical Brothers, ‘Setting Sun’ (1997)

The Chemical Brothers’ Godzilla breaks and arena riffs were always a natural bridge from dance music to the rock audience. Noel Gallagher of Oasis jumped on board at the duo’s London club night, the Heavenly Social: “In the middle of, you know, their electronic fucking thing, they used to play [the Beatles’] ‘Tomorrow Never Knows,’” he recalled. “They took that thing to another level.” That track was an inspiration for the Chems’ and Gallagher’s collaboration, “Setting Sun,” which keened and careened with swaggering authority. “They’re fucking amazing,” Gallagher said, “and ‘Setting Sun’ is one of the best things that I’ve ever done.” —M.M.


Chic, ‘Le Freak’ (1978)

It’s a story nearly as famous as its flickering guitar riff: Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, the bandleaders and songwriters for Chic, were on Grace Jones’ personal guest list for Studio 54 only to be denied entry, so they went home, Rodgers chopped out a riff as nasty as a line of crank, Edwards joined in, and they began yelling, by proxy, at 54’s doorman: “Ah, fuck off!” Soon they modified the title to refer to an au courant dance, and cut Atlantic Records’ biggest-selling single at that time: a cool 6 million sold. —M.M.


Basement Jaxx, ‘Red Alert’ (1999)

In the late Nineties, the London duo Basement Jaxx — Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton — were a breath of fresh air, producing house jams with a rambunctious quality that pushed against an increasingly stolid, super-club-oriented style. The spring-coiled slap-bass line and Y2K-scare lyrics — “It’s all right, don’t panic” — of “Red Alert” tie it to its historical moment without strangling it: The track’s P-Funk squiggles are irresistible and universal. “The underground people we did ‘Red Alert’ for loved it, and it’s just happened to have gone beyond that,” Ratcliffe said of this Top Five U.K. hit. “What more could you ask for?” —M.M.


Britney Spears, ‘Till the World Ends’ (2011)

At the peak of EDM, it was, indeed, Britney bitch. Moreover, it was Kesha, who co-wrote this apocalyptic party anthem (her specialty) with Alexander Kronlund, Dr. Luke, and Max Martin. “I’ve never been more proud of anything in my career,” Kesha said, adding that it was “really, really exciting for me when I hear [Britney] sing it.” The production — by Luke, Martin, Billboard, and Emily Wright — expertly adapts EDM’s build-and-drop dynamics to traditional verse-bridge-chorus song structure. —M.M.


Goldie, ‘Inner City Life’ (1994)

The London graffiti artist Clifford Price (a.k.a. Goldie) took immediately to the music that was first called jungle, then drum-and-bass, quickly becoming one of the style’s figureheads — quite literally, since the logo of his label, Metalheadz, was modeled on his headphone-clad skull. And in 1994, he was ready to shift the music into a more mature gear. “It’s all right taking kids into euphoria, but you have to come back to reality,” he said that year. With its pitch-shifted breakbeats seeming to bend time and haunting vocal by the late Diane Charlemagne, “Inner City Life” remade drum-and-bass into futuristic soul music: a standalone single that heralded Goldie’s hugely ambitious double-CD debut, Timeless (where it became the first of the three-part title suite), and became a firm classic, not only in drum-and-bass, but also in progressive house, thanks to a 1996 remix by Florida’s Rabbit in the Moon. —M.M.


Bucketheads, ‘The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall Into My Mind)’ (1994)

Some tracks stay around forever, and this mid-Nineties monster did so just on its running time — nearly 15 minutes. Producer Kenny Dope, half of Masters at Work, alternates between a pair of wildly different disco loops, one dissonant, the other a swinging horn line cribbed from Seventies soft-rock staple Chicago’s “Street Player” — their sop to the disco trend — and he milks the tension (when are the horns going to come in, already?) so adroitly that on a crowded floor the track flies by. —M.M.


Rod Lee, ‘Dance My Pain Away’ (2005)

Baltimore club music began in the mid Eighties, when radio DJ Frank Ski began playing only the breaks of house records — just like hip-hop’s godfathers had done with funk records — and the music became intensely breaks-focused. It also tended to focus on lewd topics. But its greatest hit is also its most hopeful, while remaining unflinching about day-to-day reality. Baltimore club godfather Rod Lee’s “Dance My Pain Away” states its maladies plainly: “Now listen to my story/Bill collectors on me/Have to file bankruptcy/Need some help from somebody,” over a looped breakbeat with a constancy that adds poignance to Lee’s felt performance. —M.M.


Whitney Houston, ‘It’s Not Right, But It’s OK (Thunderpuss Club Mix)’ (1999)

“If you went to any club on the Jersey shore back in 1998, you would hear Razor N’ Guido, Johnny Vicious — they were all making these records with hard tribal beats and buzzy synths,” Chris Cox of the Canadian production team Thunderpuss recalled of the queer “circuit” sound. His duo’s turn-of-the-century remixes fulfilled that mandate with sheer bombastic nerve, none more so than their epic 11-minute reconstruction of Whitney Houston’s comeback hit. When Cox heard Houston’s unedited vocal, he “found all these nuances and ad-libs that were kind of buried,” and he built the remix’s dramatic stops and starts around her flourishes. Whitney, like everyone else, loved it. —M.M.


Alison Limerick, ‘Where Love Lives (Classic Mix)’ (1990)

Songwriter Latti Kronlund fashioned this reverberant, piano-led house anthem specifically for the London singer Alison Limerick: “He told me that that was my song to sing because it required someone with a big two-octave range, and I had it,” she recalled. Her thrilling testifying (“I’ll take you down, deep down where love lives”) gained even more luster when the track was remixed by Frankie Knuckles and David Morales, then working together as Def Mix Productions. “Probably of all the songs I’ve worked on, this is the most lyrical — musically it says everything,” Knuckles later said, calling it “classic Frankie and David — hard-edged and fused with lush, beautiful orchestral arrangements.” —M.M.


Stardust, ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ (1998)

This instant-classic collaboration between producers Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk and Alan Braxe and vocalist Benjamin “Diamond” Cohen “took maybe a week to make,” Bangalter said. “The more people who say ‘Music’ was made in two seconds, the happier I am.” He thought they might “sell only 1,000 copies of it.” Instead, when the white-label vinyl 12-inch promos began hitting DJ turntables during the 1998 Winter Music Conference in Miami, it caused an instant sensation, and everyone from drum-and-bass godfather Grooverider to Detroit techno originator Juan Atkins to geek god Squarepusher played the track as it made its way to becoming a DJ perennial. —M.M.


Jeff Mills, ‘The Bells’ (1996)

The Detroit techno futurist Jeff Mills once called his most famous track “a practical DJ tool that’s above all else, effective … something that works instantly.” Sounds kinda dry, except “The Bells” absolutely knocks — Mills has played it in every set since recording it in 1994 (it was released two years later), and it is generally acknowledged as the most frequently-DJ’ed techno track ever. No wonder — that circus-like four-note central riff gooses a crowd like nothing else. “It’s something I can use to say hello to the people,” Mills said. —M.M.


Neneh Cherry, ‘Buffalo Stance’ (1988)

This record is steeped in the teeming London club culture of the late Eighties, when sound systems were coming to the fore of British pop. When Neneh Cherry mentions “hanging with the Wild Bunch” on “Buffalo Stance,” she means the DJ crew that would later become Nineties trip-hop titans Massive Attack. The record was co-produced by Tim Simenon, who’d made sample-driven club hits as Bomb the Bass. But while the track was painstakingly constructed, Cherry’s vocal took only three takes to nail. “It’s that something that sends tingles up your spine,” she said at the time, “that’s the sex in my voice.” —M.M.


Mr. Fingers, ‘Can You Feel It’ (1986)

A Chicago drummer-for-hire turned house music’s go-to mood-music man, Larry Heard’s early singles as Mr. Fingers set the standard for what would soon be called “deep house” — soulful, jazz-tinged, sometimes plangent, always stirring. One of the first tracks Heard composed, “Mystery of Love,” released as Mr. Fingers, established house as an abstractionist’s realm. The up-and-down bass line stretches like taffy, the kick drum thumps imperturbably, and the keyboard parts crisscross like 3D sculpture. “I don’t think I’m the inventor of ambient house,” Heard once demurred. Wanna bet? —M.M.


Moby, ‘Go (Woodtick Mix)’ (1991)

“How do I feel about it being a hit? Completely surprised,” Moby told the NME when “Go” hit the U.K. chart, where it peaked at Number 10. “I recorded it in a couple of days in my living room. The budget was about four dollars.” And the version that hit the charts wasn’t even the original — Moby had remixed the song numerous times already before hitting upon the idea of replaying the luminous chords of Angelo Badalamenti’s theme music for Twin Peaks. Decades on, it remains Moby’s signature tune. —M.M.


Corona, ‘The Rhythm of the Night’ (1995)

Although the Eurodance project Corona was formed around Brazilian-born singer-model Olga Souza and producer Francesco Botempi, it was Italian singer Giovanna Bersola, a.k.a. Jenny B, who lent her vocals to the group’s signature hit, “The Rhythm of the Night.” “It’s a beautiful thing, I’m happy to be in so many people’s hearts and beautiful memories about those years when they were going out and dancing,” Bersola said in a 2021 interview. “It’s a happy place for me.” Though Bersola was uncredited for her work on the song, her voice on “The Rhythm of the Night” lives on in clubs around the world, as well as in the iconic ending to Claire Denis’ 1999 film Beau Travail. —C.S.


Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force, ‘Planet Rock’ (1982)

“Even before we’d recorded those vocals, I knew that ‘Planet Rock’ was going to make musical history,” Arthur Baker once said. “It was just so fucking incredible.” Self-interested words, maybe, since Baker co-produced Afrika Bambaataa’s wall-breaking global anthem — but not unwarranted. “Planet Rock” is still like nothing else, even if it is made from easily recognized parts: Baker and Bambaataa both “had the idea of copying the melody from ‘Trans-Europe Express’ and the beat from ‘Numbers,’ another Kraftwerk record,” Baker said. The record featured an early use of the Fairlight CMI, the first digital sampler — the orchestral “hits” come from one of its presets. —M.M.


Steve Poindexter, ‘Work That Muthafucker’ (1989)

Some records sneak up on you over time — even when everything about them is right on the surface. That’s the case with Chicagoan Steve Poindexter’s “Work That Muthafucker.” It’s not much of a song, more of a purpose-built DJ tool: mostly just a sample of the title phrase over a pared-down, electro-tom-heavy groove, it’s raw, basic, very mixable — and so deadly effective that its popularity with DJs hasn’t waned a bit over three and a half decades. It jolts any floor it touches. Three cheers for use value. —M.M.


Pet Shop Boys, ‘West End Girls’ (1984)

When Smash Hits magazine editor Neil Tennant and architecture student Chris Lowe made their first single with the cult New York dance producer Bobby Orlando in 1984, “West End Girls” was rough and raw, with a pronounced gay-club vibe. But when rerecording it for their 1986 debut, Please, with producer Stephen Hague, they slowed it down and made it “moodier.” Tennant intended the U.S. and U.K. Number One as a rap song, inspired by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5’s “The Message.” Lowe’s contribution was the unforgettable bass line: “Our first bouncy bass line,” Tennant noted. There would be many more. —M.M.


Skrillex, ‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’ (2010)

Skrillex took off like a rocket, and the speed of his his ascent was dizzying for everyone — particularly when the California native was suddenly anointed the figurehead of dubstep, which had been aggressively, proudly British. He had to fight the impression “that I was coming in and taking something and mainstreaming it — like it was this plan, this conspiracy,” he said. “For me, it was only about the underground. There wasn’t mainstream dubstep, there wasn’t mainstream bass music.” Not, that is, until the face-melting bass lines and sharply detailed production of “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites,” the title track from his second EP, made the mainstream sit up and take notice — and Skrillex’s triumphant set at EDC Vegas in 2011 sealed his stardom. —M.M.


Taana Gardner, ‘Heartbeat’ (1981)

The Eighties were the decade of the bass line, and this was the bass line that ruled the decade, sampled by everyone from De la Soul to Ini Kamoze. Only 100 beats per minute — as opposed to faster disco tempos — “Heartbeat” was turned into a hit by Larry Levan at New York’s Paradise Garage, and his remix, a 10-minute extravaganza, stretches out Muki Wilson’s liquid bass strut till the tension crackles. But it’s Gardner’s squealing vocal, bright and hard as acrylic nails, that seals this classic. While in the studio, she looked out while she sang: “I saw everybody in the booth jumping and screaming,” she said, “because I must have been doing something good.” —M.M.


Aphex Twin, ‘Analogue Bubblebath’ (1991)

A Dylanesque shape-shifter who has recorded under awesomely opaque names like Polygon Window and Italic Eyeball, and put his avant-garde imprint on everything from techno to ambient to jungle, Richard D. James did more than anyone to create the notion of ‘intelligent” dance music in the Nineties. Released in 1991 under his most well-known moniker, Aphex Twin, his breakthrough track “Analogue Bubblebath” was techno at its most elegiac and slippery, a glistening burblescape that feels like it might whisk you right off the dance floor and into dreamland. It still might be the greatest wind-down, nightcap opus of all time. —J.D.


Green Velvet, ‘Flash’ (1995)

“Green Velvet is an artiste, a character who gives me a different feeling than usual,” said Curtis A. Jones, the Chicago house icon who works under that alias. “It’s like how a person acts when they have a suit on, compared to when they have a pair of shorts on.” Green Velvet’s records often enact outlandish scenarios — the artiste narrates his kidnapping by aliens, for example — but the most devious is still “Flash,” an update of Bam Bam’s “Where’s Your Child” that literalizes its parental panic. Here, Velvet plays a leering tour guide leading a cadre of parents through the druggy bacchanalia of a rave: “Cameras ready, prepare to flash,” Velvet leers, followed by a battering-ram drum tattoo that underlines the whole thing. A club smash in its time, “Flash” is regularly reissued with new remixes — Danny Tenaglia’s in 2000 and Nicky Romero’s in 2010, in particular, also became DJ favorites. —M.M.


Front 242, ‘Headhunter’ (1988)

With a hovering pulse doubled by a kick drum like a Doc Marten to the head, the greatest industrial dance tune ever made has the most iconic Eighties drum-machine intro this side of “Blue Monday.” Like so many of life’s most vicious things, the lyric concerned office politics. “It was very polite and very nice with men in suits, but at the same time it was very cutthroat,” said Front 242’s frontman Jean-Luc De Meyer. “I wanted to make a parallel between tribal warfare and these activities.” —M.M.


piri & Tommy Villiers, “soft spot” (2021)

Weirdly, the early part of the Covid-19 pandemic was an extremely productive time for dance music: DJs made hay with livestreams and uploaded tons of mixes, and a number of new artists germinated. The most ear-catching so far has been Piri, the Manchester, U.K., duo of Piri and Tommy Villers, whose “Soft Spot” is a twee starburst of liquid drum-and-bass (a substyle with particularly slippery bass lines) that blew up on TikTok and has received 14 million Spotify streams. “When I wrote it, I did think it had the right kind of vibe to do well on TikTok, but [viral success] still felt like a very distant dream,” Piri told NME. “When we first self-released ‘Soft Spot’, I paid three TikTok creators to use the song — and then it just snowballed from there.” —M.M.


Crystal Waters, ‘Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)’ (1991)

Baltimore’s Basement Boys — originally the trio of Thommy Davis, Teddy Douglas, and Jay Steinhour — were some of early-Nineties house’s most consistent hitmakers, scoring club hits with homegirls Ultra Naté and Crystal Waters. The latter’s “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless),” her biggest hit, sat unreleased for a year after they had finished it. But they’d play it as DJs, and watch people go nuts, like when Douglas dropped it at Baltimore’s Club Fantasy: “They were throwing trash and paper at the DJ booth, screaming and hollering ‘Put it back on!’” Douglas told Beatport. Once the track got into DJ Danny Tenaglia’s hands at the 1991 Winter Music Conference, that was that: “By the time people got back to New York, it had already created this hysteria,” said Douglas. —M.M.


Michael Jackson, ‘Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough’ (1979)

Jackson’s first adult solo hit is one of the disco era’s definitive scorchers. Written by Michael himself, and demoed with his siblings Randy and Janet helping out on percussion, “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” is a masterpiece of buoyant sensuality, with Jackson drenching a percolating groove in his frisky falsetto. By introducing the world to the new grown-and-sexy Michael, it redefined the course of pop and helped make 1979’s Off the Wall, released when he turned 21, one of the greatest albums of all time. —J.D.


Primal Scream, ‘Loaded’ (1990)

This song is credited to Primal Scream, but the record belongs to producer Andrew Weatherall — it’s a pulsating Dayglo masterwork that calls up its post-acid-house moment like nothing else. Utilizing the bass and slide-guitar parts from Primal Scream’s “I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have,” along with an array of other samples — including Peter Fonda’s speech in The Wild Angels and a funky drum sample taken off a white-label 12-inch remix of Edie Brickell’s “What I Am” — it, and the Weatherall-assisted Primal Scream album Screamadelica, recast the band from Sixties jangle merchants to psychedelic futurists. —M.M. 


A Guy Called Gerald, ‘Voodoo Ray’ (1988)

British house delivered its first classic with this homemade track, released on a tiny label, which shocked everybody by barreling to Number 12 on the U.K. charts. Gerald Simpson wasn’t a newbie — he’d been in 808 State while they recorded their first album, Newbuild, in 1988. But “Voodoo Ray” was instantly ingratiating, an interlocking series of instrumental parts (short, thudding bass line, curling acid line, a distended bar of a woman’s voice) turning into something with as much pure juju as the title promises. —M.M.


Everything But the Girl, ‘Missing (Todd Terry Remix)’ (1995)

“I have always thought that Everything But the Girl were great lyricists, but they never seemed to be able to get the sort of strong production vibe they needed,” the New York house producer Todd Terry said in 1996. He had asked to remix EBTG’s forlorn ballad “Missing” — a reversal of the usual order of business — and finished it in a day and a half. “It was a pretty easy record to do because the song was there,” he later said. “Go in there, do it, felt good about it, handed it in.” Not only was it a club smash, but it stayed in the U.K. Top 40 for three months. —M.M.


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.