Electronic dance music pervaded the collective American consciousness in 2011, staking claim to the charts and becoming less of a musical novelty and more of inexorable force to the reckoned with. For 20 years or so, EDM has reigned supreme in Europe, and it appears that America has decided to throw its hands in the air, shake its arse, and follow suit. 2012 saw the trend continue with Calvin Harris, the dance-flavored pop hits of Rihanna, and the now defunct Swedish House Mafia dominating airwaves, festivals, and nightclub floors across the country. 2013 has been no different, what with Daft Punk, Icona Pop, Avicii, and Zedd’s “Clarity” (feat. Foxes) capturing the attention of social media outlets and each entering the top ten in various spots of the Billboard charts.
Along with the commercial success of EDM, there have been a flood of electronica artists making their presence known throughout the internet, paving way for a variety of dance sub-genres to thrive. Capital Cities’ hit “Safe and Sound” has been a shining example of the cross-category success of a song that straddles the line between the worlds of pop/rock and alternative music and the pulsing aesthetic of the dance floor. Once considered musical genres record labels would seldom take seriously in this country, electronic and dance-centric music in America is finally experiencing the prosperity it’s been enjoying overseas for more than two decades.
The list below consists of ten artists who represent some of dance music’s more strikingly creative offerings in 2013. Spanning genres from electro/synth-pop, indie-dance, nu-disco, to house music territories, the list isn’t a popularity contest. The greatest commercial hits of the year weren’t necessarily the most interesting, but that doesn’t belittle the artistic worth of those songs that rose to the top of the charts. Here are ten songs that may or may not have appeared on your radar this year. Dance on.
“I Was There (Where Were You?)”
In the same vein as last year’s surprise crossover hit “Let’s Have a Kiki” by New York’s Scissor Sisters, this sass-heavy, spoken word ode to the hedonistic nightlife of Studio 54 looks to carry on the camp torch. The song’s lyrics play out like a voyeuristic glimpse into a world where the social elite mingled, at the venue that what was once hailed as the most famous nightclub of all time. London’s electropop, disco-funk outfit Le Grind has crafted a humorous, name-dropping, infectious throwback party anthem perfectly suited for the dance floor or the highlight of a drag queen’s lip-synching setlist. That most definitely is a compliment.
“Bubble Butt” (feat. Bruno Mars, 2 Chainz, Tyga, & Mystic)
There was absolutely no escaping “Bubble Butt” in the summer of 2013. The dancehall, reggae, hip-hop, electro-house collective Major Lazer, comprised of Diplo and producers/DJs Jillionaire and Walshy Fire of Black Chiney, released one the most absurdly provocative and seemingly mindless songs of the year in early June. Taken from the dance project’s sophomore effort Free the Universe, it’s abundantly clear that this callipygian anthem isn’t aspiring to lofty, profound heights—the title says it all. Whether the accompanying rump-shaking video can be considered farcical or misogynistic remains a subject of opinion, but the undeniably addictive song had the desired effect of flooding dance floors everywhere this year.
8Bright Light Bright Light
“An Open Heart”
The exquisite synth-pop, nu-disco, ‘90s revivalist stylings of Welsh-born, London-based Rod Thomas (Bright Light Bright Light) have been dazzling the dance and electropop communities since the release of his rapturous “Love Part II” and the critically acclaimed debut album Make Me Believe in Hope. “An Open Heart”, the first single lifted from his new EP In Your Care, continues the successful winning streak. Immediate and arresting as anything he’s previously offered, the introspective “An Open Heart” examines an individual’s perception of his surroundings, and “how easy it is to miss the beauty of a moment.” It’s gorgeous, it’s poignant, and it’s yet another reason to continue following the career of this intelligent and immensely creative artist.
Released in late November of this year on Big Beat Records, Christian Karlsson (of Miike Snow and production duo Bloodshy & Avant) and Linus Eklow (aka DJ/producer Style of Eye) have concocted one of 2013’s most delectable offerings. Following last summer’s “Raveheart” single, the recently formed Swedish duo has quickly garnered support from a who’s who of influential modern dance music titans such as Pete Tong, Kascade, Tiesto, Dada Life, and Diplo. It’s easy to see why: If “Smile” is given the right promotion, this emotionally-resonant house banger could light up the dance charts and spill over into the mainstream consciousness. Now with a gleefully lascivious NSFW video accompanying the song, it’s only a matter of time before I hear this popping up everywhere.
6Alex Metric & Jacques Le Cont
“Safe with You” (feat. Malin)
Singer-songwriter Malin Dahlström, of the Swedish indietronica duo Niki & the Dove, proved her weight in vocal gold with the 2012 release of the group’s stunning debut Instinct. Upon hearing the album, I was curious what that voice would sound like if it were surrounded by a less eccentric, more club-ready aesthetic. Together with the talents of musician, DJ, and producer Alex Metric and the ingenious Stuart Price (working under the pseudonym Jacques Lu Cont), Malin’s beautifully quirky voice is given the chance to erupt on the dance floor. “Safe with You” is everything I might have hoped for in a four-to-the-floor collaboration. Somehow, this never commercially caught fire, but for me, it’s still one of the clear frontrunners for club anthem of summer 2013.