Music

The Best Dance Singles of 2014

Ryan Lathan

Like a gluttonous monarch with a taste for domination, electronic dance music continued to saturate the airwaves and feast upon the U.S. charts in 2014.

Like a gluttonous monarch with a taste for domination, electronic dance music continued to saturate the airwaves and feast upon the U.S. charts in 2014, devouring everything in its path. Trends come and go, but for now it appears the crown shall remain upon its head, and no throne shall be relinquished in the near future. It has cleverly adapted to the times since its "birth" in the '60s, expanding its palette to satiate ever-fluctuating musical tastes. Throughout the years, there are have been immense highs and staggering lows as it expanded and evolved. This year saw huge losses in the dance community through the deaths of "The Godfather of House Music" Frankie Knuckles and Chicago's iconic DJ Rashad, but the life-affirming pulse of the beat always seems to prevail amidst any tragedy.

2014 was the year that British dance pop annihilated the charts. From Disclosure and Sam Smith's massive hit "Latch", to the rise of Gorgon City, MNEK, Duke Dumont, SBTRKT, Rudimental, and Jess Glynne with Route 94, the UK continually dropped one incendiary track after another. This was also the year the NYC club scene resurfaced from the decimating legacy of former Mayor Rudolf Giuliani, and was reignited with massive, decadent hotspots like Verboten and Output, picking up the torch Twilo, Paradise Garage, Limelight, and countless others left behind when they were closed in their heyday. Electronic festivals like Electric Daisy Carnival, Ultra, and Movement in Detroit flourished, even amidst the controversy of 2013's drug-related deaths at NY's Electric Zoo. The party invariably finds a way to carry on.

In an interview with MixMag, British DJ and producer Carl Cox said that EDM is "an entry level to dance music" in America, and if so, it is a great thing that dance and electronic artists are now being embraced in the U.S. where once they went unnoticed. The word EDM is now egregiously associated with the David Guettas, Aviciis and Afrojacks of the business, while deep house has come to represent everything beyond the stereotype of EDM's inauthentic DJs, who simply press a button and stand there. Regardless of labels, there have always been artists who sell-out and others who maintain their artistic integrity and consistently defy categorization. The list below consists of ten artists (there was a tie, so make that 11) who represent some of the more interesting dance offerings of the year. From the '90s, R&B-inflected, dance-pop throwback of Moko, to the genre/gender-defying sassiness of Shamir, here are a collection of artists who continue to further the evolution of dance music and present their vision of its future. Dance on.

 
Artist: Mason

Songs: Gotta Have You Back / Someone I'm Not

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/misc_art/m/masonzoa.jpg

Display as: List

List Number: 10

Display Width: 200

Mason feat. Rouge Mary
"Gotta Have You Back"

Amsterdam-based DJ and producer Iason Chronis, aka Mason, knows how to throw one hell of an eclectic house party. The man who climbed to the top of the UK dance charts with his blistering instrumental track "Exceeder" and its Princess Superstar-helmed facelift "Perfect (Exceeder)", has returned with a whole new arsenal of talented vocalists at his beck and call. For those who thought he couldn't surpass the brilliance of 2011's They Are Among Us know that it was merely a pre-game warm up. His second full-length album ZOA forgoes the use of well-known heavy hitters like Róisín Murphy, DMC, Kurtis Blow, and Sam Sparro found on his previous outing, for newcomers like Pien Feith, Rouge Mary, and Lizzie Massey. Chronis clearly knows immense vocal talent when he hears it and ZOA features two of the best dance tracks of the year, in an album full of highlights. Consider it a tie.

Parisian singer Rouge Mary's soulful baritone saturates the sleek "Gotta Have You Back", recalling both Prince and the elastic funkiness of Jamie Lidell. Effortlessly flicking between a muscular growl and a seductive falsetto, its come-hither timbre flaunts a gritty sexuality, perfectly complimenting the track's metallic percussion, filthy bass-line, and raunchy, churning synths. One only needs to hear this gender-defying singer's stellar contributions on Hercules & Love Affair's latest album The Feast of the Broken Heart to know that a solo effort is unquestionably in order.

Mason feat. Lizzie Massey
"Someone I'm Not"

ZOA's first teaser single "Someone I'm Not" should have blown up in a massive way, but at least it introduced its vocalist to a wider audience. Brighton based singer-songwriter Lizzie Massey's voice has a warm, husky sensuality about it and a striking emotional depth rarely found in female dance vocalists. Her latest foray into electronic music followed a stint as the frontwoman for the bands Barriers and Tiny Dragons, but if her collaboration with Mason is any indication, the decision to leave behind the guitar-centric "alternative soul" of her past affiliations was a wise one. Let us hope she is given the opportunity to move beyond a guest spot on someone else's album and be the star on one of her own.

 
Artist: Big Data

Song: Dangerous (Oliver Remix)

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/misc_art/b/bigdata.jpg

Display as: List

List Number: 9

Display Width: 200

Big Data
"Dangerous" (Oliver Remix)

Hot on the heels of their stellar EP Light Years Away, DJ/producer duo U-Tern and Oligee, collectively known as Oliver, delivered one of 2014's best remixes with their funky, retro-nostalgic overhaul of Big Data's alt-pop hit "Dangerous". With a buoyant rhythmic structure tenuously ripped from the pages of Men Without Hat's '80s classic "The Safety Dance", the duo wrap new wave synths, disco syndrum pings, and squelchy, bouncing bass-lines around Joywave vocalist Daniel Armbruster's paranoia-laden lyrics. Privacy is but an illusion in the digital age and "Big Brother is watching you", even on a sweaty, neon lit dance floor.

 
Artist: Tensnake + Jacques Lu Cont feat. Jamie Lidell

Song: Feel of Love

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/misc_art/t/tensnakefeel.jpg

Display as: List

List Number: 8

Display Width: 200

Tensnake + Jacques Lu Cont feat. Jamie Lidell
"Feel of Love"

"Meanwhile in the testicles"...Jamie Lidell, German DJ/Producer Tensnake (Marco Niemerski), and Grammy Award-winning producer Jacques Lu Cont (aka Stuart Price of electro-pop band Zoot Woman) collaborating on a track together? Dreams do come true. The R&B-inflected, electro-soulful disco track sounds like a lost Prince jam from decades ago. While the song is ace, the video is the ne plus ultra. Think dancing sperm and Wonkavison. Think a man in diapers, blow-up dolls and kinky-minded Furries. Think mad-capped, fetish-friendly amusement. Think amazing.

Niemerski has consistently dispatched one marvelous single after another since the early 2000s and his remixes never fail to do less than dazzle with their ingenuity. He dropped his debut album Glow in March of this year, featuring six collaborative tracks with Tasmanian singer Fiora, a contribution from the legendary Nile Rodgers, and another from Toronto singer, producer, and DJ Jeremy Glenn. "Feel of Love" is the clear highlight of the record and this video is definitely the whore red cherry on top.

 
Artist: Moko

Song: Your Love

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/misc_art/m/moko.jpg

Display as: List

List Number: 7

Display Width: 200

Moko
"Your Love"

The past couple of years have seen a huge resurgence in '90s R&B-flavored, deep house tracks. Cue the arrival of Britain's Diane Nadia Adu-Gyamfi, known professionally as Moko. Not since Mica Paris has a UK soul singer possessed a voice so stunning that she could be singing the ingredients of a recipe or a newspaper article, and mouths would still be watering in anticipation of her next syllable, regardless of the content. That golden, buttery timbre is what keeps you coming back for more.

Following her Black EP, she dropped its genre-defying follow-up Gold at the beginning of September. Lead track "You Love" absolutely slays with its big-voiced, throwback charm, and the accompanying video nails the essence of what makes Moko so interesting. A deserted warehouse saturated in rich, primary colors, long whip-like pigtails to invoke envy on sight, and one hell of an emotionally sincere, divalicious voice. Bring on that full-length debut.

 
Artist: Disclosure feat. Mary J. Blige

Song: F for You

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/d/disclosure_settle.jpg

Display as: List

List Number: 6

Display Width: 200

Disclosure feat. Mary J. Blige
"F for You"

It appears perfection can actually be improved upon. English Brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence (aka Disclosure) re-released their massive track "F for You" at the beginning of the year to unanimous acclaim. Featuring Mary J. Blige as a wailing house diva, this stellar little reinvisioning harkens back to the old Clivillés and Cole recordings of the early '90s and elevated a great track to the status of modern dance classic. So when Blige announced that she was working with the duo on her next album The London Sessions, no one batted an eyelash. Their undeniable chemistry proved to be one of the most incendiary collaborations of recent years. The brothers' debut album Settle has rightfully garnered accolades by the dozen since its release in June of 2013, and tracks like "F for You" are precisely the reason why.

Next Page

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors


David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Music

Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.

Film

NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.

Music

South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.

Music

Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.