These Will Be the Years: The 100 Greatest EDM Anthems of the ’10s
Counting down the classics that defined the mainstream breakthrough of 21st-century dance
20. Knife Party, “Internet Friends”
(Earstorm/Big Beat, 2011)
“You blocked me on Facebook. And now you’re going to die.” If this generation gets a better rallying cry than that, they probably won’t deserve it. — A.U.
19. Martin Solveig, “The Night Out”
(Big Beat/Atlantic, 2012)
Madeon may’ve had a hand in the slickly strung remix that made its way around beer-swilling campuses nationwide, but Martin Solveig’s original already had the recipe down pat: Take Phoenix, inflate with helium, add a drum machine, rinse, rave, repeat. — B.C.
18. Baauer, “Harlem Shake”
Before it simultaneously became a viral-video punchline and a lightning rod for criticisms of cultural appropriation, “Harlem Shake” was simply one of most incendiary dance tracks of the decade, boiling over like an overflowing pot of pasta and scalding everything in its vicinity. There’s a reason why it didn’t need all that much explanation when clips of idiots spontaneously combusting at the song’s moment of detonation flooded the Internet: Keeping your s— together when this thing hits just isn’t something that people do. — A.U.
17. Zhu, “Faded”
(Mind of a Genius, 2014)
With beats like these, there was no way faceless producer Zhu would stay anonymous for long. “Faded” soars because of its textures, how the singer’s alcoholic breath floats above the bass depth charges roiling throughout the song. It’s like a head massage you can dance to. — H.B.
16. Swedish House Mafia feat. Pharrell, “One (Your Name)”
The Casio-simple five-note riff that launched the biggest dance group of the decade to international superstardom, taken to the next level by an uncharacteristically flustered Pharrell come-on. The bludgeoning nature of “One” would be pointless to deny, but that was sort of the point: Sooner or later, we were all to be under Swedish House Mafia’s thumb, so best just to give yourself over to their stadium-sized synths and searing acid squelches the first time they ask “Could you at least do that?” — A.U.
15. David Guetta feat. Sia, “Titanium”
The one David Guetta song even haters have to begrudgingly give it up for, “Titanium” has a buoyancy that belies its name, gradually rising from its misleading new-wave guitar intro into the miles-high flight of its towering post-chorus. Of course, the real star of the song is its guest vocalist, a star-making appearance from a singular voice we’d underappreciated for far too long, imbuing the song’s elemental title phrase with enough pain and perseverance to turn it into a rallying cry that rivals “I Will Survive.” — A.U.
14. Rusko, “Woo Boost”
(Mad Decent, 2010)
One word, three letters. If your reaction to Rusko’s breakthrough hit is anything else, Ric Flair himself will come to your place of residence and deliver you a diving knee drop. — A.U.
13. Skrillex, “Bangarang”
(Big Beat, 2012)
After there’s no more dynamite for this track to blow up, a voice trots in to report, “Yo, I’m eating Fun Dip right now, not giving a f—k.” Sonny Moore doesn’t leave many metaphors for reviewers to describe his perfectly realized collusions of broken siren wails and scrambled guitar tsunamis (see what I mean?), but his unusually amplifier-friendly crunch helps point to why this former emo kid is such a triumph of the human spirit. To translate for rockist skeptics: He once expressed himself with Real Lyrics and Instruments and reached only a select few. With his laptop-cum-hovercraft, Moore mastered the art of melody (and the mmmmmm…dropppp?), plugging into the hearts and wriggling bodies of millions. He’s the big brostep you never had. — D.W.
12. Gesaffelstein, “Pursuit”
(EMI Music France, 2013)
Living in the grimiest horror-porn chamber in your mind, this standout from Gesaffelstein’s debut LP throbs with a darkness and carnality badly missing from most EDM corners. Kanye’s favorite curly-haired, chain-smoking French DJ applies all the industrial grime he brought to Yeezus’ most corrosive moments to “Pursuit,” emerging with a concoction of unholy lustfulness that Trent Reznor would be proud to call his own. A triumph of some of the most pleasurably punishing techno you’ve ever heard. — H.B.
11. Afrojack feat. Eva Simons, “Take Over Control”
Looking back, 2010 will forever be remembered by clubbers as the year of Afrojack. With its peerlessly caustic synth riff and unapologetically submissive vocal, “Take Over Control” took over control of airwaves, clubs, bars, gyms — basically, the world — and placed Afrojack firmly at the forefront of Dutch electro-house. — A.Z.
10. Zedd feat. Foxes, “Clarity”
You know that feeling you get when you pick up a piece of warm garlic bread and butter starts to ooze out of its pores as you crunch it between your teeth on your first bite? That, friends, is “Clarity,” the surprisingly soulful smash that went supernova for Zedd and Foxes in 2012. It’s nouveau disco for the masses by way of choral-infused electronica, somehow binding its parts together unflinchingly and ending up more delectable for it. — B.C.
9. Martin Garrix, “Animals”
To a certain extent, EDM appeals to a baser, more visceral part of us: Don’t think, just dance. Just move. “Animals” takes this to its logical extreme — in the video, animal mask wearers (one of whom is Garrix) torch a car and terrorize the dance floor — but the message is already there in the ominous trap-claps. We’re all “f—kin’ ANIMALS,” after all. — H.B.
8. Porter Robinson, “Language”
(Big Beat, 2012)
None of this decade’s big dance names seem to still believe in the possibilities of “Castles in the Sky”-era trance the way Porter Robinson does, modernizing the lighter-than-air piano and cooing siren vocals that enraptured audiences around the turn of the century by combining them with the trembling low end and supersonic synth blasts of the ’10s. “Language” is the producer’s definitive early work, scaling the utopian heights of his predecessors while triggering seismic explosions underneath, creating a new dialect easily spoken across generations of electronic fans. — A.U.
7. Duck Sauce, “Barbra Streisand”
(All Around the World, 2010)
It took a rollicking sample from Boney M and a four-word monotone chorus to make it clear just how much our girl Barb was meant to become an EDM mega jam. Sing it with us now: Oo-oo who-oo-oo whooo-oo – BARBARA STREISAND! — A.Z.
6. Swedish House Mafia feat. John Martin, “Don’t You Worry Child”
5. Deadmau5 feat. Greta Svabo Bech, “Raise Your Weapon”
The EDM Mulholland Drive: gorgeous, mysterious and singularly devastating, and packing a second-act twist that completely obliterates everything you thought about the work before. “Raise Your Weapon” manages the impressive task of being both the best Kaskade and the best Excision song of the decade, despite (obviously) being by neither artist: Deadmau5 flips the switch from strobe-lit house to black-lit dubstep with one expertly deployed transition phrase (“How does it feel now to watch it burn?”), the song becoming violent and tumultuous where it was previously heartbroken and bleary-eyed. That it remains equally stunning in the before and after is a testament to both the bullets loaded by singer Greta Svabo Bech’s palpably scarred vocal and Joel Zimmerman’s ability to pull the trigger at the exact right time. — A.U.
4. Calvin Harris, “Feel So Close”
(Fly Eye, 2011)
Dr. Luke may have pioneered the modern-day guitar-splattered pop tune, but the Scottish singer/producer’s got that department under lock and key when it comes to EDM. “Feel So Close” was the song that made Harris say he’d never lend vocals to a track again (he lied), which was an immediate shame: Every single note-perfect eight-bar on the song’s like its own personal Groundhog Day, which is why “Close” is s so all-encapsulating in its brilliance. Forgot the words? Waiting for the hook? They’re always just around the corner, waiting for your open-armed (and incoherently shouted) embrace. — B.C.
3. DJ Snake & Lil Jon, “Turn Down For What”
To the canon of such unresolved philosophical dilemmas as “What is the meaning of life?” and “Is there a God?” the man known behind the giant shades and clenched, glistening teeth as Lil Jon adds the most difficult quandary of all. And what’s worth turning down for, really? Your boss? You can get a new job. Spouse? There’s always fish in the sea. Parents? Suddenly you can’t remember why you had them in the first place. All that matters is the shots. All that matters is the butts. Someone tells you to dial it back and you unscrew their head with your bare paws. The blood. The horror. And the eternal lingering question. Say what again, motherf—ker. — D.W.
2. Skrillex, “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” (Mau5trap/Big Beat, 2010)
It’s impossibly boring to bring up roller coasters to describe dubstep jams in the year 2015, so let’s talk Tower of Terror instead, because that’s what “Scary Monsters” really is: a slow, disquietingly serene journey up to the top, then the most precipitous of falls, directly down. No loops or twists or other frills needed, just the build up, the drop, and the repeat, and all of the ensuing dread, fearfulness and physical pit-of-stomach anxiety that occurs in between. A million pale imitations and some distracting film reappropriations later, you still never forget the visceral reaction of your first visit. OH MY GAWWWWD is right. — A.U.
1. Avicii, “Levels”
Nothing defines this era in dance quite like “Levels,” the song that conclusively proved that the only thing separating young bedroom-studio DJ aspirants from worldwide superstardom was one undeniable synth riff and one exceedingly well-placed vocal lift. Nothing particularly magical to Avicii’s recipe, but there was no arguing with the ingredients: The hook was to the early ’10s what Darude’s “Sandstorm” was to the ’00s, and the sample was so universally rousing that Flo Rida PRACTICALLY tripped over himself on the way to the studio to steal it. It sounded like a classic the first time, the tenth time, and the hundredth time that you heard it, and even as DJs overplayed it to the point where his management made videos begging them to stop, it never lost its glisten. “Levels” accomplishes what all great dance music should: being unmistakably of its time, and yet growing increasingly timeless as the years advance. Decades after the phrase “EDM” becomes as timestamped and dated as “ratchet” or “FOMO,” they’ll still instinctively flood the floor when the clarion call of “Levels” comes blaring out of the speakers. — A.U.