Music created exclusively for dancing is referred to as dance music. It might be an entire musical composition or a small portion of a bigger musical arrangement. And over the years, this genre of music has become the new global cool, wholly enticing to both old and young, especially the young.
But when the Covid pandemic hit in 2020, thanks to the worldwide lockdown, the dance scene also took a hit because the genre’s most traditional mode of consumption is through massive speakers at clubs and festivals. But when the dawn came in 2021 and what seemed like a nightmare began fading away, life slowly started returning to normal, and so did the dance scene.
So, here’s the part where we give you the top 20 dance/electronic songs (in no particular order or ranking) that shook up the scene and gave the world reasons to move, groove and bounce to the rhythm of good sounds. Talk about a silver lining.
Table of Contents
20. Tokimonsta & VanJess – Say Yes
Tokimonsta and Nigerian-American sister duo VanJess updated Floetry’s seductive tune “Say Yes” from 2003 with smooth future house music and lots of warm vocal “mmmmms.” The end product was a unique, attention-grabbing new spin on a retro. When the song was first published in June, Toki noted, “The original ‘Say Yes’ was a song that contained the deeper values of openness and love.”
19. Shift K3y Ft. Tinashe – Love Line
The London-based DJ and producer Shift K3y did it twice in 2021, which is unusual for an established musician to do. He gave Ultra Records’ “Morning” in January, a bouncing, longing dance hit featuring house diva Karen Harding. Then, in April, he returned with “Love Line,” a bouncing, sassy, electro smash featuring R&B diva Tinashe (who needs to release more dance music).
18. Skrillex, Starrah, Four Tet – Butterflies
The bonafide on this record are almost an embarrassment of riches. In addition to the three artists on the track, pop songwriter Bibi Bourelly picks up a writing credit here, forming what could be considered the year’s least likely supergroup. The result is a pop song that sounds like it’s been turned inside out, seared on its side, and massaged hypnotically by Four Tet’s beat-making fingers.
17. Swedish House Mafia – Lifetime/It Gets Better
Supergroup Swedish House Mafia entered the scene just as everything seemed to be going wrong, with two outstanding singles, “It Gets Better” and “Lifetime,” starring Ty Dolla $ign and 070 Shake, serving as a beacon of hope. The singles were SHM’s first releases in eight years and were released days apart in July.
The catchy “It Gets Better” has elements of bass-heavy techno, a clanging drop, and a thumping bass line that sounds more like they belong at a nocturnal Berlin rave than at a colourful music festival like the old “Don’t You Worry Child” did. But does it improve? It does. The group then released “Lifetime,” a fascinating earworm with hazy synths and a tempo that made people start to move their bodies.
16. Porter Robinson – Look at the Sky
The notion that music is a friend to lonely people resonates particularly well among Porter Robinson’s fanbase. The sincere singer’s rendition of “Look at the Sky” simultaneously evokes the feelings of a warm hug and a shoulder to cry on. The boisterous yet compassionate song, released in January as the fourth single off his eagerly awaited and well-received sophomore album Nurture, is an exhortation to all of us to look up and find beauty in the present, no matter how light or black that sky may be.
15. RÜFÜS DU SOL – Next To Me
Australian group RÜFÜS DU SOL have built their distinctive style over the course of four studio albums using lush walls of sound, compelling melodies, and sincere lyrics about the highs and lows of love. The lead single from the band’s fourth album, Surrender, “Next To Me,” combines these aspects particularly effectively (and effervescently).
This song is all about yearning, with lyrics by singer Tyrone Lindqvist about the beauty of the warmth of your hand in his. Gradually building beats and a release that makes you feel as though you’re being engulfed by a warm wave add weight to this swirl of emotion.
14. SG Lewis & Nile Rodgers – One More
Let’s face it, after the depressing year of 2020. Such comforts were few and far between. We were plainly yearning for all-nighters. When “One More” was released at the beginning of 2021, it thus seemed like a fanciful flashback because it announced an unattainable ancient sensation as clubs stood shuttered. It’s finally the banger everyone can relate to, and it deserves to be heard loud and clear.
Wrapped in the sparkly, nu-disco strums of living legend Nile Rodgers, “One More” tells the story of how the simple choice to stay for one more song can transform a fun night into a truly unforgettable one.
13. Octo Octa – Find Your Way Home
On her Bandcamp page, Octo Octa describes her mission as “Constantly attempting to make work that will have you smiling, crying, screaming, and dancing.” “Find Your Way Home” is a pure expression of the generous, body-moving energy Octo Octa brings every time she DJs.
12. PinkPantheress – Pain
The lead single from the album To Hell With It was “Pain,” a brilliantly subtle smash about fretting over a romance that ended sooner than intended. PinkPantheress’s slightly stalkerish intensity here twists the recollection of that song’s joyful original hook, which is why the sample of Sweet Female Attitude’s 2000 hit “Flowers” is so inspired.
11. Mila Jam – It’s Raining Them
Paul Jabara and Paul Shaffer originally wrote the song, but trans singer Mila Jam changed the lyrics to make it a gender-inclusive anthem. Without sacrificing the fantastic camp of the original, “It’s Raining Them” sincerely praises dance floor diversity.
10. Marshmello & Nitti Gritti Ft. Megan Thee Stallion – Bad Bitches
Here, thick bass rolls like a riptide, while glitch-y synths and propulsive percussion give this one a nearly out-of-control vibe before Megan Thee Stallion drops in to announce, “If you a motherf–king hot girl, no matter what season it is, make some motherf–kin’ noise.” The production trio then proceeds to do that, taking an already hyphy track up another few levels and into pure deliciousness.
9. Kylie Minogue & Dua Lipa – Real Groove (Studio 2054 Version, Initial Talk Remix)
Dua Lipa and Australian pop icon Kylie Minogue collaborated on a new rendition of “Real Groove” from Minogue’s Disco album released in 2020. After that, in March, the Japanese remixer Initial Talk transformed this collaboration into a real duet.
The women were able to complement one another in the ’80s-focused version since their previously layered vocals had been broken up. Initial Talk provided additional support for this dream duo with classic synth-pop reminiscent of Kylie Minogue’s formative years and well suited to Lipa’s Future Nostalgia sound.
8. Kah-Lo – Fire
Nigerian singer-songwriter Kah-Lo offered a clear warning on this June anthem, announcing, “Look, don’t touch the merch/You could get burnt, and it’s safety first/Burns on your tongue when you quench your thirst/Bitch is on fire, we on high alert.” She wasn’t kidding. This pulsing killer-queen anthem is as scorching as its title, a standout single from Kah-Lo’s excellent debut EP, The Arrival.
7. Jungle Ft. Bas – Romeo
“Romeo” is a joyous, rope-jumping jaunt with an open air of enthusiasm. Although Bas spits with the swagger of a man who has had enough of staying silent about some personal matters, “Romeo” doesn’t have love on his mind.
6. Jax Jones – Feels
“Feels” is the sound that represents happiness and sunshine that releases endorphins. The song is from the Deep Joy EP by Jax Jones, and we are totally into anything that makes us feel this happy. The catchy song pays homage to the 1990s house movement, characterized by a sense of liberation in pursuing the ideal night of dancing.
5. Gorgon City & DRAMA – You’ve Done Enough
On this lead single from their escapist, pandemic-era LP, Olympia, Gorgon City eloquently portrays the idea that heartbreak is a window to the soul. This extremely percussion-heavy and fast-moving vocal tune, which features the Chicago-based R&B/dance combo DRAMA, goes beyond the party-ready house to become an anthem about perceived self-worth.
4. Farruko – Pepas
When the Puerto Rican rapper Farruko dropped “Pepas”, it quickly became a multi-format hit, peaking at No. 1 on both the Hot Latin Songs and Hot Dance/Electronic Songs charts.
3. Illenium Ft. iann dior – First Time
iann dior can be heard singing the love anthem “First Time” with the nasally tone and cocky assurance familiar to anyone who’s ever shopped at Hot Topic. These vocals play over the soaring production that has become Illenium’s signature, altogether creating a single one simply can’t help but sing along to.
2. The Chemical Brothers – The Darkness That You Fear
Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons were prepared to let in some light by April 2021. “The Darkness That You Fear,” released as a stand-alone single, is far more upbeat than the title suggests and supports light-as-air vocals with that unique Chems weight.
1. ACRAZE – Do It To It
The 2006 Cherish R&B track of the same name served as the foundation for one of the biggest dance singles of 2021. New York producer ACRAZE made his debut with the succinct two minutes and 37-second dance tutorial (“Bounce with it, pop with it, lean with it, rock with it”).