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My Favorite Dance Tracks: Nine Artists on Their All-Time Dance-Floor Burners

Rolling Stone just published its list of the 200 Greatest Dance Songs of All Time. But along with giving you our picks, we also reached out to artists from throughout the dance-music world to get their favorite tracks, too, along with commentary for each. From disco queen Gloria Gaynor to Detroit techno legend Derrick May, these people have been moving crowds for decades. This is the music that moved them.

Ellen Allien

Ellen Allien is a German electronic musician and producer, and the founder of the techno label BPitch Control.

Kraftwerk, “Das Model”

Biggest input for my ears when I was a little girl. They changed my music mind.

Moderat, “Rusty Nails”

This trio from Berlin consists of Apparat and Modeselektor. They released their iconic debut album on my label, BPitch, and “Rusty Nails“ became one of their biggest hits.

L.S.G., “Hearts”

Absolute trance classic. I’m still playing it in my DJ sets.

Jimi Tenor, “Take Me Baby”

Finnish musician, multi-instrumentalist and director. His tracks are hymns in my sets!

D.A.F., “Der Mussolini”

To me DAF is one of the most influential German music groups. Their live performances have this punk attitude which I love!

Koudlam, “Love Song”

An amazing artist who is mixing electronic beats with shamanic voices. 

The House Crew, “Keep the Fire Burning”

A popular track back in 1991 — still relevant today!

Underground Resistance, “The Seawolf”

Music label and music group from Detroit founded by Jeff Mills and Mike Banks. Their tracks were important for a whole techno generation. 

LFO, “Freak”

LFO are my heroes! They were groundbreaking for abstract techno sounds, and “Freak“ is only one of many classics. 

Björk, “Hyperballad (Subtle Abuse Mix)”

She is a huge and important inspiration to so many female artists. She has a unique voice and has produced so many incredible sounds.

Roni Size

Roni Size is a Mercury Prize-winning British DJ-producer who founded the drum-and-bass collective Roni Size & Reprazent in 1997.

LTJ Bkem, “Music”

I remember hearing this tune for the first time at Universe Rave in Bath. When LTJ Bukem dropped this tune, the whole tent erupted! The three-minute melodic intro was nothing like I’ve ever heard before, but I knew he had something special in his dubplate selection, so I specifically made sure I was there for the entirety of his set in anticipation that he was gonna drop this classic at peak time. The intro, those chimes, the patience … and then it finally drops into the simplest of bass lines and the most unexpected drum pattern. Honestly, you had to be there to really understand how much of an impact this record had. It changed the game, and it still sounds as fresh today as the day I first heard it. A very special memory and a lifetime classic for me .

 Massive Attack, “Unfinished Sympathy”

Being born and bred in Bristol, at some point you’re going to come into contact with someone who is either a DJ, MC, breakdancer, or a producer. Acts like Smith & Mighty (Peter-D), Fresh Four, 2Bad, UD4, Soul Twins, City Rockers, Plus-1, Andy Risky Business (DJ Red & Shade) and the mighty, mighty Wild Bunch with DJ Milo, MC Willie Wee, Nellie Hooper, to name but a few!  But there was one break-away crew who had the look and the right combination. 3D, Daddy-G, Tricky Kid and DJ Mushroom, a.k.a. Massive Attack.

I’d heard this track being played, but I can’t recall the first time, to be honest, but when I watched the  video for the very first time on TV I was blown away. Those strings are so emotional, the breaks hold that steady groove and the simplest of cuts and scratches make it an instant classic … and that’s even before the vocal has been introduced. This record makes me proud to be a true Bristolian. And this is Bristol at its very best.

 Roni Size & Reprazent, “Brown Paper Bag”

A seminal moment in the new era of Bristol music. That bass (Si John) with simple rolling two-step drums and its dark jazzy mood, it certainly won over the critics, and especially when they saw it live with Dynamite MC and Onalee killing it onstage alongside the four of us and superduper Clive Deamer — it all made sense. I’ll always remember going live on BBC TV and Radio 1 at the same time. Would do it all over again if I had the chance!

Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force, “Planet Rock”

Is this a dance record or a hip-hop record? Taken from a Kraftwerk Trans-Europe Express vibe, this track kicks with 808 bass and those 808 drums, with Bambata on the vocals.  This is still a banger till this day. Let’s bring this tempo back!! 

Smith & Mighty, “Killer”

Very obscure Bristol sound of the Eighties, with banging amen and some chunky bass vibes. This is often played at the wrong speed and could be a jungle tune today. If you’re not familiar, you need to check this out. Pure vibes.

Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock, “It Takes Two”

This reminds me of my daytime clubbing days. That Lynn Collins earworm all the way through. I remember reciting all the words on this one.

Mr. Fingers, “Can You Feel It”

An absolute classic house record on a classic label.  Those bass tones never let you down, and the euphoric strings just take you right back to the earliest of house days.

Lenny De Ice, “We Are I.E.”

Well, it’s time to rave it up with this one! Dreamscape Fantasia crew, you know what to do!  Acts like Top Buzz, and Tango & Ratty killed this record in every set. If Carlsberg was to make a rave, then this is it!

Soul II Soul, “Back to Life”

One of the most sampled records of all time in jungle and drum-and-bass. Nellie Hooper and Jazzy B knocked this one out the park. The record was so big it charted without any Top of the Pops performance. Did it hit Number One? Well, in my book it was Number One for over a decade. Definitely soul, definitely dance, and it definitely holds lots of great memories in my life. 

Chic, “Good Times”

Chic is probably one of my favorite bands of all time. This classic was played by hip-hop DJs at peak time. My own two copies are pretty worn out from cutting up the bass break, which was also made famous by “Rapper’s Delight” and on Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”

Aluna Francis (of AlunaGeorge)

Aluna Francis is an English singer-songwriter and one-half of the electronic duo AlunaGeorge, along with producer George Reid.

“I’ve put together a collection of some of the most iconic Black-fronted dance tracks — these songs are like beacons for Black artists today looking to see themselves reflected in a genre that has distinctly lacked diversity and is ready to break into a bright, new, and inclusive future. From the father of house, Frankie Knuckles, through to the rebels breaking the mold today — this is the history and future of dance.”

Mr. Fingers, “Mystery of Love”

Donna Summer, “I Feel Love”

Roni Size & Reprazent, “Brown Paper Bag”

Faithless, “Insomnia”

The Source & Candi Staton, “You Got the Love”

SNAP!, “Rhythm Is a Dancer”

Janet Jackson, “Together Again”

Rihanna, “Only Girl (In the World)”

Azealia Banks feat. Lazy Jay, “212”

Channel Tres, “Topdown”

Paul Oakenfold

Paul Oakenfold is a Grammy-nominated producer and DJ who’s produced remixes for the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Madonna, U2, and many other artists.

Massive Attack, “Unfinished Symphony (Paul Oakenfold Remix)”

This track became an instant classic. I got the honor to remix it, and it still stands the test of time. 

On the House and Marshall Jefferson, “Move Your Body (The House Music Anthem)”

One of the greatest house records out there. I remember when I first played it at Spectrum in London and the crowd went crazy. 

Dirty Vegas, “Days Go By”

One of the only real dance records that crossed over and became a pop hit. 

Robin S., “Show Me Love”

This is a record that still gets remixed and played today. 

Grace, “Not Over Yet”

A pure classic dance record that has been covered so many times. 

Planet Perfecto, “Bullet in the Gun”

“Bullet in the Gun” was an underground hit that was around for two years before it crossed over and became a hit in the U.K. 

PPK, “Resurrection”

I came across this record in Moscow and loved it so much I signed it. We had remixes done on it, and it blew up to sell more than 500,000 copies. 

Amoeba Assassin, “Piledriver”

Amoeba Assassin are two guys out of the U.K. who had this rock alternative edge that did dance music. Such a fresh sound at its time!

Paul Oakenfold, “Ready Steady Go”

This was a track I wrote for a trailer of a film that never existed. I always get so many requests to play this song even now, and I made it more than 10 years ago. 

Electra, “Jibaro”

One of my favorite hits from the Balearic days, when the Ibiza dance scene first started. 

Derrick May

Derrick May is a Detroit-based musician who, along with Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson, is credited with pioneering techno music in the 1980s. His 1987 single “Strings of Life,” recorded under the name Rhythim is Rhythim, is at Number 33 on our list.

Donna Summer, “I Feel Love”

Excellent! The true definition of timelessness. Lightning in a bottle!

Doctor’s Cat, “Feel the Drive”

Wow! Arriving in Chicago going to see my mother, midday in the car, on comes a hot lunch mix on WBMX. “Feel the Drive” comes across the airwaves, love at first listen.

Kraftwerk, “It’s More Fun to Compute”

Man, oh, man, when I think back! When “Pocket Calculator” was released off the album, whoever could have imagined there would be deeper levels electronically than anyone had ever been before. This song really became the subconsciousness of Detroit techno.

Capricorn, “I Need Love (Instrumental Version)”

The track that everybody wanted but nobody could get, back in the day. If you had Capricorn you were king for a day.

Visage, “Frequency 7 (Dance Mix)”

If it wasn’t for the Electrifying Mojo in Detroit, doing his nightly shows, Juan and myself glued to the radio from the beginning to the end of his shows, we would never have been blown away or educated by so much alternative electronic music of that era. “Frequency 7” was a transformative track in our youth, almost alien at that time, thanks to Mojo!

Manuel Gottsching, “E2-E4”

Words are not easy when it comes to this track. I was barely out of high school, and it was as mind-blowing as hearing Kraftwerk for the first time.

Lil Louis, “Music Takes U Away (Mayday Music Institute Edit)”

In Detroit at the Music Institute, this was an anthem. I did a re-edit of this track that to this day remains one of the foundations of Friday nights at the Music Institute. Louis heard the edit and was pleasantly surprised.

Model 500, “No UFO’s”

It was monumental in every way, because Juan decided to go his own way after leaving Cybertron. It would be the first record where Roland TR808 and TR909 drum machines were used on the same song. I was able to suggest my idea of using both drum machines. If it wasn’t for Chicago, there would be no “No UFO’s.” The record exploded, and the rest is history.

Lil Louis, “French Kiss”

Louis captured the imagination of primal, savage sexuality in every way possible. It’s very easy to be complicated, but it’s very difficult to be simply complicated. “French Kiss” defines “simply complicated.”

First Choice, “Let No Man Put Asunder (Ron Hardy Re-Edit)”

First heard it when I went to the Music Box in Chicago. Blew me away, Ron Hardy being Ron Hardy. Beatin’ the box, destroying the dance floor!

Jesse Saunders

Jesse Saunders is a Chicago-based DJ and producer, one of the pioneers of house music, and the author of In Their Own Words.

My top 10 greatest dance songs of all time changed the musical landscape of dance music at the time of their release. They continue to be timeless tracks included in every tastemaking DJ’s playlist. But I would be remiss if I didn’t include honorable mentions under each entry in my top 10. This is because the honorable mentions were game-changing influencers as well.

“Trans Europe Express” by Kraftwerk is my number one because it influenced the electronic revolution that has stood the test of time and shows no sign of ever leaving the landscape of dance music. I placed my own “On and On” in the number-two slot because it, too, changed the game. “On and On” influenced not only a generation of DJs, producers, and remixers, but it also knocked down the barrier between the seemingly untouchable superstar artist and the bedroom DJ turned producer-artist, and gave notice that he or she, too, could become a superstar! 

“Move Your Body,” by Marshall Jefferson, hits my chart at number three because it has become the worldwide anthem of house and electronic music! Entries four and five, respectively, took the world by storm and brought recognition of Number Ones across Billboard and beyond, achieving at least gold status in sales. Entries six to 10 are all the ultimate representative of each new genre (of its time) in dance music including disco, disco-influenced rap, electronic hip-hop, hip-house, and new wave. It comes full circle in “Planet Rock,” by Afrika Bambaata, as he utilizes the melody from “Trans-Europe Express” in the track.

Kraftwerk, “Trans-Europe Express”

Honorable mentions: Giorgio Moroder, “I Wanna Rock You”; Suzi Lane, “Harmony”; Benny Goodman, “Sing, Sing, Sing”

Jesse Saunders, “On And On”

Honorable mentions: Jesse Saunders, “Funk U Up (Those Pretty Girls)”; Steve Silk Hurley, “Jack Your Body”; Jamie Principle, “Your Love”

Marshall Jefferson x Solardo, “Move Your Body”

Honorable mentions: JM Silk, “Music Is the Key”; Ralphie Rosario, “You Used to Hold Me”

Farley Jackmaster Funk & Jesse Saunders, “Love Can’t Turn Around”

Honorable mentions: Joe Smooth, “Promised Land”; Ten City, “Devotion”; JM Silk, “I Can’t Turn Around”; Inner City, “Good Life”

Crystal Waters, “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)”

Honorable mentions: Robin S., “Show Me Love”; CeCe Peniston, “Finally”; Moloko “Bring It Back”; Soulsearcher, “I Can’t Get Enough”; Madonna, “Vogue”

 MFSB, “Love Is the Message/T.S.O.P.”

Honorable mentions: Issac Hayes, “Shaft”; The O’Jays, “I Love Music”; Chaka Khan, “I’m Every Woman”; Chic, “Good Times”; D-Train, “Keep On”

Sugarhill Gang, “Rapper’s Delight”

Honorable mentions: Kurtis Blow, “Christmas Rappin’”; Kurtis Blow, “The Breaks”; Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, “White Lines”

New Order, “Blue Monday”

Honorable mentions: Devo, “Whip It”; B-52s, “Rock Lobster”; The Go-Go’s, “We Got the Beat”; Men Without Hats, “Safety Dance”

Tyree Cooper, “Turn Up the Bass”

Honorable mentions: Mr. Lee, “Get Busy”; Fast Eddie feat. Sundance, “Git On Up”; Technotronic, “Pump Up the Jam”

Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force, “Planet Rock”

Honorable mentions: 2 Live Crew, “Me So Horny”; Shannon, “Let the Music Play”; Exposé, “Point of No Return”

Vince Lawrence

Vince Lawrence is a Chicago-based record producer and an early house-music pioneer.

So after a little thought, I have a list. This was actually harder than I thought it would be. So many songs … I think that each of these songs set the tone for the party and “made a difference” by breaking new ground musically or via technology. I reflect on these songs emotionally, as many were not the most popular record by way of charts, but the songs resonated with dance floors in a way that any DJ or nightlife enthusiast would relate. In making this, list I picked songs I felt could change your evening, if not your life.

In no particular order:

Parliament/Funkadelic, “Flashlight”

Kraftwerk, “Numbers”

On the House and Marshall Jefferson, “Move Your Body (The House Music Anthem)”

The Jacksons, “Forever Came Today”

First Choice, “Let No Man Put Asunder”

James Brown, “Body Heat”

Frankie Knuckles and Jamie Principle, “Your Love”

Martin Circus, “Disco Circus”

Stardust, “Music Sounds Better With You”

Bebe Winans, “Thank You (MAW Mix)”

Rachael Cain (a.k.a. Screamin’ Rachael)

Racheal Cain is president of the Chicago house-music label TRAX Records

With my history in dance music as an artist-DJ-producer, and president at TRAX, I’d imagine that most of my contemporaries assume disco played a key role in my life. Actually, that couldn’t be further from the truth! I was a supporter of Steve Dahl’s historic “Disco Demolition” at Comiskey Park in my hometown Chicago. Though I didn’t know him yet, Frankie Knuckles was pumping disco at the Warehouse, while my band Screamin’ Rachael and Remote slammed and did the pogo at the “Space Place” celebrating its demise …

At the time of the demolition, I was a rocker chick, a kid who read Rolling Stone! Back then, it really was young people like us who fueled that revolution. I felt that disco was totally overproduced, and got disgusted with the culture of polyester suits, ugly disco dresses, line dancing, and the fact that it was being commercially shoved down our throats. It seemed to be threatening the music scene we loved. I never felt house was disco, because if anything, we completely deconstructed that sound, taking it to the bare bones. If anything, I feel house had more in common with punk’s DIY attitude and low-fi, simple recording techniques. All-ages spots like Medusas and Space Place developed, where kids actually heard DJ’s spin punk, house, and New Wave together. Once I met Jesse Saunders and Vince Lawrence, we recorded “Fantasy,” and at the time I did it, I wasn’t crazy about the sound. One night after a raid at Space Place, a kid said, “Frankie Knuckles is mixing your record at the Warehouse.” You see, the parties there were kind of the precursers to raves. I had never heard the term mixing, and the name Frankie Knuckles sounded intriguing. The place was right around the block, so when I got there it opened up a whole new world. The sound was primal and pumping, and the people were sweaty and jacking. I think DJ’s like Frankie and the legendary Ron Hardy brought people like me and others together in what was very much a racially divided town back then. House music did that, and I believe it was birthed from the ashes of Disco Demolition Day.

Sugarhill Gang, “Rapper’s Delight”

When I first heard this cut I couldn’t believe my ears. Rap was brand-new and I loved it! They sampled Chic, but at the time I knew nothing about that. That song brought me to Sugarhill Records, where I was mentored by the first lady of hip-hop, Sylvia Robinson.

Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force, “Planet Rock”

I was completely hooked by the infectious dance beat and lyrics that welcomed me to join the hippy-trippy universal soul party!

On the House and Marshall Jefferson, “Move Your Body (The House Music Anthem)”

The first time I put the needle on the record I couldn’t stop playing it! That piano at the top blew the track wide open. I remember telling Marshall that he had made his “Rock Around the Clock,” a masterpiece that would be the biggest record of his life.

Joe Smooth, “Promised Land”

That song sends chills down my spine. It gives listeners hope, and spreads love and good vibes all around the dance floor when it is played.

Parliament, “Flashlight”

Who can deny this cut’s influence? Like George Clinton said, “Free your mind and your ass will follow.” So shake it baby, and throw your hands up in the air! It’s a P-Funk party!

Blaze, “If You Should Need a Friend”

We jacked hard at the infamous Limelight to this raw, stripped-down Jersey house sound with steel drums and a blissful spiritual message.

Daft Punk, “One More Time”

I first heard it gigging in Cannes, France, where the radio played it constantly. But no matter, the magic didn’t wear off. Sure the cut was heavy on Auto-Tune, but to this day, every time it plays I celebrate!

A Guy Called Gerald, “Voodoo Ray”

This song features a mesmerizing female vocal chant that’s a bit off but totally on! I’m mad about acid house, and this cut was the genre’s game changer.

Frankie Knuckles and Jamie Principle, “Your Love”

Definitely not disco, this dreamy opus transports my mind and body. From the ethereal sound of the beginning bass, to its quivering parts and the urgency of the vocal, it stands alone as different and innovative.

Screamin’ Rachael, “Fun With Bad Boys”

When Bambaataa and I produced the track, our aim was simply, to unify two cultures with the best sounds from the streets. After all, why couldn’t we bring New York hip-hop and Chicago house together? Believe it or not, that was considered a radical idea at the time! Bam said, “Let’s call it hip house.” So we did …

Gloria Gaynor

Gloria Gaynor is a disco/R&B vocalist best known for her 1978 hit “I Will Survive.” which is #43 on our list.

Robin Thicke feat. T.I. and Pharrell, “Blurred Lines”

Beyoncé feat. Jay-Z, “Crazy in Love”

Michael Jackson, “The Way You Make Me Feel”

Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean”

Brainstorm, “Lovin’ Is Really My Game”

Stevie Wonder, “Signed Sealed Delivered”

Whitney Houston, “I Want to Dance With Somebody”

Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk”

Chic, “Everybody Dance”

Commodores, “Brick House”

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