Dancing Astronaut’s Top 25 Most Impactful Artists of 2014 #BIG100
Top 25 Most Impactful Artists of 2014
Every year there are a handful of artists that leave a lasting impact on the dance music conversation. Some are dance music’s greatest tastemakers, paving the way for entire industries in their wake. Some explode with inventive sounds that permanently alter the path of electronic music’s evolution. Others take the road less traveled and carve niches all their own. Beyond popularity and net worth, these are the artists whose presence in 2014 impacted the industry in irreversible ways.
25. Deep Dish
In 2014, Deep Dish officially returned, and we couldn’t be more grateful. Having been one of the foremost dance acts in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Dubfire and Sharam’s reunion was one of the most celebrated events of the year. Taking over the Essential Mix in March and performing everywhere from Miami, to Los Angeles, to Amsterdam Dance Event, Deep Dish rejuvenated their sound and the world took notice.
24. Aphex Twin
Richard David James’s DNA is ingrained in the fabric of electronic music itself. A god amongst mortals, Aphex Twin’s return in 2014 re-ignited the legend with the release of Syro. Now nominated for a Grammy, James’ full-length LP for Warp Records was one of the most important releases of the year. More approachable than previous iterations, the album proved one of James’ most influential and comprehensible releases of his career, inspiring more than a handful of modern electronic music producers.
One of Australia and Future Classic’s original emissaries, Flume’s sound brought with it a new explosion of sounds and talents that spanned 2014. Alongside Emoh in What So Not, Harley Edward Streten broke into the US market on two separate wavelengths. While his own career had numerous sonic landmarks to speak of — from a remix of Lorde to plenty of free edits and remixes — the path he blazed ultimately did more for the industry than just his music alone.
Many fingers could be pointed in the direction of Oliver Heldens or even ZHU for ironically popularizing deep house this year, but Keisza snuck into the scene and brought the sound straight to the radio. With “Hideaway,” the general listening public jammed out to deep house all year — whether in the car, at the club, or in their own homes — without even knowing it.
The uncontested god of bass music, Bassnectar’s influence on the electronic music zeitgeist continued well into 2014. A producer’s producer and sound design extraordinaire, Lorin Ashton has used his persona to support not only great music but a variety of noble social causes. This year his tenth studio album, Noise vs Beauty, earned him his highest spot on the Billboard #200 and re-energized his larger-than-life bass heavy brand. A talent who has found success without selling out, Bassnectar’s approach to electronic music has served as a benchmark for authenticity in the industry.
Chromeo pressed their brand of funky dance music into the mainstream consciousness this year. Releasing “Jealous” as a hit single, endless remixes soon followed, twisting their universal sounds into all different spheres and yielding plenty of radio attention. The pair’s full album White Women dropped soon after as their studio effort culminated in one of the year’s freshest releases, brining dancey, disco influences to the masses.
19. Claude VonStroke
The undisputed king of the Bay Area, Claude VonStroke and the Dirtybird crew toured the country this summer with their BBQ party series. A unique blend of forward-thinking music makers, VonStroke and company make fearless dance floor gems for one purpose: fun. Toss in stage takeovers at many of the country’s biggest festivals, and appearances in every massive dance music hub throughout the US, and it’s easy to see how VonStroke and his motley crew cemented their place in the dance music zeitgeist of 2014.
Oh, tropical house — 2014’s genre phenomenon. Like trap and trending sounds past, this year’s was a spin on the return of melody-driven music. Leading the way have been Thomas Jack and Kygo, with the latter best popularizing the movement. His rework of The Weeknd’s “Often” offered every reason to hop on board, and a handful of other remixes kept momentum moving in the right direction for both Kygo and the flourishing tropical house genre.
17. The Magician
At first just a clandestine mixtape from one half of Aeroplane, the Magician’s Magic Tapes soon developed a cult following and established a powerful brand dedicated to tastemaking the best that disco and deep house have to offer. It was that following that got him the attention of Parlophone UK/FFRR and WBR US and the eventual release of his debut single “Sunshine.” But beyond his personal success, the artists and music he supported through his monthly mixes spawned countless careers and carved a niche in the industry that had never before existed.
“Push” may be the most “EDM” thing A-Trak has done, but his dedication to #REALDJing and the art of turntablism has helped spawn a rebirth in the performance aspect of the craft. His Fool’s Gold label continues to put out some of the funkiest dance tracks in the business, right alongside grassroots hip hop and genre blurring originals. One of the scene’s most influential tastemakers, A-Trak consistently brings a unique spin to the world’s dance floors – be it through his main stage performances, his Brooklyn-based imprint, or his #REALDJing crusade.
15. Matthew Koma
Matthew Koma is EDM’s vocal side, but beyond that the Brooklyn born singer earned songwriting credits on many of the year’s biggest hits. Contributing to Zedd’s “Find You” was only his catalyst in 2014, as he soon made multiple appearances on both Tiësto’s A Town Called Paradise and Afrojack’s Forget The World — not to mention singles with Audien, RAC, and others. As important to the success of the tracks he touched as the producers themselves, Koma’s presence in 2014 extended far beyond a featured vocalist credit.
14. Porter Robinson
Porter Robinson set out to make a statement in 2014 and he succeeded. Initially making a splash with the announcement of his debut album on Astralwerks, Robinson went on to ditch his complextro persona for the anime-influenced Worlds. The unorthodox move paid off, culminating in one of the year’s best albums and the sensational Worlds tour that brought it to life.
13. Giorgio Moroder
The legend behind the synthesizer is once again front and center, resurrecting his career and swinging his musical legacy through today’s stream of sounds. Back on production duties in 2014, Giorgio Moroder has been impressive on the remix side of things, reworking tracks such as Coldplay’s “Midnight” and Joywave’s “Tongues.” Primed for an original push, Moroder has a new single ready to blaze a path and an upcoming studio album.
12. Seth Troxler
From repeatedly calling out Steve Aoki to demanding that underground and mainstream cultures stay completely separate, Seth Troxler was not without his share of headlines in 2014. But beyond his epic trolling, he persistently stood for showcasing the very best that dance music has to offer. A consistently innovative personality in a freakshow of fabricated drivel, Troxler eats, sleeps, and breathes the true DJ ethos. He’s on a mission to expose people to the sounds of the world, not spoonfeed swill to the masses and he doesn’t really care who he offends. Oh, and his new label’s first pressing was Clarian’s “Mirror of the Sun” — a top contender for coolest track of the year.
11. Mike Einziger
Since putting his magic touch on Avicii’s “Wake Me Up,” everyone has asked for a piece of Mike Einziger. With unarguably the most influential strings in production, the Incubus band member’s talent remains in high demand. Einziger, however, has limited his collaborations, working with David Guetta and taking the stage with Skrillex and Bonnoroo.
10. Steve Angello
In his first full year focusing on his solo career away from Swedish House Mafia, Steve Angello took an aggressive and unique approach with his brand. In the music, Size releases carried their tech-laced theme in 2014, while in in business, Angello went against the grain and worked with his own art agency. Finally, Steve did all this while putting together an album, ditching the majors, and going fully independent.
9. Nile Rodgers
When Nile Rodgers resurfaced onto the modern dance landscape, it’d been the calling of a disco messiah. And that’s the role he assumed when pairing with Avicii and Daft Punk to bring life back to electronic music during a time when it was desperately needed. Rodgers has since become a staple among the landscape, releasing original material and collaborating with the likes of Disclosure and Carl Cox.
8. Eric Prydz
Eric Prydz continued to bear the one true progressive house flag left flying in 2014. Joined by deadmau5 for one of the best parties of Miami Music Week, Prydz kicked off the year with the wind at his back. Then there was EPIC 3.0, his landmark show in New York at one of the country’s most historic venues: Madison Square Garden. A true audio-visual masterpiece, Prydz set the benchmark high for a DJ’s live show and few have been able to rival it.
It’s hard to speak about 2014 without talking about ZHU. A music, art, and marketing triple threat, ZHU appeared seemingly out of nowhere with his brilliant Outkast medley and then the garage-inspired “Superfriends.” The producer then followed up with a highly touted EP of originals, including one of the year’s biggest tracks, “Faded.” In an industry fueled by zealous social media attention, ZHU took the road less traveled by avoiding public attention, keeping his appearances few and far between, and bringing the focus back to the music not the DJ. Closing out his year with two sold out shows in Brooklyn, NY, The NightDay Experience, and an unexpected but well-deserved Grammy nod, ZHU made an impact on 2014 with no signs of slowing down.
6. Carl Cox
Oh yes, oh yes, Carl Cox is still the man, and 2014 proved that more than ever. With a killer residency at Space — including a ten-hour opening party — and plenty of festival stage takeovers, Cox kept his bodacious brand of house and techno alive and well throughout the year. While his performances continued to leave onlookers craving for more, it was perhaps his philosophy and insight into the scene that proved most influential. Back in Miami, Cox dropped this line of wisdom on us: “I don’t think it’s ‘underground vs overground,’ I just think it’s pop culture versus people who actually love the music. Some of these people have no clue why they are standing in front of these DJs in the first place.”
5. Pete Tong
The world may know Pete Tong as the famous voice of BBC Radio 1 and the Essential Mix, but in reality, Tong is so much more than that. The recent LA-transplant has brought his All Gone Pete Tong brand to the forefront of the dance scene, hosting steady residencies in Miami, Los Angeles, and Vegas, and curating some of the best parties in Ibiza and more. Meanwhile he’s helped launch dance music on American radio thanks to his Evolution broadcast, bringing his revered curation abilities to the North American airwaves.
4. Above & Beyond
Plenty of artists have attempted to play Madison Square Garden since Swedish House Mafia made history there, but one act made it count more than any others: Above & Beyond. The group’s 100th Edition of Group Therapy — one of the biggest moments of 2014 — was bolstered by a sold out crowd in the cultural capital of the US, New York City. In addition to this, a handful of stunning singles from their forthcoming album have already been revealed, priming the way for a huge 2015. While many of dance music’s greats have reached their plateaus, Jono, Paavo and Tony continue to soar to amazing heights, inspiring countless fans and artists along the way.
With easily the loudest voice in dance music, no one can capture the attention of the blogosphere like deadmau5 can. Whether it be calling out an artist for copycatism or candidly speaking his mind, Joel Zimmerman boasts some of the strongest opinions in the entire scene. Aside from his overwhelming social media presence, Zimmerman unloaded an insane amount of music this year. His seventh studio album while(1<2) brought 25 tracks to light, while 5 years of Mau5 on Ultra Records saw some of the biggest names in dance music offering top shelf remixes of his most iconic work. The Canadian superstar will forever be a catalyst for debate. Whether you agree with his opinions or not, the issues he targets are almost always conversations worth having.
Thankfully, we’ve finally moved on from the brief period in dance music when it was cool to hate on Skrillex. Now, it seems, we can finally get back to enjoying his music and innovation for the industry. Since the beginning of his career, Sonny has inspired countless producers to follow in his footstep. From launching OWSLA to building a producer compound and artist network, NEST HQ, Moore has continually used his success to help those around him. Though his album, Recess, may have gotten snubbed for a Grammy nod, its tracks infiltrated every corner of the dance space this year. From his ‘Skrillex Selects,’ to his constant social support of upcoming artists, Sonny is still a world-leading tastemaker and one of the most impactful artists in the industry by a long shot.
Everywhere you turn, Diplo is there. He’s in your headphones, he’s in your dreams, he’s in your breakfast cereal. His brand, Mad Decent, is quickly becoming one of the most powerful in dance music; his tag team with Skrillex, Jack U, is the most sought after name in the industry; and, on the side, he moonlights as a producer for Madonna. Then there’s Major Lazer, an FX animated series, one of BBC Radio 1’s highest-rated radio shows, and a boat cruise all stamped with his brand name. If there was one guy who defined the industry’s trajectory in 2014 it was Thomas Wesley Pentz. As cliché as it sounds, calling him the “hardest working man in dance music” is fittingly appropriate.