Dancing Astronaut’s Top 25 Tracks of 2016Top Tracks 2016

Dancing Astronaut’s Top 25 Tracks of 2016

Dancing Astronaut's Top 25 Tracks of 2016

In our DJ-driven culture, the record is king. A single song has the ability to change the trajectory of one’s entire career. It doesn’t matter if it took three hours or three years to create: if it captures the listener, it’s done its job.

To celebrate the tracks which ruled the past year, we’ve ranked our Top 25 Tracks of 2016. This is not a list of the Best Tracks of the Year per se, but rather an analysis of which songs had the biggest overall impact. We’ve taken things into account such as the number of times we heard it in DJ sets, the longevity of the track, and the amount of times it’s been streamed or purchased. Beyond this, we’ve done our best to touch on everything from underground dance music to mainstream EDM in a (hopefully) more democratized approach.

Photo credit: Jas Davis

25. Mr. Oizo - End of the World (feat. Skrillex

In September, the inimitable Mr. Oizo released his sixth studio album, All Wet, via Ed Banger. The LP served as an embodiment of the veteran French producer’s surreal body of work, while also exposing him into mainstream audiences. The album’s most widely-streamed track, “End of the World,” holds all the trappings of a lead single. An A-list partnership with Skrillex, simplistically effective bass loop, and infectious vocal all drive the track, but in an atypical fashion. The titular vocal loop is simultaneously melodic and grating – towing the line between musicality and madness.

– Will McCarthy

24. Cirez D - In the Reds

2016 has marked the most momentous year of Eric Prydz’s legendary career. Adding to the impact of his debut album and thrilling EPIC 4.0 tour, the veteran artist excited a different faction of his fanbase by releasing two EPs under his techno alter-ego, Cirez D. In late May, Prydz released the year’s first Cirez D EP, In the Reds/Century of the Mouse. Amidst formidable competition from the producer, “In the Reds” stands out as the most remarkable Cirez D track of 2016. The track begins as a careful layering of ominous, arcane tones which, driven by a thunderous percussion section, eventually progress into climax of techno hysteria. Harrowing and frenzied, “In the Reds” embodies Eric Prydz’s techno yang, standing in stark contrast to the progressive yin he provided with Opus.

– Will McCarthy

23. Riton - Rinse and Repeat

Under the Riton moniker, British producer Henry Smithson has built up a reputation for sonically challenging, yet incredibly danceable techno-infused house. For “Rinse And Repeat (feat. Kahlo),” Smithson retained key musical elements of his cerebral techno sound while entering into a more widely accessible sphere. Fusing acid house-inspired synthesis and meticulous panning with a bouncy house tempo and club-ready vocals, Riton’s collaboration with Kahlo harkens back to Azealia Banks and Lazy Jay’s classic, “212.” The even-keeled combination of mainstream and marginal musical features in “Rinse And Repeat” allowed the track to achieve widespread commercial success in 2016.

– Will McCarthy

22. deadmau5 - Strobe (Feed Me Remix)

Feed Me’s take on deadmau5’s legendary single, “Strobe,” became one of the first remixes revealed from mau50100, the official remix EP of the track through which mau5trap celebrated their 100th release. Jon Gooch’s electro-laden remix made its rounds across the entirety of the dance world, garnering high praise in the weeks before its release – and for good reason. Over the course of the lengthy remix, Gooch takes listeners on a journey through multiple tiers of melodic breaks and electrifying drops. While Feed Me’s vision of “Strobe” achieves a complex development akin to the original, the piece is entirely Gooch’s own, serving to further reaffirm his versatility and skill as an artist.

 Christina Hernandez

21. The xx - On Hold

After nearly three years of work, The xx will finally release their third album, I See You, on January 13 of next year. The ten-track record will mark their third LP to date, following 2012’s Coexist, and their groundbreaking self-titled debut from 2009. Alongside the album’s announcement, The xx shared its first official single, “On Hold.” The song notably employs the group’s sentimental songwriting, with Romy and Oliver providing an intimate duet to a backdrop of the group’s traditionally electronic production. Jamie xx’s production follows a similar trajectory to his solo album, In Colour, featuring a crisp 808 kit while sampling the legendary Hall & Oates.

– Michael Sundius

20. Tycho - Division

“Division” is perhaps the brightest standout from Tycho’s compelling 2016 album, Epoch. The song’s angelic synth progression and soft guitar strums help tie together Scott Hansen’s creative masterpiece. At the helm of post-rock and ambient electronic music, Tycho breathed new life into an increasingly stale market as the record’s overwhelming success took dance music by storm.

– Lizzie Renck

19. Marshmello - Alone

Love him or hate him, marshmello has undeniably had one of dance music’s most astounding rises in popularity. While the producer originally rose into the spotlight due to his enigmatic nature and well received remixes of Jack Ü and Zedd, his debut on Vancouver’s Monstercat imprint, “Alone,” marked the moment that the producer began carrying weight. “Alone” went on to hit #10 on Billboard’s Dance chart and become the #1 song on Dance radio. Though marshmello occupies a polarizing role in electronic music, the success of “Alone” throughout both the dance music and mainstream realms has proven that the masked figure’s productions can perform beyond his social media persona.

– Austin Evenson

18. deadmau5 - 4ware

From the moment deadmau5 began uploading bits and pieces of W:/2016ALBUM onto his SoundCloud, the producer’s sixth LP was primed to be one of the biggest albums of the year. Long before the album’s release, “4ware” became one of its most sought-after pieces, due largely in part to the nostalgia it evoked with its 80s-inspired sounds, echoing the concurrent success of Netflix’s Stranger Things series. With “4ware,” deadmau5 once again captured the entrancing, brilliantly-written progressive sound that has made deadmau5 such an icon over the years. The song’s remarkable synths and distinguishable melodic progression are bound to create fond memories for those witnessing it live during the upcoming “lots of shows in a row” tour.

– Christina Hernandez

17. Run the Jewels & DJ Shadow - Nobody Speak

DJ Shadow’s robust music career, which has now spanned well over two decades, reached a new milestone this year with the release of his fifth studio album, The Mountain Will Fall. Released in June via the Mass Appeal imprint, Shadow’s 2016 album marked his first full-length release since 2011’s The Less I Know, The Better.
The California-born producer and DJ introduced his LP with “Nobody Speak,” a collaborative single with hip-hop duo Run the Jewels. The funky feature comes equipped with a hearty arrangement of brass, percussions, and looping bass, which combine perfectly with the masterful flows of El-P and Killer Mike. “Nobody Speak” marked a more groovy tone for the outspoken duo, while the track’s production served as a treat for fans of Shadow’s classic hip-hop rhythms.

– Kim Reyes

16. Martin Garrix - In The Name of Love

Martin Garrix is certainly no stranger to making dance music anthems. In 2016, however, the young producer tread into new territory. In his first year free of Spinnin’ Records, Garrix took full advantage of his newfound ability to explore his creativity, perhaps evinced most notably in his collaboration with Bebe Rexha, “In The Name Of Love.” Released over the summer, the widely-streamed song is more simple and stripped back than what Garrix’s fans were used to hearing beforehand. The future bass clip draws its appeal from the unusually mellow nature of Garrix’s production, and the sultriness of Bebe Rexha’s impassioned vocals. With the collaboration boasting over 250 million streams in since its release in late July, Garrix may want to continue experimenting with future bass in 2017. 

– Christina Hernandez

15. Major Lazer feat. Justin Bieber - Cold Water

Major Lazer’s “Cold Water,” which saw additional production from Benny Blanco and co-writing credits with Ed Sheeran, served as a defining hit of the second half of summer 2016. Despite its name, the track maintains the sun-kissed vibes present in Major Lazer’s last smash partnership with MØ, “Lean On.” Bieber, whose last collaboration with Diplo was an unequivocal success, is the main draw on “Cold Water,” however. His effortless vocals, delivered off a rising guitar riff, match the track’s relaxed, dancehall feel. MØ, who harmonizes with Bieber at intervals, asserts her presence known towards the end, singing a verse as the track builds to an ecstatic climax.

– Mike Cooper

14. Hundred Waters - Show Me Love (Skrillex Remix)

In March, Annie Mac premiered Skrillex‘s long-awaited remix of Hundred Waters’ ”Show Me Love.” Alongside frequent collaborator Chance the Rapper, Sonny Moore breathed new life into his signees’ standout tune with help from vocalists Moses Sumney and Robin Hannibal. The track gushes an empowering positivity that artfully shines through in Skrillex’s video directorial debut, featuring a cast of his friends and collaborators in Los Angeles.

– David Klemow

13. Flume - Say It feat. Tove Lo

Flume’s sophomore album, Skin, marked a number of milestones for the Australian influencer. Between racking up eight ARIA awards — including “Best Album of the Year” — to earning his first platinum record with “Never Be Like You,” Harley Streten managed to compose a full-length piece that both experimented with an assortment of sonic textures and seizing commercial appeal. With numerous power team ups slated on the album, one of the most highly anticipated collaborations was “Say It” with Tove Lo. The final output came together to be one of the strongest future bass tracks of the 2016, as the Swedish singer belted over Flume’s grandiose percussion slams and scintillating synths.

– Austin Evenson

12. Ookay - Thief

A pivotal influencer in the trap scene, Ookay’s catalogue previously held a focus on pounding 808s and screeching melodies. Following Ultra Music Festival 2016, the LA-based producer surprisingly came forth with the uncharacteristically melodic single, “Thief.” Ookay’s future bass-driven track immediately took hold in the midst of festival season, becoming one of the most circulated songs on the summer circuit with supporters ranging from DJ Snake to Kygo. Eventually achieving its peak position of 27 on the Billboard Dance Chart, Ookay further expanded the track’s impact when he released the official music video for “Thief,” which honored of the victims of Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub shooting.

– Austin Evenson

11. Zhu - In The Morning

In late February, Zhu kick-started the “Neon City” phase of his career with the release of “In the Morning,” the first single from his debut album, GENERATIONWHY. The single proved to be an immediate success for the producer, echoing his previously Grammy-nominated effort “Faded” with its transposed vocal harmonies and delectable deep house beat. With a delightful piano melody further introducing the track and serving as its bridge, “In the Morning” still stands out as one of Zhu’s most endearing productions almost a year since its release.

– Michael Sundius

10. Justice - Randy

Justice set the dance music world ablaze when they released “Safe and Sound” in preparation for the release of Woman. For fans of the duo’s heavier predilections, however, it was the album’s second single, “Randy,” which struck an anticipatory nerve. Opening triumphantly with a raucous drum roll and electrifying guitar intro, the upbeat track vacillates between the duo’s premier talents – viscerally stunning electro and inimitably pleasant disco. “Randy” provided an excellent embodiment of the duo’s strong-suits, and a fitting preview of the album which was to come.

– Will McCarthy

9. RL Grime, What So Not, Skrillex - Waiting

For bass music fans with a particular penchant for 808s, there was perhaps no prospect more momentous in 2016 than the titanic union of Skrillex, RL Grime, and What So Not in the studio. Suffice it to say, the trio’s collaboration earned its spot as one of the genre’s most-anticipated releases since Skrillex’s remix of GTA’s “Red Lips” in 2015. The aptly-titled “Waiting” first garnered traction in its early stages as an ID in RL Grime’s HARD Summer 2015 set, and experienced a resurgence in September, when What So Not announced the track’s completion. A well-tuned combination of the three artists’ stylistic traits, the upbeat piece vacillates between peaceful, yet suspenseful melodic segments and virulent, bass-laden horn ascensions. Structurally coherent and viscerally energizing, fans of the bass super-trio have largely agreed that “Waiting” was worth the wait.

– Will McCarthy

8. Rüfüs - Innerbloom

Despite being released in late 2015, Rüfüs Du Sol’s smash single “Innerbloom” didn’t truly take off until 2016 — due in large part to the Australian group’s relentless touring this past year. The nine-and-a-half minute track is arguably the trio’s most sophisticated offering to date, and in 2016, it became one of the veritable anthems of the year thanks to high profile remixes from the likes of What So Not, Sasha, Lane 8 and more.

– Michael Sundius

7. Boys Noize - Overthrow

Alex Ridha laid all his cards on the table when he released “Overthrow” ahead of his fourth studio album, Mayday. Ridha’s foreboding release of “Overthrow” thrust Mayday into the world with a momentous eruption, dutifully laying the groundwork for what was to come. In his album’s lead single, Boys Noize provides a thrilling work which draws from his greatest strengths. Blending elements of acid house with industrial techno, “Overthrow” was one the heaviest tracks of the year and of Ridha’s career.

– Will McCarthy

6. The Weeknd (Feat. Daft Punk) - I Feel It Coming

One collaboration between Daft Punk and The Weeknd was seemingly improbable enough, yet in 2016, the dance music titans generously gifted the world with two. Following the trio’s first single together, “Starboy” — which, despite its lukewarm response among fans, proved a massive commercial success — The Weeknd delivered the group’s followup collaboration in November, “I Feel It Coming.” Whereas “Starboy” offered a darker (albeit still accessible) club cut, “I Feel It Coming” is an homage to both artists’ favorite muse: disco.

– Michael Sundius

5. Skrillex & Rick Ross - Purple Lamborghini

Prior to its release, Skrillex and Rick Ross’s Suicide Squad accompaniment, “Purple Lamborghini,” was feverishly-anticipated. The superstar producer/rapper combo pulled out all the stops for their marquee collaboration, as Ross’s infamous Miami trap lyrics flowed over a tenacious Skrillex beat.
Few tracks as hyped as Skrillex and Rick Ross’s collaboration manage to adequately satisfy expectations. However, Ross’s passionate vocals and Skrillex’s razor-sharp production led “Purple Lamborghini” to become perhaps the most successful electronic/hip-hop crossover track of the year.

– David Klemow

4. The Chainsmokers - Closer

In early 2016, The Chainsmokers had already begun their rise into mainstream culture with their radio-dominating anthems, “Roses” and “Don’t Let Me Down.” However Alex Pall and Drew Taggart truly pushed the needle forward when their Halsey-assisted mega-hit, “Closer,” shot straight to #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Featuring a combination of relatable lyrics and a sultry, laid-back drop, the love duet of Drew and Halsey unexpectedly reigned as champion of the chart for 12 weeks straight before being dethroned by Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles.” Although “Closer” may not have been the coolest track of 2016, it was undeniably the biggest EDM crossover hit of the year, and has cemented The Chainsmokers into their pop star role.

– Austin Evenson

3. Porter Robinson & Madeon - Shelter

In an industry where marketing and anticipation plays such key roles in the success of releases, it’s incredibly rare for artists to truly take listeners by surprise. When Porter Robinson and Madeon dropped “Shelter” upon the world following no prior announcement, they veritably “broke the Internet.” The partnership of the two prodigious producers in the studio (and onstage) flows incredibly well, as both parties insert key elements of their respective stylistic traits into their collaboration. Though Robinson and Madeon have both noted that “Shelter” will be their sole collaboration together, the impact which the song had will extend far beyond 2016.

– Will McCarthy

2. Flume - Never Be Like You

In January, Flume’s “Never Be Like You” premiered on BBC Radio 1 as Annie Mac’s Hottest Record In the World. Featuring Toronto singer Kai, the beautiful vocal-driven piece offered plenty of Flume’s orchestral hallmarks and quirky drum programming — not to mention delivering the first taste of his standout sophomore album, SkinCompared to past material from the Australian phenom, however, the emphasis was clearly shifted to methodical songwriting over jaw-dropping sound design. As a result, “Never Be Like You’ translated into one of the standout blockbuster singles of the year, even going Platinum in the US. The track is a testament to Flume’s meteoric rise to crossover stardom in 2016.

– Michael Sundius

1. Justice - Safe and Sound

Every now and then, we come across a song that stops us dead in our tracks; a song so enchanting that — even if only for a moment — the frantic churn of the dance music world seemingly grinds to a halt. Such was the case with Justice’s “Safe & Sound,” which arrived in July, heralding the legendary French duo’s triumphant return behind their new album Woman. While their EDM contemporaries sought to capitalize on the trends of the moment in 2016, Justice appeared wholly removed from the hustle, perfectly content to create timeless music and reinvigorate the world’s appreciation for modern disco and electro in the process. Justice’s “Safe and Sound” is our choice for Track of the Year.

– Michael Sundius

Listen to all 25 tracks

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