Dancing Astronaut’s BIG 100—Top 25 EDM Moments of the Decade
2010 may as well have been a lifetime ago. At the breakneck pace by which dance music throttles through the stratosphere, the decade is ending in an entirely unrecognizable place from where it began. For context—ten years ago, Electric Daisy Carnival was held in Los Angeles, not Las Vegas, where the Los Angeles Rams now play. Only 250,000 people were paying for a Swedish music streaming service called Spotify, and Billie Eilish was finishing up second grade. It’s been a wild ride through the 10’s, largely soundtracked by EDM’s global boom into a multi-billion dollar industry. Ten years ago our culture was creeping out of South London basements and New York warehouses, and now we’re performing at the Olympics.
So now, as the single most important, historic, and certainly memorable decade dance music has ever seen draws to a close, we had to figure out a new way to break down how far the culture has come. One master list couldn’t possibly reflect the decade in review. In effort to properly recognize the remarkable collection of events that has brought us here, we’re tweaking our typical end-of-the-year model. Instead, we’re dividing the decade’s most deserving into a handful of unique categories.
In review of 2010 – 2019, the most important factors that shaped the decade were Artists of the Decade, Labels of the Decade, Albums of the Decade, and Most Impactful Moments of the Decade. Together, they comprise Dancing Astronaut’s decade-end collection. Introducing, The Big 100.
25. FYRE Festival Fiasco
We’ll always remember FYRE Festival, though, for more than the debacle it caused for the 1%’ers of festival attendance. The fiasco that left attendees stranded on a concrete beach in the middle of the Bahamas without food or shelter will go down as one of the biggest blunders in festival history—our generation’s Woodstock 99, or microcosmic version of it. But FYRE Festival will be remembered as a turning point for both festival events and influencer culture. The tumultuous last-minute dissolution of the event showed the gaping cracks in influencer marketing and sent a message to global festival organizers that sub-par events wouldn’t be tolerated anymore; nobody wants to be the next FYRE. As a result, the diluted middle of the festival circuit began to fold at the tail end of the decade. FYRE will likely have set the precedent for the next decade of festivals in that most of us are either looking for events with high production value and infrastructural organization, or tightly curated boutique events in aesthetically pleasing locations. But for now, we’re still dining out on the epic failure that was Billy McFarland and Ja Rule’s “greatest party that never was.”
24. Aphex Twin’s Return
Aphex Twin had already claimed his place in the upper echelons of electronic music before the turn of the millennium. Though he largely went radio silent after his 2001 double LP. Fast forward to this decade and it wasn’t necessarily surprising that Richard James, a deity of experimentalism, wasn’t a part of electronic music’s global commercialization. Though, when James did resurface in 2014 with the mind-bending Syro, his influence was immediately evident in the modern electronic landscape. A Grammy, a pair of EPs, a return to visual media, and a return to performing stateside, which culminated in his first Coachella showing in 11 years, made the second half of the decade a fun, twisted spiral down Aphex Twin’s rabbit hole.
23. What So Not break up and Flume launches into the stratosphere
In 2015, What So Not was at the top of their game as Australia’s brightest exports began to leverage swelling popularity with American audiences. The pairing of Flume and Emoh seemed like two buddies carving out their shared creative vision—tracks like “The Quack” and “Jaguar” were breaking ground in new sonic territories and everyone was along for the ride. Though, Flume was already a breakout star in his own right, with a hugely successful debut album already under his belt. When the pair announced their split and Emoh would be taking creative control of the shared project, it allowed Flume the creative space he needed to propel himself into a once-in-a-generational talent with his sophomore follow up, Skin, and later his deeply ambitious mixtape. It was a big moment for dance music as the beloved duo went their separate ways, but ultimately, allowed Flume the creative launchpad he so desperately needed.
22. Madonna and Avicii at Ultra
During Avicii’s unforgettable 2012 Ultra set, he brought out pop’s undisputed queen, Madonna as a surprise guest during the performance. Her words would have been remembered as endearing when she said, “electronic music has been a part of my life since the beginning of my career, and I can honestly say a DJ saved my life,” had she not followed up a moment later asking the swelling crowd of ravers if anyone had “seen Molly?” *record scratch*
It wasn’t the greatest look for Madonna, or electronic culture at large, but in that moment it was remarkable to see our generation’s fastest rising star share the stage with the most dominate pop force of the last 50 years. —Farrell Sweeney
21. Gesaffelstein’s farewell at Coachella 2015
When Gesaffelstein announced his early retirement from live performances in 2015, it shocked the dance music community. It felt like the first time Michael Jordan called it quits. Following the success of his debut studio album from just two years before, Gesaffelstein was at the top of his game. Crowds would come in droves to see the French techno god chain smoke his way through sets, commanding the decks like a pastor at the pulpit. Then, just like that, it was announced that his festival-closing performance at Coachella’s Mohave tent in 2015 would signify the end. The farewell provided the kind of rousing and suspenseful ending that festival-goers yearn for in the final hours of such a momentous event.
The void where Gesaffelstein had stood was felt instantly, and never really subsided until his 2019 re-emergence. The four year hiatus proved to be fruitful as the Dark Prince of Techno returned with a highly conceptual live performance and sophomore album. With a Columbia Records deal now inked, fans can expect Gesaffelstein to remain active in the early part of the coming decade, though they’ll never take his presence for granted again.
20. “Lean On” makes Spotify history
There was a lot of “fad” talk over the course of the decade, underscored by endless theorizing about the “EDM bubble.” Those conversations halted for a day in November 2015 when Major Lazer, DJ Snake, and MØ’s “Lean On” was named Spotify’s most streamed song of all time. It signaled that EDM was now to be understood as pop music, that there was no longer a line between the genres and that was the new precedent. It topped the charts in more than 20 countries, and spent 10 consecutive weeks in the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Lean On” is now Spotify’s fourth most-streamed song of all time. Though, it boasts nearly three billion YouTube views and undoubtedly holds a place as one of the songs that defined the decade.
19. Kaskade’s crowd at Coachella
In April of 2015, Kaskade was the only electronic music artist to play on Coachella’s main stage. That year he represented electronic music in grand fashion when he broke festival records for the largest crowd in Coachella history. “This is certainly electronic music’s time,” Kaskade would tell Mashable in 2015, and considering his crowds trumped that of Drake, AC/DC, The Weeknd, and Tame Impala’s, suffice it to say he hit the nail on the head with the bold notion. —Farrell Sweeney
18. Jack Ü debut at Ultra
When Skrillex and Diplo took to the Ultra main stage together in 2014, most of the overarching impact of what was happening was lost on the crowd and global streaming audience as two of the world’s top DJs rained fire down on Miami. What would permeate from that performance was not just a larger-than-life pairing of two dance titans that would yield an album, a sold-out Madison Square Garden NYE run, and a slew of massive festival headlines. The Jack Ü project undoubtedly resurrected Justin Bieber‘s career and ultimately positions Diplo and Skrillex as the top pop producers of the decade with their hypnotic brand of fizzy, aggressively danceable electronic music.
Of course all good things must come to an end and after label red tape, an unsustainable touring itinerary, and perhaps even creative differences, Diplo and Skrillex went their separate ways in 2016. Though, the split doesn’t seem as acrimonious as JAY-Z and Kanye’s public falling out, so something tells us we likely haven’t seen the last of Jack Ü. —Bella Bagshaw
17. Porter Robinson and Madeon finally join forces for ‘Shelter’
The Shelter tour encapsulated a truly unique live experience that will go down in the history books for electronic music. Madeon and Porter Robinson’s trajectories were so similar from the onset—two internet wunderkinds who each shared an affinity for video game culture and its intersection with music. Both would go on to become stars. So when the two finally joined forces for “Shelter,” we knew we were looking at something special. The collaboration was later accompanied with a short anime feature. The temporary pairing would climax with two scintillating shows at Madison Square Garden and Coachella. —Josh Hymowitz
16. SFX goes belly up
The newly relaunched SFX Entertainment had largely dominated the EDM gold rush by it’s IPO in 2013, swallowing major brand properties left and right behind the leadership of controversial entertainment mogul Robert Sillerman. The entertainment conglomerate would grab up Tomorrowland, Mysteryland, Beatport, and more before tumultuous restructuring efforts would ultimately lead to filing for bankruptcy just two years later. The company would return once again in 2016 thanks to AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips, this time as LiveStyle, the group behind Destructo‘s AMF properties, Electric Zoo, and many more. Earlier this year, Sillerman died of throat cancer.
15. Gary Richards’ final HARD performance
In the ’90s Gary Richards was instrumental in the rise of the rave scene in Los Angeles. While fellow promoter Pasqualle Rotella was also carving out his own lane in LA at the time, the two were largely understood to be competitors rather than collaborators. This decade would bring Richards’ return to the electronic events circuit with the formation of his HARD events brand, which proved to be a monumentally successful alternative to Rotella’s fledging Insomniac branded events. Though, when Live Nation purchased HARD Events in 2012, it brought Rotella and Richards under the same banner, and ultimately, began the process of Richards’ departure from his own events property. After successfully branding summer and Halloween events, a mini-festival touring circuit, and a wildly successful cruise party, Richards would start from the ground up once again with the formation of his AMFAMFAMF events brand and a partnership with LiveStyle, formerly SFX, in 2018. Richards played one final sermon, as fans grew accustomed to calling his sets, at HARD Summer in 2017, marking the end of a momentous chapter for stateside dance events. —Bella Bagshaw
14. OWSLA goes on tour + Mothership Tour
Skrillex founded his OWSLA imprint in 2011, mainly so he could sign and help distribute music from fellow up-and-comers he had connected with online: a teen from North Carolina named Porter Robinson and a young Russian-German musician with an ear for crafting hits named ZEDD. The three would of course go on to define electronic music for the decade individually, but not before sharing a tour bus for a month, setting up a folding table at clubs across the country. Talk about a real “started from the bottom” moment.
This would lead to the unforgettable Mothership Tour of 2014 which saw Skrillex, now an electronic icon, deliver some of his most ambitious performances to date from the cockpit of a hydraulic, graffiti tagged, laser equipped spaceship. The tour was supported by What So Not, DJ Snake, and Milo & Otis, making for one of the most memorable affairs of the decade.
13. Anna and Alison at EDC main stage
EDC Las Vegas’ 20th anniversary in 2016 was certainly one for the books. The event’s top highlight would go down as a historic showing from two of dance music’s most dominant leading ladies. Amid three days of electrifying sets, and celebrity guest appearances, Anna Lunoe became the first solo female act to ever play the festival’s main stage on Saturday, followed by Alison Wonderland taking the main stage the following day with her own raucous performance. It drew long-overdue attention to the gender gap in dance music and served as both a moment of triumph for the culture as well as a hard look in the mirror.
12. Carl Cox says farewell to Space Ibiza
For the better part of the decade, Space was consistently celebrated as the top club in the world. By all accounts, the storied venue was the crown jewel of Ibiza. All the while, Carl Cox reigned supreme as the club’s esteemed resident, rocking the club’s main room discoteca with fervor and passion for 15 years. The 2016 season marked the end of the club’s storied run and in turn Cox’s legendary stint as its ringleader. The live streamed closing party featured a head-spinning list of performers all stopping in for one final goodbye.
Since then, Cox has been instrumental in the institution’s restoration. Though, that season-ending party in 2016, with Cox spinning vinyl for the first time in more than a decade, reminded us that electronic dance music has its own hallowed grounds, and losing one such site was certainly a moment to remember.
11. Ultra Music Festival voted out of Bayfront Park
This decade was largely defined by Miami Music Week and the culminating Ultra Music Festival that capped the week off. Each year, dance music’s most jaw-dropping moments would take place at Bayfront Park, replete with fireworks and Miami’s skyline in the background. Bayfront became an inextricable component to Ultra’s appeal over the event’s 18-year stint at the venue. So when the commissioners of Miami voted unanimously against allowing the festival to be hosted at Bayfront Park in September of 2018, it felt not only as though the relationship between the festival and its host city had fractured, but it felt again as though dance music was losing another holy site. The 2019 edition of the festival was largely received as a disaster, though, the 2020 iteration will see Ultra’s return to Bayfront Park after some key legal maneuvering. It will set a new chapter in a fresh decade for the crown jewel of dance events. We couldn’t be more excited. —Farrell Sweeney
10. Major Lazer performs Cuba
When Major Lazer performed a free show in Cuba in March of 2016, we knew we were witnessing history. It was the first time an American group would play for a Cuban audience after more than a 50-year embargo between the two nations. The result was remarkable. Nearly half a million Cubans came to watch Diplo, Walshy Fire, and Jillionaire make it clear that Peace is the Mission. For a group that prides themselves on bringing worldly influences to a global network of fans, Major Lazer certainly drove their point home on the shores of Havana that day.
09. Skrillex brings home the hardware
When Skrillex won three Grammys in 2012, it felt like we had arrived. Our generation’s newly defined rockstar archetype had emerged just two years prior, and when Sonny Moore brought home golden gramophones for best dance recording, best dance/electronic album, and best remixed recording (not to mention a nomination for best new artist), it was a hugely legitimizing moment for the genre. Moore would sweep the same three categories the following year, and grab two more Grammys before the decade’s end, establishing himself as one of the premier producers of our day, and our Artist of the Decade.
08. Resurgence of album format
Recent survey data may reflect otherwise, but from 2010 – 2019, as dance music found its footing in the pop landscape, so too did the album format, giving listeners a wide variety of electronic projects that were defined by a concept. It brought listeners from A to Z with specific chronological intent. Electronic albums weren’t new to the 2010s, though electronic music’s relationship to the album format seemed to strengthen over the decade more than it had before. It also allowed dance producers to wade into pop production with largely successful results. From deadmau5’s While(1<2) to The Chemical Brothers‘ No Geography, with Recess, Worlds, and so many highlights in between, electronic artists stepped beyond the comforts of lower-risk EPs and dove into album production with spirit during the ’10s.
07. Avicii’s ‘Levels’ takes over the world
In 2011, Avicii debuted “Levels” at Ultra Music Festival, and this moment would forever change the trajectory of the dance music industry and the career of Avicii himself. “Levels” took over the world. It played on repeat on major radio stations; it rang out at major sporting events and on TV shows; and it ignited an interest in dance music from the masses. The debut of “Levels” is the beginning of the mainstream’s growing interest in dance music, and the song’s unbelievable ubiquity marks one of the most pivotal moments in Avicii’s iconic career. —Farrell Sweeney
06. The loss of Keith Flint
After the loss of Avicii in April of 2018, dance music was forced to examine and console the loss of an icon. It galvanized the mental health conversation in the industry and shed light on the not-so-glamorous side of the globetrotting DJ life. Not a year later, on March 4, 2019 the community that was still processing those feelings took another massive blow when news broke that The Prodigy‘s legendary frontman Keith Flint had died. Both the group and Flint individually garnered so much respect from so many corners of the music world, that coping with Flint’s passing felt like reopening barely closed wounds. Despite being one of the darker moments of the decade, there’s not a shadow of a doubt that The Firestarter’s legacy will live on.
05. Swedish House Mafia breakup… and reunite
It is hard to believe that Swedish House Mafia was broken up for more years than they were together over the past decade when considering the impact they had on progressive house and the massive global following the group amassed during their time together. When the group called it quits in 2013, their farewell tour signaled an unforgettable milestone in dance music’s golden decade. The split had the Mafia divided on a personal level, riffs that took five years to close. It wasn’t exactly a shock when the trio reunited in the same place they said goodbye at Ultra Music Festival in 2018, though the moment was undoubtedly a triumph. It felt as though the entire global dance music community reunited for a singular moment to watch the Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso, and Steve Angello come back together to close down Ultra Music Festival’s 20th anniversary weekend. —Farrell Sweeney
04. Electronic dance music reaches a billy
The global dance music industry hit an all time high of $7.4 billion in 2016, solidifying that, for better or worse, this decade has been the biggest, most profitable, and commercialized decade dance music has ever seen. The electronic music industry became the fifth highest grossing genre of music, a place the vast majority of us couldn’t say they saw coming at the onset of the decade. —Farrell Sweeney
03. The rise of digital streaming platforms
At the risk of stating an oversimplification, streaming changed the game in so many ways. Naturally it is where creative media was headed this decade, but the wide adoption of Spotify, and Apple’s purchase of Dr. Dre’s Beats empire, sparking the launch of Apple Music thereafter, signaled a major shift for artists, labels, and yes, even little dance blogs. Spotify essentially did what they set out to do during their first decade—effectively end online music piracy by providing a better alternative.
Now, firmly into the streaming era, we see both Apple and Spotify collecting millions of paid users per year, while taking the monopolized distribution power of labels out of their hands. Labels would catch-up to the digital streaming platforms eventually, but not before Spotify and Apple Music developed a new kind of exclusive and started building rosters of endorsed artists. DSPs changed the way awards were given, gave independent artists the ability to market themselves without a label-slanted deal, and gave music to the masses over the last decade.
02. The loss of Avicii
The wind was taken out of everyone’s sails on April 20, 2018 when we lost Avicii at just 28 years old. Receiving the news was a moment most dance music fans can’t forget. Perhaps because before that we didn’t have a Kurt Cobain or an Amy Winehouse. No Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison. No Prince. Avicii’s death was about dealing with the loss of an icon whose music is emblematic of dance music’s ascent from the historic underground and to the mainstream. Avicii had been public about the struggles he faced with touring and the lifestyle that came with being a DJ. His documentary exposed many issues that artists face, such as being pushed past mental and physical limits with press, travel, and touring alongside addiction issues. When Avicii died, the industry was forced to prioritize artists’ mental and physical health like it had neglected to do before. We didn’t just lose a superstar DJ that day, we lost an industry trailblazer, and the head of a movement. —Farrell Sweeney
01. Daft Punk return with Random Access Memories
Daft Punk‘s return in 2013 was special, not only because the legendary French Androids had delivered their first LP in eight years with Random Access Memories, but because the album was legitimizing for electronic dance music in many ways. It came at the front half of EDM’s global boom, proving to the world that electronic dance music wasn’t just millennial festival fodder with Nile Rodgers, Pharrell Williams, and Giorgio Morodor in tow. The record masterfully presented intelligent, disco-inspired sounds in with an incredibly fresh, modern perspective to audiences who were still trying to figure out if mainstream electronic music was…well, legit.
Random Access Memories would remind everyone who the genre’s omniscient godfathers were, net the duo four Grammy Awards along the way, help guide vinyl’s resurgence selling the most units of the decade, and cement Daft Punk’s legacy all over again. Most of us have more than one fond memory with RAM, it largely informed the decade, and even if it proved to be Daft Punk’s last work, it might go down as the duo’s opus.