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100 Greatest Dance Songs
100 Greatest Dance Songs

Got to Get Your Love90. Clyde Alexander & Sanction, "Got to Get Your Love" (1979). The infectious, completely organic free-range disco of "Got to Get Your Love" languished in total obscurity for decades, known only to the most hardcore vinyl enthusiasts. That's because Peter Brown, who commissioned the single from genius R&B composer Gary Davis (who pieced together Sanction entirely out of talented teenage musicians) released the song without fanfare or adequate distribution, perhaps in retribution for the fact that only one of the group's members actually signed a contract with his label. (Hint: it's the dude billed over the band's title, despite the obvious fact that the lead vocals were sung by a female.) "Got to Get Your Love" sounds, in retrospect, like the precursor to Deee-Lite's entire tie-dyed house ethos: dubby, loopy (that trumpet!), and full of that Lady Miss Kier brand of boho bounce. An underground gem. Eric Henderson

Dirrty89. Christina Aguilera featuring Redman, "Dirrty" (2002). "Dirrty," the lead single from Christina Aguilera's sophomore effort Stripped, should have been a huge chart success. Though the video became a top request on MTV, the song hardly dirrtied up the pop charts. What to make of the mixed message? People were more interested in Aguilera's ass than her vocal assets—or maybe the track just wasn't what the public wanted from the formerly squeaky-clean genie in a bottle. But the single was, in fact, one of the year's strongest, with an over-the-top performance built on a durable high-energy hip-pop track that borrowed heavily from Redman's "Let's Get Dirty (I Can't Get In Da Club)." An undisputed club banger and a signpost of a new era in Aguilera's career, "Dirrty" was an arrival song in every sense of the term. SC

I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)88. Whitney Houston, "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)" (1987). In the end, it might be a slow dance Whitney's craving to cure her dusk-inflicted loneliness, but with its parenthetical title, gummy bassline, schmaltzy horns, tinkling keyboards, and half-step key changes, Houston's 1987 #1 pop and club hit "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)" is definitive '80s dance-pop, beseeching the lion-maned, mini-skirted divas in us all to take a chance for a burning love that will last at least three to four weeks, depending on the severity. And it hurts so good. SC

Good Times87. Chic, "Good Times" (1979). Was the chorus's assertion that "these are the good times" (sung so that every word sounded like a period followed it) a sincere sentiment or Chic's attempt to convince themselves that disco's madness was magic? Either way, the 1979 single "Good Times" is an effective time capsule. Bernard Edwards and Nile Rogers's songwriting and instrumentation is lean and effective enough to put a cap on full-band disco and spawn countless imitations, including, of course, the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" and Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," which stole Edwards's nimble bassline. RJ

Frank Sinatra86. Miss Kittin & the Hacker, "Frank Sinatra" (1997). The first time this song called me to a dance floor I was, fittingly, in the VIP area of NYC's now-defunct Vinyl dance club. Danny Tenaglia introduced his party happening people to some good shit back then, but no song has stayed with me off the drugs—with the possible exception of Brother Brown's "Under the Water" and the Zipless comedown mix of Vanessa Daou's "Sunday Afternoons"—as much as this deadpan critique of starfucking nightlife. Backed by the Hacker's happy-to-be-cheap retro production, Miss Kittin provides the ultimate electroclash statement: she makes social climbing sound so stupid and empty, while reveling in it. Call it the Official Paris Hilton Theme Song, with a special appearance by Frank Sinatra as her much-trodden red carpet. EG

Donna Summer

SELECTION PROCESS

We spent the better part of 2005 researching, discussing, trading, and listening to dance music, starting with a list of close to 500 songs, gradually narrowing it down to half, and then, eventually, the final 100 you see here. The seemingly endless, often bitterly contentious selection and ranking process was more detailed than anything we've done before. There were no explicit caps on the number of songs per artist or the subgenres eligible for the list, but we consciously made an effort to represent the diversity of dance and the singers, songwriters, DJs, and producers who have helped make it the most popular form of music in the world, while, at the same time, presenting a list that we could be proud of and one that made no concessions to the populist view of what a feature like this should look like. This list was in no way intended to be a gauge of general popularity, but one of quality and influence. We've also each put our own stamp on the list by including a few of our personal favorites as well as gems that have gone overlooked in the past. Head on over to The House Next Door for some memorable quotes from the song selection process.

Crazy In Love85. Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z, "Crazy In Love" (2003). Beyoncé's simultaneously calculated and fresh "Crazy In Love" made producer Rich Harrison the go-to boy for urban crossover success. Harrison composed similar-sounding tracks for the likes of Jennifer Lopez and protégé Amerie, but failed to match the across-the-board sensation that was "Crazy." A slice of retro-stylized '70s funkadelia including a show-stopping guest spot by then-DL boyfriend Jay-Z, a horn-y Chi-Lites sample, some go-go-influenced breakbeats, a proud, bottom-heavy, hip-pop posterior, and a hook (not to mention a video) so hot that it permanently branded "diva" to the singer's, uh, résumé, the single positioned the curvy bottle blonde as an MTV-generation Tina Turner. Unlike the soda-pop "Crazy" was licensed to promote shortly after every person in the nation had already heard the song a zillion times, good pop doesn't ever go flat. And temporary insanity never tasted so sweet. SC

What You Waiting For?84. Gwen Stefani, "What You Waiting For?" (2004). After a faux-live piano intro, during which Stefani laments leaving her "family" (as if she hadn't been preparing for solo stardom ever since she blew our minds with Eve), "What You Waiting For?" explodes into an urgent electro dance track, its impish "tick-tock" pre-chorus, driving club beat and mesh of hook-buttressing guitar licks helping to make it one of the hottest arrival songs ever. In a sexist industry, Gwen's larger-than-life image often eclipsed her famously disgruntled No Doubters (see Sophie Muller's "Don't Speak" video), and it's this insecurity that fueled her first official completely solo outing, her trademark vocals bleating like a cat in heat stuck in a moving car: "What if they say that you're a climber?/Naturally I'm worried if I do it alone…Take a chance 'cause you might grow" (or, alternately and thanks to Linda Perry, "Take a chance you stupid ho"). A mélange of various psychological fears and disparate genre-splices (distilled into an Italo/hi-NRG homage by Stuart Price on the Jacques Lu Cont remix), "What You Waiting For?" was a fitting opening to a solo venture that celebrated the consumerist pop culture of Tokyo's Harajuku district like the '80s era its star emulates. SC

I Can't Wait83. Nu Shooz, "I Can't Wait" (1986). It's impressive that a songwriter with a name like John Smith managed to compose and produce such a distinctive song amidst a sea of homogenous mid-'80s dance-pop and anonymous one-hit wonders. Smith manufactured the impatience in his wife Valerie Day's otherwise affable, matter-of-fact vocal ("Baby, I-I-I can't wait" goes the stuttering, synthesized lyric) and layered her performance with an instantly recognizable bassline, live sax and multiple rhythm tracks. The single topped the club chart and went Top 5 in 1986, after which the duo split. SC

Don't Stop the Music82. Yarbrough & Peoples, "Don't Stop the Music" (1980). Recorded by childhood sweethearts on the cusp of taking both their careers and love lives to the next level, Calvin Yarbrough and Alisa Peoples's "Don't Stop the Music" is probably the most carnal, lusting set of marriage vows ever preserved on vinyl. Making Ashford and Simpson's tasteful love songs look milquetoast in comparison, it's a synth-gritty, pumping slow jam with a walking bassline that doesn't so much strut as it does play Chutes and Ladders up and down the well-greased procession line and a steamy synthesizer wash that sounds more like a rush of blood to the tip. (Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about.) Because no marriage can sustain this type of sexual momentum forever, the song even comes with its own contraceptive device: those irritating chipmunk voices (be they sperm or the resultant rugrats) that interrupt every break with "You don't really wanna stop? Nooooooo!" EH

Movin'81. Brass Construction, "Movin'" (1975). Brass Construction, Guyanan composer-musician Randy Muller's contribution to the dynasty of what Funk author Ricky Vincent dubbed United Funk bands (so called either because of their machismo-fuelled single-gender alignment or because of their post-hippie, pan-political optimism), was a nine-man group with nearly half on horns and almost everyone picking up a cowbell or maraca at some point. While never anywhere near as dynamic as the P-Funk mob, as musicianly as Earth, Wind & Fire, as lascivious as the Gap Band, or as swamp-thick as early Kool and the Gang, BC knew their polyrhythmic strengths and blew them out for their one and only pop-charting hit. "Movin'," one of Muller's string of train-centric tracks (he was also the man behind the chugging string arrangements of B.T. Express), is eight solid minutes of concentrated disco-funk synergy that surges like a runaway locomotive. Muller lets his band cobble together the industrial jam's rising action with blue-collar professionalism, keeping one ear toward whimsical production effects: clanking percussion suggesting the sound of pennies under steel wheels, otherworldly autoharp glissandos and a trendsetting, octave-leaping string arrangement. And there's only about a line and a half's worth of lyrics holding the song together, but the way they hold back devilishly on "Gonna get h-i-i-i-i-i-g-h" before reverting into Sly and the Family Stone/Sunday school mode with the suffix "-er" is playfully naughty. (No wonder this was the song playing in the background when Good Times's Norman Lear killed off John Amos's patriarch over the actor's objections that Jimmie Walker's "Dy-no-mite"-isms had turned the show into neo-minstrelsy.) EH


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