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The 100 Best Dance Songs of All Time

Dim the lights, pump up the volume, and join us as we imagine a future where we won’t be dancing on our own.

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100 Best Dance Songs of All Time
Photo: Universal Music

When we published the original iteration of this list back in 2006, dance music had been pushed unceremoniously underground, relegated to discotheques and niche radio stations that were increasingly incorporating hip-hop into their playlists. Of course, hip-hop can be traced directly back to ‘70s funk and disco, and the origins of dance are firmly rooted in black music—a circle that’s impossible to dismiss. But we lamented the apparent slow death of dance music’s popularity while holding out hope for its inevitable revival.

Be careful what you wish for. Just a few years later, EDM exploded, with artists like David Guetta dominating pop radio with garish bangers more interested in pounding you into submission than luring you to the dance floor. More than a few gems emerged from the rush, though, including a handful of instant classics: Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own,” Rihanna and Calvin Harris’s “We Found Love,” and Hercules and Love Affair’s “Blind” among them.

Eventually, the EDM bubble burst, but dance music seems to be on the upswing yet again, with disco throwbacks like Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now” and Doja Cat’s “Say So” bumping and grinding their way to the top of the charts. So it’s ironic that Billboard has paused publication of its club play tally for the first time in almost 50 years due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now seems like the perfect time to dust off our record players and celebrate that most enduring of genres—even if it’s just in the privacy of our own homes.

We’ve added songs, both old and new, but we’ve also shaken up the entire list to reflect our evolving taste as well as the durability of some songs over others. So, dim all the lights, pump up the volume, and join us as we imagine a future where we won’t be dancing on our own. Sal Cinquemani

Editor’s Note: The original version of this list, published on January 30, 2006, can be found exclusively on our Patreon page.


100. 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. 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!” Eric Henderson


99. Stacey Q, “Two of Hearts” (1986)

Madonna copycat Stacey Q’s “Two of Hearts” was a fun, hi-NRG response to the Material Girl’s “Burning Up.” Madonna says, “Don’t put me off/’Cause I’m on fire/And I can’t quench my desire.” Stacey says, “My body’s burning/So come on heed my desire.” Neither song is empowering per se, at least in the sense that Madonna and Stacey Q hadn’t discovered masturbation like Cyndi Lauper had on “She Bop,” but less is more and the love-in-my-heart Stacey Q has Madonna beat, telling us her burning snatch needs hosing down in infinitely less words. I still don’t know if “When we’re together it’s like hot coals in a fire” is the stupidest or greatest lyric of all time, but “Two of Hearts” is still the quintessential white-chick-in-heat cheese anthem. Ed Gonzalez


98. Brass Construction, “Movin’” (1975)

One of Guyanan composer-musician Randy Muller’s string of train-centric tracks (he was also the man behind the chugging string arrangements of B.T. Express), Brass Construction’s “Movin’” 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. Henderson


97. Lisette Melendez, “Together Forever” (1991)

What better way to convey Latin freestyle’s telenovela-esque big, broad emotions than with a big, broad stream of clichés? (“Together forever, yours/Together forever, mine/Facing what we feel inside/Ready to stand the test of time,” goes the chorus.) It’s delivered by East Harlem native Lisette Melendez, whose nasal voice wasn’t nearly as heinous or happily off-key as many of her peers (here’s lookin’ at you, Lil’ Suzy). “Together Forever” helped indoctrinate freestyle’s new-school revision; by 1991, it was more rhythmically layered and complex than it was during its early days of tone-deaf melodies over electro beats. Producer Carlos Berrios would go on to recycle this style for the likes of Corina (in her inferior but infinitely more popular “Temptation”) and Jammy (in “Walk Away”—if you aren’t from Jersey, you can’t be faulted for not knowing that one), but Melendez’s bond with this beat is eternal. Rich Juzwiak


96. Lime, “Babe, We’re Gonna Love Tonight” (1982)

The hi-NRG “Babe, We’re Gonna Love Tonight” is all tease. Its infectious intro melody suggests a na-na-na-na-na-na schoolyard taunt, and every subsequent beat ladled on top evokes a teasing tickle or poke. With her giddy, Minnie Riperton-esque vocal, Joy Dorris gets to play out a shy creature pulling away from busy hands. It sounds ridiculous, but it seems like the only reasonable response to Chris Marsh’s at once earnest but disconcerting bullfrog-in-the-throat come-ons. Gonzalez


95. Sounds of Blackness, “The Pressure Pt. 1 (Classic 12” Mix)” (1991)

R&B’s gospel influence is so vast, it barely needs explaining. Because so much of house is derived from disco, which itself came from soul, the combination of full-on gospel elements (gigantic choirs, never-ceasing organs, Jesus praisin’) with house seems like a no-brainer. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis didn’t get that the first time around (they serviced “The Pressure” with a new jack swing production), but that’s okay—the late Frankie Knuckles was more than capable of doing the job. Outfitting the 40-person choir’s caterwauls with a frenetic bassline, giant four-on-the-floor beats and hip-house rattling, Knuckles could have blown the stained glass out of a church and make it seem like an act of God. Juzwiak


94. Bedrock featuring KYO, “For What You Dream Of” (1993)

A grandiose, perpetually oscillating stream of synthesized sounds and thumping bass, Bedrock’s prog house anthem “For What You Dream Of” is impressive not only for its many unpredictable ups and downs but also for the sheer force of its soulful vocal (by ex-Staxx of Joy singer Carol Lemming, appearing here as KYO), which posits dance as a form of spiritual healing. It sounds as if John Digweed and Nick Muir haven’t left a single button on their synthesizers unpressed, but “For What You Dream Of” scarcely feels synthetic. Gonzalez


93. Underworld, “Born Slippy .NUXX” (1995)

Who’s that boy? He’s dirty and numb but also capable of angelic poses. He’s also terribly fond of lager, chemicals, and blondes. Sounds a bit like the libidinous bugger Ewan McGregor played in Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, the film that made this dark, long, chest-puffing techno anthem ubiquitous for a hot second back in 1996. Like Benton’s craving for smack, the beats are frantic, dizzying, ravenous, even pained, rippling outward like ginormous waves or cascading ribbons made of steel, grasping for the sort of ecstasy that seems to only come with absolute annihilation. Such is the gnarliness of Underworld’s music. Gonzalez


92. Inner City, “Good Life” (1989)

Before techno was “techno” (thanks to Juan Atkins’s sci-fi theorizing and subsequent dubbing), it was known as Detroit house, and before house was house, it was disco. But if distinctions were made to be blurred, consider Kevin Saunderson a supreme smear on the dance music landscape. Inner City’s “Good Life” clanks like techno, pumps like house, and features disco diva vocals from Paris Grey. “Let me take you to a place you know you wanna go/It’s a good life,” she belts, creating the clearest picture of dance floor halcyon since Chic sang about 54 and its roller skates, roller skates. The good times emanating from the track landed it on Top 40 stations around the country, giving all involved a tangible taste of the real live good life. Juzwiak


91. 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 in the mid-aughts. 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 Bey’s breakout solo smash. 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 so infectious that it permanently branded “diva” to the singer’s, uh, résumé, the song positioned the curvy bottle blonde as an MTV-generation Tina Turner. Temporary insanity never tasted so sweet. Cinquemani


90. Run-DMC vs. Jason Nevins, “It’s Like That” (1997)

Don’t be fooled by the slick bassline of mixmaster Jason Nevins’s awesome 1997 remix of “It’s Like That,” which doesn’t try to disguise Run-DMC’s blunt, bracingly honest polemic about black disillusionment. The original song’s sarcasm was coded in its spare design, but its effrontery was still palpable. It was an anthem blacks and the racially enlightened could all rally behind. (One wonders where modern rap and hip-hop would be had the song never been released.) Nevins updates the sound but doesn’t allow us to lose sight of Run-DMC’s embittered lyrics. The new sound gives the brutal discontent of 1983 a changing-times context, making the original’s disdain accessible to a new generation—if mostly to hipsters and ravers. It’s more danceable but still every bit as confrontational. Gonzalez


89. Cathy Dennis, “Touch Me (All Night Long)” (1991)

It’s ironic that a singer who carved out a second act for herself by writing iconic hits for other artists, including Britney Spears’s “Toxic” and Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” initially made a name for herself with someone else’s song. But Cathy Dennis made Fonda Rae’s disco trifle “Touch Me (All Night Long)” her own by completely rewriting the song’s throwaway verses, imbuing a fleeting physical connection with the weight of manifest destiny. DJ extraordinaire Shep Pettibone likewise put his signature on the track by amping up the melodic hook and distinctive Roland 909 house beats, propelling it into the stratosphere of early-‘90s house-pop. Cinquemani


88. Jody Watley, “Looking for a New Love” (1987)

“Looking for a Love” was the first in a long line of hits for former Soul Train dancer and Shalamar vocalist Jody Watley, who, by the end of the ‘80s, seemed poised to join the same league as dance-pop icons like Madonna and Janet Jackson. Like the latter, Watley aligned herself with a Prince cohort, Revolution bassist Andre Cymone, who whipped up some of the most defining dance-pop confections of the era for his muse. “Looking for a New Love” features jazzy piano, a portentous synthesized whistle, and Watley’s original stark 8-track demo vocal—“Hasta la vista, baby” was a calm, cool and collected sayonara long before it got cheesed up by the Terminator himself. Watley’s follow-up, “Don’t You Want Me,” might be more danceable, but it’s nowhere near as iconic. Cinquemani

87. Metro Area, “Miura” (2001)

Metro Area’s foot-thumper “Miura” is nothing if not all-inclusive, ladling economical spoonfuls of tribal beats, Latin drums and funk grooves across what may be the hottest eight-minute bassline in the world. It was released in 2001, when all eyes were on Moroder for dance revivalism. Morgan Geist and Darshan Jesrani, instead, chose to infuse their techno sensibility with disco strings and boogie keyboards, providing a much-needed alternative to electroclash. Others tried to convince us that what they were doing was new (even if “new” meant “injected with irony”), but the sound-for-sound’s-sake craftsmanship on this and virtually every other Metro Area offering bespoke a love for its source material so profound that it wasn’t afraid to make its throwback nature blatant. Juzwiak


86. Hercules and Love Affair, “Blind” (2008)

DJ and once-Butt magazine model Andrew Butler’s Hercules and Love Affair outfit paid poignant homage to the queer man’s feelings of yearning, wish fulfillment, and survival on their sensual, vaporous, and bittersweet self-titled debut album. A fabulous experiment at looking at the present from some kind of beyond, their splendiferous “Blind” was like a post-mortem address by “Queen of Disco” Sylvester, reminiscing on libertine days gone by through the gender-bending voice of Antony Hegarty. A groovilicious, undulating foot-stomper that continues to stir the soul. Gonzalez


85. Todd Terje, “Inspector Norse” (2012)

It could be said that the world of dance, a dozen years into the new millennium, was just ready for a little unabashed brightness amid the proliferating subgenres of EDM, grime, trap, vaporwave, and post-dubstep. (Just a single spin of Blawan’s homicidal 2012 hit “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage” would be enough to make one run screaming from the dance floor to never return again.) And if that’s the case, it should’ve surprised no one that that much-needed dose of uppers came from the Land of the Midnight Sun. Norwegian DJ Todd Terje (yes, that’s a riff on Todd Terry’s name, and yes, that’s what all Scandinavian humor is like) was already a rising figure thanks to “Snooze 4 Love” and a series of quirky re-edits, including Chic’s “I Want Your Love.” But the world reacted to the release of the knowingly absurd loping synth riffs of “Inspector Norse” like a group of preteen boys coming in from a game of touch football to a tray full of Sunny D. And when critics said his music was fit only for strandbars (Norwegian for “beach bars”), Terje turned around and called his next relentlessly chipper disco-house release, “Strandbar.” That’s some A-grade Norwegian passive-aggressiveness right there. Henderson


84. The Knife, “Silent Shout” (2006)

Pac-Man and his red-bowed honey’s wedding song? The metronomic production—minimalist but intense beats chasing each other as if in and out of love, or nightmares—is perfectly and surreally married to the equally disquieting lyrics, which recount a flashpoint in a person’s life when their sense of complacency is shattered by a dream of falling teeth. Is that love or death on their horizon? Like much of the Knife and Fever Ray’s music, or a Luis Buñuel film, the song seduces as it frightens. Gonzalez


83. The Flirts, “Passion” (1982)

Bobby Orlando became something of a disco pimp in the time between 1979’s “Disco Sucks” blowout and house music’s takeover. Representing New York, he released an unending stream of hi-NRG records in the early ‘80s, which varied wildly in quality. Among his best production work, though, was what he did for the Flirts, a trio of women with an almost constantly rotating lineup. Maybe it’s just that his pimpishness was never more lucid. Certainly, his girls more than held up their end: 1982’s “Passion” is a sleazy romp of gushing synths and a bobbing erection—I mean, bassline. The title isn’t trying to twist love with sex, it’s just describing work ethic. Juzwiak


82. Björk, “Big Time Sensuality” (1993)

Björk’s got the turtleheart of a bona fide boogie monster of the hardest order, as anyone who’s watched her jam out to LFO’s “Freak” while performing “Hyperballad” live can plainly see. But even at the height of her mixtape era (namely 1993’s Debut and 1995’s Post), she seemed to perpetually intellectualize herself out of simply reveling in, to borrow from Deee-Lite, just “a good beat.” Nellee Hooper’s original production on “Big Time Sensuality” had the bones of a great dance song, and Björk’s lyric appropriately harnessed her “big feelings” to match that message up. (If “I don’t know my future after this weekend, and I don’t want to” doesn’t sum up that most eternal 3 a.m., nothing does.) But it took Fluke’s scope-widening remix of the song to bring its anthemic potential into full bloom. It takes courage to try to best Björk, but in this case it paid off big time. Henderson


81. Armand Van Helden featuring Roland Clark, “Flowerz” (1999)

The resolutely hetero B-boy Armand Van Helden (the same dude who would later rap “I’m looking for them female ejaculates, spreading that koochy with the masturbates”) was probably the least likely house producer this side of Green Velvet to provide the resurgent disco-house craze of the late ‘90s with a swoony anthem. Surprise, surprise. He offered not just one, but two. His Carrie Lucas-sampling “U Don’t Know Me” was the overtly flamboyant club smash, a euphoric swirl of disco strings and an almost preternaturally perceptive approximation of just the sort of “Fuck you, I’m fabulous” soundtrack drag queens love to step off to. But, truthfully, it’s not all that difficult for straight guys to fake fierce. They “get” that aggressive aspect of gay culture. What’s trickier and more elusive is replicating the guileless, hedonistic abandon of total, submissive rapture. Thanks to a lush, spangled sample from Donald Byrd’s classy “Think Twice” and aided by Roland Clark’s astonishingly unbridled, almost Philip Bailey-esque falsetto, “Flowerz” is the gayest filtered disco record that doesn’t suck, executed without a trace of misguided testosterone. To be overwhelmed by the overdubbed vocal harmonies on the chorus is to experience the excitement of walking up that ramp to the Paradise Garage all over again. If you listen closely, you can even hear the tambourine from that club’s logo quivering in the background. Henderson

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