DJ Scott Mad Flip

DJ Scott Mad Flip
September 9, 2011

10 Tracks That Changed The Face Of Dance Music

It’s safe to say that modern dance music is very diverse these days. There are many great tracks released every week that DJs are quick to discover and download so that they can keep their sets fresh and their dance floor moving. No matter what style of music one plays it’s often times a rigorous labor of love to to listen and review each new track to determine which ones will make the cut. I really don’t complain too much about the process because I love it, and it’s much easier these days with the “interweb” at our fingertips to simplify the whole process.

Oh, how times have changed. I remember hearing Scott Henry play his coveted set closing record and having to make my way up to the booth to train spot it, only to see that it was a white label. Then, if I was lucky, I would find the record a few months later at Music Now in D.C. after a 3 hour drive from Virginia Beach on a Friday night, before Buzz at the Capitol Ballroom. Sometimes I wouldn’t find a record for years, but it was still worth buying, obviously if it was a timeless classic. Here’s my short list of tracks that changed the face of dance music:

1. “Numbers” – Kraftwerk (1981)

Kraftwerk are the godfathers of techno and electronic dance music. Numbers was just one of many influential songs that they produced and it was even released almost 10 years after the bands inception. Most of you might recognize this song sampled in the classic electro track “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa and Soul Sonic Force. This music set the tone for what was to become techno and breakbeat music.

2. “Blue Monday” – New Order (1983)

New Order was one of the pioneers of New Wave dance music in the 80′s spawning from the ashes of Post-Punk band Joy Division after the tragic suicide of enigmatic front man Ian Curtis. They added drummer Stephen Morris’ girlfriend Gillian Gilbert on keyboards and shifted their music style slightly to include electronic drums and synthesis. One result of this change gave birth to the best selling 12-inch record of all time, Blue Monday. It’s trademark octave bass line and opening 909 drum beat defined the Manchester club scene and crossed the Atlantic to become an anthem for New Wave music in the U.S. The band’s label, Factory Records, also opened The Haçienda in Manchester in 1982 which was to become the Acid House and Rave center of the universe by the early 90′s.

3. “French Kiss” – Lil Louis (1989)

House music spawned from disco and began filling warehouses in the early 80′s in Chicago and quickly made it’s way to New York and overseas to Europe where it became worldwide by the mid 90′s. Many tracks helped define this genre but arguably the most well known and most widely sampled is French Kiss by Lil Louis. It leans heavily on a bouncy bassline, 4 on the floor beat, arpeggios, and silky synth stabs. It was also nearly 1o minutes long with a huge tempo drop and breakdown complete with suggestive moaning before winding you back up and closing strong. This track has been sampled by the likes of legendary DJ/producers Josh Wink and Carl Cox. It is a masterpiece and it set the tone for what was to become techno and trance music.

4. “Papua New Guinea” – Future Sound Of London (1991)

No song bridged the gap between early new wave, industrial, acid house, and break beat music better than “Papua New Guinea” did in 1991. The Future Sound Of London combined a dance floor friendly breakbeat, Lisa Gerrard’s vocal sample from goth pioneers Dead Can Dance, with stunning melodic, effect-driven synthesizers and samples. The resulting track helped create a new genre called Ambient Techno and paved the way for raves in the UK.

5. “Renegade Snares” – Omni Trio (1995)

Rob Haigh a.k.a. Omni Trio was one of the original drum and bass producers, who first released for Moving Shadow records as early as 1993. “Renegade Snares” was released in 1995 from the LP The Deepest Cut which is considered one of the first jungle albums ever produced. This seminal jungle track is built on chopped-up staccato drum loops, spiraling vocals, ambient strings, and an echoing piano riff that validated it’s sublime musicality. “Renegade Snares” has been remixed countless times and even today some of the best jungle tracks still contain elements of this timeless classic.

6. “Higher State Of Consciousness” (Original Tweekin’ Acid Funk Mix) – Josh Wink (1996)

What more can be said about Josh Wink’s illustrious career and his place as a pioneer in modern electronic music. If you have ever heard Higher State Of Consciousness on the dance floor you will understand the power and energy it brings to a massive crowd. It’s now legendary acid riff was created on the Roland MC-202 and turned the rave scene on it’s ear in the mid 90′s. The track starts with a mid tempo, tight-snared break beat loop, and a relatively simple acid line. Two breakdowns and one glorious build later the acid line escalates into a furious, stabbing 4 octave monster that completely annihilates the dance floor. Many break beat and techno producers and DJs followed suit by creating music with similar acid lines hoping to create the same affect. Some succeeded for sure and even helped to create a new acid renaissance throughout the mid to late 90′s. Josh Wink continued to produce many rave anthems afterward, but this was his masterpiece.

7. “One More Time” – Daft Punk (2000)

Daft Punk’s first release was a remix of the Chemical Brothers track “Life Is Sweet” in 1995. It contained elements of what was to become their trademark style of analog funkiness, and stabby vocal samples. They gained notoriety in 1997 with the release of their debut LP Homework and quickly became the face of the French House movement. The release of their single “One More Time” in November 2000 propelled them to super stardom powered their 2001 releaseDiscovery. It contains a sample of “More Spell on You” by Eddie Johns, but is ultimately driven by Romanthony’s silky auto-tuned vocal which, at the time was relatively a new technique to be used in this manner. This disco inspired house track reached number 2 on the UK singles chart and to this day DJ’s still get a massive response when it is played. Daft Punk are icons and this track help them define that new millennium as well as the new era of Electro House.

8. “Adagio for Strings” – Tiësto (2004)

This list would not be complete without mentioning the worlds most popular DJ who in 2004 was asked to perform at the Summer Olympic opening ceremony in Athens. The Olympic committee chose Tiësto to perform because of his use of old and new musical elements in ‘Adagio for Strings’ that they thought went along with the spirit of the games. Tiësto performed for 90 minutes and the for the first time in Olympic history a DJ was center stage instead of traditional musical and entertainment acts.

9. “Skream” – 28g (2005)

Skream is one of the fathers of dubstep and when he dropped this track in 2005 people had no idea what the small grimy style of music would become: a cultural phenomena. The track was in 2/2 halftime with a wobbly sub-bass line that feels like its constantly on the verge of falling off the beat. The track sounds little like the sample heavy dubstep of today as it draws heavily on dub and reggae influences. 28g is all about the bass line, the bass is so low it provides a visceral experience to the user in a way that had only been touched on only before in hip-hop. Fading out the track ends on hand drums, this song bridges the gap between traditional drum sounds and modern electronic music and EDM would never be the same again.

10. Moombahton – Dave Nada (2009)

In 2009 the next major development in dance music happened when DJ/Producer Dave Nada slowed down the Afrojack remix of Silvio Ecomo & Chuckie’s song ‘Moombah’. He called the new style Moombahton a fusion of Moombah and Reggaeton and just like that, a new movement in dance music was started. The track is just a straight edit of the original but at the new slower tempo the beats land harder and the Latin flavour becomes very apparent. Moombahton draws heavily on house, latin and dubstep genres with a focus on long danceable breakdowns and short hard hitting builds.

Yes, there are many more anthems and defining tracks that helped shape the history and direction of electronic dance music and this is merely a snapshot. We could have absolutely gone way back to the “Amen” break, or “Funky Drummer”, or even further back to tribal Africa. This article is our ode to just 10 of the best according to my own experience as a DJ and the singles and dance music charts in the U.S., U.K., and Europe in the last 20 years. Some of you may have been around when these tracks were first played, and some of you might assuredly have a difference of opinion, and still others may be new to the music and the culture altogether. Either way, if you have a love affair with djing and dance music as I do, it is important to remember how the magic began and where it came from. Please feel free to leave some comments and list your favorites.

Very special thanks to DJ Zack Røcket for his contributions to this blog.

Until next time, happy gigs!


  1. Cristiano says:

    I think “One More Time” will never be out of our minds

  2. Siddharth says:

    “Blue Monday” is probably the best!

  3. Stefan says:

    Tiesto’s “Adagio for Strings” is what really got me into electronica. I’m actually a music student, and it’s still interesting to see all the classical techniques and melodic movement that he brings into play, while still keeping an awesome beat.

  4. mario says:

    I propose the following:

    Pink Floyd – Time

    LA Style – James Brown Is Dead
    Lee Perry – Dub the Rhythm

    Chemical Brpthers – Block Rocking Beats
    Prodigy – Firestarter
    Wildchild – the renegade master
    Fat Boy Slim – The Rockafeller Skank
    DJ Shadow – Endtroducing
    Venga Boys – Up & Down
    Plastikman – Consumed

    Ricardo Villalobos – Alcachofa
    Radiohead – Kid A

    and the list goes on…

    1. Incredible list. Thanks so much for contributing! We are considering doing some lists by genre, maybe you can contribute again. Cheers!

  5. zac says:

    I’m going to be on the next list. XD

  6. George says:

    “One More Time” was probably the first song to really enthrall me into the dance music phase. I was a little video game anime nerd at the time just fucking around with my first casio when I saw this music video came on. All the style, the music, everything spoke to me in a way that… well work it move it make it faster do it harder…

    Now I can’t even imagine a world with only acoustic music.

    1. Zack Rocket says:

      Thats awesome dude, before I got into EDM I had no idea how many genreas and artists there were. It was like only half of the musical world was open to me, today this is not the case.

  7. Burton says:

    I was going to say block rockin’ beats as well. That was my first taste of electronic music. I quickly learned there was better stuff out there. I finally came to the conclusion every Chemical Brothers song has about 20-40 seconds of music I want to listen to and the rest if mostly that same stuff repeated to death.

    1. taylor says:

      I have to agree with you on Chemical Brothers as well as Fatboy Slim, Prodigy, and Moby. Those guys were my introduction to electronica music and this list has expanded my knowledge. Great blog MadFlip!

  8. Emile says:

    “Adagio for Strings” – Tiësto (2004) The best :)

  9. We must also give an honorable mention to:

    “Spastik” – Plastikman
    “In The Dark We Live” – Aphrohead aka Felix Da Housecat

  10. Mike S says:

    Oh my god this takes me back. Blue Monday was a fav!

  11. Anon says:

    I do not agree with 8, 9 or 10.

    1. Maybe you can add your 8-10? I would love to see your picks. Thanks for the comment!

  12. Statickman says:

    William orbit hizo “Adagio for Strings” primero que tiesto y su versión es mas profunda… mejor que la hecha por tiesto a mi gusto.

  13. Angel Y says:

    I totally agree with this list. Especially with Kraftwerk at number 1. They definitely inspired the Zulu Nation and in a way helped the hip hop movement through the years. Great work here Madflip and Happy Late Birthday! :)

  14. J says:

    Does the beginning of Moombahton – Dave Nada sound like pon the floor to anyone?

  15. wonderer says:

    Tiesto and Dave Nada in one line with Kraftwerk and Future Sound Of London? Cmon guys what a shame…

    1. Zack Rocket says:

      Tiesto is the biggest name in electronic music bar none, it would only make sense to have him on the list. How many other DJs up there have received the Royal Medels for their contributions to dance music?

    2. Zack Rocket says:

      And Dave Nada will only become more important as the years go on, you’ll see. . .

  16. Ryan says:

    I love the list, but i find it quite less. I don’t see much of 90′s music. That changed the face of music. but i guess that’s because theres only 10 on the list.. I know the end music tracks, after Daft Punk !.. loved daft punk !.. i Agree that stuff like “Mr. Oizo – Renegade Master ” “Rockafella Skank” “Smack my bitch Up” And some mylo music are quite needed.There was alot of 90′s dance music which shifted from us to trance music And then again The recent house music, that shifted the listeners ears from trance to electro-house.

    1. ariff says:

      You’re right Ryan about the lack of 90′s… It’s really tough to make a top 10 and maybe a top 5 from each decade, 80′s, 90′s, and 00′s should have been done. What suggestions would you have made?

    2. The 90′s were def the best because that is when the explosion happened. This list contains 3 from the 90′s and I honorably mentioned 2 others from the 90′s also in my other comment. I think we should maybe do another list and would love ideas from our “bloggers”. Thanks so much for the insight Ryan!

  17. Mihaly,Stojka says:

    I agree with all. Tiesto’s-adagio for strings i think it was a big step for him…but i think Tiesto’s-Traffic was the first music which has been giving him reputation.

    1. ariff says:

      Great suggestion Stojka!

  18. Bazil says:

    I think old school is better. Kraftwerk, New Oder they were first and the best until now.

  19. Even Beyonce delved into the genre with her “Who Run The World (Girls)” song. Great music!!!

  20. iMatt says:

    I don’t believe Tiesto’s adagio for strings should be in there, in my opinion. I believe that Tiesto has indeed done a lot for the music industry etc but this tune is not a game changer. William Orbit’s version was a massive game changer however and was one of the iconic tunes from the trance era. I agree, give Tiesto a mention but not with that tune.

    I do agree with your first few tunes – they were all the pioneers of the game. A lot of those tunes are still played in clubs today, Lil Louis is huge in the gay scene still, Blue Monday is still remembered as a “Cool, good quality, non-cheesy 80′s track”, One more time is still banged out in the dance clubs today, the list goes on.

    I would personally throw that dubstep crap in the bin – yes it may well have been at the forefront of dubstep music but for the industry, the one tune that launched the commercial face of dubstep was “Skrillex – Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites”. Not that I’m actually a fan of dubstep, I could quite happily live my life withpout it’s existence.

    The last track, sorry there could be so many tunes that launched the face of today’s electro scene, but that one was not the first and by no means the best or a game changer for me. I remember walking into my friend’s record shop, him screaming at me at the fact that I must listen to this new remix of Mylo’s “In My Arms” by Tocadisco. That track spawned a whole new era for me and it killed the whole funky house Hed Kandi girly handbaggy crap that I hated so much for not having any “oomph” to it….!

    I would like to give honourable mentions to the following songs:

    From the Early House scene:
    - M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up The Volume (1987)
    - Black Box – Ride on Time (1989)
    - Technotronic – Pump Up The Jam (1989)
    - C&C Music Factory – Gonna Make You Sweat (1990)
    - Ce Ce Peniston – Finally (1991)
    - Robin S – Show Me Love (1993)
    - Sandy B – Make The World Go Round (1996)

    From the Rave scene:
    - Human Resource – Dominator
    - SL2 – On a Ragga Tip
    - Ratpak – Searchin for my Rizla
    - Prodigy – Charlie
    - 2 Bad Mice – Bombscare

    From the Happy Hardcore era:
    - Bang! – Shooting Star
    - Force & Styles – Pretty Green Eyes
    - Nakatomi – Children of the Night

    From the Trance era:
    - William Orbit – Adagio for Strings
    - Solar Stone – Seven Cities
    - Binary Finary – 1998
    - Push – The Legacy

    From the commercial dance era:
    - Darude – Sandstorm
    - Safri Duo – Played A Live
    - N-Trance – Set U Free
    - Baby D – Let Me Be Your Fantasy
    - Yomanda – Synth & Strings

    From the UK Garage (2-step & Speed) Scene:
    - Shanks & Bigfoot – Sweet Like Chocolate
    - Sneaker Pimps – Spin Spin Sugar
    - Mr Oizo – Flat Beat

    From the Funky House era:
    - Praise Cats – Shined on Me (Bini & Martini Remix)
    - Solu Music – Fade
    - Shapeshifters – Lola’s Theme

    From the (more recent) Dubstep scene:
    - Skrillex – Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites
    - Freestylers – Cracks (Flux Pavillion Remix)
    - Datsik – Nuke ‘Em

    From the start of the most recent Electro House Scene (I called this the “Dirty House era”):
    - Mylo – In My Arms (Tocadisco Remix)
    - Evermore – It’s Too Late (Dirty South Remix)
    - Sander Kleinenberg – This Is Miami

    And last of all, the more recent Electro scene:
    - Deadmau5 – Ghosts & Stuff
    - Sidney Samson – Riverside
    - Dizzee Rascal – Bonkers
    - The Bloody Beetroots – Warp 1.9
    - Major Lazer – Pon De Floor
    - David Guetta – Sexy Bitch

    Of course, this is not including SO MANY tunes but these are the ones that spring to mind as the biggest or the first of each era.

    Now, don’t get me started on Hip Hop!

    1. iMatt says:

      Should have proof read that – the first sentence should say “Tiesto’s Adagio for strings {Shouldn’t} be in there”

    2. Great list. To be fair about Dave Nada he is the current pioneer of Moombahton music. It is very difficult to give that honor to anyone else, although diplo had his hand in creating the beat. We wanted to acknowledge this genre as new and as a style that might become more prevalent in the future. I also share your opinion on dubstep, but I can’t deny it’s popularity among the youngsters. Electro and Dirty house should absolutely be distinguished as separate but similar genres, but I still consider House music the ultimate originator and precursor to both. I would love for you to contribute content in our future blogs on the subject. Please email me direct if you are interested. Cheers!

      1. iMatt says:


        I’m not actually familiar with Moombahton music, and after a quick google search I understand that the mention had to be made. It’s not a genre I have come across and I must admit I thought you were going down a completely different road and I offer apologies for misinterpreting the direction! I am originally from England and now live in Sydney, Australia. I understand that this style of music may be big elsewhere in the world but it certainly hasn’t got here and probably won’t either. Unfortunately Australia doesn’t get a lot of music first, although we do have *some* influence on the world, and a respectable Aussie music industry, it’s not one of the first places you would expect to be a pioneer in the world’s music!

        In response to the original mention of Moombahton music – I would have maybe mentioned someone from the Reggaeton scene, or even go back further than that and mention dancehall reggae for creating the syncopated beat in the first place… I might not have even mentioned the genre at all as there are a lot of other genres that are way bigger for the rest of the world.

        Would love to contribute to your blogs in the future keep me posted :)

  21. Some absolute classics in there that have created the majority of what we hear today. Shame Fatboy Slim hasn’t done anything new in a while, would be interesting to see what he’d make in this day and age.

    1. Yup, for sure he’s due to give some more excellent tunes. Cheers!