Best of 2016: EDM (Plus 2017 Breakthrough Artists)
This has been a rough year for music lovers of almost all genres with Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Merle Haggard, and Phife Dawg all passing away.
My solution? Dance through the doldrums.
Whether you prefer to dance at an actual club, dance while cleaning your house, or just get down in the driver’s seat, 2016 at least provided some great EDM beats (electronic dance music, to the uninitiated) to make that magic happen. You can’t mention 2016 EDM without talking about The Chainsmokers, who absolutely blew up in 2016. Their singles got far too much radio play but they were still worthy of all the awards and nominations they received.
My general feeling is that the current mainstream EDM sound is a bit too shiny. I hope that, in 2017, we see fans demand to hear more diverse beats. However, for now, the big club bangers came from the poppy sounds of Alan Walker, DJ Snake, and any producer that Justin Bieber could work with.
So what were the hot rave sounds of 2016? Below is a list of six that I feel stood out. But please don’t let this list stop you from searching out the likes of Kygo, Aphex Twin, Eric Prydz, and others who released new music but didn’t get the love they truly deserved.
(Don’t forget to check out my other Best-of-2016 lists: Best of 2016: Comic Book Movies, Best of 2016: Horror Movies.)
Top 6 EDM Tracks of 2016
“Closer” – The Chainsmokers, Halsey
Back in 2014, this American DJ duo had a hit called “#Selfie” which reached no. 14 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and they really haven’t looked back since. They released their debut EP, Bouquet, back in October 2015 and that compilation of tracks put Alexander Pall and Andre Taggart on the map. This year, they released another EP called Collage and their single Closer, which features vocals from Halsey and Taggart, became their first to reach no. 1 on the charts, shooting them to superstardom. This is one of those anthems that the younglings devour and was a staple of summer of 2016.
“Don’t Let Me Down” – The Chainsmokers, Daya
Another track from The Chainsmokers that became a huge hit, “Don’t Let Me Down” is a dance-pop song with some trap influences. It features the vocals of American singer Daya and went on to earn a Grammy nomination. It was also the group’s first top-five single on the US Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #3. It also reached the top ten in many countries around the world and became a big time anthem. It’s easily one of the top tracks of the year.
“Faded” – Alan Walker
For most of you, Norwegian producer Alan Walker came out of nowhere when he hit us with a big, sexy track called “Faded.” That song went platinum and found huge commercial success around the globe. It’s actually a remastered version of Walker’s 2014 track “Fade” with added vocals from Iselin Solheim. “Faded” charted on Itunes in 32 countries and entered Spotify’s global top ten of most-streamed tracks of the year with over 550 million plays. It was the perfect track to turn on while driving on a summer night.
“Let Me Love You” – DJ Snake, Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber clearly loves his EDM. He went out and hit up every DJ he could find to collaborate with in 2016, including French producer DJ Snake. The pair created “Let Me Love You”, a track that featured prominently on Snake’s debut studio album, Encore. This track was a monster and debuted at no. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. According to Billboard’s Digital Sounds the track hit 113,000 downloads and became DJ Snake’s first and Bieber’s sixth no. 1 hit on the charts. Outside of the states, “Let Me Love You” went certified platinum in the UK, selling in excess of 600,000 copies. Whatever you think of Bieber, this track deserves to be on this list.
“This is What you Came For” – Calvin Harris, Rihanna
Imagine that, Calvin Harris made a year-end list again. The Scottish DJ and producer found himself in the spotlight this year more for his relationship with Taylor Swift than his music. That relationship ended with a big drop and the song that he co-wrote with Swift found soulful vocals from R&B Queen Rihanna. The track peaked at no. 3 on Billboard and became Harris’s tenth no. 1 chart-topper on the Hot Dance Club Songs Chart. The song got mix reactions, critically; some liked the simplicity of the catchy track, others called it boring with overprocessed vocals. I side with the fans, obviously, since it’s on my list.
“Never Be Like You” – Flume, Kai
“Never Be Like You” is the lead single from Australian producer Flume’s second studio album, Skin. It features the sultry and gorgeous voice from Canadian singer Kai. The song received a 2017 Grammy nomination, and Rolling Stone called it one of the 30 best songs of 2016. The song does such a great job of balancing chilled out trap effects with spacey ambient noise. It was one of the top downloaded tracks of the year and went platinum in the States and four-times platinum in Austrailia.
Top ten EDM Artists of 2016
With a couple weeks left in the year, this list is subject to change. But based on my rough assessment of sales, radio, streaming and social media numbers (taken from BigChampagne.com and Billboard) this is my current top ten.
- The Chainsmokers
- DJ Snake
- Calvin Harris
- Major Lazer
- Alan Walker
- Clean Bandit
- Martin Garrix
EDM Artists to Watch in 2017/Odds They Chart
This is a tough list to formulate because there are thousands of DJs/producers across the globe; so many have the potential, but you never know who is going to bust through. Nonetheless, following on the heels of last year’s EDM artists looking to blow up in 2016, here are my favorites to knock your socks off in 2017, along with the odds of them cracking the top Billboard’s Top 50 Hot Dance/Electronic Songs. Even if I’m wrong, these are some great artists with some sick beats. So enjoy!