Unless you’re completely clueless, you know that Lady Gaga’s soon-to-be latest #1 single “Born This Way” drops today. Nobody has heard this mind-boggling gem yet—not even Ellen Degeneres, who took up seven minutes of show time with the help of Justin Bieber, James Blunt and a baby chandelier on her head to try and figure it out.
In preparation for the new Gaga track, which I am d-y-i-n-g to hear, I wanted to take a stroll through some of my favorite dance numbers from over the years. A sonic autobiography, if you will. It’s really hard to sum up your ginormous playlists into a couple of tunes, and some of my favorites like Hot Chip, Le Tigre, Daft Punk and The Rapture got left out. Don’t worry, dudes—another time!
Holy Ghost!, “Hold On”
I freaking love Holy Ghost! These two dudes have a real knack for mixing a great up-tempo beat with beautiful, haunting pop/electronica melodies—poptronica. The melodies aren’t haunting because they’re scary or anything. It’s more like they just stick inside your head for a long time, and they need to stick something to you since nobody listens to poptronica for the words. “Hold On” is like the frosting of pop sprinkled on the dough of disco, and that’s definitely a cake I want to eat.
Lady Gaga, “Telephone”
Everybody has a favorite Lady Gaga song. But “Telephone” to me is the one to beat, so “Born This Way” better bring it. The first time I heard “Telephone,” I was walking up 4th Ave. and I totally freaked out. My body couldn’t handle the intensity of the bass and synthesizers without going into a spasm. It’s like the song was fucking me, which is probably why I keep listening to it.
Roisin Murphy, “Ramalama Bang Bang”
This one should probably be in the Guinness Book of World Records for "The Song With the Stupidest Lyrics." But come on, everybody—the lyrics make it rad! What other song lets you chant: “Ramalama Bang Bang, Flash Bang, Big Bang, Bing Bong, Ding Dong, Dum-Dum-Dum-Dum...Boing, Boing, Boing, Boing, Hum-Hum-Hum-Hum” on your morning commute?
Britney Spears, “3”
Britney Spears is the only bitch in show business who can shave her head, walk barefoot at the local Wal-Mart, and generally meltdown in the public spotlight and still release a hit record about a three-way. “3” dropped as a random single, a quite successful one that shows an evolution in the airtight Spears brand of club beat+auto-tune+dreamy/catchy chorus= hit single. The real reason songs like “3” work is because the backbeat resembles a walking pace, the heartbeat, the four on the floor, which was the root of blood beats.
Rihanna, “Only Girl (In the World)”
Usually I need to hear a song a few times before I really start to get into it. But when Rihanna dropped this one I thought, “whoa!” “Only Girl” is a big, hugely ambitious joint—all those high notes and that piercing chorus! It marries that European synth sound with the soaring quality of RiRi’s voice, which sounds auto-tuned even when she’s live and not (necessarily) auto-tuned. Now if she could just manage to sing it live and hit all the notes!
LCD Soundsystem, “Dance Yrself Clean”
No dance list is complete without something from DFA (Holy Ghost! is DFA). I live for “Dance Yrself Clean.” The thing about “DYC” is the drop, which is a key DJing technique used to get the crowd poppin’. Think about all those trance jams where you dance for six minutes straight, then there’s that two-minute pause/breakbeat where you catch your breath and do more “E” or whatever. Then the beat comes back on and you’re like, “Yeeeaah!” “DYC” takes that and flips it on its head by starting the song with the breakbeat, slowly building up over three minutes to the drop. And then “zzz-zzz-zzz-zzz” stings in, and that DFA sound of old-school dirty disco grove and electronica storms through the slow-dam. There’s a difference between dancing and grooving. This is a song to groove to, and it’s slow enough even for those of you who can’t dance really fast!
Chromeo, “Bonafied Lovin”
Chromeo is like if Prince and Holy Ghost! had a three-way: 80s synths, an old-school vibe, plus that constantly undulating pulse. The way the guitar sings in this one gets me every time. And because dance music is not about singing, something else needs to sing to keep it aurally interesting. Dance music is a marriage of beat and melodies, and Chromeo knows how to do it.
Deadmau5, “A City in Florida”
Okay, now this one is for you bass whores out there. Turn it on only if you really, really want to get fucked by the bass. And I mean like really fucked. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, a top or a bottom: the bass is going to violate you and you’re gonna love it. I don’t mean to be so vulgar, but that’s kind of all it is. Slam! Slam! Slam! Slam! The fact that dance music mirrors sex, because the bass is a metaphor for blood flow, is what turns us all onto it in the first place. There aren’t any words in this one, so all of the lyricism and phrasing has to come from the electronic material. When I hear this song I imagine being in some kind of ginormous warehouse party with a sick sound system. In the dark. Neon lights. Shirt off.