Festival Insider's Top Songs of 2021

Dec 17, 2021

13 min read

UNIIQUE, Nicole Moudaber, KaytranadaUNIIQUE, Nicole Moudaber, Kaytranada

2021 opened with the hope that we would again return to the dance floor and enjoy the warm embrace of the subwoofers against our bodies. And in many places, the cheerful optimism of the early part of the year was rewarded with a festival season that extended well into fall.

And while the year wasn't without its trials, tribulations, and the relative uncertainty of living life during a pandemic, 2021 brought us a wealth of great music. The loss of a year of club life and festivals put producers on their A-game in the studio. And in 2021, we saw the fruits of their labor.

Dance music experienced an explosion of diversity. As the sounds of the early '90s rave made their way back into our hearts, POC, women, and the LGBTQ community took center stage like never before.

We tapped the Festival Insider team for their top tracks in 2021, and if this is what the future of dance music looks like, we're in good hands.

Porter Robinson - Mirror  [Sample Sized]

Dance music icon Porter Robinson stuns with “Mirror.” The single from his Nurture album encourages listeners to view themselves in a mirror, with the track highlighting how people tend to pick apart themselves when looking inward. “Mirror” conveys this message through piano, uplifting production, entrancing synths, and electronic backbeat. Porter Robinson reigned in 2021 through the release of his second album, Nurture, and accompanying tour. - LISA KOCAY

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Nicole Moudaber - The Music Is Mine [Mood]

Techno queen Nicole Moudaber reminds listeners why she reigns within the space. She showcases her signature hypnotic and smoldering sound in the two-track EP, The Volume, that “The Music Is Mine’ stems from. “The Music Is Mine” proves to be designed for dancefloor domination through pounding basslines and spellbinding synths.- LISA KOCAY

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Skrillex, Noisia, josh pan, Dylan Brady - Supersonic (My Existence) [OWSLA]

When a collaboration between this many dance music icons comes to fruition, it’ll undoubtedly be one of the biggest songs of the year. After years and years of waiting, the long-anticipated “Supersonic (My Existence)” was released this year on OWSLA. And in perfect timing, as Dutch trio, Noisia was able to close their farewell tour sets out with this tune before saying their final goodbyes. One-half of 100gecs Dylan Brady’s soothing crooning creates an impeccable juxtaposition between Skrillex, Noisia, and josh pan’s hard-hitting beats. - ARIELLE LANA LEJARDE

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SHERELLE - 160 DOWN THE A406 [Self-Release]

Hailing from the UK, SHERELLE is a dance music tour de force. Premiering on the covers of Mixmag and Attitude this year, the footwork queen continues to prove why she’s one of the greatest artists of our generation. Although she gained recognition for her skills as an in-demand DJ, the London legend released her much-anticipated debut single, “160 DOWN THE A406,” in June. The track even got a nod from Pitchfork for their 2021 electronic music list. - ARIELLE LANA LEJARDE

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Shouse - Love Tonight (David Guetta Remix) [Hellbeach]

Crowned as the #1 DJ in DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs this year, David Guetta is at it again with another chart-topping track. Unless you were living under a rock, you probably heard this remix played at every bar or club. The original track released in 2017 is a meditative cross-over piece with its electronic beats and R&B vibes. But with Guetta’s spin on it, the arpeggiating, melodic line drives the entire remix from start to finish. As soon as you hear this remix, you’ll never want to leave the dancefloor. - KENNEDY CYMERMAN

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HELLBOUND! - Are you Ready [Sable Valley]

Hellbound!, aka Vince Tascione, is a Techno prodigy. The LA-based producer made a swift pivot from bass to techno over the past two years, in a journey that has recently culminated into a sound that he’s proud of. “Are You Ready,” released on Sable Valley’s Summer Vol. 2 album earlier this summer, is one of our top picks for best dance records this year. The club-ready heavy hitter is a feat for North American hard techno, a genre historically dominated by European and South American producers. The artist’s endeavor to produce an acid house/techno tune reminiscent of a 90’s rave was seamlessly carried out in this meticulously-produced banger. - MELISA YURIAR

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ILLENIUM, Valerie Broussard & Nurko - Sideways [Warner]

Nick Miller, known as ILLENIUM, has a lot to be proud of this year. Besides being the first artist to perform at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium with his sold-out “Trilogy” performance, he also released his fourth studio album “Fallen Embers” and hosted his first-ever destination festival Ember Shores in Cancun. His collaboration with Valerie Broussard and Nurko stole the hearts of melodic bass lovers. The track opens with a soothing guitar line and Broussard’s delicate vocals, then builds towards a high energy drop with its electrifying synths and dynamic guitar riffs. The passionate vocals paired with the progressive bassline showcases captivate and might draw a tear or two on the dancefloor. - KENNEDY CYMERMAN

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Porter Robinson - Wind Tempos [Sample Sized]

The masterfully produced “Wind Tempos” sounds like it could be part of a movie score. Porter invites you on a sonic journey through the gentle wash of a rain shower, a sprinkle of enchanting pianos, and hypnotic vocals. Inspired after a trip to Japan, genre-defying artist Porter Robinson met Japanese pianist Masakatsu Takag, who gave him a disc of Japanese ambient music from the early 2000s. This year, Robinson released his second studio album, Nurture, and kicked off an accompanying tour. - LISA KOCAY

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Keys N Krates, Bibi Bourelly - Take It Off [Last Gang Records]

Springing up from the electronic trap scene, Toronto trio Keys N Krates has become world-renowned for the ability to dabble in any genre. Their latest project came in the form of their 2021 Original Classic album, topped off with a tour. “Take It Off” with German songstress Bibi Bourelly was the debut single from the LP, giving us a sexy start to the summer. - ARIELLE LANA LEJARDE

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Joel Corry, RAYE, David Guetta - BED [Warner UK]

“BED” combines the styles of dance-pop prodigy Joel Corry with the compelling talents of David Guetta and sultry vocals of British singer-songwriter RAYE. This track is an uplifting dance banger fueled by flirtatious energy and a bouncing backbeat. The infectious melodic line will have this song stuck in your head for hours. Joel Corry has undoubtedly made a name for himself in the dance music scene with his growing repertoire of hit releases. For someone who started his career in dark London clubs and played everything from UK garage to Melbourne bounce, his transition to a more commercial sound has been flawless. - KENNEDY CYMERMAN

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camoufly - Possibilities [Self-Release]

Anonymous artist camoufly might be mysterious, but his name was on everyone’s lips this year. Releasing two critically acclaimed EPs, Apotheosis and The Giant, the prolific producer shows what hard work, a top-notch social media presence, and unadulterated talent can bring. Despite being only released in August—as a surprise single from The Giant nonetheless— “Possibilities” remains placed in several editorial playlists and quickly grew to one of his most played tracks to date. - ARIELLE LANA LEJARDE

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ACRAZE, Cherish - Do It To It [Thrive]

Staten-Island native, ACRAZE, took the dance/electronic music scene by storm this year with his track, “Do It To It.” Featuring vocals sampled from Cherish’s 2006 R&B classic layered on top of a thumping house beat, it will have you feeling nostalgic and ready to dance. This track is a prime representation of ACRAZE’s versatility and energy-infused sound. The producer recently signed with United Talent Agency due to the track’s success. - KENNEDY CYMERMAN

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Fred again.. - Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing) [Atlantic Records UK]

Both of Fred’s Actual Life albums earned him sold-out shows across the world in 2021. But “Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing) is exceptional. Known for his clever use of samples, this track samples a speech by The Blessed Madonna about life during the pandemic over the last two years. The incredibly danceable tune is a bit ironically named, but after experiencing it live, it’s clear why it moves so many people. - ARIELLE LANA LEJARDE

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Kaytranada, H.E.R. - Intimidated [KAYTRANADA, RCA Records]

Haitian-Canadian producer Kaytranada is notorious for featuring soulful vocalists and prodigious beats in his tunes—his latest EP is no exception. The self-titled single off his latest EP, Intimidated, with Grammy-award-winning R&B artist H.E.R., was only released a few weeks ago and has already generated over 6 million plays on Spotify. The song features resounding handclaps and a rhythmic piano loop that ricochets around H.E.R.’s syrupy vocals. Intimidated shines brightly amidst this Grammy-winning artist’s discography; its joyous melody and thumping bassline together form an irresistible, soulful tune that’s more than worthy of being named one of this year’s best collaborative dance tracks. - MELISA YURIAR

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PinkPantheress - Break It Off [Parlophone Records]

Breakout star PinkPantheress makes London proud by utilizing garage and D&B beats as a backdrop to her saccharine singing. She’s gained momentum so quickly that she’s transcended past just dance music and resonates even with a mainstream audience. Her song ‘Break It Off’ blew up on TikTok earlier this year, and the rest is history. - ARIELLE LANA LEJARDE

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Prospa - WANT NEED LOVE (Dimension Remix) [UMG]

Prospa’s electro-house "WANT NEED LOVE" gets a satisfying flip with D&B don Dimension. In March, Dimension dropped his well-received album, Organ, and he preserves as one of the producers helping globalize drum n bass across the world. The UK artist’s remix of "WANT NEED LOVE" is the perfect introduction to his music, displaying how he melds beautiful female vocals with high-energy rhythms. - ARIELLE LANA LEJARDE

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Burial - Dark Gethsemane [Keysound]

While the enigmatic UK producer Burial might be pretty lowkey, he dropped some big news that he’ll be dropping an EP with Hyperdub in January. In April, the sought-after beatmaker dropped his Shock Power of Love EP, and 10-minute long “Dark Gethesmane” was a standout. A poignant vocal sample shouts, “We must shock this nation with the power of love!” which gives the project its title. The song is potent, topical, and timely. - ARIELLE LANA LEJARDE

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KUURO - Waiting (feat. Bianca) [Monstercat]

Monstercat signee KUURO has been in the game for over ten years, proving his longevity in the scene. His ballad ‘Waiting’ showcases the ambidexterity of his abilities, perfectly colliding electronic music and rock. Bianca's passion-filled vocals lure you in, matching with KUURO’s energy immaculately for this mesmerizing melody. - ARIELLE LANA LEJARDE

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salute - Want U There [Echorex]

Austrian-born producer Felix Nyajo, better known by his artist name salute, is essential listening. The Manchester-based producer quickly took over the UK club scene with inventive production and prodigious sounds. Released earlier this year, “Want U There” is a jubilant, soul-stirring house tune that features a deep thrumming bassline, moving vocals and a euphoric groove. The exuberant tune is the brilliant UK producer’s most vibrant original to date. - MELISA YURIAR

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Rome In Silver, Biicla - Colorblind [bitbird]

Friends and frequent collaborators Rome In Silver and Biicla are a match made in heaven. The two have been appearing on lineups all across the US and announced a run of significant festival bookings in 2022. Their bitbird release, “Colorblind,” is one of the most breathtaking songs of 2021, featuring a fluid drum n bass beat and enchanting vocals that continue to echo through the membrane even after the song ends. - ARIELLE LANA LEJARDE

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UNIIQU3 - Microdosing [Local Action Records]

DJ-producer UNIIQU3 is the queen of Club music. The trendsetting rapper began her career as a vocalist in the club scene but has recently become one of the most sought-after dance music producers. Her latest EP, Heartbeats, doesn’t stray too far from the jersey club sound and sexually-charged lyrics typical of her music, yet it is her most personal release to date. The songs reflect on heartbreak, lust, and pleasure themes, and the EP’s invigorating house cut “Microdosing, is irrefutably this year’s dance-floor anthem. The track is a scorcher—its thumping kick pattern, oscillating synths, and meticulously delivered lyrics further cement the producer as an innovator in an ever-growing subgenre of which she is the matriarch. - MELISA YURIAR

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Holiday87, Minke - Sweet Nothings (feat. Minke) [Black Clay]

With production reminiscent of Telepopmusik’s earlier records, “Sweet Nothings” is a melodic dance record created by Holiday87 and LA-based multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Minke. This iteration of Sweet Nothings is one of two released by the collaborators this year. However, this version reduces the orchestral elements heard in the String redux to juxtapose the UK-born singer’s sugary vocals with a thumping bassline, shimmery fills, and bouncy synths. Holiday87 is the side project for one-half of the Knocks and Black Clay label head, Benjamin Rutter. The DJ recently released a new Holiday87 dance tune with producer Adam Pallin. Spiraling is out now on Spotify. - MELISA YURIAR

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Cookiee Kawaii, Dear Silas - Violin (feat. Silas) [The Cookiee Jar/EMPIRE]

Following the wildly viral dance hit, “Vibe (If I Back it Up)'' Jersey club producer Cookiee Kawaii debuted Vanice: an homage—in the form of a 16 track LP—to the music scene she helped introduce to the mainstream and which she continues to help innovate. On breakout single “Violin,” Cookie demonstrates her rapping prowess with a delivery that’s precisely dispatched, and with a confident flair. “No fear in a crowd full of freak hoes / Feeling brave as I walk to the stage / And I tell em to behave, as I put em in a daze,” Cookie intones. Rounding out the club-ready track is a verse from collaborator Dear Silas, whose dynamic performance complements the tune’s buoyancy and zest. - MELISA YURIAR

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