This is a power ranking of the best Electronic Dance Music artists. In the interest of disclosure, my two favorites are The Chainsmokers and Galantis, and so they might be higher than other people have them.
This list will be ranked by songs, discography, percentage of hits, length of career, and my favorite song of theirs. So some EDM artists fall because of lesser songs, some fall because of shorter careers, some fall only because they’ve never released an album (cough cough Chainsmokers).
So without further exposition nonsense…
An introduction and honorable mentions.
I credit EDM and its roots first to the techno shift in disco in the late 70s and the vast and eclectic history of the techno, house, and dance genres into the 80s. The best song that summarizes this technological shift is Donna Summer’s (and Georgio Moroder) I Feel Love. To me it feels like the first true EDM song, and it feels like it could get released as a slower jam from an artist like Hardwell.
The 80s is probably the most important decade for the genre until the last one because it’s where EDM and dance music itself found its footing and found its instruments and its what continues to influence the genre to this day. Across the country people began transitioning entirely away from disco and towards electronic, and house, and dance-pop and techno and many other genres. Electronic artists in the 80s include Jack Smooth and Basement Records, Derrick May, Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy, Kraftwerk,and Yellow Magic Orchestra.
However, it’s because of these artists that the road to EDM was paved, but they did not build EDM – the genre was built in Europe. I give a ton of credit to these artists for setting up the spike that is EDM, but they don’t get the spike. They get the assist. And an assist is an honorable mention in this list.
Let’s get to the dunks.
Moby is a great artist, and Honey is a great song. A terrific song. Moby doesn’t have the discography that some of the other artists do, and he doesn’t have the recent track record that they are pulling. Although Moby was around before many of the others on this list, his star has faded and he has fallen a lot on many lists. He doesn’t have the power that all the artists above him do, and if you played Moby in a club today, you might get some people dancing but nobody’s going to know the words.
24: Chemical Brothers
The Chemical Brothers are part-founders of the genre, but they, like Moby, have fallen off in recent years. Give them a ton of credit for helping to bring the genre to America, and I grew up on Push the Button, and credit it for my continued interest in EDM. But they don’t have the power to rock a room like the people above them, and tastes have changed since the Chemical Brothers were the shit, just like I’m sure tastes will continue to change. I don’t believe every artist on this list will be remembered, but right now, they are powerful beings in the music industry.
Let me ask you a question, dearest reader, whom I love. Do you know who Alesso is? No. You know who Chemical Brothers and Moby are, but have no clue Alesso is even a person. He’s got a great song in Heroes, but that’s about it. The only reason Alesso is above legends of the genre is because he’s more relevant. He’s still getting hits on Spotify, on YouTube, he’s still getting followers on Twitter. And while it sucks that he’s above those two legends, he’s got more power.
Krewella is like Moby, in that they’ve fallen off relatively quickly, and there’s a specific reason why – they got rid of the best thing about their band in the writer. They can’t make good music anymore because that writer is now working on other things, and they could’ve remained more powerful. Their hit Alive off their best album Get Wet, is a great song. It’s by no means one of the better songs on this list, but its a perfectly fine song. And like Alesso, the band remains relevant, but not nearly as relevant as those who come before them in this list.
21: Benny Benassi
Benny’s gotten a little irrelevant as well, but he’s still making good songs, which is more than I can say for those above him. His song Cinema is one of my favorite songs of all time, and that’s why he’s on this list and why he’s this high. I’m gonna be honest. I love that song and you should too.
DeadMau5 is an artist that encapsulates EDM in the late 2000’s, but that’s where he belongs. He hasn’t been able to make the transition like so many below him, and his music is stagnated, but he’s able to remain relevant because for the time his songs were released, they were that impressive. He can still play a room and get it moving, and that’s power in this list. The Mouse head has gotten tired, he’s tweeted some sketchy stuff, but his music still remains powerful in the industry. His best song, Ghosts ‘n Stuff, remains solid, but I’d put many songs in this list above it, just like I’ve put many artists in this list above him. But he’s also a ground breaker, and that’s important as well.
Call Me a Spaceman, Hardwell’s most listened to song, is a piece of art. The thing is, he’s not getting nearly the listens as other people on this list, but he’s able to move a stadium, as can be seen from his YouTube channel. He’s doing perfectly fine, but hes a less well known name than many of the artists above him.
With DeadMau5, Skrillex dominated the late 2000’s. He continues to be relevant, just not as himself anymore. Bangarang, probably his best song, is an amazing piece of electronic music, and set up the future in the genre, and what the artists since him have been able to do have moved past it, making it seem tamer than it was at the time. Skrillex will be able to get rooms amped, pumped, hearts racing, all out dancing, for a long time to come. He’s done some incredible stuff, but he’s just not on the cutting edge (using his own name, this will be addressed later).
17: DJ Snake
Everybody knows Turn Down for What, DJ Snake’s undisputed best solo song – he’s featured on Lean On from Major Lazer – and it’s a song that has managed to remain popular, not just because of Lil Jon’s vocals, but because DJ Snake knows how to make a good song and understands great music. The reason he’s this low is because he’s not had nearly as many hits as he should have, and everyone above him has that list of great songs. When Snake begins producing Turn Down for Whats in every song he makes, he’s a lot higher on this list.
16: Swedish House Mafia
The Swedish House Mafia is a band with more hits and relevancy than anybody above them, but has remained sort of out of the limelight in the United States in recent years, and for that reason suffers on this list. They’ve produced great songs time and time again, but they haven’t released an album in four years and that was their peak. Those songs have managed to stay relevant, and Don’t You Worry Child is still one of the better electronic songs, but they’ve aged without replacements and that’s not a good thing for a band.
15: Martin Garrix
Don’t get me wrong, Garrix is still successful, and if you wanted proof of that look up “In the Name of Love”. He’s still working towards his peak, and he’s nowhere close to disappearing, and yet nothing is likely to touch the success of his breakout Animals anytime soon. And that’s not a bad thing, Animals is a great song. But you’ve got to be able to move past your breakout and Garrix is still trying to find his way. When he does, he has the potential to jump higher. But not yet.
14: Yellow Claw
Looking at Yellow Claw’s library, including my favorite song of the last 8 months Wild Mustang, there’s no bad song. None. A bad Yellow Claw song doesn’t exist. So why aren’t they higher? Well, access is a big issue for Yellow Claw, only one album of theirs is on Spotify, and when access is a problem your name is going to be smaller. And that’s why Yellow Claw is this low – nobody yet knows about them, even though everyone should. They should be more popular than three of the top 4. But I’ll be saying that a lot.
Fourteen is also a tie, by the way, between Yellow Claw, Madeon and Porter Robinson, who all suffer from the same problems. All three of the band/artists have time to grow their reputation, though.
Porter Robinson – Lionhearted
Madeon – You’re On
And now you’ve entered the top artists. Every artist/band on here is beloved, either by me or by the general EDM listening audience, or both. This is not to say I hate Porter Robinson or Yellowclaw – they’re both special to me – but these are the big guns. These are the bands the EDM audience or I could subside on if stuck on a deserted island with just these bands to listen to (although I’d also need some Chance, Kanye, Cold War Kids, Imagine Dragons, and much more. Wow, if I get stuck on a deserted island I’m gonna need wifi.)
13: Cash Cash
Not the biggest name in EDM, Cash Cash is the band that re-introduced me to the genre. For that reason, they have an extremely special place in my heart. If Chemical Brothers were the band that started me on EDM, Cash Cash is the band that reminded me why I loved this genre. Cash Cash has only released one full album (and several EPs) and what an album it is – Blood, Sweat, and Three Years might be the best album released this year, and that’s against stiff competition from Kanye and Chance the Rapper. It’s certainly the best EDM album in those three years. My favorite song from Cash Cash, Overtime, is one of the very few songs that didn’t make the album cut and I couldn’t be happier. The album flows so well that any changes would likely alter it. The most underrated song on the album is Broken Drum, featuring Fitz of Fitz and the Tantrums.
I have so much to say about this album, but we’re approaching 2000 words in this article, so let’s move on. I’ll post an album review at a later date.
12: Calvin Harris
Ah yes, the ex that made us finally realize that Taylor Swift isn’t a victim, she just learned from Kanye how to use publicity. Plus, the breakup set in motion the whole Kanye/Taylor fight again, and that’s a great fight.
Calvin Harris isn’t a bad artist, and his music works, look at Summer, which is a great summer song. Calvin Harris can do what every artist below him can do, and has done what they have done. Although his songs, while hits, aren’t the kind of songs you want to listen to again and again. Plus the fact that he’ll always be famous for being the best ex-boyfriend of Taylor Swift, Harris drops to 12.
Zedd is a child in the industry, a young man, like Garrix, who’s still got a bright future ahead of him. At just 27, he’s moved past his breakout song Spectrum, something which Garrix has yet to do, and has established himself as a premiere EDM artist with Clarity, I Want You to Know, and most recently Beautiful Now. The thing is, Zedd’s music just isn’t as good as the people above him, and while he has time to catch up, that’s what drops him down below the top 10.
Tiesto is a terrific artist. What he can do in his set is something remarkable. His song Wasted was my favorite song for a while. His music is replayable, it works, and it’s catchy. It’s everything I like in electronic, and he’s a terrific artist.
Which makes it hard to admit that there’s better artists beneath (9-1) him on this list. He’s terrific, but there’s a lot of terrific artists, and that, in itself, is terrific.
Flume is one of the youngest artists on this list at just 24, and yet he’s one of the best and most accomplished as well. His two albums are both great, and he’s proven himself willing to do remixes and to be able to do those well as well – quick shout out to the best straight remixers in the game, Jump Smokers and A Trak – and that’s a valuable tool. Flume’s music is becoming more popular, and he’s from one of the rarer countries in EDM, Australia. Never Be Like You, Flume’s biggest hit, is a terrific song, and the vocals, the chimes, the beat, the rhythm, everything in that song works. I just want more from Flume, and there isn’t enough there yet.
8: Major Lazer
I find collaborations to be the best thing in EDM, as the names further down this list prove, and Major Lazer is a terrific collaboration. ML has done so much in such a short amount of time, and continues to become bigger and bigger. Lazer can pull the best vocalists, including Ariana Grande, Sia, and Ellie Goulding. They’ll get the best of those vocalists as well. Lazer works on every level, and their best song, Light It Up, uses horns unlike many songs in EDM, and uses them really well. Lazer’s gonna climb, they’re just not as popular as the top 4, and don’t have the same appeal to me as the next three. If other lists rank ML higher than these next three artists, its understandable.
In my top three, Kygo is the bottom, and yet the most popular of those three, Kygo’s released only one album and yet he’s the top of the game, and he’s bringing Tropical House to the mainstream. It’s easy to see why, when his hits include things like Stole the Show. Kygo is a great artist in a different branch of EDM, and his popularity and discography and ability are only going to improve.
There’s not a bad song in the Chainsmoker’s library. There’s not. No remix, no original song, nothing they’ve ever done is below a B+ song, which is why they’re in the top 10. It helps they’re my second favorite EDM artist. What doesn’t help is that they’ve yet to release a single full album, and all of their songs come in single form. When you press shuffle on the Chainsmokers’ music, you’re going to enjoy yourself, but you’re going to enjoy yourself to about 10 songs, with three of them (Kanye, Don’t Let Me Down, and Roses) repeatedly playing, just in different incarnations. That’s a major problem, and it’s why they’re not allowed in the top 5.
My favorite active artist/band, Galantis is a Swedish group that formed recently, and yet, it seems like they formed when I needed them most. Galantis, to me, is a perfect band. Their album Pharmacy is up there with Yellowclaw’s Blood for Mercy and Cash Cash’s Blood, Sweat, and Three Years. Every song off Pharmacy works on its own level, as well as lyrically, and the album flows like every great album does – like a river. They’ve not done as much as I would like them too, and they’re not as popular as they need to be, which is why I put them below the artists above them. Plus, because they do each song acoustically before recording it electronically, I’m gonna need that acoustic album now, please. If my future spouse isn’t cool with using DMX’s “X Gonna Give It to Ya” as our first dance song, this will be my backup song: Runaway
4: Jack Ü
Jack Ü, the collaboration between Skrillex and Diplo, and which is better than either of the artists on their own, is a fantastic collaboration, and one that has become extremely popular. It’s the second highest collaboration because it’s not done as much as the first – only one album – and because it was formed recently and doesn’t have the history. They’ve also produced less hits than the three before them, and one of their songs, Where Are Ü Now, is popular primarily because they used the gimmick that is Justin Bieber’s EDM career as the vocals. However, my favorite song of theirs, Take Ü There, is entirely their merit, and it’s a vastly superior song.
3: David Guetta
David Guetta makes a hit song out of nothing. He takes his music to heights that other artists just aren’t hitting, and they stick around for a long time. His breakout, Titanium, shows why his songs work – great vocals layered over great rhythms and beats and then it just rocks. HIs songs regularly hit 200,000,000 on Spotify, and he’s been impressive since the start of his career. His best song, Hey Mama, takes advantage of three great features: Bebe Rexha, Nicki Minaj, and Afrojack. When he’s pulling not just Nicki Minaj for a song, but Rexha and Afrojack on the same song, he’s hitting it out of the park.
Avicii is the most dominant singular artist in EDM. He’s had 2 albums that have both been top 10 in the Billboard charts, he’s crushing Spotify, he’s doing what needs to be done to take the top of this list, he’s just not been around as long as #1. He’s making catchy, good music, and he’s doing it consistently, he’s just not been here as long as #1, and that’s what’s holding him back. Everything works, everything he’s done, including Waiting for Love, is amazing, but longevity wins this list.
1: Daft Punk
There’s no matching Daft Punk’s dominance over as many years. They’ve stuck around, they’ve been here since the 90’s, and they’re only getting more popular. Daft Punk helped to found EDM, they did their own thing, venturing into different genres, they scored a movie, they’ve done everything every music artist has on their bucket list, and they continue to find popularity, to play large crowds, to be the popular robots they’ve always been, and are adding fans in a generation that love this music. Get Lucky has 300,000,000 combined hits on Spotify, and Harder Better Faster Stronger, which was groundbreaking in its time, and has been copied by the likes of Kanye West, continues to be a popular song. They’re just better than everybody else, and they’ve been around far longer as well.