What Made 2015 the Best Year Ever

It’s that time of year when every blog has a million listicles about the year, ranking everything on earth. We’re not immune to this, so we hope you’ve checked out our very own rankings of best remixes, albums, and originals lists, as we’re sure you’re at least curious. To cap things off we thought it would be good to look back and see just what it was about 2015 that made it a unique year for dance music. We’re going to try and have a little fun with this, so join us after the jump for our final listicle of the year.

Future House isn’t the Future Anymore

Future House, we barely knew ye. Only a year after your rise to prominence, you don’t feel so futuristic anymore. Some artists are still showing the groove and versatility of the subgenre (we’re looking at you Tchami), but seemingly every artist in existence has a bland future house track under their belt by today. Artists who were huge in the big room game a year ago have more than likely all released some reiteration of the sound in “Gecko.” Also, innumerable podcasts have an obligatory 30 minutes of future house now, which might be “trendy” but it works much better for an artist like Tommy Trash, who has 1 foot in the underground scene, than it probably does for producers like Showtek or twoloud who made their names with the biggest of big room house.  These things are all indications that it’s a pretty good time for the party to clear out. Don’t worry, the innovation from Future House moved right next door to “Bass House” (or Future Bass?), and Oliver Helens has moved along with it (as Hi-Lo). It wouldn’t be a far stretch to say a year from today, in 2016, the same could be said about this transition too. Subgenres rise and wane quickly in dance music, so it will be interesting to see how things develop into next year.

The Return of Legendary Producers You Barely Know

This year you were told about the return of some huge dance music pioneers and how excited you should be – move over Daft Punk. You might consider yourself a big fan of EDM, yet feel awkward because you may barely know some these artists. I realize that it’s basically heresy to say this aloud, but we’re going to be brave and speak truth to power. Now of course dance music has a wide age range, so the veterans were legitimately excited for the return of The Chemical Brothers, Faithless, Justice, and The Prodigy; understandably so, as they grew up to these artists and respected their craft and their continuing relevance today through remixes and reworks of their tracks still being played all the time.

Since the hype surrounding these returns was enough to make Swedish House Mafia blush, you probably did a little digging into their discographies and listened to their new music as well. You weren’t immediately hooked yet, but kept going along with it because they pioneered this genre and they’re so revered! You finally got to see them play a festival set and……you still don’t understand the excitement. We’re here to tell you that’s OK, and that different generations appreciate different things – let the high-brow fans cry heresy all they want. We’re also here to tell the rest of you that just because somebody’s interest in dance music began in the recent boom era, that does not mean they are not a lower class of human fan than you. Now don’t get it twisted these are awesome and legendary groups worthy of your time, but don’t expect them to cater to the modern dance music style…and we’ll see you at Alive 2017.

All About the Aliases

This year dance music’s biggest names got trapped in a steel cage of expectations. Make something outside of that box, and summon the wrath of millions. Armin van Buuren can’t take a step down the street without being told he is walking away from Trance. Some other huge names like Afrojack found themselves in a public perception rut and needed a way to become edgy again. We’re not sure whether there was an official meeting or if these people all have the same PR team, but many artists decided to experiment with Aliases.

Some of dance music’s most notable aliases have been OceanlabGaiaPryda/Cirez D…and they’re nothing new. This year we saw Armin add to his multiple personalities and resurrect an old alias known as Rising Star, and besides that everybody else got in on the fun. Some of these aliases are precursors to the artists we know today, while others are new.  While the whole exercise appears excessive, it actually provides the artist several different outlets to develop distinct musical personas – like Eric Prydz has done. It allows folks like Armin van Buuren to drift into more Progressive territory while pumping out trance gold under Gaia or Rising Star. Here’s a list of just a few, and it doesn’t even include the mysterious ones which we’ll cover next.

Eric Prydz = Pryda = Cirez D = Tonja Holma = google the rest

Tiësto = TST  = Allure = (formerly) half of Gouryella

Datsik = Ephwurd

Armin van Buuren = Gaia = Rising Star

Oliver Heldens = Hi-Lo

Afrojack = Nick van de Wall = NLW

Ferry Corsten = Gouryella (formerly + Tiësto)

Above & Beyond = Oceanlab

David Guetta = Pelican Project

Maor Levi = 1/3 of Bad Royale

The Hottest New Producer is: ???

The only thing hotter than side projects this year was side projects with a conspiracy angle. It allows the artist the ability to tease their anonymous identity, whether or not it really is them (looking at you Skrillex). It also allows the anonymous producer to drop breadcrumbs that they might be somebody they’re not, in order to gain a bigger following. This year saw several unknown artists rise to prominence mainly because of rumors they were a high profile artist in secret. We saw that sometimes this turns out to be genius marketing combined with a bright new talent such as ZHU (initially rumored to be Skrillex) or ATTLAS (initially rumored to be deadmau5). However, in many cases these might be multiple people or artists who want to escape the expectations that the big names are dealing with. Rumors about the identity of Marshmello have led to groups conspiring to rush the stage when he performs. Word on the street is that Malaa is actually a French collective of Tchami, Mercer, and DJ Snake, and the similarities in their recent mixes only adds fuel to the fire. Only in one case did one of the conspiracies turn out to be completely true, and that was Hi-Lo being Oliver Helens. That reveal was just enough to keep the other conspiracies living on long into 2016. So keep checking out who reposts their mysterious Soundcloud posts and Tweets and keep checking on who is the first follower of that mysterious new producer, because you never know.

You Get a label! Everybody Gets a Label!

Rather than describe this, here’s pictures of some the new labels created this year or right at the end of 2014. Remember, these are in addition to all of the numerous other labels you already know. See if you can guess who started each one and whether you have ever listened to one of the releases from it. Is this great for fans or overkill? It probably depends on the label.

“..but this time he’s playing live”

Since EDM became such a dirty word in 2013-14, the natural reaction of many DJs in 2015 was to accept the premise as true and distance themselves from “EDM.” Plenty of Kygo fans were probably confused to hear about the debut of his “Live” show at Ultra 2015 after they had seen him months earlier at TomorrowWorld. This phenomena existed in years past with artists like Pendulum, but came to the forefront again through the likes of Porter Robinson and Keys N Krates (among others).

To their credit, they incorporate instruments into their performances and improvise in ways regular DJs don’t. Also these performances are distinct shows more like a traditional concert that require trucks of extra equipment and don’t flow in the same way as a DJ set. However, to most of us these instruments are basically super advanced versions of Guitar Hero and still trigger the same synths that producers use in the studio or with controllers. Sure, equipment aficionados will refute this, but the point is that it’s all still electronic music and DJ sets can be just as “live” as these performances. On top of that, some of these shows are actually much more choreographed than a DJ set. Some artists in dance music have always performed this way and artists like Keys N Krates and are truly unique, but you know there is a cash cow trend when Krewella jumps on board. Perhaps one of the biggest perks of new “live” shows is the heavy dose of real musicality snobbery that comes with it. In a way this trend gives more ammo to the “DJs just push play” naysayers, and we can’t get enough of it.

Pretty Much Everybody Released an Album

In 2014 we said it was the year of the EDM album, but actually it was the first year in a trilogy of EDM album years. In 2015, we saw the probably the most albums covering a whole range of artists and subgenres and far too many to list out here. There were many outstanding entries as you can see from our own list, but there were also some high profile stumbles. These albums taught the lesson that some artists are just better served releasing singles and EPs, and honestly that’s not a bad thing.

The rush to release an album led to some being announced and released within a relatively short time frame, like Kaskade‘s Automatic. This is obviously great fan service, but it’s harder to overlook an entire album when it is painstakingly teased out one single at a time for months. In 2015 soon after a release, another album would drop so soon that audiences would quickly forget about the last one and maybe only listen to it one time through if at all. In the stampede some artists’ albums were absolutely crushed like Carnage, Nervo, and Steve Aoki who released albums that barely got a mention or had any notable tracks that received play time or critical attention. While those might be due to the quality of the albums, others like Laidback Luke‘s Listen were simply crowded out. Next year is the final year in the trilogy (probably…) which will see all the remaining high profile albums come out, including (probably…) MAKJ, Steve Angello Pt. 2, Martin Garrix, Eric Prydz, and several more until every single DJ has released an album. Hopefully by then everybody will have it out of their system.

You More than Likely Got Rained on at a Festival

We already talked about this at length so no need to go over it again. We’re also not here to tell you it’s a sign of the apocalypse. The simple fact is, there are more festivals than ever before which means there are more chances for your festival to happen on a rainy weekend. It also didn’t help that luck was not on the side of the Southeast as Ultra, TomorrowWorld, Sunset Music Festival, and more saw significant rains and inclement weather. After this year you probably don’t fear rain during a festival anymore (or at least shouldn’t), but you sure as hell fear the mud that follows. I mean, you couldn’t possibly get rained on at the same festival 2 years in a row right?

Ditching Longtime Management was Trendy AF

This year saw the book close on some of dance music’s most notable business partnerships. We saw Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso separate from their longtime manager, Amy Thomson and join forced with Avicii mastermind, Ash Pournari. Amy Thomson is the woman responsible for the unstoppable force that was Swedish House Mafia, and she continues to represent the group in its affairs. While they remain friends, perhaps this will lead to a more interesting change in style from Axwell /\ Ingrosso as they prepare to release an album next year too. We also saw Martin Garrix fly from the Spinnin Records nest, in a less than friendly fashion. The two sides split in a ugly spat that ended up all over social media and led to a standoff over rights to Martin’s music. We know the rise of Martin Garrix is owed to the branding genius of Spinnin Records, so it will be interesting to see what happens now that he is on his own. Lastly, Afrojack split from his management in a bid to start his own agency. As he tries to rebrand himself through side projects and revamped Wall Release roster, he wants to take on some talent like Apster and run things himself. We will see how these changes shake out in 2016.

Honorable Mentions

  • We created “It’s Lit Fam”
  • Washed up and/or C-list celebrities taking up DJing