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Posted in: Features

A couple of weeks ago Mixmag released the results of their public vote for ‘Who Is The Greatest Dance Act Of All Time’.

greatest dance act of all time mixmagThe Top 20 are as follows:

01. The Prodigy
02. Daft Punk
03. The Chemical Brothers
04. Faithless
05. Deadmau5
06. Plastikman
07. Underworld
08. Fatboy Slim
09. Orbital
10. Moby
11. Leftfield
12. Kraftwerk
13. Pendulum
14. Depeche Mode
15. Justice
16. Basement Jaxx
17. Groove Armada
18. The Shamen
19. Above & Beyond
20. The KLF

Whilst the magazine contains interviews, facts and summaries of the acts, there’s no real analysis of the artists, their order or what it says about dance music in general. That’s where we come in. We’re going to start by noting that whilst this list is (in general) fairly conclusive we’re not going to argue against the results, as it was a public vote. It would be no more useful than disputing the top 40 or even the Beatport chart.

The list is interesting because it is a poll conducted largely within the global dance community, in this case anyone within Mixmag’s reach. This gives us a closed sample group of a similar demographic – everyone here purporting to enjoy ‘dance acts’. The results suggest a wide age spread of voters with the inclusion of acts that pre-date many a current clubber (Kraftwerk & KLF) alongside newer acts such as Justice, Deadmau5 and Pendulum. Three quarters of the acts released music during the 1990s, and apart from Deadmau5 the top 10 have all continued to release music through the 90s up to the present day. Therefore its reasonable to assume that in order to take the crown for ‘The Greatest Dance Act Of All Time’ the act would need to have been around for some time, or at least have had their music around long enough to still be relevant.

If that’s what we have in the top 20 what’s conspicuous by its absence? There’s no Dubstep. Not overly surprising when we take into account the average age and duration of the acts against this comparatively fledgling genre. But with people like Skrillex and Magnetic Man touring stadiums and fresh in young voters’ minds, it can’t have been far off. Drum n Bass also seems underrepresented when you consider it was born in the 90s, prominent throughout the 00s and as relevant today as ever. Notable absentees include pioneers such as Roni Size, High Contrast and current protagonists Chase & Status and Sub Focus. With the reforming of The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays it would be reasonable to expect some Madchester acts in there, New Order being the more obvious choice. Of the other new genres that sprung up in the 00s like Nu Rave, Electro, Fidget etc we only have Justice not even Soulwax make the list.

To complete our analysis we tried to identify how these Best Of Dance lists have changed over the years. However apart from a 2010 Global Gathering poll listing a similar top 10 there is not much to find. Widening our search to include award ceremonies we interestingly discovered that in the UK both the Brits & NME Awards no longer have a ‘Best Dance Act’ category, ceasing 2004 and 2002 respectively. Suggesting that dance music throughout the mid to late 00s wasn’t troubling the mainstream consciousness enough to warrant its own category.

NME Award Winners: 1999-2002
BRIT Award Winners: 1994-2004

In summary it would appear that it is much harder for newer electronic acts to break into these types of lists, perhaps because we currently live in a fast food digital age where genres and acts can storm to success, galvanise a sound and fade away equally as quickly, leaving the established 90’s acts to dominate. Or perhaps dance music has genuinely had its peak both in terms of quality and commercial viability?….which begs the question: “Is it actually possible to create a modern day act that will be looked at in twenty years as The Greatest Of All Time”?

Let us know you thoughts and who you think could topple the ever present trio of The Prodigy, Daft Punk, and the Chemical Brothers.