Spun at clubs, wedding receptions, and even top 40 countdowns — “One More Time” was ubiquitous in the early 2000’s which is fitting since the song straddles the precarious line between magnificence and mindless parody (remember, those auto-tuned vocals sounded this close to the sweaty cheese of Cher’s “Believe”). But the disco horns and thunderous hook are like candy, sweet enough to make your ear ache yet awesomely addictive. There’s a simple reason why this song will be the one that people remember Daft Punk by 20 years from now — it’s really, really good.
19. "Cups.mp3" – Underworld – 1999 – Beaucoup Fish – Buy it
Repetition is electronic music’s greatest blessing and curse. A single melodic beat played at the same tempo with only slight variation is the starting point for some of the genre’s most powerful compositions. Yet listeners who dismiss electronica as tedious often site the music’s repetitive nature as its greatest deterrent.
Artists like Underworld stand out because of their ability to use repetition to enhance surprise. For over 8 minutes, “Cups” is a steady sequence of slinky blips, echoes, and melody that gives you the odd sensation of being underwater. Clever, though not exciting. Then, with 3:30 to go, the bubble bursts as a colossal synthesizer riff peals out over the mix like an electrified thundercloud. It’s ominous, thrilling, and big. It’s the kind of unexpected twist that elevates electronic music from memorable to superb.
18. "Hey Boy Hey Girl.mp3" (single) – The Chemical Brothers – 1999 – Buy it
With their third album, Surrender, the Chemical Brothers returned to their early 90’s rave roots and explored a more joyful, acid trance sound. Compared to the thumpers on Dig Your Own Hole, “Hey Boy Hey Girl” feels almost without bass, the electronic equivalent to “When Doves Cry.” But man, does it still move a dance floor. The emphasis on the second and fourth backbeats gives the track an unexpected dynamic while the piercing treble of air raid horns and warning sirens creates relentless urgency. In the song’s video, skeletons maniacally dance and screw in a club to the herky jerky rhythm — it’s a reminder this track is meant to shake hips.
Featuring only a single repeating lyric “Change my pitch up, smack my bitch up,” the Prodigy’s third single from The Fat of the Land drew heavy fire for perceived misogyny, which the group staunchly refuted but titillatingly fanned the flames by releasing a stunningly explicit music video (NSFW) so rife with sex, drugs, and violence that MTV could only show it after midnight.What’s forgotten in all of the controversy is how powerful the music is. The first minute is pure anticipation as sampled guitar riffs and menacing alarms stretch out over a bed of breaking drumbeats set slightly back in the mix. Odds are you’ve turned the volume up by now to catch the little sonic nuances, so when the the first bass drops, it’s loud enough to bust windows. From there on out, the assault never let’s up. In spite of it’s questionable nature (or perhaps because of it), the record has proven to be one of the Prodigy’s most indelible dancefloor anthems.
16. "Roll It Up.mp3" – Crystal Method – 2001 – Tweekend – Buy it
The Crystal Method were touted as America’s answer to the Chemical Brothers and Prodigy. I’m sure every frat boy who discovered techno music via the Method still loves getting bludgeoned by “Trip Like I Do”, but this Vegas duo’s act doesn’t hold up well over the years; most of it sounds unoriginal and some of it just plain dumb.
“Roll It Up” is the exception. With a murderous bass line and squelching beats, it creates the constant sensation of moving at high speed. I probably should be embarrassed to like it, but I’m not because this song’s pleasure kills off the guilt. Everyone has that one tune that they have as the soundtrack for getting pumped up, acting like a bad ass, and getting pulled over doing 48 mph in a 30. Yep. This one’s mine.