10 Best Pop Hooks in Dance Music: Critic's Picks


These days, dance music and pop are practically inseparable. Unless you're making noise trance or subterraneous house, one producer's ability to cross over to terrestrial radio has never been stronger. More often than not, superstar DJs team with A-list entertainers to concoct unstoppable chart-climbers in a way early disco pioneers couldn't have even dreamed.

Even without big-name features, electronic producers are reaching greater heights than ever, but the music that inspires such success is really nothing new. Dance music has always been built on a foundation of infectious chords, feel-good hooks and heartfelt lyrics destined to be repeated on and on, endlessly between your ears.

There have been many bright moments in the last few years, and today, we celebrate the very best and brightest of them all. We've ordered our list according to chart performance (though this is an opinion-based list; not a chart-based list), because trying to pick a favorite would be otherwise impossible. Which one do you like best?

Eric Prydz - "Call on Me"

This unforgettable favorite failed to hit Billboard charts in any capacity, and that is just a tragedy. We're making up for it by giving it an honorable mention on our list. Even if it was a sleeper off the dance floor, Eric Prydz came up with nothing short of timeless gold -- with an assist from Steve Winwood's 1980s hit "Valerie." And who doesn't love this aerobics-class video?

Avicii - "Le7els"

Peaked at: No. 60 on Billboard Hot 100

How shocked are you that "Le7els" wasn't a No. 1 hit? We can't believe our eyes, because our ears are still recovering from its absolute domination. This track is right up there with "Sandstorm." It's immediately recognizable, it's impossible to ignore, and it's so simple, it almost hurts. Etta James has been sampled before, but this has to be the most iconic use of her voice. If it weren't for Avicii's breakthrough smash, we'd never have Flo Rida's "Good Feeling." That spin-off reached No. 3 on the Hot 100, but no worries: Avicii had his chart-topping hits, and he's not done yet.

Afrojack feat. Eva Simons - "Take Over Control"

Peaked at: No. 41 on the Hot 100

There was a period in 2010 when this was the one song you were guaranteed to hear at least twice on any given night out. Eva Simmons is rough-edged and beautiful. Afrojack's Dutch house synths are as alarming as they are alluring. "Take Over Control" brought Afrojack the fame he needed to purchase a Ferrari, crash it and buy another one. That's star power. 

Jack U feat. Justin Bieber - "Where Are U Now"

Peaked at: No. 8 on the Hot 100

Jack U described the success of this smash as "overwhelming," and we don't blame them. It was a huge risk to team with pop music's most controversial superstar. No one could have imagined how greedily dance music fans would embrace the tune. No one could have seen how its infectious trill would completely reinvent the budding young man. This was the launching point of so many amazing moments. If you didn't think Skrillex and Diplo were visionaries before, there's simply no denying It now.

Zedd feat. Foxes - "Clarity"

Peaked at: No. 8 on the Hot 100

This fist-pumping, blood-rush of a love song catapulted Zedd from being the kid all his peers found inspiring to the guy pop stars like Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga absolutely needed to produce their next hits. Foxes is brilliant on the vocals, but it's the chorus of "heys" and musical fireworks that push this earworm into the territory of an absolute classic. It's been remixed a multitude of different ways, but nothing comes close to the heart-pounding original.

Disclosure feat. Sam Smith - "Latch"

Peaked at: No. 7 on the Hot 100

My friend once said Caracal was the album he put on when he was getting hot and heavy with a lady, and I distinctly remember the sentence "when 'Latch' comes on, it's done." This unforgettable love song that introduced the world to the U.K.'s leading house revivalists and one of today's most luscious crooners. Sam Smith has gone on to be a superstar in his own right. Disclosure continues to be one of the biggest names in dance. There's something so timeless about that weird pitched-up vocal sample, Smith's falsetto, the wonky textures, the haunting chords, the synthetic bass line. It all commingles into one grand soulful statement the whole world wants to listen to again and again.

David Guetta feat. Sia - "Titanium"

Peaked at: No. 7 on the Hot 100

Anything that features Sia's powerful roar is destined for greatness. She soars above the original EDM crossover king's uplifting chords. The rise of the build shoots like a canon into the sky. Her vocals peak clear as crystal and fade into the torrent of synths as the hook booms with enough strength to fill an arena. That's Guetta's natural habitat, after all.

Swedish House Mafia feat. John Martin - "Don't You Worry Child"

Peaked at: No. 6 on the Hot 100

Is it crazy if we say Swedish House Mafia was the greatest EDM act of all time? Like, if you're looking for flash, pomp, thrusting arms, warm fuzzy melodies and grand spectacles, there's really nothing better than this disbanded trio. Rumors are constantly flying about a reunion, but nothing is set in stone. All three members are enjoying prosperous post-careers too. We won't hold our breath. "Don't You Worry Child" was their biggest hit from a sparkling, hit-strewn career.

Major Lazer & DJ Snake feat. MØ - "Lean On"

Peaked at: No. 4 on the Hot 100

Let's have a round of applause for one of the greatest synth noises dance music has ever heard. DJ Snake features it again on his Justin Bieber collab "Let Me Love You," but it's the initial wonky melody of "Lean On" that really blew minds. MØ's imploring rasp drive's the hook straight into the hearts of millions. The ever-dichotomous nature of human life is beautifully celebrated on the track that pulls influence from all corners of the globe. No wonder this song, now more than a year old, continues to get play.

Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams - "Get Lucky"

Peaked at: No. 2 on the Hot 100

Daft Punk made its career sampling disco and funk records from the gloriously golden '70s scene. After working on the Tron: Legacy soundtrack, Daft Punk found the strength and inspiration to compose wholly original works of art. The Alive 2007 tour made them household names, and finally, they had enough clout to climb into the studio with the very disco legends they'd emulated all their lives. Nile Rodgers provides immeasurable guitar slickness while Pharrell's voice drips with dance-floor sex. The robots bring the whole thing home with plenty of vocoder play and their favorite: walking bass.

The Chainsmokers - "Closer"

Peaked at: No. 1 on the Hot 100 for nine weeks to date

No one is surprised to see this summer ditty on the list. It's actually No. 1 right now. It was No. 1 last week. "Don't Let Me Down" and "Roses" both had good runs, but "Closer" is the pick of the litter. That swinging synth, the bright claps, the constant and subtle bells in the background. It's perfect summer anthem material.You were done before it even played.

Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris - "We Found Love"

Peaked at: No. 1 on the Hot 100 for 10 weeks

This song recently turned five years old, and wow, what a run it's been. The Rihanna collaboration, Harris' first, is one of the greatest-selling singles of all time. It's sold more than 9 million copies to date. The instantly recognizable organ sound was meant as an homage to '90s rave music, but the tropical tom drum added serious pop-potential. A few minutes of random word vomit landed Harris the hook's memorable lyrics, and his manager's connection to Rihanna's team won him the vocal. The pair hit the road on tour after its release, and Harris' life has never been the same.