We’ve been slowly revealing our Top 50s Artists of 2011, and we’re getting down to the wire: today’s crop of artists is, in a word, incredible. Their songs, while among the best of 2011, will no doubt endure well into the future of EDM, and their sets… well, they just have to be seen to be believed. Click past the jump for the next ten artists on our list, and check back on 50-41, 40-31, and 30-21 if you missed them.
20. Nicky Romero
It would be unfair to call Fedde Le Grand protege Nicky Romero a “rising star.” Yes, he’s only 22 and has been releasing one banger after the next, but he has already arrived as a formidable name in EDM. Romero’s spot among older veteran artists on this list is well-deserved. This Dutch DJ started off 2011 with “Solar,” whose massive, euphoric synths earned it major play during Miami Music Week and festivals throughout the year. Romero also dropped “Camorra,” “Toulouse,” “Beta” (his collab with Hardwell), and stellar remixes to “Titanium,” “Haters Gonna Hate,” and many more. And, while it was released in 2010, his take on Green Velvet’s “Flash” is a bona fide classic – it even made a cameo in Swedish House Mafia’s MSG set.
Hardwell is very close in age to most of the DA editors, but endlessly more accomplished. The 23-year-old producer/DJ/label head churned out banger after banger this year, while also putting on kick-ass live shows. He and his mentor Tiesto shook up Beatport with “Zero 76” (part of one of our all-time favorite bootlegs), and he kept the momentum going with “Encoded,” “Beta,” “Cobra,” and “Munster.” Needless to say, he’s prolific as hell. And we can’t forget his stellar remixes – “Ready 2 Go,” “Love Comes Again,” “In The Air,” you get the idea. All in all, Hardwell makes us feel like massive underachievers on a regular basis.
18. Laidback Luke
Alesso’s productions simply speak for themselves. The Swedish DJ is an incredible talent who made a splash in the biggest way this year. Starting off with “Nillionaire,” Alesso truly caught our attention when his “Pressure” remix exploded onto the scene. It’s indisputably one of our favorite tracks of the year. He kept the momentum going with two more iconic tracks, “Calling” and “Raise Your Head.” The rest of his remixes – “Good Love,” “Save The World,” “Titanium,” etc. – weren’t so bad either. We’re pretty sure Alesso will continue to ascend to the top of this list… if this is what he can do in a year, imagine what he’ll have accomplished in five.
16. Above & Beyond
If you’re the type of person that likes to spend your free time making yourself miserable by contemplating all the pain, suffering, and injustice in the world, you’re probably an Above & Beyond fan. A&B’s music is at once heartbreaking and beautiful. Their sets are an emotional journey. At an Above & Beyond show, you’re as likely to see people moved to tears as you are filled with joy. But that’s the point. The world may not be perfect, but when Above & Beyond perform, it is.
15. Armin van Buuren
There is a theory that suggests that Armin van Buuren is the second coming of Jesus Christ. If you disagree, you’ve probably never seen him perform. When Armin’s on stage, clad in the purest white, smiling that divine smile, it’s very easy to see where the term “trance god” comes from. Cynics can disparage the spiritual power of Armin’s sets all they want, but here’s what’s not up for debate: no other DJ can create such profound mass euphoria through the strength of his music and the force of his stage presence.
So Deadmau5 may not have released a whole lot of music this year (“Where My Keys,” “HR 8938 Cephei,” and “Aural Psynapse” are among his only releases)… but he sure managed to keep busy. The masked man’s “Meowingtons Hax” tour broke boundaries and shattered records – he took his show’s tech to the next level, and played Roseland Ballroom for an unprecedented six consecutive nights. Oh, and did we mention he made the entire London skyline his stage this fall? Say what you will about his music, but the man puts on a hell of a show. With his upcoming Vegas residency, we know he’s going to kick things into even higher gear come 2012.
13. Thomas Gold
Thomas Gold may have been missing from certain other DJ lists, but this German superstar is firmly planted in the upper tiers of the DA ranking. His talent is simply undeniable. Whether it’s the military-precision drums on “Marsch Marsch” or the subtle hi-hat that propels “aGORa,” every Thomas Gold track is incredibly detailed yet clearly engineered for maximum dance floor impact. His “Judas” remix is just explosive, and got major play at countless festivals this year. Plus – and take our word on this – TGold’s set at Escape from Wonderland is easily among the best of 2011. His bootlegs were so surprising and well-executed that he managed to manipulate staid songs (“Feel So Close,” “Toca’s Miracle”) and tell an entirely new story. To us, the set truly represents DJing at its best and is quintessential Thomas Gold. The end of 2011 saw Gold collaborating with Dirty South on “Alive,” with another collaboration is in the works for 2012. He also released an end-of-year mix that is not to be missed.
12. Dirty South
When it comes to progressive house, no one does it better than Dirty South. His tracks are all unique, but each has an amazing drive and energy behind it, usually from the smallest of touches. Take the rapid-fire tick-tocking synth in his “Coming Home” remix, for example. That track, which is arguably one of the biggest of the year, set the tone for Dirty’s 2011. Basically, he’s been killing it. “Alive” and “Walking Alone” are gorgeous, with unforgettable vocals and dance-ready drops. In addition to his production prowess, Dirty South is an exceptional DJ, delivering sets that rock considerably harder than his ethereal beats.
America spoke, and Kaskade came out on top: he was voted America’s number-one DJ in Pioneer’s annual competition. No small feat for a laid-back, Mormon, married-with-kids producer who started off in the deep house scene almost two decades ago. 2011 was the year when Kaskade embraced his duality as a producer. His album Fire & Ice featured two mixes for each song, one highlighting his ambient, chilled-out roots, the other paying homage to where he’s been ever since. Kaskade has become the master of big-room fun, crafting tracks that rock venues from Roseland Ballroom to Marquee Las Vegas. His songs are so popular because they’re more than just fun dance to – Kaskade creates some of the most emotionally evocative, beautifully transcendent songs in all of EDM. On top of his album, Kaskade headlined the first-of-its-kind Identity Tour, which brought the party to cities across America. And did we mention his weekly free Music Monday giveaways? Here’s hoping we can look forward to many #KMM gems in 2012.