What defines the criteria for the DJ Mag Top 100? While this is a hotly debated issue, it really boils down to opinion. We can sit around all day talking about how David Guetta is a supposed sell-out who doesn’t deserve to top the list, or how Avicii should/shouldn’t be number one, or even how many of the originators like Richie Hawtin and Paul Van Dyk get snubbed because they are not “mainstream.”
While many people might feel that they are “right” this isn’t a “right vs wrong” debate, it is merely a list of DJs that campaign their fans to vote for them. Being higher or lower on the list doesn’t make them a better or worse DJ, it simply shows the world where their career is at. My five choices are DJs that I feel are currently dominating or should be dominating the market. Check out my five picks past the break and feel free to debate them in the comments.
In the short time that Dancing Astronaut has been producing Behind The Booth, I have yet to see someone as genuinely excited and dedicated to his craft as Mr. Robbert van de Corput. The young Dutchman gets on stage and plays infectious music with huge bass that just makes you want to dance. Hardwell started out as a hip-hop DJ at age 14, then dabbled in electronic, before gaining his more recent electro sound with massive drops. With Tiesto as your mentor, it’s definitely hard to make bad music — and “Zero 76” is a clear example of both of their skills.
After watching Hardwell destroy the UMF stage before the sun went down this year, you could just tell that his fans are as dedicated as he is. While many producers lack DJ skills, Hardwell creates massive bootlegs and has been generous enough to give quite a few of them away to his devoted fans. Hardwell’s sets are versatile as huge bass usually gives way for a lighter track or two like his rework of “Love Comes Again.” It’s his versatility, general skill, and overall enthusiasm that gets my vote.
You can consider Madeon to be my “underdog,” but after seeing his sets at Ultra and EDC NY, it was very apparent that this teenager is going to be one of the biggest names in dance music. His skills on the Novation Launchpad blew everyone away when he released the video for “Pop Culture” and his recent mini mix only solidified his excellence when he combined 93 songs into 5 minutes. His style is considered to be electropop, and it can cheer me up at any time. Something about his music just seems fresh and perfectly crafted. If you have ever listened to one of his sets, you just how well he can mix and how flawlessly songs seem to blend together. If Madeon doesn’t crack the list in 2012 he will certainly jump above 50 in 2013. At just 18 years old, it seems that this kid has the world in his hands and he is taking every advantage he can.
Joel Zimmerman has shaped the electronic genre more than most. He is certainly not afraid to speak his mind, while also sparking public scrutiny and debate. Deadmau5 couldn’t care less if you listen to his music, he doesn’t care if you like his music, and he certainly doesn’t care what you have to say about his music. Joel creates music that he likes and to make his fans happy. Streaming studio sessions on his website and inviting viewers to watch is always incredibly entertaining and it even resulted in finding lyrics of his most recent release, “The Veldt.” But it’s this transparency that gives Joel his charm. By allowing us to watch him, he shows us how hard he actually works on his music and how much time it actually requires to make music.
Deadmau5’s show is one of the most incredible sets of any DJ and it only continues to improve. After his controversial article, “We All Hit Play,” Joel is looking to be the leader of change in the industry. In a more recent post, he described how he is working to create two studios in his cube so he can essentially reconstruct his music in a live setting. If this isn’t a guy that deserves to be recognized, then who is? He continues to have a full hand in the development of his show and spends millions of dollars perfecting his craft. Joel is an innovator and while he is “not really a DJ” he has earned a spot at the top of the list.
4. Knife Party
Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen have not even surpassed their one year anniversary as Knife Party, but they have already disbanded Pendulum to focus on it completely. A group not even a year old yet they are redefining dubstep and dance music. Their track “Internet Friends” quickly became a staple in many set lists and their newest EP, Rage Valley, is a game-changer. They worked with Swedish House Mafia to create “Antidote” which was another staple of the festival circuit earlier this year.
Knife Party makes the music that compels you to whomp, but also evokes emotion as the bass rattles your body. When they played the Ultra main stage it was apparent that they were going to be here for a while. They explore other genres like moombahton in their track “Sleaze” and go incredibly hard with songs like “Rage Valley” and “Centipede.” Hopefully we’ll see more of the duo as they continue to progress and improve their skills. They get my vote because they continue to successfully push the envelope in one of the newer electronic genres.
Many people might only know Shermanology from being featured in songs like “Can’t Stop Me” and “Blessed,” but this Dutch trio is much more than that. While Andy Sherman DJs, his cousin Leon Sherman and sister Dorothy Sherman sing vocals. Now this might seem different and weird in an electronic group, but at EDC New York they put on one of the best and most unique live sets I have ever seen. The addition of live vocalists completely changes the meaning of the word acapella. They aren’t layering tracks but instead bringing life to the ones they are playing. Hearing “Can’t Stop Me” sung live is truly magical and having Dorothy belt the lyrics to “Sweet Dreams” over “Rattle” is something that has to be heard live to be appreciated. With most DJs just standing up there turning knobs and pushing buttons, Shermanology is redefining what it means to be a DJ group — and they are doing it with their own, unique style.