2012 has been an exciting year for dance music, the scene has grown beyond any of our comprehensions, supplanting itself in popular culture, fueling the soundtrack of commercials, sitcoms, and even a Disney movie — shaking the foundation popular culture by establishing a new wave of music consumer. At the forefront of everything have been the artists, the true pioneers of the electronic dance music wave. With a scene as large and expansive as EDM, it was hard to honor only 50 – for every David Guetta or Calvin Harris there are droves of aspiring bedroom producers all doing their fair share of pushing the movement — simply by creating and sharing their art. With the EDM explosion officially in full swing in 2012, we saw countless new artists emerge, seasoned producers experiment with new sounds, and massive collaborations form that made crowning the “best” artist a nearly impossible task.
We’ve already covered 40 of the Biggest Artists of 2012 – hop past the break to see our picks for the final 10.
10. Steve Angello
In 2012, Steve Angello proved yet again that Size Matters, fostering the talents of a bevvy of up-and-coming progressive producers including Qulinez, Third Party and now Wayne & Woods. The head honcho of Size Records, and one third of the global phenomena Swedish House Mafia, Steve proved that even after garnering mainstream acclaim for tracks like “Yeah” and “Lights,” behind the decks is still where he finds himself most comfortable. Channeling the “Mezcal Kid,” Steve dominated the festival circuit in 2012 and continued to wow us with his dark and gritty club sets. Striking a delicate balance between mass appeal and keeping it real has landed Steve in the number 10 spot on our countdown.
The undisputed King of Dubstep, Sonny Moore, continued his meteoric rise to super stardom in 2012, closing out the Northeast’s summer with a diabolical set on the main stage at Electric Zoo in New York City. His sounds can be heard in everything from video games to Disney movies (including a cameo in this Fall’s “Wreck-It Ralph”) and his OWSLA imprint has been pioneering a new wave of savage bass music, fostering the talents of acts like KOAN Sound, Seven Lions, and The M Machine. It isn’t often that an artist with a sound as menacing as Skrillex’s establishes themselves as a household name, but the young screamo frontman-turned-producer has managed to implant the mainstream psyche with some of the most deftly produced sounds coming out of the EDM explosion. And those 3 Grammys didn’t hurt much either.
Starting 2012 with a 12-hour marathon set to chime in the New Year at Marquee, Kaskade continued to assert himself as American dance music’s primary export. Poster boy for the US scene, Kaskade’s style has come to represent America’s take on dance music. With the release of a slew of originals including “Room For Happiness,” “Eyes” and his unlikely collaboration with fellow Top 10 artist, Skrillex, on “Lick It,” the California native proved his abilities in the studio as well as behind the decks – holding down a residency at Marquee while performing in the US and Canada on his Freaks of Nature tour.
7. Calvin Harris
Few people remember Calvin Harris for his indie dance days when the young Scot released cheeky tracks like “I Get All The Girls,” but in 2011 Calvin became a household name with his collaboration with Rihanna “We Found Love,” a track that represented popular culture’s official acceptance of electronic dance music. One of the biggest draws in Vegas, Calvin maintained his residency at XS while continuing to produce some of our biggest tracks of 2012 including “Iron” with Nicky Romero and his best work to date, “Sweet Nothing” featuring the sinewy vocals of Florence Welch. His release, 18 Months, presented Calvin’s ascent into the limelight in a neat little package – documenting his growth from an independent producer to one of the most highly sought after artists in the dance music world.
In 2012, Avicii continued to dominate the American dance music scene, touring nationwide, headlining Ultra and performing at Radio City Music Hall, a distinction held by no other DJ/producer before him. With “Superlove” and “Silhouttes” both seeing official releases in 2012, and his long-awaited collaboration with Nicky Romero, “I Could Be The One,” being released in the final days of the year, Tim Bergling has once again proven that despite whatever biases you may have, there isn’t a person on the planet who doesn’t love an Avicii song the first time they hear it.
5. David Guetta
Love him or hate him, David Guetta has been one of the key players in pushing dance music to a global audience, making the electronic music sound viable to a mass market. Guetta pioneered the dance pop crossover, paving the way for countless collaborations and establishing a new paradigm in EDM. His release “Wild One Two” stormed Beatport and Billboard charts in 2012, gaining support from DJs the world over as well as mainstream radio appeal. He recently took home the first AMA for EDM, a milestone that (despite the Twitter backlash) served to bring more attention to dance music in the United States. It’s impossible to downplay Guetta’s role in moving the music forward – he has made it palatable for the masses, a feat that has resulted in the growth of an entire industry.
In 2012 the name Tiesto came to represent more than just one of the most prolific producers on the planet, it exploded into an international brand. Teaming up with Guess, Tijs pushed his brand into the fashion world, then moved on to design headphones with AKG, before finally partnering with (RED) to raise money for HIV/AIDS research in Africa. Tiesto’s Musical Freedom imprint was responsible for some of the biggest releases of 2012, rejuvenating the career of hardstyle masterminds, Showtek, as well as re-imagining his old side project, Allure. In a scene quickly becoming defined by crossover appeal, Tiesto did it best – skipping past the flavor of the month pop stars and collaborating with one of the biggest names in the music business, U2′s Bono, on their track “Pride.”
Afrojack continued to champion the Dutch house sound throughout 2012 with a slew of big releases including “Annie’s Theme,” “Rock The House” and “Can’t Stop Me” - a track that single-handedly launched the career of Shermanology. With a sound as iconic and accessible as Afrojack’s unique style of jump music, he continued to grow the J4CKED brand in 2012, headlining his own tour and dominating the US market. There is no better party music producer on the planet than Nick van de Wall and anyone who has seen him live can attest that his productions and energy behind the decks have the ability to evoke a sort of bleep-driven mania in crowds the world over.
The often out-spoken mau5trap head honcho, Joel Zimmerman, has dominated the dance music scene from the moment he began donning his now iconic mask. With the release of his latest album >album title goes here<, deadmau5 has re-asserted himself as one of dance music’s premiere artists. His no bullshit attitude and social media tirades aside, the mau5 has continued to impress with his expansive studio and U-Streamed production sessions, the most notable of which led to the hugely successful and groundbreaking “The Veldt.” Taking the concept of interaction with fans to an all new level, Joel used a fan’s submission as the vocal for one of his best productions to date, launching the career of Chris James and sparking the hopes of aspiring artists across the globe. One of the most in demand DJs in the world, deadmau5 continues to dominate the “event driven marketing” scene, a term he coined during Billboard’s FutureSound conference. With a headlining spot at this year’s Ultra Festival, and more than just a few more tricks up his heavily tattoo’d sleeves, 2013 is already shaping up to be another year cast beneath the shadow of his iconic mask.
1. Eric Prydz
Coming in at number 1 on our countdown is Eric Prydz, who’s 2012 saw him headlining a national US tour, Identity Festival, as well as the release of our number 1 album of the year, “Pryda.” His recent move to the United States has marked the talented producer’s official entry into the American scene. His Pryda Friends imprint continues to foster some of the most promising talent in dance music, while his Epic Radio Podcast represents progressive house at its best. In our opinion, Eric embodies everything that an EDM artist should be - exceptionally talented, passionate about his craft and true to his art. A visionary, Eric’s 2012 was a highlight reel of what could be some artist’s entire careers, every production he released in 2012 was met with critical acclaim, 3 of which landed on our Top 50 list. For all its squeals and bleeps, its mainstream popularity, its high energy, party-oriented aesthetic, dance music should really only ever be one thing — beautiful — and Eric Prydz makes just that… beautiful dance music.
But where’s Swedish House Mafia?!?
The real question is, “How do you rank a global phenomenon?” We recognize that Swedish House Mafia is likely the biggest dance music act in the world. Their final tour has sold out more shows in more countries than we can count and their tracks have defined the 2012 dance music landscape, but we were torn as to whether to represent the guys seperately or as Swedish House Mafia. In the end, we decided that since Steve, Seb and Ax are all juggernauts in their own right that it would be best to feature them as separate entities – plus SHM is like bringing a gun to a knife fight, it wouldn’t have been fair.