There are dance club songs that scream “Hit!” Tunes like “Can't Get You Out of My Head” by Kylie Minogue or “One More Time” by Daft Punk encompass everything that is larger-than-life about the clubland, from massive, happy synths to sing-along hooks to beats that force you to keep on dancing. Then there are the songs that are somehow become club hits despite their lack of obvious appeal. Maybe they stem from an unfashionable genre or maybe they're too lyrically introverted or otherwise strange to an immediate success. This list is dedicated to the latter, the unexpected club hits of the past decade that somehow managed to not only get the crowds dancing, but inspired numerous other artists in the process.
“Fuck the Pain Away”
It's hard to imagine now how weird Peaches' single “Fuck the Pain Away” was when it was released. It wasn't so much the lyrics, but the sound that was alternately disarming and mindblowing. The production on this song was shockingly minimal for the time, leaving the focus on lyrics that mix humor with heartache. Listening to this song years after the release begs the question, would Lady Gaga exist were it not for Peaches?
2. The Rapture
“House of Jealous Lovers”
This now-legendary single from The Rapture posed a possible problem upon its release. Was the beat too house for the indie rock kids? Were the vocals to screamo for the house crowd? Obviously, the answer to both was no. One of the songs that could not be escaped during the bulk of this decade “House of Jealous Lovers” was a landmark mash-up of styles that helped define the club sound of the decade.
When Ladytron released its debut album 604 in 2001, there wasn't that much diversity in the club world if you weren't into straightforward techno, house or hip-hop. Britpop clubs stuck more or less with the Blur, Pulp and Suede pantheon. Goth nights played oldies mixed with newer EBM and ethereal sounds. Then came Ladytron, a band that didn't fit in anywhere, and DJs across the board picked up their Krautrock-meets-synthpop sound. New club scenes formed and similar bands rose in the wake of the success of “Playgirl.”
“Hand to Phone”
Detroit duo ADULT. makes music that's roiled in neuroses. The music always has a tense edge to it. Vocalist Nicola Kuperus often sounds paranoid and the lyrics frequently depict anxiety-inducing situations. Despite the lack of happy clubland themes, “Hand to Phone” was still a major hit during the earlier portion of this decade, making its way to 2ManyDJs mixed CDs and the soundtrack for Appleseed.
“Bullet” (Ellen Allien Remix)
For years, Covenant was one of those bands that, despite its catchy songs and strong production, was hardly heard outside of goth and industrial clubs. Then “Bullet,” from their 2002 release Northern Light, ended up in the hands of DJ/producer Ellen Allien. Following that, even DJs like Felix da Housecat were dropping the Swedish EBM group on dance floors across the globe.
6. The Faint
Like Ladytron, The Faint didn't really fit in anywhere upon the release of Danse Macabre. “Agenda Suicide” itself is one of those club hits that, logically, shouldn't be a hit. It's a rock song released at a time when people weren't dancing to rock songs. More so, it has a death metal outro. When was the last time you heard anything remotely metal on the dance floor? The Faint should have been the dark rock band that climbed to the top of the charts. Unfortunately, that title went to The Killers.
7. Golden Boy and Miss Kittin
Emotionally detached female vocals were all over club records this decade, but what makes them so strange on this track from Golden Boy and Miss Kittin is that the French DJ is singing about the urge to kill. It might also be the only time we've heard someone reference The Misfits' classic “Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?” in a dance song.
8. The Knife
Like “Rippin Kittin,” The Knife's “Silent Shout” was such a brooding track that it had the potential to alienate many a part person. On top of that were the vocals, a weird, almost mechanical male-female tradeoff that was actually the result of manipulating one woman's voice.
9. The Avalanches
“Since I Left You”
The Avalanches weren't the first band to create a song entirely from samples, but “Since I Left You” was released years after a string of legal battles rendered the art of sampling completely out of fashion. That the Australian group was able to clear about 3500 samples for its debut, and so far only, album, Since I Left You, was no small feat either. According to The Avalanches MySpace page, they're still clearing samples for the sophomore effort.
10. Hercules and Love Affair
Antony Hegarty's powerful and forlorn voice has made his project Antony and the Johnsons one of the most critically acclaimed groups of the decade. Few, though, suspected he could do disco until Hercules and Love Affair. Though Hegarty contributed several tracks to DJ Andy Butler's debut as Hercules and Love Affair, “Blind” is the killer tune. It's far more disco than even this decade's genre revivalist could hope to produce and the lyrics are devastating.