The 11 Best Dance Songs of the Year

A few meager indie scraps from Grizzly Bear, Karen O and that Knife chick weren’t nearly enough to keep us warm in the economic ice age of 2009. Luckily, a few select artists knew just what we needed: to dance. R&B gained some weight, techno rosied its cheeks with dubstep, top-40 hip-hop adopted a latin flair, Ghostface got cuddly and Beyonce somehow got hotter the longer she role-played Sasha Fierce. Shivering in the shadow of all those big beats, experimental rock was trumped by old-school sex bangers this year — at which point the noblest of the pale skinnies did man up and jump in the fire.

1. “Sweet Dreams” Beyonce

Please don’t kill me, Kanye, but “Single Ladies” don’t got shit on “Sweet Dreams.” Beyonce’s sleepy, swirly underdog single technically made its debut on last year’s I Am… Sasha Fierce, but it wasn’t until the bluescreen blowout of its music video that “Dreams” could really flex its muscles.

After a hard-rock, light-as-a-feather intro (badass dove included) sets the theme, Beyonce enters her fitful shut-eye universe, that beautiful place where hair extensions are lost to the wind and stanky leg is the only way to get around. Like “Single Ladies” or the masturbatory “Videophone” (on which Beyonce rocks the tribal diapers and Lady Gaga makes a tranny-rific fool of herself), “Dreams” becomes synonymous with its video, until we find ourselves possessed with Her Hotness’ every body roll, even once we’ve backed away from the YouTube.

Now, if only shards of five-way mirror would fly past our hurricane manes, swept into a mind-controlled tidal wave as we undergo insta-3CPO costume change. But alas — there can be only one Sasha.

2. “El Ritmo No Perdona” Daddy Yankee

Of all the major players in reggaeton — Wisin y Yandel, Don Omar, Tito El Bambino — Daddy Yankee is generally the suckiest (even once you’ve forgiven the combed-flat gelly bangs and “Daddy Yankee punto com!” fillers). Yet somehow, he always seems to pull the ’ton track of the year out his “Crossroads” bucket hat.

In this case, we can pretty clearly blame the beat. “El Ritmo No Perdona” runs at a pace barely within the confines of danceability, but is all the more irresistible for that challenge — a gang of black Caribbean dudes pummel coked-out urban merengue so hard that the nearby video honeys begin to jerk around like puppets on strings. And just when we can’t keep up any longer, the beat drops into a slower, deeper grind (albeit ravaged by Yankee’s scream-o flow), whirlpooling our hips down the throat of a brass horn, always on its own accord.

The biggest loser in reggaeton is surprisingly the one to overcome the genre’s most grimacing simplicities, while at the same time — unlike the more experimental/respectable Calle 13 — never forgetting its main propósito: set our asses all a-shake.

3. “Pon De Floor” Major Lazer

Want to know what happens when a bunch of Jamaicans do too much E? Check the “Blue’s Clues”-gone-freakay video for “Pon de Floor,” a collaboration between sometime M.I.A. producers Diplo and Switch — one big happy-colored orgy with friend explosions and silly zipper noises. No tutu removal required.

Major Lazer’s more palatable single “Keep It Going Louder” does boast a cute-as-fuck cameo from Nina Sky and makes for a more mindless, less giggly grind, but after a quick memorization of “Pon de Floor”’s starts and stops, you’ll feel like the most sexy awkward robot on the dance floor. Save Sasha, of course.

4. “So Good” Electrik Red

Never thought I’d say it, but these bitches are the best thing since TLC. On their video for “So Good” — off How To Be a Lady: Volume 1 — Kyndra, Lesley, Naomi and Sarah are like four rays of juicy-ass sunshine, strutting between ropes and magical chairs and roped magical chairs. The Lil Wayne remix will certainly swing them the spotlight they deserve, but Weezy sort of just geeks all over their healthy, hearty R&B for the soul, and something of its purity is lost. I’d prefer they stick to laying across each others’ laps and fingerpainting each other’s ensembles, thank you.

5. “Empire State Of Mind” Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys

Ah, the joys of repping. Alicia Keys and Jay-Z made even the most devout West-Coasters wish for just a minute they were braving the streets of a Woody Allen movie (the old kind) for a few twinkly lit moments this holiday season. Then we learned we could just insert the name of our own small town into the operatic “New York” bit — then gesture to the nearest inspiring lights and girls that got ridden “like a bus route” in high school and now have the burp stains to prove it — and we could be just as proud as them shmancy cold-weather folk. Best way to both start a party and end a night. I got a feelin’! Oh wait. Wrong one.

6. “Spotlight” Gucci Mane

Gucci Mane’s brutish growl is nothing we haven’t heard before (in fact, Young Jeezy and Mike Jones already dragged that bullshit onto my blacklist many moons ago), but his eerie ability to gather the hottest hooksters in the game ’round his lame-ish campfire — all at once, all night long — is the work of a god. (And a damn charming agent.) Mane’s first year on the scene, he released two gluttonous full-lengths splitting its sides with melodious meats; not surprisingly, highlights see their guest star draw out his or her set as long as possible. Big Boi’s smart-perv come-ons ride the skittish “Shine Blockers” limo far into the sunset; Lil Wayne is the life of the leaners on the “Wasted” party bus; but you can’t beat Usher’s smooth talk on “Spotlight” — and just when I thought we’d forgotten how to make love in this club.

7. “Guest House” Ghostface Killah

8. “Lust For Life” Girls

9. “Lisztomania” Phoenix

10. “My Girls” Animal Collective

11. “Dime Si Te Vas Con El” Nigga Flex

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