meta-script5 Women Essential To Electronic Music: TOKiMONSTA, Shygirl, Nina Kraviz & More |
(Clockwise) Nina Kraviz, Shygirl, TOKiMONSTA, Annie Nightingale, Aluna
(Clockwise) Nina Kraviz, Shygirl, TOKiMONSTA, Annie Nightingale, Aluna.

Photos: Victor Boyko/Getty Images for MAX&CO; Jo Hale/Redferns; Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix; Peter Stone/Mirrorpix via Getty Images; Scott Dudelson/Getty Images


5 Women Essential To Electronic Music: TOKiMONSTA, Shygirl, Nina Kraviz & More

In celebration of Women's History Month, read on for five women working as DJs, producers, organizers and broadcasters whose contributions have shaped the dance and electronic space.

GRAMMYs/Mar 7, 2024 - 02:30 pm

A dance floor just isn’t the same without a bustling crowd of attendees bobbing to the beat. Nor would electronic music be electronic music without its culture-shifting women.

Women are effecting change while commanding dance floors, a duality inherent to the experience of being a woman in electronic music. Although women are becoming more visible across the genre — gracing the covers of editorial playlists, starting labels, and topping lineups — most do not operate in the limelight. Many, like some of the changemakers underscored below, work tirelessly behind the scenes toward a more equitable future. 

The women on this list span generations and creative roles, but are unified by their propulsive contributions to the electronic space. By persisting against the status quo and excelling at their respective crafts, they have and will continue to expand what’s possible for women in electronic music. 

To honor Women’s History Month, highlights some of the many needle-moving women in electronic music, as well as one rising talent, working as DJs, producers, organizers, and broadcasters.

Annie Nightingale

Radio Broadcaster & Television Presenter

"This is the woman who changed the face and sound of British TV and radio broadcasting forever. You can’t underestimate it," fellow BBC Radio 1 broadcaster, Annie Mac, wrote in an Instagram post honoring the life and legacy of the late Annie Nightingale. Nightingale died on Jan. 11, 2024, at her home in London. She was 83.

There is nothing hyperbolic about Mac’s characterization of Nightingale. After beginning her career as a journalist, Nightingale went on to have an enduring impact on the airwaves and was a pioneering presence in radio and television broadcasting. In addition to becoming BBC Radio 1’s first woman presenter, Nightingale, who joined the station in 1970, was also its longest-serving host. She maintains the Guinness Book of Records’ world record for the"Longest Career as a Radio Presenter (Female). Nightingale notably also co-hosted BBC’s weekly TV show, "The Old Grey Whistle Test." 

Across her six decades in broadcasting, Nightingale became both a trailblazer and, later, an emblem of what was possible for women in the industry. A celebrated tastemaker who took her talents to the decks, DJing festivals around the world, Nightingale paved the way for the following generations of women broadcasters and radio DJs while famously turning listeners on to releases running the gamut of genres: punk, grime, acid house, and everything in between. In 2021, she established an eponymous scholarship (“The Annie Nightingale Presents Scholarship”) to empower women and non-binary DJs in electronic music. The three recipients selected annually are featured in a special edition of “Annie Nightingale Presents” on Radio 1.

“Ever since I began, I have wanted to help other young broadcasters passionate about music to achieve their dreams on the airwaves, and now we at Radio 1 are to put that on a proper footing,” Nightingale said at the time of the scholarship’s foundation.

Beyond broadcasting and DJing, Nightingale also embraced the written word. She published three memoirs, Chase the Fade (1981), Wicked Speed (1999), and Hey Hi Hello (2020). 



That women in the dance/electronic industry face a disproportionate amount of adversity compared to their male counterparts is no secret. These hurdles are hard enough to clear without a rare and serious cerebrovascular condition that significantly increases one’s risk for sudden aneurysm or stroke. But in 2015, TOKiMONSTA confronted both. Her sobering diagnosis — Moyamoya disease — necessitated not one, but two brain surgeries. The interventions left her unable to talk, write, or understand speech and music. 

Yet three months later, after slow and steady strides to recovery, TOKiMONSTA took the stage in Indio Valley to play to a crowd of 15,000 at Coachella 2016.

A beacon of both tenacity and invention, the name TOKiMONSTA bespeaks a laundry list of culture-shifting accomplishments in the electronic space. She was notably the first woman to sign to Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label, where her first album, Midnight Menu, debuted in 2010. In 2019, she earned her first-ever GRAMMY nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album — the first Asian American producer to be nominated in the Category.

Over the years, achievement has gone hand-in-hand with advocacy for TOKiMONSTA. The Korean American electronic experimentalist has been vocal about gender inequities in the music business and was profiled in the 2020 documentary Underplayed. Directed by Stacey Lee, the production focused on dance music’s pervasive and persistent gender imbalances through women DJ/producers’ first-hand accounts of inequality. 

Nina Kraviz

DJ/Producer & Label Head

Equal parts crate digger, disruptor, and needle mover, Nina Kraviz is writing history for women in electronic music in real time. The Siberian dentist-turned-DJ-producer, whose discography dates back to 2007 (her first 12’, "Amok," was released via Greg Wilson’s B77 label), isn’t just one of the first names to break in the global techno scene — she’s also one of the first women in techno to become a headline act. 

Kraviz’s toes have touched some of electronic music’s most venerated stages, ranging from Tomorrowland to Gashouder to Pacha Ibiza, not to mention places off the genre’s beaten path. Her 2018 headline stint at the base of the Great Wall of China is a flashpoint of her rich history of propulsive contributions to the electronic space, and one as anomalous as her ever-off-the-cuff sets. Live, the avant-gardist blends techno, acid, psytrance, experimental, and house in blistering, maximalist fashion, slipping in releases from her own imprint, трип ("Trip"), along the way. 

Kraviz has spearheaded the subversive label since 2014, where she’s deftly blurred the lines between emergent and established talent across its tally of releases. In 2017, she launched Galaxiid, an experimental sublabel of трип, an endeavor that has further substantiated her status as one of electronic music’s finest and most eccentric selectors. 


Singer/Songwriter, DJ/Producer & Label Head 

After making an early name for herself as one-half of the electronic duo AlunaGeorge, Aluna Francis, known mononymously as Aluna, has compellingly charted her course as a solo act since 2020. As she’s sung, song written, and DJ/produced her way to prominence, the Wales-born triple-threat continues to demonstrate her artistic ability while re-emphasizing electronic’s Black, Latinx, and LGBTQIA+ roots, flourishing amid her own creative renaissance.

In 2020, Aluna penned an open letter addressing the lack of diversity and pervasive inequality in the dance/electronic ecosystem. Following a lack of true change, Aluna has tirelessly extended her hand to acts from underrepresented groups in an effort to diversify the white, heteronormative dance/electronic industry. Near the end of 2023, in partnership with EMPIRE, Aluna founded Noir Fever to "feed the future of Black Dance Music." The label will broadly embrace Black dance music, with an emphasis on female and LGBTQIA+ artists. 

"Every time I found myself on one of those dry, outdated festival lineups or playlists with no other Black women, I’d ask myself, what would have to change for this to not happen again?How can I create a sustainable pathway and not just an opportunity for tokenism?" Aluna shared in a series of tweets announcing Noir Fever last November. "It was obvious to me that a label would give me the opportunity to do that and ultimately ensure the hottest new Black Dance Music is being supported." 


Singer/Songwriter, Rapper, DJ/Producer

In one breath, she’s opening for Beyoncé on the Renaissance World Tour. In another, she’s toplining a glossy club hit. In yet another, she’s cerebrally delivering bars with both control and cadence. Shygirl’s wheelhouse is a multidimensional kaleidoscope of artistic abilities: she can sing, she can write songs, she can rap, and she can DJ/produce. Simply put, there’s not much that the vanguard of experimental electronic music in the making can’t do. 

The 30-year-old multi-hyphenate, studied under Sega Bodega, Arca, and the late SOPHIE. She expertly flits between hyperpop, grime, industrial hip-hop, electronica, and R&B, among other styles, on her gamut-running releases. But Shygirl does so with idiosyncrasy and flair — two traits that define her approach and distinguish her singular sound. Even Rihanna has taken notice — Shygirl’s 2016 single alongside Bodega, "Want More," soundtracked one of Fenty Beauty’s advertisements in 2019.

Shygirl's Club Shy EP landed on Feb. 16; she helms a party series of the same name that started in East London and has since stopped by Los Angeles, Brazil, Chicago, and New York. 

Though Shygirl no longer runs the label arm of NUXXE, the hybrid club collective/record label she co-founded made waves following its establishment in 2016. In addition to releasing Shygirl’s first single ("Want More"), NUXXE pushed out other trajectory-solidifying productions, including her debut EP, Cruel Practice, while empowering her with a fluency in label operations that will serve her well as she increasingly expands her electronic footprint. 

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Collage of leading and rising hyperpop artists
Artists essential to hyperpop.

Graphic: The Recording Academy


Get Glitchy With These 7 Artists Essential To Hyperpop

The brilliance of hyperpop is in its inspired, zany chaos. Listen to these seven hyperpop artists changing the game and leading the genre.

GRAMMYs/Mar 24, 2023 - 03:46 pm

It bubbles, fizzes, pangs, moans, screeches, strikes — hyperpop is constantly slithering through modernity toward new light. Forging futuristic soundscapes, the subgenre harnesses the power of experimentation with a distinct mission of upheaval.

With its origins commonly traced back to the late trailblazer SOPHIE and English musician A.G. Cook, hyperpop fuses electronic, hip-hop, and other genres into brash beauty. Hyperpop's cartoonish dynamism embraces the eccentric and bold, but it also grasps at something revolutionary. Its search for escapism is parallel to an auditory, avant-garde iconoclasm.

Whether it's riding a viral TikTok wave or getting boosted to new audiences on Spotify-curated playlists, the quickly-evolving genre has increasingly resonated with people, especially with members of Gen Z and the queer community. Though some characterize it as a microgenre, it's evident that hyperpop is expanding rapidly into the mainstream. 

In honor of hyperpop's dedication to fulfilling curiosity, here are seven enterprising mainstays of the subgenre.

Hannah Diamond

A poster girl for A.G. Cook's PC Music label, Hannah Diamond underscores hyperpop's futurism. Her music's hyperreality blends bubblegum pop and outlandish experimentalism, crafting records that feel cutesy but earnest. Her work cradles a characteristic soft sweetness, but at other times, she's not afraid to lean into a grittier, harsher production.

Diamond guides a bouncy nostalgia across surrealism, exploring how identity develops on and alongside the internet — her '90s aesthetic invokes images of MSN Messenger, MySpace, and moodboards. On tracks like "Hi," Diamond questions reality and love from a lonely bedroom, braiding together confusion and longing.

Everything about Diamond's music feels glossy and futuristic. When you listen to her hyperpop endeavors, its experimentalism parallels the thrill of notifications blowing up your first-ever phone under your desk at school.

Alice Longyu Gao

Since beginning to release music in 2018, Alice Longyu Gao has never looked back. The Chinese multi-hyphenate channels their ambition into concentrated, zealous hyperpop songs, signing onto 100 Gecs' Dylan Brady's label Dog Show Records in 2019.

Gao's sprawling artistic career ranges from fashion to DJing to photography to experiential art installation, but their heart lies within music. The creative's distorted vocals flicker over textured tracks, pierced by everything from the quick squeal of turntables to clownlike honking car horns.

Whether Gao's keeping their "100 Boyfriends" on their wrist or drinking "Rich B— Juice" with 100 Gecs' Laura Les (the latter song landing a spot on Lady Gaga's 2020 "Women of Choice" Apple Music playlist), the musician is rapidly expanding their vision with vigor.


Shygirl's music swims in restless fantasy. Known for working with producers such as Sega Bodega and Arca, the English singer/songwriter shapes everything from hyperpop to deconstructed club to grime. Her whirlwind raps flicker with idiosyncrasy and insouciance, and while she might not fall explicitly into the hyperpop genre, Shygirl's style is so creatively modern that she remains a key influence to the genre.

Shygirl released a flurry of innovative singles starting back in 2016, deciding two years later to quit her day job at a modeling agency to pursue music. Since then, her work has explored the depths of desire with both a classic pop feel and distinctive experimental edge, and she cites Mariah Carey, Aphex Twin, Róisín Murphy, and Björk as a few of her core influences.

Juggling a tour in support of her debut album Nymph with managing her co-founded record label Nuxxe, it's clear Shygirl is a busy girl — so try to keep up.


You never know where a drunk DM might take you, but in Naomi Namasenda's case, it got her signed to PC Music. While the label is associated with hyperpop, the Swedish musician — who mononymously goes by her last name — transcends categorization.

Crafting calculated musical chaos as a double Scorpio, Namasenda always knows how to find the fun in life. Her affinity for action movies helped inspire her 2021 album Unlimited Ammo, a vessel of experimental ambition filled with everything from gunshots to glittery pulses.

Though her vocals might technically glitch into voids on her tracks, Namasenda's voice as an artist is stronger than ever. As the first Black musician to sign to PC Music, Namasenda is reminding us how boundless hyperpop really is.


Injecting hyperpop with pop punk, daine is a rising master of the bittersweet.

Angst underlies the Filipino-Australian musician's scream-ridden, electric tracks, and her demanding songwriting unlocks a rawness that cuts skin-deep. Having worked closely with mentor Charli XCX, it's no wonder daine's plunges into pop feel so exhilarating and ultra contemporary.

On her debut mixtape Quantum Jumping, which features songs she wrote back when she was a teenager, her voice wanders through waves of electronica, knowing when to pull back or escalate. Balancing delicacy and intensity, daine manages to find stability amid heavy trap and emo influences, though she's increasingly shifting into a fitting pop sound. Her work is often described as "otherworldly" — a word that perfectly captures her music's punky escapism.


A former high school musical theatre kid, COBRAH was meant for the stage. Her concerts remix and reinvent songs live, bubbling with a sweaty energy that makes it impossible not to dance.

Yet, even if you're not witnessing COBRAH on stage, this spirit carries into her studio recorded tracks with ease. Characterized by some as "BDSM pop," COBRAH's music is heavily inspired by the fetish club scene (see: "GOOD PUSS" and "WET"),  and her slinky, sticky beats echo with pop, cyberpunk, and disco.

Impulsive at its finest, COBRAH's hyperpop ventures throb with magnetism. Some of her songs channel nervous excitement — like "DEBUT," in which she describes her experience casually dating curious straight women — but most of her music channels a radiant confidence.

The multi-talented artist also takes pride in her independence, self-releasing music via her own record label, GAGBALL Records. From sewing her outfits to booking venues, she serves as her own creative director and designer — proving that you really can do it all.


Oh me, oh my! From getting her start on SoundCloud to headlining international shows, Slayyyter streamlines sultry, gleeful lyrics over hyperpop production. With sensual vivacity, the musician always carries herself with an irresistible confidence that translates to her live shows.

Inspired by icons like Britney Spears, Madonna and Lady Gaga, Slayyyter is determined to change the pop soundscape with her futuristic vision. Frequently collaborating with producer Ayesha Erotica, Slayyyter writes music that italicizes sexual freedom and playfulness — a self-declared "Throatzillaaa," she's "popping bottles and f— models" on "Daddy AF" and reminding a boy that she's the "boss b—" while he's trapped in the "Dog House.''

With music this neon and campy, it's safe to say that Slayyyter slays as a hyperpop staple putting the petty back in pop.

Sophie Created A Boundless, Genderless Future For Pop

Moore Kismet, TSHA, Doechii
Clockwise from left: Moore Kismet, Doechii , Shygirl, TSHA, PinkPantheress


5 Emerging Artists Pushing Electronic Music Forward: Moore Kismet, TSHA, Doechii & Others

Incorporating multiple genres and styles, these five emerging artists are not afraid to push the boundaries in electronic and dance music.

GRAMMYs/Jun 22, 2022 - 05:23 pm

Contemporary dance and electronic music has dramatically changed from its origins. Major cities around the world — including Belgium, Miami, Las Vegas and Chicago — have capitalized on the genre’s popularity within the last decade to hold large electronic music festivals like Tomorrowland, Spring Awakening, Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra Music Festival, each of which gather  tens of thousands of fans.

But while electronic music continues to serve as a destination experience for many young listeners, electronic music’s origins actually begin within the Black community. Evolving in the 1980s from the cultural decline of disco (another Black genre of music), electronic genres like house (born in Chicago) and techno (born in Detroit) gained footing with a multicultural collection of fans interested in progressing the sounds of the dance floor. 

Although some of the biggest contemporary stars in dance music may be young white men, some of the genre’s most interesting — and diverse — performers are only just emerging right now.

Black artists have continued to push the sound forward, incorporating other genres and elements while staying true to dance music’s roots. In celebration of Black Music Appreciation Month, here are five emerging artists pushing electronic and dance music forward. 

Moore Kismet

Born Omar Davis, Southern California native Moore Kismet is a non-binary and pansexual superstar in-the-making with a progressive sound and message. A musical prodigy, Kismet’s artistic journey began at just 7 years old with a family laptop, a copy of the production software Fruity Loops and a self-taught practice.

Since then, Kismet has released multiple singles and EPs, including "Character" in 2019 and Vendetta for Cupid and Flourish) in 2021. Kismet has racked up major festival appearances, including Lollapalooza and Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, making them the youngest performer at both events. Earlier this year, Kismet collaborated with celebrated singer/songer Tate McRae on the downtempo pseudo-ballad "Parallel Heartbreak." Featuring vocals by singer Pauline Herr, the track is illustrative of Kismet’s unique, pop-leaning sound. Now, at 17 years old, Kismet is set to release their debut album, UNIVERSE, on June 24. 


A lot can change in four years. Just look at London-based DJ and producer TSHA (aka Teisha Matthews), who has grown from fledgling musician to celebrated artist since her debut EP, 2018’s Dawn, was released. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise to most listeners.

Matthews’ love of electronic music (and creative drive) began at a young age, with a mother who loved Carl Cox and Skrillex and an older brother who DJed house, garage and jungle. 

As she got older, TSHA began to experiment on her own, eventually creating the moniker TSHA for her charismatic blend of '90s deep house and techno. 

It’s only been up since then, with shoutouts from media darlings like Annie Mac and Zane Lowe, and fellow electronic artists like Bonobo. Last month, Matthews released fabric presents TSHA, a 25-track, house-leaning DJ mix featuring fellow emerging and established artists. Her new single "Boyz," included on the mix is a pleasant tune sure to please most listeners. 


PinkPantheress is unafraid to blend genres as disparate as house, garage, R&B and pop. The London-based musician has made a name for herself, especially on social media, among young fans who’ve taken to using her surprisingly hefty and heartfelt songs as the perfect soundtrack to the minutiae of their lives. Early singles "Just a Waste," "Break it Off," and "Pain" went viral on TikTok, with the latter crossing over to the UK Singles Chart, reaching  No. 35. That’s no small feat for a then-unsigned artist.

Since that early success, PinkPantheress has also released her super-short debut mixtape, To Hell With It, which has garnered critical acclaim for its abundance of memorable melodies and her singular, breathy vocals. As an artist on the rise, PinkPantheress is not afraid to stand out from her fellow artists, mixing moods, harmonies and genres with an ease that illuminates her love of electronic music. 


Few artists can "do it all" quite like Shygirl. Born Blane Muise, this English rapper, DJ, singer/songwriter and Nuxxe record label head has quietly worked in the underground, experimental electronic music world establishing her singular brand of music.

Blending elements of house, grime, club and hyperpop, Muise first gained recognition for collaborations with artists such as Arca, Sega Bodega and the late genius Sophie. Since then, she has released two EPs, 2018’s Cruel Practice and 2020’s Alias. This September, she’ll drop her first full-length, Nymph. "Firefly," the first single from the album, is a glitchy yet catchy wonder, perfectly capturing Shygirl’s enduring appeal and a perfect complement for those dreamy long days of summer. 


It can take a lot for a musician to break through amongst the glut of distractions, stimuli and content available online. And yet Tampa-born Doechii (a.k.a. Jaylah Hickmon) — who raps and sings — did just that earlier this year with her provocative, groundbreaking music video for the frenetic yet brilliant single "Crazy."

The 3-minute stunner, filled with nudity and violence was a perfect introduction to Doechii’s music, which crosses genres and boundaries with ease. Immediately garnering controversy, the video was banned by YouTube from trending and monetization. "Crazy is about un-contained power, creativity and confidence. People call you crazy when they fear you or they don’t understand you," she said about the track and video on Instagram. "So when I use it in the song, I’m reflecting that energy back on them to show them themselves." 

However, not all of the Top Dawg Entertainment (home of Kendrick Lamar, SZA and Isaiah Rashad) artist’s music is so controversial. Another 2022 single, "Persuasive," has gone viral on TikTok for its uplifting, empowering message. Although she’s already independently released two collections of music, Doechii didn’t garner mainstream attention until the last two years or so, making her forthcoming debut record all the more exciting. 

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Dua Lipa, Donna Summer, Loleatta Holloway & Aluna

(L-R) Dua Lipa, Donna Summer, Loleatta Holloway & Aluna

Photo design: Lauryn Alvarez


Love To Love Them, Baby: From Donna Summer To Dua Lipa, Meet The Women Singers Who Shaped (And Continue to Shape) Dance Music

Decades before Dua Lipa was born, disco began as a musical movement led by iconic divas like Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor and Thelma Houston to create a sound for spaces in which Black, Latinx and queer audiences sought refuge and escape

GRAMMYs/Mar 30, 2021 - 10:47 pm

Earlier this month, on Music’s Biggest Night, Dua Lipa teleported us from our living rooms and yearlong quarantine to Studio 2054, her homage to New York City’s legendary Studio 54 nightclub where disco thrived from 1977–1980. In a stunning visual display entailing costume changes and dramatic dance interludes, Lipa performed two songs (“Levitating,” “Don’t Start Now”) from her GRAMMY-winning album, Future Nostalgia.

“I wanted to do something that felt fresh and new,” Lipa told last year, “something that touched on a memory, something that always rings so true to me, especially in my childhood.” Her dancefloor inspiration was integral to the perfect storm that was a 2020 disco-pop revival, with artists like Doja Cat and Victoria Monet also trying on the groove for size and dancefloor veterans Jessie Ware, Róisín Murphy and Kylie Minogue showing us how it’s done.

Related: Jessie Ware On Returning To Her Dance Roots And Continuing To Learn

The success of these recent releases is validation for strong women vocalists who make dance hits spanning multiple decades, sounds and perspectives. Though the genre has evolved over the years, women singers remain a constant. And while they’re not always given their due, it’s their voices we remember, their lyrics we sing and their legacies we celebrate.

Decades before Lipa was born, disco began as a musical movement of four-on-the-floor rhythms, deep synthesizers and lush melodies combining to create a sound for spaces in which Black, Latinx and queer audiences sought refuge and escape. What started underground made its way to the top of the charts and radio airwaves, thanks in large part to disco divas and their soul-stirring hooks.

The indisputable queen of them all was Donna Summer, who catapulted to international superstardom in the ‘70s with classics including the erotic epic “Love to Love You, Baby,” siren-like “I Feel Love” and the aptly steamy “Hot Stuff.” Together with GRAMMY-winning Italian producer Giorgio Moroder, she brought the sound of urban counterculture to middle America and beyond by simple musical seduction; her voice was warm and sensual, disguising disco’s radical message of liberation to unsuspecting listeners.

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“This is it, look no further,” Brian Eno reportedly declared to David Bowie after hearing “I Feel Love” for the first time. “This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next 15 years.” It was an accurate prediction of Summer’s impact. A bona fide hit machine, she charted 32 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 (including four No. 1s) over the course of her career and nabbed 18 GRAMMY nominations, winning five.

While “I Feel Love” radiated euphoria, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”—the first (and only) winner of the Best Disco Recording GRAMMY—was a timeless anthem for hard times. Its message transcended the era and also spoke to the moment. "The problems that we shared during the day,” Gaynor said, “we came together in the evening, to overcome together, or to get away together, and one of the ways we came together was on the disco dancefloor."

Sister Sledge, Anita Ward, Thelma Houston and Cheryl Lynn each had disco hits of their own, cooing in sultry tones across mirrorball-lit dancefloors. But being a disco diva was about more than being a singer: they were powerful, fabulous and aspirational. Long after disco’s heyday, the legacy of their artistry lives on through new-school chanteuses like Lipa, Ware, Minogue and Murphy.

The party eventually came to an end, as disco’s ubiquity in the ‘70s prompted a racist backlash in 1979 that abruptly led to its mainstream downfall. After some time in obscurity, club hits came back with a vengeance in the ‘90s as dance music’s next evolution: house music.

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Martha Wash was the powerhouse voice behind two of the decade’s biggest hits, Black Box’s “Everybody Everybody” and C+C Music Factory’s “Everybody Dance Now (Gonna Make You Sweat).” Both songs, released in 1990, topped the Billboard Hot 100 and charted in the Top 10 internationally. While these achievements should have boosted Wash’s profile as an artist, the tracks’ producers had used her vocal recorded from studio demos without crediting her. Adding insult to injury, they cast other women to dance and lip-sync in Wash’s place for their music videos and live performances.

Loleatta Holloway, a vocalist best known from her ‘70s disco hits (including “Hit and Run” and “Runaway” with The Salsoul Orchestra), had faced a similar situation the previous year when Black Box sampled her 1980 single “Love Sensation” without permission on their U.K. No. 1, “Ride on Time.” Believing they were entitled to both compensation and credit for their work, regardless of it being a sample or a demo, Wash and Holloway each successfully sued the artists and their respective labels, winning both credit and financial settlement. Wash’s victory was bigger than herself; it set a precedent enshrining that record labels are responsible for assigning proper vocal credit for all releases, regardless of how the vocal recording was made.

As Holloway and Wash were writing new rules for vocalists, a singer/songwriter named Crystal Waters was working a government job by day while writing her own club hits on the side. Her second single, “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless),” a socially conscious house track based on a true story, has a deceptively simple hook that burrows itself in your brain. Released in 1991, it was the first of Waters’ twelve No. 1 singles on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart, including “100% Pure Love” and “What I Need.” Like fellow dance music singers Ultra Naté and CeCe Peniston, Waters took four-on-the-floor tracks to the next level with pop-structured lyrics that were cathartic, catchy and universally relatable.

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During this time, Madonna and Janet Jackson approached the dance charts from a pop perspective. Both known for their theatrical performance style and vocal prowess as much as for their versatility, they could drop a ballad one moment and a club-ready track the next, from Madonna’s “Vogue” and “Express Yourself” to Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” and “Throb.” These expert shapeshifters paved the way for future chameleons like Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Beyoncé, pop artists who stepped onto the dancefloor with tracks like “Born This Way,” “Till the World Ends” and “Run the World (Girls),” respectively.

Beyoncé dabbled in dance music, but her Destiny’s Child bandmate Kelly Rowland opted for a fully immersive experience, reinventing herself as a solo artist with a fresh, pioneering sound. In 2008, producer David Guetta, a well-established club DJ in his native France, had recently cracked the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time with “Love is Gone” and was looking for a bigger and better sequel.

That summer, Rowland went clubbing in Cannes, France at the club where Guetta was DJing. She became particularly enamored with a track he played during his set, the instrumental version of what would become their 2009 collaboration “When Love Takes Over.” She asked to write and record vocals for it, the final result being a big-room serenade sweetened with his piano melody but commanded by her euphoric, heart-swelling chorus.

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“When I finished producing it, we were like, ‘Wow, we have a monster hit,’” Guetta said in a 2009 interview. “We could feel that it was really, really big.” More than an anthem, “When Love Takes Over” was the launchpad for America’s EDM boom, a neon era of radio-friendly dance-pop that could also bang on club dancefloors and festival stages. The song topped 15 charts across 12 countries, including Billboard’s US Dance Club Songs, and was nominated for Best Dance Recording at the 2010 GRAMMY Awards show.

Rihanna was also looking to take her music up a few BPMs after her 2009 album Rated R. Her first venture into EDM, 2010’s “Only Girl (In the World),” produced by Stargate and Sandy Vee, was a success, eventually winning Best Dance Recording at the 2011 GRAMMY Awards show. For her 2011 album Talk That Talk, Rihanna recruited Calvin Harris, a Scottish producer who had achieved critical acclaim and A-list studio sessions but who had yet to break through with a global hit. Harris produced two singles on the album: the winding, acid-electro house track “Where Have You Been” and “We Found Love,” on which Rihanna bares her vulnerable falsetto. They reunited for Harris’ massive summer hit (penned by Taylor Swift), “This Is What You Came For” in 2016.

Watch: Ellie Goulding Talks Songwriting, Loving Skrillex & Björk & Growing Up On Electronic Music

Rowland’s relationship with Guetta, and Rihanna’s with Harris, was symbiotic. Rowland and Rihanna each became early adopters of a fire-blazing dance-pop phenomenon while Guetta and Harris got to increase their profiles with a new, large and lucrative American audience hungry for more. Hoping to find similar success, pop artists like Ariana Grande, Ellie Goulding and Kelis paired with Guetta, Harris, Zedd, Skrillex and more in the early 2010s. As dance music became more popular, the dynamic between producer and popstar shifted and producers became the popstars themselves, though a vocalist was usually not far behind.

In the current second-wave EDM era, where white men still sit at the top, Aluna has made it her mission to change how dance music perceives and treats women artists, especially Black women artists, asserting their importance even when it isn't obvious. “She’s there in the lyrics, she’s there in the voice, sometimes you see her in a video, but you don’t see her right there in the middle,” she told Billboard last year. “That’s really the shift we need to make.”

Aluna was best known to the world as one-half of electronic-pop outfit AlunaGeorge. Her cherubic vocals are instantly recognizable whether she’s singing on their own songs, such as “You Know You Like It” and “Attracting Flies,” or appearing on Disclosure’s “White Noise.”

In 2020, she made a huge statement by embarking on her solo career and releasing her debut album, Renaissance, that October. Tired of fielding daily requests from people who “wanted [her] voice, not [her] face. Not [her] Blackness,” Aluna made herself the record’s focal point as the main artist and producer rather than simply feature on different producers’ songs.

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Read More: Aluna On New Album 'Renaissance' & Making Dance Music Inclusive Again

Whereas Aluna has beamed across radio airwaves worldwide, Anabel Englund has long been the voice of dance music’s underground. As a member of tech house supergroups Hot Natured and Pleasure State, the singer/songwriter’s smoldering tone and earworm melodies are the centerpiece of songs like “Electricity” and “Reverse Skydiving,” both of which she co-wrote.

Englund released her debut album, Messing With Magic, last October, and landed her first Billboard No. 1 on the Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart that same month with syrupy house chiller “Picture Us.” “Working with a group, I have to share my energy as part of a whole,” she said. “Being on my own, I’m able to harness my energy into what I have to say.” Like Aluna, Englund assumed co-production duties on the album in addition to singing and songwriting. Her former bandmates make appearances throughout while she remains the marquee name, never being overshadowed.

A more recent arrival to the scene, Lipa dabbled in dance music before diving headlong into Future Nostalgia’s disco-inspired sounds, including on her 2017 self-titled debut album (“Hotter Than Hell,” “New Rules”). In 2018, she collaborated with Harris and Silk City (Diplo and Mark Ronson), respectively, on the ‘90s-house-influenced hits “One Kiss” and “Electricity.” The latter song won Best Dance Recording at the 2019 GRAMMY Awards show and in a big look for dance music, Lipa performed “One Kiss” during the main ceremony. To cap the night, she also won the GRAMMY for Best New Artist. Between house and disco, Lipa has provided two of dance music’s foundational genres a massive revitalized platform in the pop world.

Long after disco’s prime, Summer’s captivating artistry lives on in chanteuses like Lipa. Meanwhile, the voices and lyrics of Aluna and Englund pick up where Crystal Waters left off, and Wash and Holloway’s legacy can be heard in a new generation of house music divas like Karen Harding, Alex Mills and Kaleena Zanders. Just like Lipa showed on the GRAMMYs stage, each of these singers proves that the women on dance records are capable and deserving of the spotlight, hopefully always getting brighter than the ones that shone on the many women before them.

The Women Essential To Reggae And Dancehall 

Carla Morrison

Carla Morrison


Photo: Esteban Calderon


Bootsy Collins, Carla Morrison, Rico Nasty & More:'s Favorite Conversations Of 2020

Far-reaching interviews with ARASHI, New Found Glory, Nathy Peluso, Grimes, Busta Rhymes, Aluna and others captured the defining music and moments of 2020

GRAMMYs/Dec 29, 2020 - 05:00 am

While 2020 was an incredibly difficult year, it was also filled with poignant dialogue and tons of great new music. To close out the year, is looking back on our favorite interviews and stories, which collectively captured the defining music and moments of 2020. It's impossible to choose all our favorites from the plethora of engaging and informative conversations we've had with artists this year. Instead, we're highlighting some of the standouts for you.

Here are some of our favorite conversations and stories from 2020, hand-picked by the editorial team.

Rico Nasty | Photo: Jason Carman

Senior Editor John Ochoa's Picks

Welcome To Rico Nasty's Nightmare Vacation

The Maryland-born rapper spoke to about her debut album, Nightmare Vacation, the evolution of her sound, the cultural connection between her music and fashion and the new era of women-led rap music.

"I feel like life is dated by what a person thinks they should be. They find themselves in a 'nightmare vacation.' They find themselves surrounded by a bunch of the stuff that they thought they would love once they got it, but they realized that that wasn't what they wanted—it was what somebody else wanted ... 

"A woman's voice, it is what it is. Whether it's rap or whatever it is, the confidence that women give other women, it's unmatched ... I feel like the world needs women's music to heal as well. The early 2000s had so much women's music and girls were so powerful, and the world just felt better. I'm praying for that." —Rico Nasty

Selena Forever: Remembering The Latin Pop Icon 25 Years Later

On the 25th anniversary of her passing, honored Selena in an industry round-table tribute featuring the artists, creatives and journalists she inspired through her music and art.

"While Selena's music traveled internationally, her real influence lies in her impact within the United States. Because she was a homegrown star, she was widely recognized both by Latin and non-Latin fans. Selena was an anomaly: Bilingual and bicultural, she not only looked like her fans, she was like them. That relatability was transformative for Latin pop culture.

"Thanks to Selena, for the first time, perhaps ever, U.S.-born Latinas had a role model they could aspire to be. Two generations later, Selena's impact is tangible. Dozens of prominent figures—from Becky G to Jennifer Lopez to Leslie Grace to Selena Gomez—point to Selena as their direct influence. Selena's legacy has been fundamental in creating a new movement of U.S.-born Latin artists who today, 25 years after her death, are collectively reaping success and still naming her as the precursor of their achievements" —Leila Cobo, VP Latin Industry Lead at Billboard

EXCLUSIVE: Wale Pens Personal Letter About His Powerful "Sue Me" Video: "There Are Two Different Americas"

To highlight the urgency and underlying message of change within the timely visual, the GRAMMY-nominated rapper called out the "two different Americas" and explained why he continues "rooting for my people" in his own words.

"It's not that we predicted this racist world with [the] 'Sue Me' [video], because it's been happening for years. We just highlighted it before the sh*t really hit the fan a couple of months ago. Right now, it seems like, as Black people, we are learning to love ourselves a little bit more. I'm reminding myself that I'm good enough. It's been crazy for so long. We lost a lot of hope and too many people. At the same time, a lot of human beings are finally coming together now. That's one thing I am grateful for.

I'm still rooting for us." —Wale

J-Pop Legends ARASHI Talk New Single "Whenever You Call," Working With Bruno Mars And The Exploding Asian Entertainment Industry

ARASHI's Jun Matsumoto told about the group's expansion into the U.S. and Western markets and the "mini-reinventions" that have evolved the band for more than 20 years.

"The song ["Whenever You Call"] actually really speaks well to people who are stuck in those [quarantine] situations that, no matter what, there is a way to transcend those barriers, transcend physical distance, transcend racial divides and all of the things that are troubling people around the world. The spirit of togetherness and the spirit of being willing to actually come together is something that is universal," —Jun Matsumoto

How 1995 Became A Blockbuster Year For Movie Soundtracks by Jack Tregoning

From Clueless to Dangerous Minds, soundtracks were big business in 1995, but the year's hits offered no clear formula for success.

Batman Forever (1995) epitomized the big-budget, mass-appeal mid-'90s soundtrack. Spanning PJ Harvey to Method Man, the 14-track set employed some tried-and-true tactics. First, only five songs on the track list appear in the movie itself, ushering in a rash of "Music From And Inspired By" soundtracks …

As 1995 taught us time and time again, nothing traps a year in amber quite like a movie soundtrack. 

(L-R): Johnny Ventura, Lido Pimienta & Jean Dawson

Staff Writer Jennifer Velez's Picks

Amid Black Lives Matter Conversations, Black Latinx Artists Urge Non-Black Latinx To Do Better

Jean Dawson, Lido Pimienta, Johnny Ventura and others talked anti-Blackness in the Latinx community and how music can be one of the greatest catalysts for change.

"Whatever is closest or with more proximity to whiteness in sound, in look, in aesthetic. That's the person that we want, and that's the person that's going to get the platform," Lido Pimienta says of the media and entertainment mindset in Colombia, where roughly 10 percent of the population is Black, and traces of the country's only Black president, Juan José Nieto Gil, have been erased from history, including in books and portraits.

The cover of her recently released album, Miss Colombia, dismantles these notions of white supremacy, targeting beauty pageants (which are highly regarded in the country), where only two Black women from the country have won a Miss Universe title. Pimienta protests that reality when she, a Black, indigenous Colombian, stands front and center wearing a crown.

23 Years After Forming, Pop-Punk Patriarchs New Found Glory Look Back On All 10 Of Their Albums

In honor of the band's decade-long anniversary, spoke to guitarist Chad Gilbert and vocalist Jordan Pundik, who said they're feeling closer than ever. 

"[Neal Avron is] a massive producer now, but we were his first punk band. We were his first band. Then when Fall Out Boy worked with him, they wanted it to sound like the records we did with him. Then they're a massive arena band, so it's pretty crazy. So that was working with Neal, it was our first time working with a real producer. So that was interesting and we learned a lot from him. I was still in high school … I remember making [New Found Glory] and all my high school friends were still in high school and I was going into the recording studio. It was awesome." —New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert

Carla Morrison Talks 'Renacimineto,' Her Comeback, Performing At The 2020 Latin GRAMMYs & More

The "Te Regalo" singer/songwriter detailed her journey inward and discussed how she hopes her new project is a mirror for people.

"I've always felt like if my music has a purpose, that's the only way it can exist. I love it when my music can give something to people. Ever since day one, when I decided to make music, it was always to give voice to the voiceless. It was always for people to feel like, 'Oh, my God. She just said what I've been wanting to say and I didn't know how to articulate'—kind of like that. And so Renacimiento comes from that and also from telling the story of how, when I went through a very dark time, I still came out in a better way." —Carla Morrison

Nathy Peluso Talks 'Calambre' & 2020 Latin GRAMMYs Debut

The Argentine singer talked to about her eclectic album, Calambre, her sound and her Latin GRAMMY debut.

"Being an immigrant, I linked up with many [other] immigrants who brought me closer to salsa, for example, Colombians. Many Colombian friends taught me to dance salsa. I had the opportunity to be in a Cuban choir for many years, learning from Cubans. Then my schooling was at Alicia Alonso's high school, who was a well-known Cuban dancer, and all my teachers were Cuban, too.

"It gave me the rare opportunity, because I was in Spain, to connect with a deeply rooted Latin world because the people who had left their [countries had] roots and had to promote them elsewhere. I learned a lot about the Latin culture and it made me look for a great friend, a great partner in music. Perhaps for a girl emigrating, it is something a bit difficult. Having music always accompanying me [was] like having a faithful friend who never left me." —Nathy Peluso

20 Years After White Pony, Deftones' Chino Moreno Is At His Most Vulnerable On Ohms

The renowned rock frontman talked to about opening up on Deftones' ninth studio album, how isolation is treating him, 20 years of White Pony and more.

"I was dealing with a lot of feelings of isolation and working through all that stuff … I'd spent about five or six years living out in the country, away from all my friends and all the people that I've made music with. Before that, I was living in Los Angeles. I was always around music or my friends who make music and I was constantly always filling that creative void.

When I went on my own, I was like, 'OK, well, I'm just going to sit here and I'm going to make a bunch of music,' and I didn't make any music. I literally just—I'd go out to the mountains by myself and I'd hang out, and I liked it at first. But there was no balance there. At some point, I started to long for connection and conversations and just being a part of society again. And so a lot of that stuff made its way into the lyrical content of the record." —Chino Moreno

Bootsy Collins | Photo: Michael Weintrob

Staff Writer Ana Monroy Yglesias' Picks

Bootsy Collins: "I'm Hoping The World Comes Together Like We Did On This Album"

On his new album, The Power Of The One, released Oct. 23 on his own Bootzilla Records, the 69-year-old funk legend thrives in his musical playground.

"It's like everybody's around that one wall and everybody gets that certain frequency all at the same time and that wall will come down. That's the Power of the One. We just have to realize that that's what we got to do, everybody's got to be in sync with each other. Once we began to be in sync with each other, all of this mess that we're going through falls down. I want to get people to realize that we do have that power within ourselves.

"It's really about us getting along and getting together while we're here. This is the opportunity for us. It's just like this album. This album was the opportunity to put all these beautiful people together that are not necessarily supposed to be together on a record. I'm just crazy enough to believe that if we can do it on an album, we can certainly do this in a world like we have today." —Bootsy Collins

Busta Rhymes On Being In A "Beautiful Space" & Bringing Together Generations Of Hip-Hop Artists On Extinction Level Event 2

With Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath Of GodBusta Rhymes' first album in 11 years, the world has finally begun to process what his music has been telling us all along.

"I think for the first time in this career of mine, I've gotten to a place of comfort where I've been able to feel good enough about sharing things on a personal level and in a vulnerable way that I've never had prior to this album. It took years for me to get to that place and once you find that it's a very fulfilling thing to be able to share. You help remind people that they're not alone in these realities that a lot of us are never and will never be exempt from going through. It also reminds people that it's OK to talk about it. I think a lot of the times, especially as Black men, we don't get the opportunity to really be allowed to share when we're hurting or when we are afraid or when we are in need of help.

"I think even more so now than ever, with everything that everybody is going through, we need to make a conscious effort to show people it's OK to say, 'I need somebody to help what I'm going through right now.' Or 'I just need some support. I'm a little insecure about something. I just need someone to listen.' I wanted to share a lot of that. I think that comes with maturity, with growth, with being a man, and understanding what it is to be a man as opposed to thinking you're one." —Busta Rhymes

Aluna On New Album Renaissance & Making Dance Music Inclusive Again

"If it's good enough to be appropriated, then it's good enough to be listened to in its original form and by the original creators," Aluna told in a powerful interview.

"I would like every platform and organization that categorizes music to reanalyze what they consider to be dance music. When they're considering that, they need to look at globally and culturally, what do people dance to? The answer is dancehall, Afrobeat, reggaetón, house music and the subgenre of those as well. I think that'll go a long way in bringing people who make dance music around the world together, because at the moment it's really segregated. Really what it comes down to is the listener is being made to jump and go down the back alleys of these platforms.

"This music should be put in the position where they're able to get access to the mainstream ear, because it is mainstream music. The evidence is in the pop songs that use those types of music as their complete fundamental foundation. The evidence is also in white producers using those beats to freshen the sound of dance music at the moment. If it's good enough to be appropriated, then it's good enough to be listened to in its original form and by the original creators." —Aluna

Dua Saleh & Psymun Talk Minneapolis Community Building, ROSETTA & Music For Social Change

The Sudan-born, Twin-Cities-based artist Dua Saleh released their second EP, ROSETTA, executive-produced by Psymun, on June 12.

"I feel like people needed a reminder to recenter, and a reminder to sit with art and to let that flow through their body … There's just been so much death and turmoil that I think people needed a source of healing. Sister Rosetta Tharpe is a huge source of healing for me personally—the person that music historians credit as the inventor of rock 'n' roll is a Black queer woman. Finding her music was a huge source of my personal healing in my journey towards lifting the burdens of life off of my own shoulders. And I wanted to use the narrative of her legacy to entrench into this project [ROSETTA]," —Dua Saleh

Grimes' Non-Violent Utopia

Seven months after releasing the far-reaching Miss Anthropocene, the pop experimentalist talked to about her 2020 experience, the frustrating paradoxes of pregnancy and motherhood, humane technology and more.

"I was trying to be provocative at the time I made the album. Because I made it a lot more in 2018, 2019. When I started making it, I was still like, 'Why don't we care about the environment?' And in [the] time since I made it and released it, the world totally changed.

"I still actually like it. When I think about the anthropomorphic goddess of climate change and the anthropomorphic goddess of addiction, those things are compelling to me. I even kind of get anxiety talking about it. To myself, I feel like I made something effective, but I get why people found it to be kind of cruel now. But that's art. It goes back and forth." —Grimes

2020 In Review: How The Music Community Rose Up Amid A Pandemic