Trance is a genre that doesn’t hold back when it comes to dialing up the emotional levels to 11. There are many elements that can elevate a trance tune to higher realms, such as driving percussion, soaring melodies and, our focus here, belting vocals. Not every dance genre is compatible with vocals, but in trance they pair with the music like Xavi and Iniesta, forming a sumptuous combination. Check out a selection of our all-time favourite examples and a Spotify playlist below.
Paul van Dyk feat Saint Etienne ‘Tell Me Why (The Riddle)’
Paul van Dyk’s 2000 collaborative hit with Saint Etienne was his highest ever charting single in the UK, peaking at number seven. The sweetly sung vocal from Sarah Cracknell gives it plenty of crossover appeal, and Paul’s production is the perfect melodic accompaniment to make the track soar.
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York ‘On The Beach’
Motorcycle ‘As The Rush Comes’
The perfect driving song? Imagine an open road ahead of you with this track powering through the surprisingly weighty car stereo and subs. It’s potent, surging trance and the vocal urging “bring it on” makes it all the more impactful.
Rui Da Silva ft. Cassandra ‘Touch Me’
This trance-house classic was massive in and out of clubs, scoring Portuguese producer Rui da Silva and British singer Cassandra Fox a number one hit in the UK, Ireland and Portugal with more than 400,000 copies sold. It initially was meant to feature a guitar riff based on Spandau Ballet’s ‘Chant No. 1’ but this decision was scrapped over clearance issues. That was probably for the best, because this track is perfection as it is.
Signum & Scott Mac ‘Coming On Strong’
Warped vocals stuttering above glistening chords fuel this track with a fizzing sense of ecstasy. It will forever hold a cult clubland status thanks to featuring on the soundtrack of raver’s favourite Kevin & Perry Go Large.
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OceanLab - the collaborative project between Above & Beyond and Justine Suissa - are one of the most famous vocal trance outfits in the genre’s history. ‘Satellite’ is one of many good reasons why, expressing feelings of long distance love with heart swelling beauty.
Britney Spears ‘Breathe On Me’ (James Holden remix)
John O'Callaghan feat. Audrey Gallagher - Big Sky (Agnelli & Nelson Remix) (Armin Only 2008)
The artwork depicts an angel with a vinyl halo painting clouds onto a pale blue sky, which is a fitting visualisation of the heavenly heights this track takes you to. We’re particularly partial to the version in Dutch trance king Armin van Buuren’s 2008 show Armin Only with Audrey Gallagher belting out live vocals and sounding as perfect as on record.
Mauro Picotto ‘Komodo (Save a Soul)’
This track has big campfire singalong energy; a link hands across the world and remind everyone humanity ain’t so bad type beat. In contrast, the music video (see above) stars the Italian producer Mauro Picotto acting as a detective hunting down a murderous woman with a penchant for killing men. That’s not very PLUR of you.
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Nalin & Kane ‘Beachball’
Like previous entrant in this list York’s ‘On The Beach’, this rack evokes the joy of crystal waters, white sands and shoreline frolicking. The comments on YouTube are absolutely awash with 90s nostalgia and yearning for the freedom of youth. If you’ve got it, don’t waste it folks!
Above & Beyond & Gareth Emery pres. Oceanlab ‘On A Good Day (Metropolis)’
Another OceanLab selection. And why not, hey? This time it’s a mashup: joining forces with Gareth Emery to weave together their respective ‘On A Good Day’ and ‘Metropolis’ tracks for a result that’s even better than the sum of its parts.
Grace ‘Not Over Yet’
Before nu-rave was even a twinkle in the Klaxon’s eyes, there was old skool rave. Or as it was known at the time: rave. Grace (the trio comprising Paul Oakenfold, Steve Osborne and Dominique Atkins) first send this anthem around in 1993 and its clubland impact was massive. Originally sung by Patti Low, the official release followed in 1995 with Atkins taking on singing duties. It was a massive hit either side of the Atlantic, reaching the top spot in the UK dance and US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play charts. A new lease of life followed in 2007 when the Klaxons released a cover.
The Belgian group’s debut single. Its powerful vocal and bouncing melody launched them on a path to stardom and eventually more than five million record sales. The artwork for the original release of this single depicts the artist and track name written onto a 1.44mb floppy disk. Dread to think what bitrate they were squashing it down to in order to fit on that - no wonder Pioneer never released a line of FloppDJS. It would probably still sound great though regardless.
DJ Sakin & Friends ‘Protect Your Mind’ (Braveheart)
Who knew bagpipes in trance could work? No, seriously. This spirit-raising banger is the kind of track that makes you want to lead a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful insurrection campaign against English colonisers. Or lose your shit on a dancefloor - one or the other.
Alice DJ ‘Better Off Alone’
The pride of bluetooth phones in school playgrounds up and down the land, this song was first released in 1998 and later featured on Alice DJ’s (a multi-member Dutch group) sassily titled debut album ‘Who Needs Guitars Anyway?’ It’s often pointed to as the starting point of trance’s increasing commercialisation, but it crossed over to such a significant extent because it’s an undeniable anthem.
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Sonique 'It Feels So Good'
Olive ‘You’re Not Alone’
A beautiful tearjerker of an anthem extolling the virtues of human companionship and solidarity through an expression of unconditional, everlasting love. Initially charting outside the top 40 in the UK in 1996, a remixed version was re-released in 1997 and shot to the number 1 spot. Its enduring popularity has sparked many cover versions over the years, most recently in March when SaberZ and Zanny Duko released a big room take titled ‘Open Your Mind’. Nothing will top the original. Quick shout out to this wonderful YouTube comment below the line: “remember this song 1997 i was smoking in amsterdam coffeeshop greenhouse very high this song was the whole day in my head the 90s what a great time”. Amen brother.
Delerium ft. Sarah McLachlan 'Silence' (Tiësto In Search Of Sunrise Remix)
Last but not least - obviously - is Dutch trance icon Tiësto’s “in search of sunrise” remix of this 1999 collaboration between Canadian group Delerium and singer Sarah McLachlan. In 2013 it was voted in 12th place in our poll of the greatest dance tracks ever in 2013. Well deserved: it provides more than 11 minutes of unbridled dancefloor energy and euphoria through throbbing bass, atmospheric pads and gleaming melodies, which has struck a significant chord with dancefloors across the world. The parts where McLachlan’s long notes are held and shimmer slightly are an all-time great vocal moment.
Patrick Hinton is Mixmag's Digital Features Editor, follow him on Twitter
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