The best basslines in dance music, according to you - Features - Mixmag

The best basslines in dance music, according to you

Naturally, dance music boasts the best basslines in music history. Here they are in all their glory, as chosen by you.

  • Mixmag Crew
  • 7 May 2020

First we came for you drops, and now we've come for your basslines. A killer bassline can be the making of a track, either laying the infectious foundation or powering ahead as the foremost feature. Some have become etched into the nucleus of music history, taking on many new lives in samples, and some just outright slap. We asked for your favourites and you turned up a bunch of gems. A few were already featured in the drops list so we kept it fresh with new selections. Check out dance music's best basslines below.

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Donna Summer ‘I Feel Love’

‘I Feel Love’ is taken from Donna Summer’s fifth album, ‘I Remember Yesterday’, a concept album that aimed to evoke a different time period with each track, ending with the sound of the future on the LP’s now-legendary finale.

Now one of electronic music’s most recognisable tracks, you’ve all heard Donna’s soaring vocal and the sweeping synths behind it. Then, there's the iconic rumble of one of the best basslines of all time which pushes the whole thing forward and was made using the Moog Modular 3P. Producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte had to borrow a 3P and bring in engineer Robby Wedel to show them how to use it and help them record. “The Moog was really fun to work but the problem was it would go out of tune every few minutes,” Moroder said of the process. “It was a disaster. With ‘I Feel Love’ I think we’d do twenty or thirty seconds, then stop. Then we’d go back, tune it and drop it in. It was quite a job.”

The sound of synths like the Moog Modular 3P weren’t commonly used in pop music and no one realised ‘I Feel Love’ was a hit until it took off in clubs in America and Europe (it was originally released on single as a B-side). The track inadvertently set the template for what we now know as dance music, with Brian Eno proclaiming “I have heard the sound of the future. This is it, look no further. This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next fifteen years.” Little did he know that it would endure for much longer...

Read this next: I feel love: Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder created the template for dance music as we know it

Alan Braxe & Fred Falke ‘Intro’

This is a big one. Minimalist drums and an ethereal The Jets sample set the scene for one of the best basslines in French Touch; it works as well by the pool as it does in a packed club illuminated by a giant disco ball. ‘Intro’ is part of a run of French Touch stormers released via Vulture and Roulé (Thomas Bangalter’s label) and one of a number of iconic collabs between Braxe and Falke. As simple and effective as serotonin shots come. Absolutely undeniable.

Underground Resistance ‘Timeline’

‘Timeline’ slaps from the jump. It’s one of those epic records that you can play from start to finish and not get bored for a second. And when you do use it in the mix it jumps out wildly from the track that precedes it. Hit play for that heavy, soulful kick, those strings plucked from heaven and uplifting keys from somewhere in outer space. When the bass rolls in it’s game over, a total KO, pure ecstasy. This is it. Perfection. One of the best basslines in house history. A weighty track from the D that’s charged with energy and uplift. ‘Timeline’? More like timeless – 2001 to infinity!

Groove Armada ‘Superstylin’’

It’s 2001. Era of the superstar DJ, the super club and hands-in-the-air party music like ‘Superstylin’. It’s acceptable to wear terrible Hawaiian shirts in mainstream music videos and pints of lager are £1 each (probably). Life is good. Life is made even better when the bassline of ‘Superstylin’ drops, a cheeky nod to speed garage that’s so heavy it threatens to redline even when it’s played quietly. This is Groove Armada’s go at merging house with Jamaican soundsystem culture, voiced by the band’s MC M.A.D, and one of the Big Beat movement’s biggest tunes, which promptly flew to number 12 in the UK chart.

Pet Shop Boys ‘West End Girls’

You’ve got Pet Shop Boys’ Chris Lowe to thank for the bassline of ‘West End Girls’; or rather, one of the best basslines of all time. He came up with the thick, groovy riff after being inspired by the slo-mo funk of the bassline on ‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash, which was released two years prior to ‘West End Girls’ in 1992. It’s hard to believe that you could only get the Pet Shop Boys’ anthem as a US 12” import when it was first released, but after becoming a club hit it came out officially and became a number one single for the duo.

Dee-Lite ‘Groove Is In The Heart’

House and hip hop reigned supreme in New York in 1990 and acts like Dee-Lite celebrated both by coming up with vibrant, anthemic records like ‘Groove Is In The Heart’. A trio of club aficionados, the band channeled their experiences of DJ and dancing in the city’s venues into their music and ‘Groove Is In The Heart’ embodies their sheer joy of music. The bassline here comes from Herbie Hancock’s ‘Bring Down The Birds’ and that’s not the only sample. ‘Groove…’ also famously borrows from Vernon Burch, Billy Preston, the Green Aces TV theme and ‘The Art Of Belly Dancing’. Q-Tip provides a guest verse, Bootsy Collins gives guest vocals and there’s plenty sonic psychedelia going on besides. A vivid jamboree of a tune.

Read this next: 20 of the best early-90s hip hop samples

Moloko ‘Time Is Now’

Another hit from the heady days of the new millennium, on ‘Time Is Now’ Moloko set out to make an Epic Club Banger using instruments and players. Here they’re accompanied by a quartet and that strolling bassline sounds like the first Aperol Spritz of summer to us. Blue skies, a cool breeze and no worries other than where the next bev is coming from. Happy times.

George Morel ‘Let’s Groove’

Another one that’s irresistible from the jump. ‘Let’s Groove’ builds and builds thanks to itchy percussion and a Proper Naughty Bassline that just won’t quit. It’s a Strictly Rhythm anthem and a prototype garage banger, a joy to dance to every single time thanks to its seemingly endless build.

Bassheads ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’

Who’s ready to throw it back to ‘91? This vintage acid house number stretches out for nine wonderful minutes and really allows you to get lost in the moment. The bouncing, ravey bassline helped push it to number 5 in the UK charts, but not before the Bassheads got in a touch of hot water for not clearing samples of Talking Heads, Afrika Bambaataa and Pink Floyd. Legendary.

Stardust ‘Music Sounds Better With You’

‘Music Sounds Better With You’ is the only release by Stardust, the trio of Thomas Bangalter, Alan Braxe and Benjamin Diamond. Talk about a one hit wonder! The supergroup came up with the track during a night at Rex Club in Paris and the rest is French Touch history. It’s a huge crossover tune and for good reason: it’s the epitome of why dance music is great. There are absolutely no worries anywhere near this track – leave your troubles at the door, take my hand and let’s dance forever.

Read this next: DJ Zinc picks the 10 best basslines ever

Chic ‘Good Times’

This is one of the most sampled basslines in the history of music. From ‘Rapper’s Delight’ to ‘Another One Bites The Dust’, it’s formed the crux of many major hits over the hits (not least in of itself with the single selling more than 5 million copies - the most in the history of Atlantic Records). It undoubtedly has a strong claim to being one of the best basslines ever committed to record. Bernard Edwards is responsible for the irresistible groove, which sounds like the essence of soul, disco and r’n’b distilled into bassline form.

LFO ‘LFO’ (Leeds Warehouse mix)

While Daft Punk’s ‘Around The World’ proved you can have an iconic vocal by just repeating three words, LFO managed it with just three letters. The bassline is even more impactful, a canonical best-ever, throbbing through the foundations of this “Leeds Warehouse mix” and transporting listens back to the height of the 90s’ illegal rave scene. That spirit is alive and well in the comments below this track on YouTube: “HOW DO YOU SPELL LEEDS? TWO E'S AND LSD !!”. What a city, what a track.

Madonna ‘Get Into The Groove’

“Only when I’m dancing can I feel this free”. This is an all-time top Madonna song and all-time top dance-pop tune too. And it almost didn’t exist as we know it. Madonna initially wrote the song for Chyne, a protégée of her friend and record producer Mark Kamins, but later decided to take it for herself to the fury of Kamins. She shrugged off his anger, saying: "I'm tough, I'm ambitious and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, that's okay." It’s more than okay Madge, because we’re eternally grateful for this banger and the impact it has on dancefloors.

Chemical Brothers ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’

The bassline here forms one of the most memorable intros in the Chemical Brothers’ canon, and continues to serve as a rock solid foundation throughout the explosive track. The clip of the duo playing it to Trafalgar Square in 2007 is some of favourite rave footage ever. It shows a crowd of 9,000 people absolutely losing it bang in the centre of London in front of one of the city’s most recognisable monuments. Chaos.

Double 99 ‘Ripgroove’

UK garage is, obviously, the best genre ever, and ‘Ripgroove’ is among its finest moments. When that build-up gives way to allow the cataclysmic bassline to storm through around the minute mark, the club erupts every single time. The recent edit by Fixate has also given it a new life and soundtracked the most hype moment in Boiler Room history via the peerless Sherelle.

Tori Amos ‘Professional Widow’ (Armand Van Helden remix)

When it comes to Armand Van Helden and basslines, they’ve gotta be big. He always delivers, and this one hasn’t left regular rotation for more than two and a half decades. It’s such a good vibe that when a zealous raver committed the cardinal sin of fucking with Saoirse’s mixer during her 2017 AVA Festival stream she just smiles and claps. Impossible to be anything other than joyous when this track is on rotation.

DJ Falcon & Thomas Bangalter ‘Together’

A beautiful example of the ‘less can be more’ principle. Sampling a few seconds of the bassline from the theme tune to theme tune to Beverly Hills 90210 and deploying it under an equally short repeating vocal loop with some heavy reverb, the effect is magical.

Moderat ‘Bad Kingdom’ (DJ Koze remix)

When this bassline properly kicks in it hits with the almighty scuzz of an arena rock band. Its impending power is teased through the opening minutes, before cutting through in all its weighty glory. Hearing it pulsate out of a soundsystem alongside Apparat’s transcendent vocal is a next-level clubbing experience.

Joey Beltram ‘Energy Flash’

Womp womp womp, womp womp. Womp womp womp, womp womp. The amount of times this bassline has blown the doors off a rave are countless. Paired with that repeating “ecstasy” vocal, it makes for a surging come-up of a track that is yet to get old.

Read this next: 10 of the Best Songs Celebrating Ecstasy

Ricardo Villalobos ‘Dexter’

A more subtle entrant than most the examples in this list, the bassline on Ricardo Villalobos’ ‘Dexter’ still packs serious emotional power. Moving elegantly through the minimal masterpiece, its subtlty is completely absorbing. You can get lost for days in these sounds.

M.A.N.D.Y. vs. Booka Shade ‘Body Language’

If you were out raving in 2005, it's likely you've had a fair few seshes when the ridiculously cheeky bassline of M.A.N.D.Y and Booka Shade's 'Body Language' has rolled in. It's reverberated through the walls of fabric and blasted from balconies of Ibiza, becoming an instant classic in this little world we call dance music. Your mum or dad (probably) wouldn't have a scooby what it is, but you know it'll be top of the tracklist of Now That's What I Call Prog House. And that's all that matters.

Leftfield ‘Song Of Life’

"THEY DON'T MAKE 'EM LIKE THE '90S ANYMORE". The amount of times I've seen that written, rolled my eyes and thought just search hard enough. Here I am playing Leftfield's 'Song Of Life', though, and I'm close to typing that out myself. It builds up, uP, UP with haunting vocals and floaty pads, before a wobbly synth bassline teases it's way in, accompanied by monstrous kicks and pacy hi-hats. Before you know it, the bassline's free of all shackles, left to fly around and do as it pleases. Relentless.

New Order ‘Blue Monday’

'Blue Monday': a New Order deep cut, a rarity, one you'll be lucky to hear played out. We jest, of course. The Manchester group's track has been rinsed to the core, but who's complaining? No, seriously. Who's complaining? That niggly synth bassline, played on a Moog Source, is unforgettable, one that's been heard everywhere from The Haçienda and house parties to The Wedding Singer. Most likely your uncle's wedding, too. This isn't just one of the best basslines in the dancefloor canon, but among the most instantly recognisable in pop history.

Beats International ‘Dub Be Good To Me’

Before the escapades of Fatboy Slim came Beats International. Norman Cook's Brighton group hit number one with 1990 single 'Dub Be Good To Me', a rework of The SOS Band's 'Just Be Good To Me'. As the title suggests, the track is a hefty whomp of dub, powered by a deep, booming bassline that grumbles from start to finish. 30 years later and it still demands a play. Light that BBQ up, it's dub season!

Nuyorican Soul ‘Runaway’ featuring India (Armand Van Helden mix)

A legendary remix from a remix king. Armand Van Helden adds speed garage whizz and bass to Nuyorican Soul's sultry disco jam 'Runaway' with India. No longer a laidback cut for lazy days, AvH's remix is Strictly 4 Tha Clurb, powered by a zig-zag bassline with bundles of energy.

Depeche Mode ‘Useless’ (Kruder & Dorfmeister mix)

There's something real menacing about the groaning bassline in the Kruder & Dorfmeister Mix of Depeche Mode's 'Useless'. It's got that creeping eeriness, like something bad is waiting around the corner, matching the dark vocals that come with it. A downtempo dream, many say it's the best Depeche Mode remix ever. Fun fact: it was used in a Victoria's Secret ad in the United States.

The Prodigy ‘Breathe’

What nightmares are made of. But inject it into my veins, C'MON!!! The Prodigy reached another level thanks to their 1997 album 'The Fat Of The Land', and 'Breathe', a cloudy whirlwind of twisted Keith Flint vocals, whacking kicks and a funk-licked bassline, definitely played a part in their frenetic rock-rave taking on the world. This footage at Phoenix Festival in '96 looks like absolute carnage.

Mr Oizo ‘Flat Beat’

We all know this one. It probably made you buy a pair of jeans back in the day, thanks to that iconic Levi's advert with Flat Eric. Fashion aside, 'Flat Beat' comes loaded with an erratic bassline buzzing all over the place. Disclaimer: it's likely you'll be thinking there's a bees' nest in the corner of your room after listening to it. Don't let that put you off, though. Flat Beat boasts one of the best basslines of all time.

Junior Jack ‘Thrill Me’

Dreaming of Ibiza? Pressing play on Junior Jack's 'Thrill Me' will make you feel that little bit closer to the White Isle. It's just one of those tunes made for 6am wide-eyed smiles, matey smooches flying all over the place, sweaty hugs, the lot. There's just something about that up-down bassline that just wants you to keep on going and going and going.

Mantronix ‘Got To Have Your Love’

Kurtis El Khaleel of Mantronix said he wrote 'Got To Have Your Love' with the goal of getting it on the radio. The NYC group did that, for sure. It got so much love, it reached number four in the UK Singles Chart, higher than its position of six in the Billboard Hot Dance Music-Club Play. Sublime, soul-licked vocals from Wondress definitely gave it the flavour it needed for mainstream success, but it's also charged by one of the best basslines in pop history.

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