Lucy Gray picks her top ten House songs for The Mic's 'A Ten Song Introduction To...' series, to provide those who are unfamiliar with the genre a gateway into discovering some of the best tunes that it offers.
"House is a genre of electronic dance music characterized by a repetitive four-on-the-floor beat and a typical tempo of 120 to 130 beats per minute". Perhaps not the most graphic nor vivid definition of House but there it is. Repetitive.
How can a genre so easily defined be so multi-faceted and nuanced? Commonly, I’ve encountered ‘repetitive’ as a criticism of the genre when it should be more readily recognised as an ironic advantage. It would be unwise to write anything about House without recognising it’s many faces. This way, it becomes far easier to understand how it’s shape-shifting has allowed for such character, uniqueness, and commercial-appeal simultaneously. House is, arguably, amongst the most popular of music genres and I could guarantee there is a House song nearly every single person likes, to some extent, whether they realise it or not. Sure, I could understand if Michael Bibi isn’t your usual sort of thing, but have you considered that Kylie Minogue song you definitely do not have on repeat when you’re choreographing in the shower?
"House might be considered the chameleon of music genres"
House might be considered the chameleon of music genres, and its simple formula has mastered itself so wonderfully that it has not only found its way into other genres, it has become incredibly commercialised. Here is a good point to return to it’s multi-faceted character, for the sort of commercial house you may be familiar with is by no means definitive of the genre. You’ve got your Tech House, Ibiza/Beach House, Acid House, Deep House, Eurohouse, Hiphouse…honestly, I could go on but we’re not here to re-read Wikipedia articles. Generally speaking, Ibiza House may be one of the more encountered sub-genres, famed by clubs such as Pacha and Ministry of Sound.
With this in mind, this list endeavours to give a well-seasoned and easy introduction to the different layers of House. Think of the above as a pre-warning to the fact that it’s nearly impossible to give a thorough list within the space of ten songs. Therefore, the methodology here is some songs you may expect to encounter during a DJ set at a House event, and staples whether it’s from defining artists or defining tracks.
Show Me Love – Steve Angello, Laidback Luke & Robin S
Undoubtedly the first on this list, Show Me Love is both genre-defining and crafted by one of the finest House DJ’s in the genre’s history; Steve Angello. Founding member of the Swedish House Mafia, Angello’s tracks is pretty summative of noughties House. The sort of thing that would last on a Hedkandi album for years past its original release. This track is for sure one that anyone looking to delve into House should, no, HAS to know about. The keyboard riffs, the soulful vocals, it’s all just…*chef’s kiss*.
One More Time – Daft Punk
Similar to before, it would literally be a crime not to include this masterful duo. Not only did Daft Punk go on to influence famed DJ’s today (would you be surprised to know Skrillex took a lot of inspiration from them?), they shook up the music industry at its core using their gifted metal hands. Pioneers, Daft Punk oozed creativity and style throughout their work, being able to shift from commercially appealing tracks such as One More Time and Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, to grittier album tracks such as Rollin’ and Scratchin’. A timeless classic exceeding its own expected confines, One More Time is an absolute must.
Voicemail – Green Velvet & Patrick Topping
Since the first two tracks are comparatively more dated to where we are now, I want to bring it back to slightly more modern House, namely, Tech House. Combining two key players amongst the scene, Voicemail is nicely summative and a great idea of what to expect from Tech House events. Forfeiting the commercial appeal of our first two tracks, this sort of House fits in with our original Wikipedia-lent definition nicely; repetitive. Formulated by a key bass riff and a high-hat accompaniment, it’s flare comes from the occasional voice notes and exploration of riffed sound-bites. Generally, it is simple and subtle in nature. Nothing too crazy going on, just enough to get your head-nodding.
Stupidisco – Junior Jack
Another vocal house track, Stupidisco isn’t lyrically endowed and repeats the exact same lyrics over and over again. Yet, coming back to our initial premise of why House is so euphoric, the repetition is no issue and utilises all layers well enough to capture the pure euphoria that the genre oozes. This is a great addition to our introduction since it, again, is nicely summative of the euphoric build that House tracks generally follow. It’s not as deep as the formula more tech/deep house finds itself, and has mainstream appeal, but this if anything adds to its introductive appeal for our purposes.
Move Your Body – Marshall Jefferson, Solardo
Marrying the classic formula of keyboard hooks and hi-hats, Move Your Body brings classic House influences found in the likes of 2000’s Ibiza house giants, such as Eric Prydz (what I like to call ‘workout House’), into a more recent track. For these reasons, it’s a good addition for the fact it summarises a classic area of House (see keyboard riffs and catchy vocals) yet was crafted by the likes of Solardo and Marshall Jefferson, key players in the genre today. It goes to show that some things just never go out of style.
Cola – Camelphat & Elderbrook
Again, a more recent track. Camelphat have sky-rocketed into the mainstream charts and for this they will be in our introduction. Camelphat have proved to be chart-dominators when it comes to making commercial House, yet have harnessed the grit of deeper/tech house in their liveshows. The balance in their music has established them as giants in the genre at the moment, and Cola, being their first real chart-topper, is a staple that anyone with ears should get to know. It’s a softer build and gears towards Tech house more than it’s predecessors on this list.
Superstylin’ – Groove Armada
Compared to the tracks on this list thus far, Superstylin’ is arguably more rogue. It’s, to some extent, got some drum ‘n’ bass influence as well as reggae vibes in the brass sounds, think The Prodigy. It’s a far grittier track and is noticeably different to the rest of our tracks. However, undoubtedly it deserves a place on this list. To talk about House is to acknowledge the subtle diversity within it, and Superstylin’ provides the shock to your system you made need. No, it’s not completely wild, but it’s crafted by Ibiza House masters and for that alone finds its well-earned spot here. Ultimately, it jazzes up the standard hi-hat/bass mainline.
Insomnia – Faithless
Two words. Monster. Track. It’s possible that this is the most euphoric song to ever be created. Every element is impeccable, but ultimately Insomnia redefines what ‘keyboard riffs’ even meant for House. It isn’t a reach to say this song is a religious experience, specifically, it’s post-bridge. Possibly the most recognisable part of a track ever, I could guarantee nearly everyone has somehow heard this song without realising they have heard this song. I have an incredibly distinct memory of hearing this song for the first time around the age of 7, it’s just THAT monstrous. It gives you a pretty solid House track for the best part of its first half, and then does a 180 post-bridge. A song has never oozed ‘euphoria’ quite like this.
Glue – Bicep
OK, this was not going to make it on the list, and I don’t really have a good reason why. Perhaps because it’s hard to narrow down ten introductive House tracks to begin with. Either way, Glue is just standard. Not in a plain way, but an absolute classic for anyone going to any dance event. It’s the sort of track that comes in that makes a set good, period (well mostly). It’s euphoric in its build up and that’s its main appeal. It doesn’t do anything too fancy but it doesn’t need to. It’s summative of what House does best; not much. It’s appeal is in its simplicity most of the time, and Glue is just that.
Breathe – RSquared
A rogue choice compared to our existing list, I’ve picked Breathe for two reasons. 1) I wanted to balance out the old with the new, and show how House looks today somewhat, 2) the elements in this track really showcase the most notable in the House genre. Sensual vocals, fleeting synths, quick hi-hats, it totally summarises raw modern house at it’s finest. It’s a great track to purely get a feel for tech house and what you might hear at a smaller dance event and that’s why it’s on here.
Listen to these songs, plus many more, on this playlist: