Think of your favorite dance music song or the first EDM track you were obsessed with. For many of us, they likely involved vocals.
For those who truly listen to electronic music, it’s hard to underestimate the power of vocals. The perfect vocal can create an undeniably catchy song that soars to the top of the charts and vocals also create that level of human connection where the lyrics speak to us in a time of hardship or the emotion from the singer can remind us we’re not alone.
Songs like “Good For Me” from Above & Beyond or “Good Things Fall Apart” from Illenium make so many ravers emotional not just because of their melodies, but also because singers like Jon Bellion and Zoë Johnston have the ability to tug at our heartstrings and understand the human connection better than most electronic instruments.
Dylan Matthew began working with Kayzo and soon branched out to collaborate with Seven Lions, Excision, Tritonal, and one of his longest-lasting partnerships, SLANDER. In 2017, SLANDER and Kayzo first worked with Dylan Matthew on “Without You” and now in 2022, he’s featured on their debut album Thrive.
Matthew’s 2022 track “Walk On Water” with SLANDER and RORY is one of his most emotional, belting out the feeling of doing anything to get back to a past lover and perfectly accompanying the electronic piano in the backing track.
HALIENE has also been a figure in dance music for years, working with SLANDER, Tritonal, Gareth Emery, and Ferry Corsten. She’s most well-known for her work with Seven Lions, collaborating with him as early as 2015 and continuing to release music and perform their tracks live to this day.
Their 2016 song “Rush Over Me” has received a cult following due to HALIENE’s powerful voice that is matched in energy with the song’s emotional drop.
Vocals can also completely change the trajectory of a track and take it to another level. Sullivan King told EDM Maniac that when he was working on “Unbound” with bass king Excision, they decided to add a vocal only two weeks before the track was going to be released.
But the signature screams added a power and energy to the collaboration that could not easily be artificially crafted in FL Studio two weeks before the release date.
That perfect singer or vocal can also come from anywhere and add that element of magic that completes a song. In 2012, deadmau5 went live talking about his newest track “The Veldt.” It had been posted on SoundCloud as an instrumental and many young dance music fans ate up the catchy electronic tune.
But a singer named Chris James tweeted at deadmau5 saying he created vocals for “The Veldt” and, despite deadmau5’s skepticism, he decided to listen live. After around ten seconds, the pioneer producer freaked out and decided to call James, clapping with his jaw open and releasing the full song with the now iconic vocals.
Many talented producers are vocalists as well. They have used their singing platform to further their careers and separate themselves from others in the scene.
Aluna, one of the members of Aluna George, has branched off into solo producing and singing and her career has skyrocketed since. She’s co-produced with MK, Diplo, and Jayda G, and has released a full LP entitled Renaissance with tracks featuring SG Lewis and KAYTRANADA.
Anabel Englund’s vocal and producing chops have also contributed to her star-quality career. She’s collaborated with MK and Lee Foss in a trio called Pleasure State that in 2012 brought their music to mainstream prominence.
Since then, she’s continued to release on Repopulate Mars, perform at huge festivals, and worked with some of the biggest names in house such as Oliver Heldens, Tchami, Benny Benassi, Vintage Culture, and Jamie Jones. Her smooth voice perfectly accompanies the catchy and funky house beats that have continued to push her career.
Phantoms is a Southern California duo helmed by Kyle Kaplan and Vinnie Pergola who grew up as actors. Once they began producing originals, they incorporated Kaplan’s live vocals and Pergola’s drums in an indie-house combo that helped them grace the stages of Das Energi, Firefly Music Festival, Splash House, and Life is Beautiful.
Vocals add so much to an electronic music track that they can not be understated. While they are not necessary, they add a layer of human connection and innovation that takes a production that extra step further. Emotionally, nothing quite sends goosebumps across a festivalgoer’s skin than hearing a vocalist live at their favorite artist’s set.
But vocals can also tie in the melody, message, and intention of a track and bring a new perspective to a piece. Adding one more artist to the mix is another step in the innovation process and combining producer and vocalist chops expands the diversity of talents.
Many dance music fans are strictly instrumental purists and think today’s vocal-heavy tracks “sell-out” the electronic sounds they are so devoted to. But there’s a reason vocals can’t be separated from music, electronic or not. It’s because a vocalist is also an artist too.
Featured image from Anabel Englund credit Jamie Rosenberg