This year, the team at EDM.com is proud to publish four installments of “Best of 2020” coverage: Industry Leaders, Performances, Music Producers, and Songs.
DJing and music production are different. But the difference between the two is like a wallflower—it hides in plain sight, and it is vastly misunderstood.
Many artists do both, but not all DJs produce music and not all music producers DJ. Producers create the music that a DJ will then play out to crowds—it’s an important distinction that eludes many. Like a sleek Lamborghini driving from one coast to another, the art of DJing is a stylish means to an end. And music production is the engine that powers it.
To publish a “Top DJ” list would be to undermine the originality, ingenuity, and dauntless imagination of the EDM artists who dedicate their lives to music creation. To honor their fearless creativity and profound dedication to their craft, we’ve recognized ten of the best music producers of the year.
At this point in his career, TroyBoi is just showing off. One of the most forward-thinking beatmakers on the planet, he is one of a handful of artists with the ability to single-handedly push the envelope of electronic music whenever he drops a new song.
2020 singles such as “AJAAJA” and “Mother Africa” flexed his unmatched ability to create sultry, Middle Eastern-influenced trap songs while releases like the quirky, Eric Leon-assisted “Lemme See” reinforced his status as a powerhouse crossover producer. His breathtaking productions are doppelgängers of each other, each one containing the same ingenuity despite feeling like their own unique tour de force.
Following a 2018 Grammy Award nod for her third studio album, Lune Rouge, expectations were high for TOKiMONSTA’s follow up, Oasis Nocturno. Not only did the scintillating project go above and beyond—featuring groundbreaking collaborations with EARTHGANG, Sunni Colón and Drew Love—but it was also followed up by a meticulously curated remix bundle and an instrumental-only release.
TOKiMONSTA also made major moves on the business end, notably signing with prestigious talent agency William Morris Endeavor and appearing in Underplayed, a documentary that illuminates gender inequality in dance music.
With nearly a decade of music under her belt, CloZee made 2020 one of her best years yet. The French producer effortlessly blends dreamy bass with culturally-inspired soundscapes, propelling her future-forward production into the limelight. Her floaty, cerebral tunes offer something new with each listen, cultivating a unique experience across each of her works.
CloZee’s Neon Jungle LP, released back in July, was the most triumphant culmination of her patented “world bass” sound to date. In addition to the release of her extraordinary sophomore album this year, CloZee was enlisted to remix a handful of tracks for some of the most influential names in electronic dance music, including Lane 8, Emancipator, and Big Gigantic.
It’s no secret that Subtronics is quickly becoming the face of modern-day bass music. With a trailblazing sound that is heavy yet ingestible to those who may not wander the darker alleys of bass, his fan-favorite EPs, signature “Now That’s What I Call Riddim” mixes, and high-profile collaborations with heavyweights such as Zeds Dead, NGHTMRE, and more have positioned him miles ahead of the competition.
In addition to his success in the studio, he recently celebrated the momentous launch of his very own record label, Cyclops Recordings. With an army that grows by the minute and an tenacious workhorse mentality, Subtronics will be headlining major events for years to come.
Time and time again, deadmau5 proves why he’s one of the best electronic music producers in the game. Remaining relentless with the constant propulsion of his craft, he was able to deliver at the highest level not only in his sonic endeavors, but also in his commitment to the intersection of tech and music in 2020.
deadmau5’s incredible work on “Pomegranate,” a nu-disco-inspired masterstroke created with Pharell Williams and Chad Hugo‘s fabled The Neptunes moniker, further reinforced his innate ability to produce hit crossover records that don’t stray from his own sound. His most recent single “Bridged By a Lightwave,” a breathtaking collaboration with Kiesza, was one of his best tracks in recent memory. Its beautiful dichotomy between hypnotic and sinister—a contrast that is signature deadmau5—is a prescient foreshadowing of a huge 2021 on the horizon.
After years of stellar work as a member of AlunaGeorge, 2020 saw Aluna formally pursue a solo career. The spring release of “Body Pump” on Mad Decent served as a catalyst for her exciting new chapter, the anticipation of which exploded after she dropped her debut solo album, Renaissance. With a versatile sound that masterfully oscillates from pop-house to dancehall to funk and a growing list of collaborators which includes KAYTRANADA, SG Lewis and Mr. Carmack, the sky is the limit.
Moreover, Aluna’s efforts in the fight against racial inequity in the music industry were resolute and impactful in 2020. Back in June, she penned an open letter to the dance music community wherein she outlined how the industry can work to foster an urgent paradigm shift to support Black and POC artists. Fighting for inclusivity in EDM while creating some of its most brilliant music, Aluna had quite a memorable year.
After a six-year hiatus, Duck Sauce proved that their 2020 return was far from a gimmick. The unmatched talent of A-Trak and Armand Van Helden manifested in a handful of masterful tracks, each a dance floor smash. The duo hasn’t lost their inimitable sonic touch nor their sense of humor, which has the effect of rendering their more absurd cuts, like “Captain Duck,” almost frustratingly catchy. With the quirky house flavors of “Smiley Face” or the entrancing, disco-influenced “Mesmerize,” Duck Sauce kept fans feeling consistently uplifted with typically first-rate releases in 2020.
Shortly after ODESZA and Golden Features announced their collaborative supergroup BRONSON and self-titled album out of nowhere, the trio was quick to authenticate expectations. “We chose this name to remind ourselves that this is something different, and not confined to the self-imposed expectations of either Odesza or Golden Features,” their announcement read.
Fans got exactly what was promised: a body of work that shouldered risk in all the right ways. BRONSON’s debut album spans a multitude of genres and does so in a distinctively cohesive, vastly instrumental and organic manner. BRONSON often manages to evoke emotion even in the absence of spoken word—a rare quality to be celebrated in these modern, highly commercialized times for dance music.
David Guetta and MORTEN
Powerhouse producers David Guetta and MORTEN joined forces this year to cultivate their new “future rave” sound, a cutting-edge synthesis of old school rave, techno, and trance sonics. In an interview with EDM.com back in July, Guetta said that his new sound would “completely kill, destroy the dance floor.”
And that’s exactly what it did. They went on to drop a slew of “future rave”-branded dance bombs, like the soaring “Save My Life” and the duo’s electronic rendition of Fleetwood Mac‘s iconic single “Dreams,” doubling down on the explosive growth of collaborator Lanie Gardner‘s viral TikTok cover. Perhaps the biggest 2020 flex of their patented sound was their massive remix of Guetta’s single “Let’s Love,” a collaborative hit with Sia that they transformed with a unique blend of house and underground techno flair.
Charlotte de Witte
Blossoming Belgian techno star Charlotte de Witte experienced a meteoric rise in 2020. She dropped three EPs this year—Vision, Return to Nowhere, and Rave On Time—all of which showed off her distinct, haunting sound while inspiring a new generation of techno fans. Thanks to her now-signature sonic style, she has emerged as one of the industry’s most sought after remixers, most recently releasing an official rework of Bob Moses and ZHU‘s collaborative masterwork “Desire.”
de Witte was also one of the most prolific performing DJs in 2020, dominating the livestreaming landscape with must-see sets at a medieval castle in Ghent and a remote 1860 Montenegro fortress, among others. To place a cherry on top of what will go down as a monster year, she will be performing at Tomorrowland‘s first-ever New Year’s Eve virtual festival.
Sub Focus & Wilkinson
Nora En Pure