The best pop-house tracks to get you dancing this summer
With Beyoncé and Drake embracing the club, THE FACE’s team picked out their favourite mainstream floor-fillers from the past.
Other than train strikes and Love Island, there’s one thing everyone is talking about right now: house.
Last Friday, Twitter exploded when Drake surprise dropped Honestly, Nevermind, an album packed with slick 4/4 beats and Black Coffee contributions. And today, Beyoncé returned with her new single Break My Soul, which samples Robin S.’s 1990 house gem Show Me Love. According to British Vogue, there could be more of the same on B’s next album Renaissance (“Soaring vocals and fierce beats combine and in a split second I’m transported back to the clubs of my youth,” editor-in-chief Edward Enninful wrote about his first listen, “I want to get up and start throwing moves.”). On top of all this, it looks like Lil Nas X might be cooking something up with Thomas Bangalter from Daft Punk.
So, like it or not, house music is having a massive mainstream moment. But it’s not the first time, of course. Here are THE FACE team’s favourite times the pop charts collided with the club.
Azealia Banks - 1991 (2012)
Everyone has their own opinions about the internet’s problematic fave, but one thing most of us can probably agree on is that 1991, the title track from Azealia Banks’ debut EP, is legendary. While it technically falls into the hip house category, Bank’s notoriety alone suggests categorising her as a pop star might not be too far off the mark. Produced by Machinedrum, whose own song DDD is sampled throughout, 1991 pulls musical strands from ’90s house and old school rap, deftly weaving them together to create a bombastic house track for the ages. As a result, 1991 still sounds as fresh as the day it came out a decade ago, when Banks was just 19 – typically gritty and irreverent as hell. Her seminal hit 212 was a tough act to follow, but 1991 shows she was more than up to the challenge. The song’s been popping up (and going viral) on social media lately – clear evidence of Banks’ genius ability to make a really good dance tune. And if 2021’s Fuck Him All Night’s anything to go by, she hasn’t lost her touch. Jade Wickes, Staff Writer
Björk - Big Time Sensuality (1993)
Before Björk dropped her killer debut album (the aptly-titled Debut) in 1993, she was lead-singer of Icelandic alt-rock band the Sugarcubes, who achieved critical acclaim throughout the ’80s and stood, at the time, as one of Iceland’s most successful music imports ever. But when Björk moved to London in the late-’80s, she was drawn in by the underground club culture popping up at the time – the acid house sounds, the subversive styles and the grot. After meeting super-producer Nellee Hooper, Big Time Sensuality was born, complete with techno-influenced grooves, a transcendent intro and those all-encompassing vocals Björk would become known for later down the line. The track sounds like the arrival of a musical genius who doesn’t quite know it yet. TJ Sidhu, Junior Editor
Donna Summer - I Feel Love (1977)
Strictly speaking, Donna Summer’s I Feel Love is more sultry disco than throbbing house. But with a BPM of 128, it fits. Released, produced and co-written by legendary songwriter and record producer Giorgio Moroder in 1977, the legacy of Summer’s track is that of hedonism, sexual freedom and the hazy days of Studio 54, with her mezzo-soprano vocals backed by a pulsating, repetitive beat that sways like the sweaty gay bodies who were dancing to it at the time (and now). Together with trailblazing Black house DJs like Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan, Steve “Silk” Hurley and Marshall Jefferson (to name a few), I Feel Love pioneered a new sound that ripped through the late-’70s and ’80s, and would go on to influence club music for decades. You can hear Summer’s presence in just about any vocal-heavy diva house track of the ’90s – and that’s no accident. TJ Sidhu, Junior Editor
Janet Jackson - Together Again (1997)
Janet Jackson’s transcendent house track deals with loss in the best way possible: jubilant optimism and a body-moving beat. Originally written as a ballad in tribute to Jackson’s friend who died of AIDs, and in turn becoming an anthem dedicated to all those lost to the condition, the decision to flip it into a dancefloor banger transforms the typically melancholy theme of grief into a celebration of life. From the moment a heavenly harp opens the track, you’re on cloud nine, with celestial chimes, serene synths and delicate harmonies lifting you higher throughout its tight five minutes (and one second) until it feels like you’re dancing among angels. And the spirit of dancefloor divas before her runs through this track, too. The slow-to-uptempo start is a nod to Donna Summer’s Last Dance, while the inspiration to actually write the song came from Nuyorican Soul’s Runaway. The result? Pure bliss. Olive Pometsey, Features Editor
Teyana Taylor - WTP (2018)
On WTP, the standout single from her K.T.S.E album, Teyana Taylor brought NYC ballroom culture to life. She injected the cut with cymbal crashes and classic house synth stabs that invoke the jacked-up, exuberant style of house that soundtracked the underground performance scene in the ‘80s and beyond. Complete with MC commentary courtesy of Mykki Blanco, you can just picture the extreme death drops and voguing, as the track pays homage to a scene that the Harlem-hailing artist first discovered at the age of 15. It arrived with an attitude-spiked visual that both allowed Taylor to show off her killer moves (who could forget the video for Fade?) and made you want to rewatch Paris Is Burning for the 10th time. In the words of Mykki: “She’s a motherfuckin international sensation… she’s not your average showgirl!” Felicity Martin, Deputy Editor