The Dance Music Producers of the Moment - Rolling Stone
Home Music Music Lists

The Dance Music Producers of the Moment

From David Guetta to Afrojack, here are the artists who are responsible for dance’s new mainstream popularity

dancers glastonbury

Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Electronic dance music (or EDM) has become an undeniable staple of pop music in the last two years: Over half of the current Billboard Top 10 singles are now spiced with a pulsating electro-dance flavor, and these days, even an Adele jam gets the remix treatment. As electronic music began invading radio, its creators – DJ's with a knack for melding house music thump with pop's uppity fizz – took to the studio to help pop stars craft the fist-pumping dance jams we now see dominating the airwaves. But since most of the dance genre's top dogs are still relatively anonymous, we've broken down everything you need to know about these party-starters, from head honchos David Guetta and RedOne to wunderkinds Afrojack and DJ Chuckie.

By Dan Hyman

david guetta chinese theater

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

David Guetta

Birth name: Pierre David Guetta

Age: 44

Origin: France

About him: Guetta had already topped the charts in 12 countries before snagged him for production duty on the Peas' unavoidably infectious 2009 party anthem "I Gotta Feeling." Now he's the go-to dance-pop producer – and has helped pave the way for dance music's recent pop takeover.

Artists he's produced for: Black Eyed Peas, Kelly Rowland, Pitbull, Flo Rida

Artists he's remixed: Madonna, Black Eyed Peas, Snoop Dogg, Shakira, Flo Rida

His sound: Squelchy, endorphin-emitting synths. If "ecstasy" were a sound effect, it would be named "Guetta."

Track that best captures his essence: The Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling."

On his style: "Is it dance? Is it urban? It's difficult to say," Guetta told Rolling Stone in 2010. "But it's very exciting."


Jason Merritt/Getty Images


Birth name: Nick van de Wall

Age: 24

Origin: Netherlands

About him: Thanks to his 2010 electrohouse bleep-jam smash "Take Over Control," as well as a David Guetta endorsement, the Dutch DJ was thrust into the international spotlight. 2011 was his coming-out party: Afrojack's Coachella set was attended by Sir Paul and "Give Me Everything," his hit single with Pitbull and Nayer, topped the Billboard Hot 100.

Artists he's produced for: Chris Brown, Pitbull, Beyoncé

Artists he's remixed: Lady Gaga, Kid Cudi, the Black Eyed Peas, Enrique Iglesias

His sound: Wiry synth vocoders intertwined in a ball of bliss. Occasionally aggressive, but largely riding the feel-good train.

Track that best captures his essence: "Give Me Everything" (Pitbull feat. Afrojack and Nayer).

On what defines his sound: "It sounds dense," Afrojack has said. "It's very weird and that characterizes my style."

calvin harris

Don Arnold/WireImage

Calvin Harris

Birth name: Adam Richard Wiles

Origin: Scotland

Age: 27

About him: After conquering Europe and Australia as a DJ, Wiles – who started as a singer-songwriter –has finally arrived in the U.S.: This year alone he crafted a song for LMFAO's Sorry For Party Rocking and then produced (and scored guest-spot honors on) Rihanna's Number One single "We Found Love."

Artists he's produced for: Rihanna, LMFAO, Mary J. Blige, Kylie Minogue

Artists he's remixed: Katy Perry, Shakira, Passion Pit, the Ting Tings

His sound: Sprightly synths and chirpy keyboard effects. Harris hits the sweet spot between Eurohouse and classic disco.

Track that best captures his essence: "We Found Love" (Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris).

On his saving grace: I've got a really short attention span," Harris has said, "which I think helps in making music that is instantly catchy and memorable."

stargate mikkel s eriksen tor erik hermansen

Michael Buckner/WireImage


Birth names: Mikkel Storieer Eriksen and Tor Erik Hermansen

Ages: 39

Origin: Norway

About them: Many dance-pop producers started as DJs, but the Norwegian duo were always focused on songwriting and producing. They broke into the American pop game with their work on Ne-Yo's "So Sick" and now regularly craft Europop-style hits for pop royalty: Britney, Rihanna and Katy Perry have all commissioned their services.

Artists they've produced for: Britney Spears, Rihanna, Wiz Khalifa, Katy Perry

Artists they've remixed: Michael Jackson, Depeche Mode, Ne-Yo

Their sound: Grandiose orchestral-style synths and pulsating bass. The duo almost always first create a melodic instrumental before vocals are added into the mix.

Track that best captures their essence: "Firework" (Katy Perry).

On their anonymity: "We have the Number One record in the country for 10 weeks," Hermansen has said, "but when we walk down the street no one knows who we are."


Kevin Winter/Getty Images


Birth name: Nadir Khayat

Age: 39

Origin: Morocco

About him: After moving to New York, RedOne – who tried his hand at a solo career before switching to production – worked on a few Menudo tracks (yes, really) before linking up with Lady Gaga. Together they created her breakout hits ("Just Dance, "Pokerface"), and since he's been nominated for six Grammys, was the Number-One charting producer of 2009, and even worked with Michael Jackson before the singer's death.

Artists he's produced for: Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Akon, Jason Derulo

Artists he's remixed: Lady Gaga, Usher, Far East Movement, Enrique Iglesias

His sound: Dirty scuzzed-out synths explode into euphoric melody; he translates even the most bitter of emotions into aural ecstasy.

Track that best captures his essence: "Bad Romance" (Lady Gaga).

On Auto-Tune: "For those who need massive pitch correction because they can't sing," RedOne has said, "I would prefer to not work [with them]."


Daniel Boczarski/Redferns


Birth name: Thomas Wesley Pentz

Age: 33

Origin: U.S.

About him: In 2003, performing in Philadelphia as Hollertronix with DJ Low Budget, Diplo helped craft the mixtape Never Scared, which featured M.I.A. and Bun B; he also produced the 2004 mixtape Piracy Funds Terrorism, featuring Brazilian favela funk-inspired remixes of many of the songs on M.I.A.'s first album, Arular. In addition to producing for the likes of Lil Wayne and Beyonce, he also now helms his own record label, Mad Decent, and is half of the dancehall DJ duo Major Lazer.

Artists he's produced for: M.I.A., Lil Wayne, Beyoncé, Snoop Dogg, Robyn

Artists he's remixed: Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Lil Wayne, Sleigh Bells, Maroon 5, Feist

His sound: An international flea market of beats and blips; he scours the globe for the tastiest beats and flavors.

Track that best captures his essence: "Paper Planes" (M.I.A).

On staying in the shadows: "We're not the best songwriters, we're not good singers, we're not the best looking," Diplo has said of producers. "We just see the little cracks that need to get filled."

dj chuckie

Ben Hider/Getty Images

DJ Chuckie

Birth name: Clyde Sergio Narain

Age:  33

Origin: Netherlands

About him: Raised in Suriname, Chuckie – who moved to the Netherlands as a teenager – became a staple on the Dutch House scene in the late-1990s and early-2000s. He soon branded his hip-hop-influenced House music "Dirty Dutch" for its scuzzed-out sound and accompanying culture. Last year, his LMFAO mash-up "Let the Bass Kick in Miami Bitch" elevated him to global recognition.

Artists he's produced for: Lil Jon

Artists he's remixed: LMFAO, 3OH!3, David Guetta

His sound: Chuckie's "Dirty Dutch" vibe is a hard-throbbing cacophony of hip-hop and Eurohouse. Its primary emphasis rests on the drum and bass parts.

Track that best captures his essence: "Let The Bass Kick In Miami Bitch" (DJ Chuckie/LMFAO).

On dance music's future: "People used to say that hip-hop wasn't going to last, but it's there to stay," Chuckie has said. "It's the same thing with dance music."

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.