So You Think You Can Dance, which is about to return for its 11th season, is renowned for featuring some of the coolest music on reality TV — Sleigh Bells, M.I.A., Bjork, Robyn, Hot Chip, Sam Sparro, Roisin Murphy, Goldfrapp, et al. Forget about that corny wedding band on Dancing With the Stars. SYTYCD is truly in step with what’s going on in music.
But there are some musical acts that have benefited from the SYTYCD exposure more than others. Below are six of the real winners.
6. Olafur Arnaulds
Clearly the SYTYCD choreographers are in love with this Icelandic composer’s oeuvre. Either that, or Olafur makes his music really easy and cheap to license. But it’s probably the former case. The neo-classicist’s sweeping soundscapes serve as the ideal backdrops for SYTYCD‘s push/pull/love/hate routines, which explains why his music has been featured on the show six times, in couples’ dances choreographed by the great Stacey Tookey, Travis Wall, and Sonya Tayeh, as well as in solos. Don’t be surprised if you hear some more Olafur compositions this season.
Of course, Adele does not owe her entire gazillion-times-platinum career to SYTYCD. But many people first discovered her music in 2008 via Katee Shean and Joshua Allen’s stunning Mia Michaels routine set to “Hometown Glory.” It still stands as one of the most glorious dances in the series’ history.
Tyce Diorio’s contemporary routine to “Apologize” for Danny Tidwell and Anya Garnis really put Ryan Tedder and company on the map. Danny and Anya ended up in the bottom three that week, but soon “Apologize” was on top of the charts. OneRepublic were later invited to perform their debut single on a SYTYCD results show.
3. A Great Big World
Before Christina Aguilera was performing “Say Something” with A Great Big World on The Voice, and before Alex & Sierra covered it on The X Factor or Alex Preston did it on American Idol, the song got its first major TV exposure via a routine by Season 10 contestant Amy Yakima and all-star Robert Roldan on SYTYCD. In fact, it was the SYTYCD placement that got Christina’s attention in the first place; soon after, she emailed the duo telling them how much she loved the track. Christina ended up recording a duet version with A Great Big World, and they went on to greatness. And it was all because of SYTYCD!
2. Lady Gaga
Way back in 2008, this then-unknown pop starlet made of one her first U.S. television appearances on SYTYCD, singing the Season 4 theme song “Just Dance.” (And she later recruited Season 4 contestant Mark Kanemura to be a principal dancer in her troupe.) While in retrospect Gaga’s leotarded performance seems incredibly tame, at the time it was the perfect springboard for her colorful and controversial career in shock-pop. Three years later in Season 8, Gaga, now an international superstar, came full-circle and paid back the favor by serving as one of the best SYTYCD guest judges ever.
1. Christina Perri
Back in 2010, a dancer friend of this struggling singer-songwriter got the demo for “Jar of Hearts” into the hands of SYTYCD choreographer Stacey Tookey — who loved it so much, she asked the then-unsigned songstress to rush-record a professional version to be used for a Billy Bell/Kathryn McCormick contemporary routine. The song then exploded overnight, hitting No. 13 on iTunes, No. 23 on the Billboard Hot Digital Songs chart, No. 58 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 10 on Amazon’s digital singles chart, and No. 2 on Billboard’s Heatseekers countdown. And it quickly sold more than 100,000 copies — all without any label support. This led to Christina being invited to perform the song live on a SYTYCD results show, while all-stars Neil Haskell and Allison Holker danced around her piano. A deal with Atlantic Records soon followed. Christina has credited SYTYCD with literally changing her entire life.
What cool tunes will be featured on So You Think You Can Dance this year? We’ll soon find out, when Season 11 premieres on May 28. Cue music!