While the 90s dance music began to take shape in the late 80s with the emergence of house music and its perfect blend of hip-hop and dance, in this blog we consider that the most iconic club music of the 90s started gaining more success from 1993 onwards. In this article (and its accompanying Spotify playlist), we will see that there were already a good number of disco hits since 1990, but the level of exceptionalism was still quite high and, above all, there wasn’t as much difference compared to what was heard in the late stages of the previous decade when we transitioned from Technotronic to C+C Music Factory with a very natural continuity.
It’s necessary to point out in this introduction that, although we sometimes refer to it as 90s disco music, the correct term would be 90s dance music. This is because, where in past decades (especially in the 70s disco music) it was clear which style we were referring to, from the late disco music of the 80s onwards things got more complicated. Where we used to have a mix of rhythms between R&B, soul, and some funk with a multitude of instruments playing, now what stands out is electronics. The vocalists from black music are still present, but now they add the energy of rappers to the more vocal female voices. However, the rest is a blend of sounds from many different styles, among which house and techno stand out, of course, a sound known in Spain as bacalao.
It’s really a mix of names. For example, with 90s dance music, in fact, many people associate styles like euro house, europop, trance, Italodance, happy hardcore, or even reggae-pop or jazzdance. Not to mention synth-pop or the aforementioned techno and house, with their subgenres. Because here’s another question, what do we do, for instance, with Ini Kamoze’s dancehall in Here Comes The Hotstepper. In our case, we’ve decided to leave out styles like reggae-pop, synth-pop, or trip-hop, as they are more distant from the dance floors, even though that might make you miss names like Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, or Inner Circle. In any case, at Muros de absenta, we’d like to believe that you’ll find most of the 90s dance hits in our playlist that you’re looking for.
The Best 90s Dance Songs in English
Nevertheless, one of the most interesting aspects of 90s dance music is to discover at what exact moment it stopped being a mainstream genre. Because it’s true that it made a comeback in the early 2000s with names like David Guetta or DJ Tiësto, but from the mid-1990s until the end of the same decade, it’s clear that the force of all music styles aimed at dance floors were losing prominence in clubs around the world.
Therefore, another goal we’ve set for ourselves, aside from highlighting the best dance songs of the 90s, is to observe the evolution towards other sounds that took over the space of music for clubs and pubs. As a little spoiler, let’s say there were two trends. In the first one, pop started to dominate above all else; in the second, vocal elements started losing importance compared to other musical factors.
Ride On Time, by Black Box (1990)
We start the 90s list with a song released as a single in July 1989 but belonging to the Dreamland album, released in 1990 by the Italian house music group Black Box. Black Box member Daniele Davioli described Ride On Time as an attempt to create a dance track with the power of a rock song… And boy, did they succeed.
Get Ready, by 2 Unlimited (1991)
It’s a song so perfect in its purpose that it also gave its name to the debut album of the half-Belgian, half-Dutch Eurodance group 2 Unlimited. Get Ready was an absolute hit in Europe, though the United States wasn’t quite ready for this sound yet.
Rhythm Is A Dancer, by SNAP! (1992)
Contrary to past decades (with the main exception being ABBA), in the 90s, disco or dance music that rocked was predominantly European, as seen with the previous two examples. The German group Snap! is another case in point. Released in March 1992 as the second single from their second studio album, The Madman’s Return (1992). Rhythm Is A Dancer features the vocals of American singer Thea Austin.
No Limit, by 2 Unlimited (1993)
The second appearance of 2 Unlimited on the list is essential. If they could compose two such popular hits, who is this blog to deny them a double presence here? Just like the previous case, the title of the single released in 1993 matches their second album’s title, No Limits!.
What Is Love, by Haddaway (1993)
As you can see, we’re still in 1993. Judging by the number of selected songs, we can say that this is the year of consolidation for a musical style that’s actually a blend of several styles. The classic What Is Love is the debut single of Trinidadian-German Eurodance singer Haddaway, taken from his debut album, The Album. The song was released in 1993 and became a hit in Europe, reaching number one on music charts in at least 13 countries and peaking at number two in Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. As we said, for now, the success is primarily in Europe.
Mr. Vain, Culture Beat (1993)
Another proof demonstrating that the year 1993 was an exceptional one. Mr. Vain, another Eurodance banger, yet again from a German band, this time Culture Beat. It was released in April as the first single from their second studio album: Serenity. The song achieved massive success worldwide, reaching number one in at least 12 countries. Today, it’s recognized as one of the most successful and important dance songs in history. An undeniable dance music classic for anyone.
Show Me Love, Robin S (1993)
But hold on, because after the previous, practically worldwide success, native English speakers start entering the scene. A clear sign that we’re dealing with one of the most popular styles of the moment. This is the case with Show Me Love, the song by American singer Robin S. It was written by Allen George and Fred McFarlane and originally released in 1990 by Champion Records in the UK. The song was later re-released as a single in 1992, though in DJ versions that were slightly different from what we know today through the album released in 1993 with the same name. True to form, it became a worldwide hit, even in the United States.
Slave to the Music, by Twenty 4 Seven (1993)
We return to Europe with Slave to the Music, by the Dutch Eurodance group Twenty 4 Seven, released on August 13, 1993, as part of their second studio album of the same title (they weren’t putting too much effort into titles back then). The song was written by the group with co-producer Ruud van Rijen and was danced to in clubs across half of Europe.
Dreams (Will Come Alive), by 2 Brothers on the 4th Floor (1994)
Wow, I think I’ve gone a bit overboard with the song selection, so I’ll start abbreviating, as you might not be in the mood for more reading. Don’t forget that you have the playlist here, just in case you’ve come directly to this article and haven’t noticed that there are more than 100 songs there.
Well, Dreams (Will Come Alive) is a song by the Dutch group 2 Brothers on the 4th Floor featuring D-Rock and Des’Ray. It was released in June 1994 as the fourth single from their debut album, Dreams (1994).
I Like To Move It (Erick “More” Album Mix), by Reel 2 Real & The Mad Stuntman (1994)
Surely I Like To Move It (Erick “More” Album Mix) sounds quite familiar, even if you’re not a fan of this type of music. You might even find yourself singing it in Spanish when you hear it. Well, here’s its origin: Reel 2 Real featuring The Mad Stuntman.
The Rhythm of the Night, by Corona (1995)
European music continues to dominate the list with The Rhythm of the Night, the song by the Italian Eurodance group Corona. It was released as their debut single in 1993 in Italy and then in other parts of the world the following year. However, since the group’s debut album, The Rhythm of the Night, was released in 1995, and it’s already clear that in ’93 dance was the thing, we’re giving this year more weight. Written by Francesco Bontempi, Annerley Emma Gordon, Giorgio Spagna, Pete Glenister, and Mike Gaffey, it was produced by Bontempi and the vocal parts were performed by Italian singer Giovanna Bersola, who is uncredited on the single and does not appear in the music video.
Dub-I-Dub, by Me & My (1995)
Dub-I-Dub is a song by the Danish duo Me & My, released in September 1995 as the first single from their self-titled album the same year. It was a hit on the charts of many countries, reaching number one in Denmark and Japan and becoming a top 10 hit in countries such as Belgium, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Spain, and Sweden, just to name a few.
Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop), by Scatman John (1995)
For a change, here’s another American, this time the famous Scatman John. Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop) was released in November 1994 as a single and later reissued in July 1995 for his second album, Scatman’s World. The song was described as a “mixture of jazz scatting, rap, and house rhythms,” though I remember hearing as a child on TV that the reason for his unique singing style was his stutter, although I’m not sure if that was true. It caused quite a stir in Spain.
Shut Up (and Sleep With Me), Sin With Sebastian (1995)
However, the German market was clearly the global powerhouse when it came to dance music in the ’90s. Shut Up (and Sleep with Me), by the German Eurodance artist Sin With Sebastian, makes this clear once again. Released in May 1995 as the first single from his debut album, Golden Boy, it features the classical opera vocals of Donna Lynn Bowers. Co-produced and written by Inga Humpe and Sebastian Roth, it became a hit all over Europe, reaching number one in Austria, Finland, Lithuania, and Spain.
Born Slippy .NUXX, by Underworld (1995)
Another one of those songs that might sound familiar even if you weren’t a fan of house, Eurodance, or techno. Born Slippy .NUXX is a song that, much like The Prodigy, gave a new musical evolution to the ’90s disco music. The British electronic music group Underworld is behind this one. The lyrics sung by vocalist Karl Hyde depict the perspective of an alcoholic, which would later lead to its use as the soundtrack for the movie Trainspotting and its re-release as a single in July 1996, reaching the top of the charts in numerous European countries.
Step By Step, by Whitney Houston (1996)
But before we make the leap we’ve mentioned to something harder or at least different from what we’ve heard, let’s listen to something more classic and closer to what we understand as disco music in general. And it comes from the great Whitney Houston, although Step By Step was originally written and recorded by Annie Lennox.
Around the World, by Daft Punk (1997)
And here comes the change. Despite the contrast, this was also something people danced to, and boy, did they dance. Around the World is the first international hit by the French house music duo Daft Punk. It appears on their 1997 album, Homework, though it was released as a single on March 17 of the same year by Virgin Records. The song is known for repeating the title and also for its music video, directed by Michel Gondry and choreographed by Blanca Li. In fact, memories of this video are personally unforgettable for me, as I remember watching it at my aunt’s house and my cousin showing me a Furby for the first time.
Come Into My Life – Molella And Phil Jay Edit Mix, by Gala (1997)
Notice how I’m starting to change the terms to refer to the songs from these years. Not that they weren’t present before, but the big hits were what they were, and many of them combined various styles, even if they were lumped together as Eurodance. In the case of Come Into My Life, the Eurodance gets a much more pop feel thanks to Italian singer Gala. It was written by Gala Rizzatto, Filippo Andrea Carmeni (known as Molella), and Phil Jay, two well-known Italian DJs and producers. The song became one of Gala’s biggest hits and a dance anthem of the ’90s.
Block Rockin’ Beats, by The Chemical Brothers (1997)
The main difference between what we were listening to and what’s coming next is in the focus. Production and sonic elements take the forefront, while the song’s lyrics are minimalistic and consist of the repeated title Block Rockin’ Beats. The title refers to the idea of creating impactful rhythms and beats that “block” or shake up the music world, something that The Chemical Brothers achieve by combining elements of electronic music, breakbeat, and big beat along with a powerful and addictive guitar riff. Much like Daft Punk, the song also received acclaim for its innovative music video, also directed by Michel Gondry. All in all, the song became one of the band’s biggest hits and is considered one of the anthems of electronic music in the ’90s.
Believe, by Cher (1998)
When no one expected it, Cher made a musical comeback and rocked the scene. The autotune we know now is nothing compared to how she used it here. Believe was written by Brian Higgins, Stuart McLennen, Paul Barry, Steven Torch, and produced by Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling. The song marked a significant change in Cher’s musical style, as she had previously been known for her pop and ballad music, but here she embraced a more electronic and dance-oriented approach. This allowed her to reach new audiences and conquer international music charts.
The Rockafeller Skank, by Fatboy Slim (1998)
The ’90s were so odd that I remember seeing in the movie Down to You the singer Usher dancing to The Rockafeller Skank as if he were Michael Jackson. The song, released by British musician Fatboy Slim (also known as Norman Cook), is one of his most recognized singles and became an international hit. The song combines elements of electronic music, big beat, and funk.
Horny – ’98 Radio Edit, by Mousse T. (1998)
Using a vocal sample taken from How Do You Like It? by The Jungle Brothers (with the word “horny” repeated in different variations throughout the song), Horny – ’98 Radio Edit is a shortened version focused on radio broadcasting of the original song. This remix shortened the song’s duration and made subtle production adjustments to better fit radio formats and capture a wider audience. It was a brilliant move by German producer and DJ Mousse T. to achieve success in 1998.
Music Sounds Better With You, by Stardust (1998)
Now let’s cool down with Music Sounds Better With You, a song released by the music group Stardust in 1998. This was an electronic music project formed by Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk, Alan Braxe, and Benjamin Diamond. The song became a huge hit and is considered a dance music classic, conveying a positive and celebratory message about music as a form of unity and happiness. The very title, “Music Sounds Better With You,” suggests that music has the power to enhance and enrich our lives. In 2021, it was covered in French by Magenta on their album Monogramme, under the title “Avec Toi.”
2 Times, by Ann Lee (1999)
As seen in the heading, 2 Times is a song released by British singer Ann Lee in 1999. It became an international hit and is considered one of the best-selling dance singles of the ’90s. A song that talks about the desire to relive a past romance and experience those happy moments again. The chorus refers to the idea of repeating and reliving those special moments.
Blue (Da Ba Dee) – Gabry Ponte Ice Pop Radio, by Eiffel 65 (1999)
Gabry Ponte, a member of the Italian group Eiffel 65, created this version with a more pop-oriented focus and production adjustments to give it a fresh and radio-friendly sound. Thus, Blue (Da Ba Dee) – Gabry Ponte Ice Pop Radio was released in 1999 and became an international hit, reaching the top of the charts in several countries.
The Riddle, by Gigi D’Agostino (1999)
Italian DJ and producer Gigi D’Agostino closed out the decade with The Riddle, one of the most recognizable singles of his career. It emerged as an adaptation of the poem “The Riddle” by British author Sir Derek Walcott, although the lyrics in the song differ from the original poem. To start, while Gigi D’Agostino’s version retains the enigmatic and mysterious approach of the poem, it’s adapted to the context of electronic music, combining elements of dance, techno, and trance.
Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of…), by Lou Bega (1999)
German singer Lou Bega only needed Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of…) to make musical history. His version of the classic Pérez Prado track became a massive hit worldwide, reaching the top of charts in numerous countries. The song was celebrated for its festive rhythm and its ability to get people dancing on the dancefloors. So much so that even today, it’s still a staple at weddings with kids, just like the Macarena or the Chicken Dance. It also became popular due to its catchy chorus and recognizable female names.
Hey Boy Hey Girl, by The Chemical Brothers (1999)
The second appearance of the British electronic duo The Chemical Brothers was essential. Because Hey Boy Hey Girl was, at an age when I only accepted listening to hip-hop and rock, a pleasant surprise away from that. Personally, I remember the music video most of all, though its distinctive bassline and psychedelic atmosphere are crucial too. The song combines elements of big beat, techno, and electronic music, creating a powerful and addictive sound. It’s also notable for its vocal sample from a modified version of The Roof Is on Fire by Rock Master Scott & the Dynamic Three.
Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!!, by Vengaboys (1999)
Combining elements of Eurodance and bubblegum pop, we conclude our selection with Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!!, by the Dutch group Vengaboys. With a somewhat childish touch, perhaps signaling exhaustion, it was a massive hit and has become a dance music anthem of the ’90s. In addition to its commercial success, the song has remained a key part of pop culture and has been used in several movies, TV shows, and sports events. Its festive energy and catchy chorus have made it a lasting dance anthem, making it the perfect way to end this article.
(Madrid, 1987) Novelist by vocation, SEO specialist by profession. Music lover, cinephile and reading lover, but in “amateur” mode.