After dedicating three separate articles to the best disco music of each decade, it’s time to summarize them all here in the hopes that it reaches readers who may not have come across the existing ones. Furthermore, taking advantage of this summary, we’ve compiled all the Spotify playlists into a single collection of the best dance songs of the 70s, 80s and 90s.
Because, although we know that disco music has never truly gone away, as evident by Beyoncé in 2023 or a bit earlier with The Weeknd, its peak happened during the last three decades of the 20th Century. And you’ll find all the disco artists you’d expect, but also some you might not. That’s the beauty of the evolution of this musical style over time, adapting to the preferences of young people hitting the dance floors to groove.
With our chronologically ordered playlist, it becomes easier to perceive the exact moments when the real instrumentation fades in favor of electronic music, revivals, pioneers, and more. Our favorite dance music artists, undoubtedly from the 70s and 80s, but there are many more beyond the classic names associated with this style like Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Kool & The Gang, ABBA, or Boney M., as you’ll see below.
The Best Dance Music from the 70s, 80s and 90s with Artists and Group Names
Without further ado, here’s both the dance songs playlist from the 70s, 80s and 90s in English, and some of our favorite songs from the 30 years of dance music in the 20th Century, including some tracks from before 1975 (the year often considered the birth of this subgenre) with forward-thinking artists like Curtis Mayfield or the Spanish band Barrabas, who are included in the list for singing in English.
Love To Love You Baby, by Donna Summer (1975)
When we say our Spotify playlist includes the best disco songs of the 70s, we mean it. We’ve tried to make sure no hits were left behind. Here you can see that, after a lesser-known track, one of the greatest classics of 70s disco arrives: Love To Love You Baby by Donna Summer. The queen of disco music had dance floors grooving in 1975 with a truly timeless and unforgettable song.
Composed by Giorgio Moroder, who also handled the arrangements, keyboards, and percussion, Donna Summer’s story with Love To Love You Baby starts when the French song Je t’aime… moi non plus was reissued in 1974. After hearing it, the American singer decided to write a sensual song that would somewhat emulate it.
Moroder was particularly interested in developing the new disco sound that was becoming increasingly popular, and he used Summer’s idea to turn the song into an overtly sexual disco track. However, initially, the singer wasn’t entirely comfortable with some parts of the lyrics or with Moroder’s idea of her moaning at certain points in the song.
Fame, by Irene Cara (1980)
Irene Cara is another icon of 80s disco music. The American pop, disco, and dance singer, songwriter, and actress is best known to us for singing Fame and starring in the film of the same name. She’s also known for performing Flashdance… What A Feeling in 1983, but we’ll talk about that other iconic movie later, using another well-known song for it.
Rockit, by Herbie Hancock (1983)
In retrospect, there’s a challenge when it comes to defining some subgenres in the 80s, often considering them as variations of others. For example, this is the case with electro music before adding various suffixes. It started as an early form of hip-hop, as seen in Rockit by Herbie Hancock.
Right now, this electronic music has evolved to encompass anything that uses a classic, electronic, and syncopated rhythm. Still, the electro prefix is also applied to industrial dance music and synth-pop with little or no hip-hop connection, yet incorporating rhythm patterns, instrumentation, and an overall similar style. That’s why we sometimes include foundational songs like this in the list, which drew from disco, jazz-funk, hip hop, and turntablism.
Tarzan Boy, by Baltimora (1985)
The competition is tight, but we’re not exaggerating when we say Tarzan Boy is among the most commercially successful italo-disco songs ever produced. For us, it’s also incompatible to not associate this song by Baltimora with the VHS tapes recorded by our parents.
Part-Time Lover, by Stevie Wonder (1985)
Part-Time Lover might be one of Stevie Wonder’s earliest forays into disco music. This single somewhat recalls some Hall and Oates songs, but with Wonder’s distinctive style, everything changes. Upbeat and poppy, it’s perfect for introducing newcomers to this world of dance and passion.
Ride On Time, by Black Box (1990)
We kick off 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.
Rhythm Is A Dancer, by SNAP! (1992)
Unlike the past decades (with the main exception of ABBA), dance music that ruled the 90s was mostly European. We’ve already seen this with the two previous examples. The German group Snap! is another example. 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.
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 clear that dance was all the rage in ’93, we give this year a bit more weight.
Written by Francesco Bontempi, Annerley Emma Gordon, Giorgio Spagna, Pete Glenister, and Mike Gaffey, and produced by Bontempi, with vocal parts performed by Italian singer Giovanna Bersola (uncredited on the single and absent from the music video).
Shut Up (and Sleep With Me), by 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 German artist Sin With Sebastian makes that evident once again. Released in May 1995 as the first single from his debut album, Golden Boy, it features the classical opera vocals of American singer Donna Lynn Bowers. Co-produced by Inga Humpe and Sebastian Roth, who also wrote it, the song became a hit across Europe, reaching number one in Austria, Finland, Lithuania, and Spain.
Hey Boy Hey Girl, by The Chemical Brothers (1999)
The second appearance of British electronic music duo The Chemical Brothers was non-negotiable. Because Hey Boy Hey Girl was, at an age when I only accepted listening to hip-hop and rock, a pleasant surprise that was quite different. Personally, I mostly remember its music video, although its distinctive bassline and psychedelic vibe are also key. The song combines elements of big beat, techno, and electronic music, creating a powerful and addictive sound. It also stands out for its vocal sample of a modified version of The Roof Is on Fire by Rock Master Scott & the Dynamic Three.
(Madrid, 1987) Novelist by vocation, SEO specialist by profession. Music lover, cinephile and reading lover, but in “amateur” mode.