Man, it feels great to dance again! After three years of pandemic confinement and paranoid social reintegration, 2023 was when partygoers felt comfortable to once again congregate in throbbing, sweating masses of rhythmic euphoria. While perreo and cumbia never went away, there’s a particularly hedonistic brand of collectivity that can only be truly achieved at a rave or under a disco ball. No one has a better understanding of what we missed than the artists who earn their living in the night: adventurous DJs, avant music producers, howling club divas, and mutant party children. It’s this diverse ecosystem of nightclub denizens that defined a dizzying, inspiring year in dance music, where genre rebellion reigned and entirely new avenues of revelry were paved.
This isn’t your tía’s punchis punchis music anymore. While mainstream stars like Beyoncé and Kylie Minogue fueled a zeitgeist-wide re-embrace of house music, Boricua juggernaut Tainy transmuted this Chicago-rooted language into reggaetón’s exciting next chapter on his acclaimed full-length, Data. In the underground, Dominican producers Diego Raposo, Mediopicky, and LSDXOXO pushed the limits of house and techno with filthy, noisy mixes. Meanwhile, Peru’s Sofia Kourtesis, Spain’s Rusowsky, and Argentina’s Lucia Tacchetti emerged as visionary architects of sound design with immersive, organic productions. In El Salvador, Sander expanded the canon of Central American hyperpop. In Mexico City, Zemmoa exhumed her MySpace deep cuts for a smokey, seductive re-invention. And Argentina’s new generation of trap and perreo vixens, including Taichu, Six Sex, and Faraonika, livened up the scene with fresh blasts of industrial glitch madness.
Honestly, the list could go on for days, but your takeaway should be that dance music is as free and limitless as ever. Our recap for 2023 includes everything from merenhouse to Jersey club, baile funk, and gabber, so pound your cocktail and let the strobing lights guide you.
– Richard Villegas
Álvaro Díaz, Tainy - “Fatal Fantassy”
Tainy’s list of muses is as long as his career, but one of his most exciting recent ones is Álvaro Díaz. The two have been collaborating for years on each other’s projects, pushing the boundaries of the entanglement between one’s sound and the other’s voice, crafting hooks that would become hits. In “Fatal Fantassy,” titled after a classic series of old school reggaeton albums from perreo master DJ Joe, that’s exactly what they’re up to again. Tainy welds Díaz’s voice to the beat, making it an essential element of its flow. For his part, Alvarito understood the assignment and wrote another heater that took full advantage of the union, ready-made to make ’em sweat in the club. — Juan J. Arroyo
Bad Bunny - “Where She Goes”
Benito joined the song of the summer competition with this dembow-leaning Jersey club track, where he longs to see a love interest after getting to know her for one night. “Where She Goes” was his first solo single of the year and is also featured on his latest album, nadie sabe lo que va a pasar mañana. It is essentially Bad Bunny at his best, even amidst the pressure of his growing status in pop culture and the ever-present anticipation of new music. The music video is additional proof of that, with wide speculation on the meanings behind the Western-inspired themes, Easter eggs, and angelic — for lack of a better word — characters. But when you ignore the online discourse and focus on the music, you realize Bad Bunny joined a new lane sonically, and it worked wonderfully. — Chelsea Quezada
Letón Pé, Calacote, Cabra, Tonga Conga - “Tengo Miedo”
A Latin Grammys experiment that got out of hand, “Tengo Miedo” was the perfect storm of international collaborators and merenhouse decadence our summer was aching for. The production brainchild of Eduardo Cabra and Tonga Conga and a star vehicle for Dominican indie pop powerhouses Letón Pé and Calacote, “Tengo Miedo” blossomed organically into a heart-pounding electro-Caribbean smash. Shimmering synths flutter over booming tambora as the sharply contrasting vocals of both Dominican performers weave a tale of a possessive woman and her submissive partner. It’s all played up for cheeky merengue fun with enough thump to get your heart racing, ultimately resulting in one of the most uproarious dance floor gems of the year. – Richard Villegas
POCAH, MC Durrony - “Assanhadinha”
“Assanhadinha” by Pocah and MC Durrony opens with a scene that is all too familiar for many Latinas with strict parents: telling your friend to cover for you while you head to a party. Despite this setback, the music video shows Pocah making it over the fence and into a baile the singer herself used to attend as a young girl in Campos Elíseos, the neighborhood where she was raised in Brazil. With the music video’s references to Baile da RQ, Biggie Smalls, and MC Marinho, “Assanhadinha” is a nostalgic tribute to the people and places that influenced Pocah’s current sound. — Daniella Tello-Garzon
DIEGO RAPOSO, mediopicky - “EL UNDERGROUND”
Electronic music from across the Latine diaspora is still an ever-growing product, with artists from all over the Caribbean creating sonically virtuous sounds. Emerging from this scene is the Dominican Republic-based artist Diego Raposo. Proving his prowess on a switchboard first in 2016, Raposo was quick to adapt to popular stylings of EDM. However, he has changed a lot since his Maybe debut. Now, he’s making music on his own terms, honing his sound and subsequently summoning the influences of baile funk, dembow, dancehall, and reggaeton into something sonically his own. This year’s “EL UNDERGROUND” is a testament to his talent in experimentation. A stand out from his latest project, YO NO ERA ASÍ PERO DE AHORA EN ADELANTE, SÍ, the track is a euphoric experience that blurs virtual insanity with reality, incorporating some of the most surreal synths over a drum loop that sends the adrenaline into shock. The instrumental manages to make you feel dissociated yet hyperaware of every movement around you simultaneously. You’re no longer on the same plane but in the rave from the Blade movie. – Alan Baez
MJ Nebreda, Sammy - “Subliminal”
MJ Nebreda has been dabbling in electronic music since before she kicked off her solo artist career. But in 2023, she fully leaned into the sound with her combo of the deluxe Amor en los Tiempos de Odio and full-length debut Arepa Mixtape. The latter is a cornucopia of dance genres from all corners, including the rousing “Subliminal.” Alternatively seductive and fast-paced, its timeless energy wouldn’t feel out of place in any recent decade. The self-confident lyrics infuse the track with an extra layer of verve, crafting a song that’s a whole experience from beginning to end. It’s a blend of unique elements that taps into everything that listeners look for nowadays while also standing out on its own. — Juan J. Arroyo
Sofía Kourtesis - “Madres”
Berlin-based Peruvian artist Sofía Kourtesis finally dropped her awaited debut album Madres this year after creating buzz in the electronic music circuit with a handful of EPs and her emotional live act, delivering on its promise with flying colors. Her ability to create moving experiences that transcend the dancefloor comes through on the title track, dedicated to every form of motherly figures all around the world and their nurturing power. By blending a pillowy house beat, whimsical synth and vocal arpeggios, reclaimed vintage samples, and her own tender voice, Kourtesis creates a magical home that feels like a warm embrace not unlike a mother’s would. She’s generous enough to share with us her own mom’s story of cancer survival in the form of a song we can always go back to whenever we need to feel the love. – Cheky
SoFTT - "Papi De Azúcar"
A few months ago, a joke song called “Planet of the Bass” took over social media by parodying ‘90s Euro-centric dance pop, becoming a bit of a sensation. Perhaps their creators unknowingly tapped into the euphoric feeling that fueled SoFTT and made this project so much fun. In this collaboration between Kablito and Trevor McFedries, the project references Europop sensitivities of the ‘90s in a hard way, making an anthem for partying and fronting with someone else’s money in a way that was not serious at all. “Papi De Azucar” was a total sugar rush, a four-on-the-floor, autotuned, catchy-as-hell ride that you couldn’t stop to get off and just made you feel better each time you pressed play. While much of pop in 2023 was worried about competing with each other and trying to drum up the most plays on streaming platforms, SoFTT harked back to carefree days when all you needed was danceable beats, cheesy synths, and an unstoppable hook to make an unforgettable hit. — Marcos Hassan
UNIIQU3, Dos Flakos – “Shake The Room”
Rightfully self-proclaimed “Jersey Club Queen” UNIIQU3 and Dominican Bronx natives Dos Flakos teamed up on a track that literally shook the last half of our year. The longtime friends are no strangers to getting club-goers on their feet in the New York City-New Jersey dance scene. Both artists infused much of their own personalities into “Shake The Room.” The single opens with percussions that offer an air of anticipation for what’s to come, but it doesn’t take long for it to dive headfirst into an electrifying amalgamation of beats pulled from Latine House, Jersey Club, and hints of Ballroom. Lending her vocals as the track’s emcee, UNIIQU3 turns the energy up to 10 using verses like, “Let’s take the block, let’s make it drop,” and, “We finna shake the room.” As with most things, it’s the smaller details that make this single special. The use of air horns and bass establish a catchy beat that will make even a casual listener bob their head, along with sprinkles of jungle breakbeats that offer a gentle nod to club mixes of the ‘90s. While UNIIQU3 has been blessing our ears with dance music for at least a decade now, Dos Flakos has been making waves in the underground Latine rave scene, playing crowded shows with the local AFUEGO! crew and on their own both in New York and across the country. – Rosy Alvarez
DannyLux - “HOUSE OF LUX”
Sometimes, the best songs come out of serendipity. Such is the case of DannyLux’s “HOUSE OF LUX,” which started as an outro for his recent album DLUX. Embracing a full-on club-ready house beat, the sentimental Gen Z crooner sings about someone missing out on great love — a theme he embodied all year long. Though the narrative is gloomy, he counters it with groovy basslines, catchy and melodious keyboards, and distorted sounds on top of a pulsing house beat to deliver an exciting and creative outlier to his signature sad sierreño tracks. The result? One of the Mexican-American artist’s most satisfying and ambitious tracks yet, all while rebelling against what listeners expect from him. – Jeanette Hernandez