16 disco songs that added sparkle to this lacklustre year
Fabulous music from Kylie Minogue, k-os, BTS, Shawn Mendes, Jessie Ware and others
"Disco is dead," declared disgruntled rock 'n' roll fans back in 1979, dismayed at the success of such phenomenal acts as Kool and the Gang, Gloria Gaynor, the Bee Gees and Donna Summer.
And while disco's popularity did wane following its heyday, it never actually died as its detractors predicted. Rather, it has evolved with every generation of musicians who've been drawn to the brilliance, extroversion and euphoria of the disco sound.
In fact, disco is so resilient that it has even survived this year's global pandemic, which shuttered the night clubs that are so vital to the genre's propagation.
Unfortunately, we likely won't be crowding dance floors for a while yet, but when we do, these 16 scintillating disco songs that 2020 served up will be at the top of the playlist.
On Korean boy band BTS's first single entirely in English, they pay homage to a beloved American genre: disco. Combining shiny pop hooks with a swinging dance beat, "Dynamite" is a bright boost of serotonin, and as they sing on the song: "Disco overload, I'm into that, I'm good to go." — Melody Lau
'Teach me how to Love,' Shawn Mendes
Like everyone, we could hardly wait for Shawn Mendes' new album, Wonder, to drop on Dec. 3. So, imagine our delight when we hit play on track 5 and discovered one of the year's most erotic disco songs. "Put my hands around you," he sings in the chorus, every inch the eager student. "Teach me how to touch you, tease, caress you and please you, teach me how to love." — Robert Rowat
'Summer Feelings,' Lennon Stella feat. Charlie Puth
With its persistent beat, memorable chorus (that octave leap!) and carefree California vibe, this highlight from the soundtrack for Scoob! made us want to apply tanning oil, strap on our roller skates and strut our stuff on a sunny boardwalk. The lyrics, sung by two perfectly cast vocalists, are all about a beautiful, breezy summer romance. Could there be anything better? — RR
'Murphy's Law,' Róisín Murphy
With a keyboard line that evokes Donna Summer's "Bad Girls," Irish artist Róisín Murphy made her disco influence loud and clear on her single "Murphy's Law." Clocking in at eight minutes, this track will test your endurance on the dance floor, but every second of it will be filled with sweaty euphoria. — ML
'Magic,' Kylie Minogue
From Disco, Kylie Minogue's tremendous new album devoted entirely to the genre, "Magic" is such an earworm we literally lost sleep over it. But who needs sleep when the dance floor beckons? "Tomorrow don't matter," she sings in the chorus, "we'll make the night last forever." — RR
With "Supernovas," k-os made his comeback to Toronto after a stint on the West Coast. The track is based on an old demo, which has been polished up by production duo MSTRKRFT. The result is disco magic. K-os's flow glides effortlessly atop a bouncing bass line, catchy riff and sparkling soundscape coalescing into the most pop-oriented song by the rapper in years. — ML
'Say So,' Doja Cat feat. Nicki Minaj
"Say So," one of the year's biggest songs, was a shimmering mix of hip hop, pop and disco. Switching between saccharine songbird and hard-hitting rapper, Doja Cat flexes her musical chops alongside a retro guitar riff tailor made for a '70s nightclub. — ML
'Finally Ready,' Shapeshifters feat. Billy Porter
If you were finally ready to be who you really are in 2020, then yay! This hard-hitting disco song is your anthem. "Disco is in my blood!" wrote Billy Porter, announcing the single. "I love to feel sparkly and have that light shine back into the audience." — RR
'Give Love to Get Some,' the Brothers Macklovitch feat. Leven Kali
2020 saw the advent of the Brothers Macklovitch, the duo of A-Trak (Alain Macklovitch) and Dave 1 of Chromeo (Dave Macklovitch), both disco-inclined musicians. Their first single was this refreshing song featuring R&B singer Leven Kali. Citing Jamiroquai, Incognito, Omar and Masters at Work as inspirations, how could they possibly go wrong? — RR
'Spotlight,' Jessie Ware
While most people think of the dance component of disco, Jessie Ware's latest album, What's Your Pleasure?, remembers to also inject a healthy dose of sex. "Spotlight" leans into Ware's sultry delivery and her words melt into one another under the heat of the disco lights, ending the number on the mesmerizing lines, "Then tell me what it means, tell me what this is/ tell me when I'll get more than a dream of you/ and if a touch is just a touch, then a touch just ain't enough." — ML
'Feel Something Different,' Bea Miller feat. Aminé
How do you take a good song and make it great? By doing a disco remix, of course. Bea Miller enlisted Aminé for this remix of her 2019 single "Feel Something" and it's a disco masterpiece with a refrain that's a whole pandemic mood: "I just wanna feel something, I just wanna feel/ something really real so that I can really/ feel like a person again." — RR
'Feed the Fire,' SG Lewis feat. Lucky Daye
SG Lewis has been on a disco roll in 2020, first with banger "Chemicals" and most recently with a Rhye collaboration called "Time." Best of all has been "Feed the Fire," a funk-soaked celebration of dance-floor hedonism that's got strings, futuristic synthesizer blips and the seductive vocals of Lucky Daye. — RR
'Smiley Face,' Duck Sauce
Sampling Two Tons O' Fun's "Make Someone Feel Happy Today," Duck Sauce gives disco a modern remix on its single "Smiley Face." With Martha Wash and Izora Armstead's voices on a loop, the track feels endlessly celebratory; a ray of sunshine that is guaranteed to turn frowns upside down. — ML
'Feeling Free,' Two Another
There's a welcome whiff of Motown in this relatively subdued disco song from Two Another's recent EP, Two Sides. Disco is usually joyful, but this song reminds us that freedom sometimes comes at a cost: "Now that everything is up and gone/ assuming there's no mercy for the things I did wrong/ no, freedom never felt so sad in my life." — RR
'Black Rain,' Rhye
Instead of giving us a bold, '70s-style disco anthem, Rhye opted for a moodier take on the genre — an "'80s version of disco, like the way Quincy Jones was interpreting [it]," he said via press release. Slinky and sensual, "Black Rain" is suitable for all your best moves, both vertical and horizontal. — RR
'Set me Free,' Oliver Heldens, Party Pupils, Max
For those of us cooped up this holiday season due to the COVID-19 lockdown, this song's repeated "set me free" lyric will feel less like a mantra and more like a primal scream. You've got our permission to scream along with Max, and if it's release you're after, go ahead and get physical to Oliver Helden's colossal EDM beat. — RR
Enjoy all 16 songs plus a few other 2020 disco gems in this Spotify playlist.