This week, Chris Panella’s take on dance music is both reflective and forward-looking: On a good day, I can almost imagine how close we are to dancing together again, to partying in crowded nightclubs (or unfurnished basements). Even while wishing for those days to come faster, Chris soundtracks his daily routine to disco and beat drops, crafting vibes that make us feel a little less alone.
I grew up listening to disco and post-disco with my mom, and much of my middle school and high school years were spent enjoying EDM, ’90s house, techno and Eurodance. Daft Punk dominated my CD player, legends Marshall Jefferson and Black Box introduced me to house music’s rich history and Calvin Harris and Justice filled my music library.
Similarly, the radio played a lot of dance-pop during my teenage years. Britney Spears’ “Blackout” (2007) and “Femme Fatale” (2011) were touchstones, and Lady Gaga’s “The Fame Monster” (2008) and “Chromatica” (2020) remain incredibly influential to me. The latter album got me through much of the pandemic and reminded me of what it’s like to party.
There’s something euphoric about dance music’s pounding beats and explosive drops. It’s a sort of catharsis, an exchange of energy — I think that’s especially true when we dance with others. Dancing alone this past year hasn’t felt the same. But post-pandemic, I’m excited for the empathy, love, excitement and power that comes from anyone and everyone’s enjoying dance music. With each song, we’ll be celebrating.
‘Forget Me Nots’ (1982) by Patrice Rushen
The repetitive claps of Rushen’s “Forget Me Nots,” along with the sort of dissipating sirens, make for a hypnotic and groovy listen. I love playing this song for my mom. I owe my love for disco and post-disco to her. It’s a great way to get us cooking, cleaning or partying — power up the Bluetooth speaker and make a martini. Rushen’s glossy vocals and some sparse saxophones make “Forget Me Nots” one of my most persistent earworms, a song I can always count on to get me moving.
‘Good Life’ (1988) by Inner City
“Good Life” is a sleek and flashy track, with gorgeous vocals from Paris Grey and vibrating synths. I consider it a little calmer than its late ’80s and early ’90s club peers, but it’s just as euphoric and expressive. I like to listen to the Inner City bop when I’m getting dressed and styling myself — nowadays, that means picking a flashy outfit and jewelry for my Zoom classes. But it’s also a great song for road trips and walks to the store. Whenever you need immaculate vibes and steady energy, look no further.
‘Better Off Alone’ (1998) by Alice DeeJay
Sure, this song’s a meme across social media, but have you ever asked yourself why it’s so viral? Because it slaps! Part of what makes “Better Off Alone” so fantastic might just be its repetitiveness. But the song’s trance-inspired electronic beats still feel fresh with every listen, sparking and flashing, begging for you to listen again and again. I’d say that “Better Off Alone” is an ol’ reliable of sorts. I can add it to virtually any playlist and it’ll fit in perfectly. Lately, it’s been my soundtrack for CVS and liquor store runs.