Valentines Day

The Saddest Tunes
In Dance Music

Warning: contains copious amounts of atmospheric bass, minor piano chords, pitched-vocals and deep feels.

Warning: contains copious amounts of atmospheric bass, minor piano chords, pitched-vocals and deep feels

Dance music and Valentines Day actually have a lot in common, they both eulogise shared experiences, celebrate themes of love and togetherness, and - for better or worse - have a heavy consumer element to boot.

Both dance music and Valentines Day often find criticism in their perceived fixation on the good times and a lack of emotional nuance, but when you look a little deeper, such criticism is unfounded (well, for dance music at least). There are many producers that are just as comfortable making four to the floor bangers as they are making introspective, emotional cuts.

There are even those rare artists that can cram the two styles together in the same track and come out with something beautiful, like an astute matchmaker or  a well-judged Tinder date. With that in mind I'm going to count down thirteen tracks that will have your feet moving, while your heart's breaking.

So if you don't have a date for Valentines, get drunk with your single mates, pump this playlist to obnoxious levels and sing along. Or if you do have a date, this also makes for a surprisingly good sex mix. Go figure.

Drake Feat. Alicia Keys - "Fireworks" (Deadboy's Slo Mo House Edit)

Future Garage pioneer Deadboy took Drake and Alicia's "Fireworks" and turned it into one of the biggest post-dubstep tracks of the decade. A track that was at the vanguard of the emerging UK Bass scene and paved the way for similar artists such as Jamie XX, SBTRKT, Jacques Greene and early Blawan. In the five years since it's release, Deadboy's produced two more versions of this track, but nothing tops this version. I must've heard it a hundred times and I'm yet to listen to Drake's original.

MssingNo - "XE2"

There's not a lot of information available about mysterious producer MssingNo, other than the fact he's (presumably) named after a Pokemon glitch and his debut EP was a masterclass in twisting R&B vocals with atmospheric bass. "XE2" is the highlight of the release and shows just how deft MssingNo is in the Sad Dance Music game - managing to turn R Kelly's "I'm A Flirt" into this morose banger is quite the achievement.

SBTRKT - "Temporary View"

SBTRKT's self-titled debut album was a watershed moment for UK Bass and sad dance music as a whole. SBTRKT went on to become a global star and work with a variety of vocalists, but his moody production is at its best when paired with Sampha's heartfelt crooning. "Living Like I Do", "Hold On", "Never Never" and "Sanctuary" are all contenders, but if it's pure heartbreak you're looking for, it has to be "Temporary View". 

Caribou - "Can't Do Without You"

Dan Snaith has said his sophomore album, Our Love, was written about his family, but it doesn't take too much of an imaginative leap to turn "Can't Do Without You" into a the breakup song of 2014. Pro Tip: no matter how drunk you get on Saturday do NOT send this to your ex. It'll achieve nothing but weeks of embarrassment. 

Tourist - "Together"

Tourist's musical output is like a melancholy stream of dancefloor heartbreak, so it's tough to pick the saddest card in his deck. "Your Girl" gets all the love, but as great as it is, I don't think it can quite go toe to toe with "Together" in the angst states. The line "we should be together", sounds so hopeful at the beginning but, after continued repetition throughout the song, it builds into the kind of desperate pleading that comes from a preoccupation with holding together that which is destined to fall apart.

Jesse Ware - "Tough Love" (Cyril Hahn Remix)

When UK producers want a soulful female vocalist, Jesse Ware is usually pretty near the top of their call sheet. But her yearning vocals are taken to all new heights when they're remixed by master of the tearjerker, Cryil Hahn. Think about it - if he can turn feel good anthem "Say My Name" into a heartbreaker, imagine what he can do with Jesse's ballad about unrequited love. Further reading: his treatment of Solange's "Losing You".

A.G. Cook - "Had 1" (Jacques Greene Slowed Down Edit)

The PC Music boss is used to putting out hyper-active but surprisingly tender dance bangers, so it's no surprise that when moody Canadian, Jacques Greene, got his hands on Cook's saddest of songs he turned it into this instant sad dance classic. Part of the appeal of this track is that it's probably the most accessible of PC Music's output but still remains firmly in "WTF is this?" territory.

South Street Player - "(Who?) Keeps Changing Your Mind" (The Night Mix)

Not all sad dance music has to be slowed down and bassy as South Street Player expertly demonstrates in the Night Mix of his 1993 release "(Who?) Keeps Changing Your Mind". This perfectly captures the confusion, anger and sense of loss that comes after a breakup, then throws it onto a peak-time four to the floor beat. If you're out on Saturday and the DJ is wise enough to drop this, your Valentines will instantly be 1000% better. Just maybe don't try and match the high notes after the 5 minute mark. You will have no voice on Monday if you do.

Frank Wiedemann & Ry Cuming - "Howling" (Âme Remix)

German outfit Âme are known more for their deep sets than for moody bangers, but their take on howling - embarrassingly included on the Taken 3 soundtrack - is so brooding it'd make Robert Smith blush. I don't know what's happened to the girl in the thumbnail, but if she's listening that intently to this track, she definitely needs a hug.

The Paradise - "In love With You"

A song so perfect for the last track of the night, its become a comedown anthem, but lets not forget that while it may evoke hands in the air Croatian sunrise, at it's core it's a song about love. The incessant repetition of the title phrase "In Love With You", leaves the intention of the singer vague - is it a good or bad thing that he's in love with the titular "you"? But when you pair it with that piano and those synths, I think the writings on the wall that it's probably a bad thing. Those are not optimistic synths.

Robyn - Dancing On My Own

If you've recently been broken up with and some malicious DJ plays this on Saturday night, do your emotions and your dignity a favour, do not - as Robyn suggests - continue "dancing on your own". Go get a drink, go for a smoke, just do anything to leave the dancefloor. Nothing good will happen there now.

Jaques Greene - "Baby I Don't Know"

Jacques Greene didn't invent the 'pitch up an RnB vocal and lay it on some synth' technique, but he's definitely made it his own. From "Another Girl" to "Arrow" to "No Excuse" he's become a focal point in every Majestic Casual-fuelled yearning session. But it's his under-appreciated, "Baby I Don't Know" that's his ultimate tearjerk weapon. I really don't know why he went for the space-themed video, but I guess who's lonelier than an astronaut, right?

Cassius - "I <3 U So"

What at first sounds like the ultimate "Our Song" for a raver couple is not as positive as its title suggests. This song is either about a toxic relationship or unrequited love. Either way, when it inevitably gets played this Saturday and all the couples in the room start serenading each other, just remember that this song is actually for you. You hopeless, unlovable, singleton. Happy Valentines!

And as an extra Valentines treat, we've compiled the above into a handy playlist for you.

If by some stroke of luck you've managed to bag yourself a life partner, but don't quite know how to sum up your feelings for them in gift form, you should get them our Throwback Slowjamz compilation, because everyone loves music that reminds them of sex.

Similar Sorts of Things:

The Ministry of Sound Sex Tape

Nobody Cares About Your Dry January

Best New Music From GTA V

Written by Matthew Francey

11 Feb 2016