Dancing is such a huge part of being a human being. There’s really just nothing better than hearing an infectious beat and wanting to move your body, But, while we certainly know that music makes is want to dance, how many songs about dancing are truly popular and have stood the test of time?
Well, that’s what we’re going to discover in this article, as I’m going to provide you with some of my favorite songs that are about dancing. So get your back up off the wall, and let’s dance!
Off the Wall by Michael Jackson
Sometimes, when you’ve had a long day, and it feels like your job is sucking the life energy from your pores, you need an outlet. You need a release. And on this classic song by Michael Jackson, that release comes in the form of a dance floor.
On this track, Michael is speaking to the person that’s a little too buttoned up. A little too reserved or tense. He wants you to get your back up off the wall, hit the dance floor, and let all of your anxieties inside your body free.
He want you to “groove,” because when you let the music into your soul, you’ll finally realize that life isn’t so bad. In fact, life can be great—especially when you leave your cubicle behind and embrace a little bit of fun.
Private Dancer by Tina Turner
Who doesn’t remember the memorable lyrics “I’m your private dancer. A dancer for money. Do what you want me to do.”
Debuting in 1984, this song on the surface would appear to be a sexy song about being a striper. But, when you listen closely to the lyrics, it’s not that at all. Instead, Turner humanizes private dancers, making us realize that they almost have to have both a focused mind on their end goal (money for themselves and their family) will also having to mentally zone out in order to earn that money and stay safe:
You don’t think of them as human
You don’t think of them at all
You keep your mind on the money
Keeping your eyes on the wall
Tiny Dancer by Elton John
The iconic song which has stood the test of time for multiple decades. Performed by Elton John, and written by Bernie Taupin, the song is dedicated to Taupin’s wife (although inspiration for the song seemed to come from elsewhere).
“I guess I was trying to capture the spirit of that time (California in the 1970s), encapsulated by the women we met… very ethereal the way they moved,” Taupin commented in an interview.
The song begins with talking about a Los Angeles woman who wears blue jeans and is a seamstress for the band. In the same interview with American Songwriter, Taupin mentioned that the women he encountered wanted to mother him, particularly wanting to sew patches onto denim. “Now she’s in me, always will be.” He was inspired by the free-spiritedness of the people he met and wants to embody the same energy.
The “Tiny Dancer” moves gracefully in everything she does, and even in mundane daily activities, the male counterpart can’t get enough of her. It’s the perfect song to dance to in the kitchen late at night with your partner.
Just Dance by Lady Gaga
It’s hard to fathom that the pop sensation and household name Lady Gaga was, at one point, a struggling artist. When she wrote this record-breaking hit, she had just signed with a new label (Red One) and left New York for LA. “I wrote the song the day after I had just flew in,” she said, “like it just flew out of my body.” Also noting that she was “very hungover” and wrote the song in just ten minutes.
The song depicts being heavily intoxicated, anxious, and claustrophobic, but the meaning of “Just dance, it’s gonna be okay” in a figurative sense is likely why it saw massive success. Dancing through life and rolling with the punches, even if everything’s a mess, is a lesson anyone can hope to incorporate into their own lives.
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room by John Mayer
One of John Mayer’s biggest hits, and one of the few popular songs about dancing with a slow tempo, this song tells the story of a couple who were once passionately in love but have realized their relationship wasn’t meant to be. They recognize the signs of the relationship falling apart, but are gripping on to whatever’s left, as if they’re slow dancing in a burning room.
It’s like they can feel that they’ll soon become strangers again, the calm before the storm, but “not the storm before the calm.” He can’t seem to hold her like he wants to anymore, and though they’ve been working on their love, he can feel its deep and dying breath. Knowing someone isn’t meant for you and accepting it before things completely fall apart is a bittersweet feeling that Mayer perfectly encapsulates.
Dance with my Father by Luther Vandross
It’s funny—you expect songs about dancing to be, well, fun. You expect them to be high octane tracks that make you either want to hit up the club or dance like Ally McBeal circa 1998.
But then there’s somber, emotionally moving tracks like Dance with my Father. And you realize that dance-related songs can have an entirely new meaning—a new context—depending on the artist behind the lyrics.
And it really doesn’t get much better than an artist like Luther Vandross. On this track, Luther recalls the fond memories of his father, and how he saw him as a superhero of sorts when he was a kid.
But Luther’s father is gone now, and it’s left a massive impact on him and his mother. So now, Luther sings about wanting nothing more than to have one last dance with his father, so he can live one more time in the good ol’ days.
But, this time around, he’ll play a song that will never, ever end.
Can We Dance by The Vamps
This British band’s 2013 hit is all about getting flirtatious with some liquid courage but feeling awkward beneath it. The singer is talking to a girl, and is embarrassed by his friends egging him on, but he wants to be in the moment and dance with her. He doesn’t know her and wants to skip the small talk and just dance.
Come Dancing by The Kinks
In this song, a man is reflecting on his childhood and the admiration he had for his sister who would always go dancing. There was a parking lot where bands used to play, and his sister’s boyfriends would always be at the door inviting her to go dancing with them. She’d stay out late while their mother waited for her to come home, and he’d be able to see their silhouettes outside still, dancing.
He refers to the center where everyone would go dancing and says that when they tore it down, his childhood died. Which is a perfect transition into the second half of the song, where he is now in a band that want to come out, see, and dance to. His sister’s all grown up now as well, and has a daughter, and he often wants to ask them to come dancing and have fun like his sister used to in her youth.
Dancing With Myself by Generation X
This song riddled every early 2000’s coming-of-age movie, when the main character realizes their love interest isn’t really all that at the prom and he’s good on his own. In the song, a man can look all over the world at every girl, but if the one girl he’s interested in doesn’t notice him, he’ll just dance by himself.
It has the perfect songwriting trick—a happy melody, but lyrics more on the sad or somber end of the spectrum. He’s trying to come to terms with being okay on his own, there’s nothing to lose and nothing to prove, but still, he wishes he could be dancing with one special girl. The bridge of the song has a wonderful sentiment though, “If I had the chance I’d ask the world to dance.”
Shut Up and Dance by Walk The Moon
This band saw massive success with their feel-good single, Shut Up and Dance. The title is verbatim to the lyrics, it’s simply about two people catching each other’s eyes and dancing the night away. It’s the perfect addition to any party playlist and, though most people remember its incredible saturation on the radio, a few years later it’s guaranteed to lighten the mood.
Dancing With Your Ghost by Sasha Alex Sloan
While loss isn’t typically a topic in songs that deal with dancing, Sasha Alex Sloan wrote about her loneliness and the absence of someone in comparison to dancing with their ghost. Every night, she waits for their song to come on, and she dances with their ghost.
She doesn’t know how to love or trust again, and it hurts to try to move on. She yells at the sky and screams at the world, while staying up all night and telling herself she’s okay. And every night, continues to play music they’d listen to together and pretend like things are how they used to be.
“It’s hard for me to write empowering songs because I’m just depressed. It’s just really easy for me to write lyrics that are honest, I’m not worried about radio or anything,” she said in an interview about embracing her sadness and becoming comfortable with uncomfortable emotions through songwriting.
Dancing’s Not a Crime by Panic! At The Disco
Like many other songs about dancing, this one entails flirting with a girl and wanting to dance with her. In this one particularly, frontman Brendon Urie says “Dancing’s not a crime unless you do it without me.” He fantasizes about the girl being guilty and getting charged for dancing without him and marrying her in the end. He even says, “I’m going insane and I don’t care.”
Whether he’s invited or not, he wants to prove himself to her and wants to make her want to be with him. It’s not just about dancing, of course, he wants to be able to dance with her as if it’s another night they spent together, and one of many daily activities he wishes were usual for the two to partake in for a date.
Stolen Dance by Milky Chance
German alternative duo Milky Chance saw incredible, and unanticipated success with this single, and millions of people all over the world have played it. In 2014, they did their first-ever American interview and mentioned that the song actually came together over the course of a few years, unlike many traditional pop artists who will sit down and work on writing a song until it’s done.
The song itself is similar to other dancing-related songs—wanting to savor time with someone special and dance the night away, but the melody is quite distinctive, with a rather simple acoustic guitar riff and raspy vocals. He feels empty without this person, and it feels like time has been stolen when they’re apart, but it’s like dancing in paradise when they’re together.
Dancing plays a huge part in pop culture, whether it’s something as simple as dancing with a stranger, or a symbol of wanting a happy future with someone, the music industry has no shortage of songs about dancing. And thank goodness for that.
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This article was written by Brianna, with select additions by Michael (Private Dancer, Off the Wall, and Dance with my Father).