The dance music underground might be rocking bleepy techno and dark-wave house from Europe, but the stuff that really moves the masses combines the synthetic strings of trance with the tough percussion of house. One look at the most popular DJs in the world, from Tiësto to Deadmau5 to Kaskade, points to the resonance of thick bass lines dipped in symphonic candy.
Miami's Robbie Rivera has the sound down naturally. A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, he taught himself how to DJ at age 13 and only a few years later was making dance music with drum machines, tape decks, and sequencers. He grew up on British New Wave and New York freestyle, and by the time he moved to the States, he had fortified his big-room sound.
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Rivera became a go-to remixer (Madonna, Ricky Martin, Kylie Minogue) and top-tier superclub headliner who established his own Juicy Music label. He's a rare DJ who appeals to genres entrenched in separate corners of the dance floor — house and trance — with his muscular grooves and waify vocals. His alchemy is apparent on artist album Closer to the Sun, released this past November on Ultra Records. DENNIS ROMERO