Tiësto is the unstoppable machine who may as well utter the words “I’ll be back” each year after we announce his place in this poll, such is his enduring popularity. If you can’t see the Arnie comparison, then look for something of the shapeshifting qualities of the T-1000 from Terminator 2 instead. From making his 1994 debut release as Da Joker with a barrage of gabber, to his latest, the radio-friendly and instantly familiar-sounding, poppy ‘Carry You Home’, featuring Stargate and Aloe Blacc, here’s an artist whose sound and tastes have moved with the mood of the masses, keeping his appeal at the forefront of popular culture.
In-between these two polar extremes have been the labels that define the biggest phases of his career. Blackhole Recordings, set up in 1997 (and co-owned with Arny Bink until 2009), marked his dominance in the trance world, helping lay the way for a first place in this poll in 2002, and the following two years. As the popularity of trance waned, he set up Musical Freedom Records in an explicitly titled bid to reinvent his career. Home to huge America-compatible hits, such as his then surprise collaboration with Diplo and Busta Rhymes ‘C’mon (Catch ‘Em by Surprise)’, his fourth album ‘Kaleidoscope’, featuring the likes of Nelly Furtado, Calvin Harris and Kele of Bloc Party, and a series of ‘Club Life’ compilations, it repositioned him as one of the leading stars of the new EDM movement.
As the term EDM began to morph to represent a sound that many accused of being overly bombastic and lacking ideas, Tiësto has changed tack again, last year launching AFTR:HRS, a label drawing on the widespread popularity of the new style operating under the name deep house.
His career has brought these varying shades of electronic music to millions of listeners; from playing at the opening of the Athens Olympics in 2004 to his residencies at Hakkasan and Wet Republic in Las Vegas, he’s been an ambassador opening the door to new worlds. Throw in annual appearances at the world’s biggest festivals, such as Ultra, Coachella, Tomorrowland, TomorrowWorld and Electric Daisy Carnival, a Grammy for remixing John Legend’s ‘All Of Me’, and a weekly Sirius XM radio show that is broadcast on 350 stations in 77 countries to over 35 million listeners, and you have a DJ whose stature will rarely, if ever, be equalled.