What is deep house?
House music is a diverse and much-loved genre that has brought people together since the early 1980s when it originated from disco in Chicago; deep house started then as well, combining elements of Chicago house with jazz and soul music. It is vastly different from the heavy, cumbersome sound of electro house or the aesthetically pleasing yet repetitive melodies of progressive house. At times quite relaxed and at other times extremely groovy, its tracks are usually 7 to 10 minutes long, its tempo beats about 126 bpm.
One thing is certain: deep house never loses its soul. It can work its way down into your core and do profound things. It messes with your subconsciousness. It is deep music, therefore it is appropriately called "deep house".
There is little, if any, deep house in popular commercial music, and you'd never find it on the radio. As a result, it has a large underground following and its scene is a close-knit family of artists and others fringe-dwellers. Rather than big-scale performances of artists such as Deadmau5 or Swedish House Mafia, the best gigs I've been to were in small sweaty clubs with obscure deejays.
Below, you will find the list of my 10 favourite deep house songs, in no particular order. This is my own humble opinion, of course, and I welcome any constructive debate of my choices in the comment section.
1: Huxley--Box Clever
"Box Clever" is what deep house is all about; intricate, soulful, and mesmerising. It begins with a lovely house beat and wonderfully intricate hats, a solid kick, and a stab note that gradually builds as the main lead comes in. The lead builds until a bass comes in, crafted intricately into the song. "Box Clever" is smooth, seductive, and extremely fun to dance to.
The other main driving factor of this song is the voice. It's an excerpt from Alicia Keys's poem, P.O.W., spoken by the author. We first hear it in an interlude about halfway through, an extremely deep and moving vocal which can be interpreted in a variety of ways.
That is the beauty of deep house and this song; the lyrics are deep and meaningful and have a purpose and a place, whereas in some other forms of dance music, the lyrics can seem pointless and soulless. It is a triumph of a track that shows what deep house is all about.
Listen to "Box Clever" by Huxley
2: Frank B--Chain of Fools
Here we have a song by an up-and-coming Irish producer. As a resident deejay in the infamous underground Dublin club, the Twisted Pepper, he is no stranger to pleasing crowds. It is no surprise then that this song has proven to be a real crowd-pleaser.
Frank B begins by gradually bringing in the beat and the melody before breaking into the main body of the song where the wonderfully-sampled vocal comes in: it is Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools", hence the name of Frank B's track. The vocal works well with the fleeting hats and chilled-out lead synth however, just as you think the song cannot get any better, a funky bassline is dropped, accompanied by the vocal which is now chopped into a percussive element. As the song continues, the original vocal comes back in and repeats itself. The result is six minutes of pure grooving that leaves an indelible impression.
This is definitely one of the best tracks of 2012 and in my opinion it has the potential to be a timeless deep house classic.
Listen to Frank B's "Chain of Fools"
3: Maceo Plex--Stay High Baby
This song has a special place in my heart as it was one of the first deep house songs I heard. This was the song that got me properly interested in the genre.
It progresses beautifully, never introducing any element too sharply or suddenly. It brings you on an epic journey without breaking the speed limit. In fact, it's more of a leisurely cruise; there is no hurry. It is one of those rare songs where you can just take a deep breath, let go, and enjoy the moment.
The sensual lyrics elevate it again to a new level, conveying fresh, crisp feelings to the listener, and don't get me started on that almost ghost-like bass line. Its beauty is so subtle yet so affecting it cannot be ignored.
This is a triumph of a track which will always be one of my personal favourites.
Hear "Stay High Baby" (Original Mix) by Maceo Plex
4: Scuba--Feel It
A deep house song isn't deep house unless it can get people moving, and Scuba's "Feel It" does just that.
Scuba is a solid producer who has released a multitude of consistently good songs, making it hard to pick a favourite; however, this song is a contender. Starting with a nice hard kick and a raspy bass, it certainly gets into the soul of the listener right away, making them "feel it" as the vocal line of the track implies. However, the star of this track is the lead synth which is bouncy, bassy, and most importantly, impossible not to dance to.
The song progresses, adding in some lovely atmospheric synth lines at the interlude, before dropping right back into the main body of the track while keeping the synth lines. A multitude of crisp clean snare rolls add width to the track, topping off what is undoubtedly a club banger.
Listen to "Feel It" by Scuba
5: Maya Jane Coles--Senseless
The best thing about "Senseless" is undoubtedly the female vocal. The singer tells a story of loss which contrasts with the uplifting melodies of deep bass and intricate steel drums. The two contrasting elements combine to form something which is neither one or the other. It is not overly uplifting, and it is not overly depressing. It is simply a really chilled-out tune that makes you feel relaxed and at ease.
When I listen to this song I can feel my head clear and all my worries wash away. Not many songs have that effect on a listener, making Maya Jane Coles' "Senseless" a real gem.
Listen to "Senseless" by Maya Jane Coles
6: Azari and III--Hungry for the Power (Jamie Jones Remix)
Jamie Jones's remix of "Hungry for the Power" is outstanding and showcases the versatility of deep house. The intro is an atmospheric build with the vocal line eventually coming in and leading up to a stomping kick. This intro continues, weaving its way in and out of the listener's consciousness, conveying a false sense of security until it drops into a dark and dangerous bass line.
The vocal line--"I'm hungry for the power"--adds to the unsettling nature of the bass. Then a high-pitched lead enters, adding another eerie element to the track. The unsettling combination of the bass line and the vocal are soon forgotten as one gets lost in the intricacies of the song. However, the song remains tantalisingly dark the whole way through. A really great remix by a really great producer.
Listen to "Hungry for the Power" by Azari & Ill
7: Mr. Fingers--Can You Feel It?
"Can You Feel It" is another original deep house song, released in Chicago in 1986. It is a truly timeless piece that still sounds fresh today. It is a chilled-out house song that oozes musical maturity. Its deep vibe, coupled with its unrelenting house beat, particularly the hats, result in what is still widely considered to be one of the best deep house songs ever created.
The original is an instrumental, however a bootleg version was brought out in 1988 by Rhythm Control called "My House" in which Chuck Roberts is sampled discussing what he considers house music to be. Larry Heard, aka Mr. Fingers, dismissed this version due to his disapproval of sampling. In my opinion, the vocal version is good, but the original is undoubtedly the best, most pioneering sound of deep house.
Listen to "Can You Feel It" by Mr. Fingers
8: Huxley--Let It Go
For the second time on this list, we have a song from Huxley who, in my opinion, is one of the best producers in the new wave of deep house producers. This track is a perfect example of why I think so because, well, it's simply outstanding.
"Let It Go" builds nicely into a lovely, grooving, rhythmic song that just keeps on giving. The vocal line states "the first time I saw her I thought that I might lose my mind". Well, the first time I heard this song I thought I'd lose my mind. It's that good.
The bass feels nice and driven, carrying the fleetingly intricate and beautiful background melodies and weaving in and out of the track at various points. This is a really great song that not only stays true to the genre of deep house but pushes its boundaries.
Video: Huxley's "Let It Go"
9: George FitzGerald--Child
"Child" is a fairly upbeat deep house song. Throughout, there's a minimal stab that sounds like someone calling "woo" every so often. The male vocal adds soul to an already soulful track but the highlight is the chords: a soft, underlying progression compliments the vocal perfectly, giving the song an energy and depth that increases as the song progresses and the synth that forms the chords morphs like a snake. The solid 4/4 beat with its nicely accented hats carry the song along, bringing you along on the song's journey.
George FitzGerald is gradually building up a catalog of great songs and, in my opinion, "Child" is his best.
Listen to "Child" by George FitzGerald
10: Maya Jane Coles--What They Say
Last but certainly not least, we once again have Maya Jane Coles with "What They Say", a song that sucks you straight in with its immensely catchy minimal synth line that is simple yet powerful. "What They Say" then brings in its well-constructed 4/4 house beat before introducing the soulful, wispy vocals that ooze with just the right amount of reverb.
The beauty of this song is its simplicity. It has so much groove and character, while its level of production seems relatively simple. However, the ideas within the song and the way they are executed are beautifully complicated.
It is very hard to make such a minimalist song sound so good, creating space that sounds full rather than empty. This song is deep house with elements of minimal house but its depth and use of space place it squarely in the deep house territory. "What They Say" is an absolute banger and a triumph of a song.
So there we have it!
These are my top ten favourite deep house songs. Each song, in my opinion, pioneers the genre, showcasing what it's all about while adding something new. Every single tune on this list has the groove, soul, and a danceability required by the deep house genre.
I hope you enjoyed this list. If you want to recommend, discuss, or just respond to any element of this article, feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for reading!
Sonja Van Hoof on September 03, 2018:
And his (Larry Heard)'s voice. Ooooh. So sweet and cool and soft and gentle ...
Fox Verde on February 17, 2017:
just wanted to point out an error. frank b did not sample aretha franklin for his track chain of fools. he sampled it from a 1989 house track of chain of fools by Risse you can find the mixes on youtube. the house mix is great.
Risse - Chain of Fools (House Mix)
cheers and great songs.
James on January 10, 2017:
Big ups man great picks and true definition of deep. Few flogs getting around on the deep train claiming bangers to be deep house, ew.
RAW on August 31, 2016:
there is a song of a man talking about the history of house and mentions many DJs from past and present. I remember him mentioning carl craig as master or remix. Ricardo Villalobos as psychadellic house etc.
quinkygirl on June 28, 2016:
Let me offer you a REAL top 10 list of deep house tracks.
You have Mr. Fingers in there, but these other tracks you list, even if some of them are enjoyable, they aren't deep house. At all.
House Guru on June 13, 2016:
Mr. Fingerz is the ONLY Deep House on the list! Why can't people understand what Deep House is? Stop confusing people!
Pau21 on March 30, 2016:
Hello love this Hub. thanks for such a great list I really enjoyed it.
SIyAbOnGa on October 28, 2015:
wow.... what an amazing talent Big up 2 the DJ's who made Deep music possible
An21212 on March 07, 2015:
My favorite deep house artist is steezmonks, not as big as these names but pretty awesome :)
Lelaneth on February 19, 2015:
Hi, Gerardo Mtz LA, the song you're looking for it's Oliver $ - Doin' Ya Thang (Original Mix)
Gerardo Mtz LA from Los Angeles, California on August 26, 2014:
hello as you appear to be a great apreciator of deep house, i'd have to ask you for the name of a song, I can't find it anywhere but I heard it in a deep house bar. I will list the characteristics here, if you know the song please reply as it is of great importance to me, I am forced to find it now, I really need to relisten to this song.
-It sounds like a live set that was made into a song
-It is a long song, 8-12min more or less.
-The DJ has a deep Afroamerican voice.
-The beat starts with a spoken introduction by him
-At the middle of the song, he stops the song and says he started it all wrong
-he speaks to the audience
-looks for vynils
-asks the crowd for music
-gets a tape and rejects it
-finds a vynil and keeps playing.
I love this song, if you can find it or know of it please tell me. Thank you so much.
sandra on July 12, 2014:
check out Seekwell on soundcloud! that's awesome!
CharleneClair on June 20, 2014:
The only track here that is deephouse is "Can You Feel It" by Mr Fingers. THE REST ISN'T DEEPHOUSE.
mike on June 19, 2014:
this page is a joke
Zachary Brown from Seattle, WA on June 19, 2014:
I loved this hub! I had no idea I enjoyed Deep House this much. You have put me on a new path of exploration with this genre. Thank you!
HumanPerception (author) from Ireland on June 18, 2014:
@Hezekiah , thank you, glad you enjoyed it!
Hezekiah from Japan on June 18, 2014:
Lovely line up there mate. Gotta love deep house.
HumanPerception (author) from Ireland on June 12, 2014:
@Tw , you're welcome, she sure is great!
HumanPerception (author) from Ireland on June 12, 2014:
@Meteo; glad you enjoyed it! :)
Tw on June 11, 2014:
Thanks for the Maya Introduction! right up my alley
Meteo on June 10, 2014:
This is AMAZING !
Theo on May 21, 2014:
this list is so off base it's ridiculous...
Elisa on March 21, 2014:
Awesome list. Thank you for a great analysis of just what makes these deep house songs so great.
Veronica on January 12, 2014:
Amazing article... really really enjoyed reading (and listening to) it.
Joe on June 15, 2013:
What about "Divided/United" Rasmus Faber featuring Apollo and Melo. Possibly the best intro ever : 4-5 genres on piano leading into a male duet. The reprise mix is the one to listen to...
Defected 13 on March 03, 2013:
George Fitzgerald's the best on here imo, such a boss, really rate Huxley too