Ahh, the joys and trials of the party DJ. You must satisfy a wide variety of tastes, be fair yet fastidious with requests. There’s a fine line between keeping them dancing and diving deep into a lake of melted cheese — i.e. any of the couples you see on late-night TV touting Party Mix 2000 for just $19.99 while “Walking on Sunshine” blares in the background — but you need not fear, future entertainers.
Creating the ultimate party mix is not an impossible task. Really, all it comes down to is paying attention to your guests. If booty makes ’em bounce, so be it. If Neil Diamond makes them sway, turn on your heartlight. If “The Macarena” is the only thing that gets them on the dance floor, I’m really, really sorry.
I’ve found, after years of hosting parties and attending them, that there are three keys to any successful assembly: Good people, good alcohol, good music.
Now, I’m sure we’ve all enjoyed our fair share of goes-straight-through keg beer spilling out of red plastic cups while shaking our asses to “Hump that hump that hoochie mamma” with people we can’t stand while sober.
Maybe some of you have even chanted “whoot hoot!” in the height of kegger ecstasy, but there comes a time in all of our lives when burning upholstered furniture and showing our tits no longer defines a good time. At this point, music becomes the focus of how entertained we are.
Obviously, it’s best to start off slightly mellow, with some low-key yet energetic electronic or jazz. It’s welcoming and offers a mood that’s both invigorating and comforting — and the first few songs are vital for creating ambience. Suggested tracks: Anything off Carl Craig’s Designer Music V1 or Charles Mingus’ Mingus Ah Um.
Once the party gets going, oldies make a nice transition into full-throttle celebration. And it’s nearly impossible to go wrong with songs that have passed the test of time.
Going in this direction, you always run the risk of getting a request for “Oh What a Night” — a fine song but, like Prince’s “1999,” one that has been ruined by DJ abuse.
Don’t let it happen to you. You’re better than that. The aforementioned songs are sure to revive a dud party quickly, but you’ll feel so cheap.
Suggested tracks: “Dizzy” by Tommy Roe or “Love Potion #9” by the Searchers.
Wild game entrées
Now that you’ve claimed the trust of your guests, it’s OK to move into the wild card realm. This is where you can throw in some of your personal favorites no matter how obscure or lame — as long as you always keep some Beatles, ’80s new wave or early ’90s hip hop on hand to bring back the flock.
Other wildcards include disco, Elvis, booty or Barry Manilow. Of course you’ll get some boos, but there’ll be a few in the crowd who’ll go crazy at these selections. When you realize that someone else likes the same “controversial” music that you do, it’s a release, kind of like coming out of the commercial music closet, proclaiming “I love Britney Spears and I’m not ashamed!”
Suggested tracks: “Last Dance” (Donna Summer) “Suspicious Minds” (Elvis Presley), “Fuck You Hoe” (DJ Assault) or “Copacabana” (Barry Manilow).
At this point, go wild. Mix it up, take requests, do whatever fits the specific atmosphere. Toward the end, it’s always good to throw in some funk and soul. Anything by James Brown is a great idea, as is all of Al Green’s material. Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” is a perfect transition into the cool-down portion of the party. Now, you have a choice, which is of course dependent upon the overall feel you get from the room.
It’s always a good idea to close out a party with either soft R&B or folk ballads. With some groups, rock ballads or prog rock tunes work best. Take your pick.
When stocking up on records you don’t have, but know are appropriate for entertaining, it’s never a bad idea to check out the compilations on the cheap rack.
Now, all you need are some red plastic cups.Melissa Giannini is our resident expert on what gets booties shaking. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org