Saturday, February 16, 2013

Six Song Six-Pack - The Musical Coup D'Etat

I hate Bluetooth. And YouTube. And smartphones. 

This will come as no surprise to those who know me but let me reassure them that this isn't one of my usual high-minded, technology-is-forever-altering-humans-attention-span style rants. This time I'm being far more narcissistic.

You see, my college glory days took place at the perfect time for an opinionated music fan such as myself. It was when mp3 players became ubiquitous (by which I mean that I had one - I rarely own a technology before it's already become ubiquitous) but before people always had one with them via their smartphones. This was also before most stereos could be wirelessly connected with such music players or with YouTube, aka the free world's free music library.

Back in those halcyon days of yore, most parties were reliant on whatever actual music libraries were available via computer or mp3 or other headphone jack technology. As you know, most sane people don't lug their iPods around for a Saturday night of partying. Therein lay my advantage.

With at least 50 or 60 gigs of music in hand at any given time, I'd always locate the speaker system and wait for my opportunity to strike. When I was on my best behavior I'd wait for people to express dissatisfaction with the music or for an album to run out or some other organic reason to ask the host innocuously  "hey, you mind if I put on song?" Other times, I was far more shameless and operated on the forgiveness is easier granted than permission theory, merely waiting for a lapse in attention towards the music to swoop.

Now I realize that this isn't probably the most healthy behavior in the world and I am trying to amend my ways. But my motives, beyond simple snobbery were generally rooted in the altruistically arrogant belief that the atmosphere would be lighter and the audience happier were I allowed to assume the DJ mantle.

When making such a blatant power-play, one must always have at least a few absolutely corking songs lined up and ready to go (unless of course you're offering to play a song requested by the host which they don't own, a popular gambit to wrest control of the music). It's absolutely essential that your music be better, more ass-shaking and more well-received than whatever was previously playing. I always considered this consideration to be not just practical but a point of honor - one doesn't music-jack with inferior tunes, we're not barbarians.

Nowadays of course, everyone has a every song with them at all times and it's rare to find people at a loss for music to allow such jackings. But it is on the off-chance that the need should arise that I write this installment. All these songs contain the three elements absolutely essential for such an enterprise.
a) The song must have broad appeal. You can never be sure of the musical tastes of strangers so you've gotta try and shoot for broad appeal within the party's age demo. This means everything from hipster bros, hip-hop lovers, Gleeks and people who "don't really listen to much music but really liked 'Call Me Maybe.'"
b) The song must be easily danceable. Hopefully people didn't come to NOT to dance their asses off so . As an added benefit of this rule is that (broadly speaking) songs that inspire dancing do so because women like them and, as everyone knows, when the women are happy, you've got a good party.
c) The song should be something that's not already a party cliche. You love "99 Problems" and "Mr. Brightside"? That's awesome! So do I! But so does everyone else, you wanna not only get people dancing but get them dancing to something they're not used to. This rule can be fudged in a pinch, especially with tougher audiences but consider it a personal challenge (and remember, those songs people all know make great drunk, end-of-the-night singalongs).
With these criteria in mind I present On Warmer Music's six songs guareenteed to ensure that your musical coup d'etat goes off with minimal bloodshed and maximal rump rotation.

Click Song Title To Listen/Download
1. Blankest Year - Nada Surf  Buy The Weight Is A Gift
Released on an album mostly filled with mid-tempo meditations on aging, "Blankest Year" stood out like a sore thumb, as if its 2:12 of massive fuzz guitar was meant to blast away all the maturity and sobriety like dust on a mantle. With a hook too big to deny, pounding drums and the undeniable charm of being able to sing "oh, FUCK IT! (fuck iiit!), I'm gonna have a party!)" multiple times, this song has never let me down.
2. Bassment Party - The Cool Kids  Buy The Bake Sale [EP]
This is a great song no matter where you're from but it should hold a special place in your heart if you're a Chicagoan. From their debut EP, the Cool Kids made the perfect song for those basement parties that Chicagoans know so well, right down the versimilitude of the directions in the first verse and admonition to "get bent before you come / 'cause for that liquor I'll be chargin'". As the title implies, Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks supply plenty of phat bass as well as the kind of goofy, shaggy dog rapping and that no human being with a heart can resist.
3. Let's Dance - The Ramones  Buy Ramones
You remember the absolute scourge of those Punk Goes Pop-style records in the early '00s? Though most just turned shitty three-chord pop songs into equally shitty three-chord pop-punk songs, it's obvious why these attempts seemed like a good idea - the Ramones made it look so easy. The mopheads from Queens always loved simplicity and joy of the pop of their childhood and had a penchant for re-purposing such songs for their own use. This old Chris Montez number, already a frat-rock staple, it worked just as well for for slam-dancing as the twist and it's appeal is still undeniable. Particularly wonderful is they way that everything but Tommy's toms drop out for the "hey baby..." only to have the wall of head-slicing guitars explode again on the word "dance" - rock genius.
4. Dancing Choose - TV On The Radio  Buy Dear Science
Another rule that should have been mentioned above is that a party-jacking song has to grab the listener within the first second, something that this menacing rumble of "Dancing Choose" certainly does. Propulsive and wickedly catchy, it appeals to the beard-strokers, dance-mavens and woo-girls who have no idea what it is in equal measure. Although the song itself is a rant about wealth and conformity, the rapid-fire delivery makes the message opaque to anyone not familiar while Tunde Adebimpe's pauses at key lines provide emphatic fun for all and singalong opportunities for those in the know.
5. One Fine Day - The Chiffons  Buy The Best Of The Girl Groups (both albums, this is required listening)
It's hard to think of a more appealing open than the plinky piano followed by the Chiffons' "shooby-dooby-dooby-doo-wop-wop" that open "One Fine Day". When crash-DJing I find it's generally good to mix your styles and for God's sake, mix your eras. It doesn't matter the age range of the party-goers, rare is the time when a really great cut from the '60s doesn't get the best reaction of the night. I like "One Fine Day" not just because it's upbeat, dancey and insanely fun, but also because it's old enough to be a classic but not so overplayed that people are sick of it. The reaction I love to this one is the slow-dawning "heeey, I remember this!" Just remember, girl groups, oldies and songs about longing for love are always a must - this one manages all three.
6. Build Me Up (feat. Ol' Dirty Bastard) - Rhymefest  Buy Blue Collar
I saved Rhymfest's "Build Me Up" for last for a reason and that's because this shit is the party-equivalent of weaponized plutonium. It takes a beloved song that everyone and their grandpa knows, adds a hip-hop beat, some funny as hell verses about trying make it with a chick ("tryin' to get up in her bush like dubya") and then, just for good measure, somehow brings Old Dirty Bastard back from the fucking dead! If you're ever in doubt of your efficacy as a provider of party music, play this song immediately and you will immediately become the most beloved person at that particular shindig. And deservedly so.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to a party tonight. It's sure to exquisitely DJ'd in a way that will match an elaborate theme that will surely delight the guest of honor. I still think I'll throw the iPod in my jacked though. Just in case.

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