You asked for it. You got it. But first, a quick note before I lay out the most guaranteed party starter since opiates. These are not necessarily songs I LIKE. If that was the case, this playlist would consist only of “Straight Outta Compton” and the score to “There Will Be Blood” (and the party would consist only of naked chicks with Batman masks on, but I’m old-fashioned). I like some of them, sure, but playlist creation for me is simple anthropology. I divorce my personal subjectivity in order to study humans and their reactions to certain time signatures, melodies, and instrumentations. Then I tailor the songs accordingly. Like it or not, this will, as the old expression goes, “get people fucking so nice.” If you disagree with one of the songs below, don’t blame me and don’t blame my taste. Blame society. Blame the United States of America, and go back to whatever socialist, bullshit, EDM-loving, gun-hating fascist crater you crawled out of. This playlist is for patriots only. Ipso facto, the first song:
“The Star-Spangled Banner,” Lee Greenwood
Of course. Besides the fact that every great gathering should start with a shout out to the good ol’ stars and stripes, this song serves as a focuser. It gets people’s attention. It announces the intention of the day, of the playlist itself. You know what the best part of a rocket launch is? The countdown. The anticipation. I’m no physicist, but I’m pretty sure without it, we’d barely get off the ground. NASA powers its ships on pure enthusiasm–I read that in an important book. So hats off, eyes up front, let’s all get ready to party TOGETHER.
But why, you ask, Lee Greenwood’s version over, say, Whitney’s or Marvin’s? It’s simple, efficient, and workmanlike. Easy to sing along to, with just the appropriate amount of pomp. It’s the meat and potatoes version–this guy puts his country before his ego. It’s a real man’s “Star-Spangled Banner,” and you’re a real man. Sure, the ladies have one eye on the flag you always carry with you, but one eye trained on the stud holding it up.
“Timber (Feat. Ke$ha),” Pitbull
I know, I know, but like I said, I don’t make the rules, I just follow them. There will be plenty of interchangeable pop on this playlist, and I’ll save us the time by not annotating all of them. That said, this is a good second song; there’s a distinct, unmistakable intro. It announces itself, then it hits with a driving dance beat. Ladies love it–hands in the air and all that. This song is the lift off. Let’s go. We aren’t just here to dance, we’re here to grind on each other until we all get UTIs.
This song makes everything feel more important. The test you just took, the job you’re working hard at, the futon you’re sitting on. That African tribal sing-song thing in the beginning makes you feel like you’re looking upon the Serengeti just before a journey into the unknown. The Serengeti, in this instance, is a frat basement and the journey is mediocre sex with a six.
“Ain’t Too Proud Too Beg,” The Temptations
See what I did here? I went from a song that people just like to hear to one people just love to sing. She thought, “Okay, I’ll get some of that jungle juice after this song about my journey.” Then she gets her arm yanked by you, as you scream at the top of your lungs, “I KNOW YOU WANT TO LEAVE ME,” and guess what? Her arm hurts a little. Hurts so good. Hurts just right. “Can he do the same to my vaginal canal and uterine walls?” she longingly ponders as she bites her lip.
“Dark Horse (Feat. Juicy J),” Katy Perry
Back to the pop. This isn’t a Bar Mitzvah (unless it’s a Bar Mitzvah). You tuck your chin and look deeply into her eyes. Katy Perry yells in the distance. Everyone is a little too suburban to move so ghetto. You can thank Katy for making it feel right.
“(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher,” Jackie Wilson
If it can make a toaster dance, it can sure as hell make a human dance.
“Wake Me Up,” Avicii
“Runaround Sue,” Dion
“The Man,” Aloe Blacc
“White Walls,” Macklemore
These last few songs anticipate a certain lull–granted, they’re fun pop songs, but they’re common comforts. They are the society-accepted street signs alerting folks that they’re on a party path. You can’t get too weird early in the playlist–it only confuses everyone. That said, you’ve earned some hard-won trust with a bevy of pop and a few established oldies. “Hey man, decent playlist so far,” someone might say to you, almost condescendingly, almost as if you’ve been playing it too safe. But you’re a snake in the grass. You know everyone needed a little time to get lubed up. As Nana used to say, “You can’t just shove it in.” But now it’s time to up the ante.
“Always Be My Baby,” Mariah Carey
This song will blow the fucking roof off. If, after the three minute mark, you’re not screaming, “You’ll always be a part of me” into some girl’s spit-drenched face, then you’re partying with the wrong Asians. It’s off-kilter enough–both in tempo and age–but beloved enough to elicit a massive singalong. An hour in and you drop a bomb. This is where the great playlist-makers separate themselves.
And the next few songs? Those will be the meat of the order, the slightly off-kilter revelations, the journey from routine to sublime. You’ve announced yourself as a capable playlister. Next week, we become legends.
To be continued…