A couple of years ago, I was at a beach party and some of my friends bestowed upon me the nickname “DJ Tiny Hands” when they realized that I was good at taking other people’s iPods and picking out the best songs on them to create the perfect dance party playlist. [Ed. note: Also, she has tiny hands.] I then “DJed” my birthday party (in the loosest possible sense of the word….I played songs off my iTunes at a bar) and it was a blast! Since then, I’ve sent a mass email every year with my summer mixes.
There’s nothing more frustrating to me than when the settings of a great dance party are ruined by the person in charge of the music, who is (more often than not) totally fucking up by making easy, obvious, weak choices. Why play a second-tier jam when you have a golden opportunity to play a top-tier jam that can bring the party to another LEVEL?!
You know when you’re at a bar and you’re on drink #3 and a song comes on that is totally throwback and/or unexpected and you’re like “OH SHIT THIS IS MY JAM?” The best kinds of dance parties are the ones where every. song. is that. song.
The key is to NOT always go for the obvious choices (though there are a few exceptions – for example, a dance party playlist is not a dance party playlist without the crucial inclusion of R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)”).
However, even though you’re avoiding the obvious, you also don’t want to put on obscure shit no one knows. It’s not going to be a good dance party with maximum participation unless what you’re playing is familiar to them (but not TOO familiar – don’t put on something that’s been played to death on Top 40 radio & that everyone’s probably sick of). I know it’s everyone’s first impulse to put on current stuff, but if you’re going to do so, surprise people – if they wanted to listen to Top 40, they’d put on a Top 40 station.
Good remixes and mash-ups are a great way to keep it familiar AND fresh. I can’t get enough of Dillon Francis’ “Suit & Tie” remix . I love mash-ups like Chambaland’s “Semi-Charmed Call”. My girls The Jane Doze are currently killing it in the mashup/remix game. My friend Jan, aka Lightwaves, makes GREAT dance party jams. I also love mixtapes by SoSuperSam and Them Jeans.
As a general rule, when in doubt, go ’90’s – but the RIGHT kind of ’90’s – don’t stop “Return of the Mack” in the middle in favor of “Barbie Girl”. (Someone ACTUALLY did that at a party I was at recently. Come on, people. Use common sense.) LCD Soundsystem, Robyn, TLC, Usher, & College Dropout-era Kanye are always good choices. The later in the night it gets, the more appropriate it becomes to drop those NSFW dirty jams like “Back That Azz Up” & “Pony”. Go crazy!
Have a blast this weekend. Dance your heart out. Make every song be an ‘OH SHIT!’
Godspeed. Love, DJ Tiny Hands
Listen to Maggie’s Dance Party Essentials on Spotify here.
By Maggie Lyons (aka DJ Tiny Hands)