Friday, December 17, 2010

New Year's Party Music

Picking the right music for a party can be a make or break thing.  It can totally set the tone for the night and be a great way to add to the vibe you’ve created with your décor, food, et al.  Or if it’s boring and generic it can make your party feel the same way.  Granted, I’m way more particular about my music tastes than most people you’ll find, but still, I think it’s an easily overlooked part of pulling off a successful, fun, and (most importantly) unique party.

Lindsey and I are having about 30-35 people over for New Year’s Eve.  We have an unspoken agreement about who handles what as far as party planning duties; I handle food and music, she handles everything else.  It works.  Anyway, I think the trick to coming up with a good playlist comes down to a five key things:

1) Get the message across.  Set a tone, establish a vibe.  In the case of New Year’s, it should be easy: fun and upbeat.  It’s not a dinner party; don’t make it feel like one. 

2) Pace yourself.  You don’t need everyone to be dancing on tables and popping bottles as soon as they walk in.  Build up to the most upbeat stuff, don’t go right into it.  It’ll make the payoff better. 

3) Know your audience.  Yeah, you want the music to fit the vibe you’re going for, but you also want to make sure your guests enjoy it.  Don’t force it. 

4) Express yourself.  Put your own personal twist on the music.  This is where you make it unique.  Yeah, you want your guests to enjoy the music, but so should you. Show everyone what you’re into, be yourself. 

5) Don’t go too old.  Mix in a good amount of current/contemporary music.  There’s nothing wrong with playing some older stuff that everyone likes and knows the words too, but you don’t want people to feel like they’ve heard this playlist 100 times before. (This is especially important for a New Year’s party.  Use some stuff that was big or that you were into this past year.  Mark the time.)

As long as you’re hitting those five things, you’re in good shape.  Like I said before, I’m very picky (borderline snobby) about my music.  I know what I like, and I’ve very discerning.  Like most people I like a wide array of music, but my main area of focus is Indie Rock. Some of my favorite stuff is the deeper, heavier stuff, but I don’t know how lively a party it would be if we just listened to The National or Arcade Fire singing about emotional childhood experiences all night.  So as much as I like that stuff, it doesn’t really work.

Some of the bigger (and my favorite) trends in Indie Rock over the last couple years have been Synth-pop/Electro-rock (think Passion Pit, MGMT, LCD Soundsystem, Gorillaz), Blues/Revival Rock (think Black Keys, White Stripes) and Worldbeat (think Vampire Weekend, Yeasayer), all of which work perfectly for what I’m trying to accomplish here; light, upbeat stuff that’s easy to bob your head (maybe even dance) to, has an infectious beat, and most importantly hits the notes that both I and (hopefully) my guests will like.  Take all of that stuff I mentioned, mix in some current hip hop or dance stuff (always good for parties) and you’re good to go.

It sounds complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.  I think those key points I mentioned help a lot.  Be upbeat, know your audience, express yourself and be current.  The easiest detail to overlook; pacing yourself.  Keep the beginning of the playlist light (while everyone’s having their first few drinks and still mingling), and maybe stack the hip hop/dance stuff towards the back so you’re peaking at the right time (after everyone’s had a enough cocktails).  After that, just press play, and see how much a little bit of thought can improve the vibe of the party by a whole lot.


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