What’s a party without music? Well, it’s a bunch of people standing around talking, that’s what it is.
What’s a party without music? Well, it’s a bunch of people standing around talking, that’s what it is. What’s a dance party without good tracks? Once again, a bunch of people standing around talking, but now they’re outside. It’s up to you, the host, to craft a playlist that people want to actually dance to. I know it’s hard in Portland, the anti-dance capital of the entire western hemisphere, but it can be done. I have seen it. What follows is a list of some great tracks; some new, some old (by club standards), but all great.
Before getting into things, here’s a short glossary of terms:
BPM: Beats Per Minute—aka, how DJs and musicians measure time.
Banger: A rad song.
Echo: An exact duplicate of the last sound is played at decaying volumes at an adjustable interval.
Filter: The process of filtering out certain frequencies of a track. Can be either high pass (low frequencies are filtered) or low pass (high frequencies are filtered). Example: The opening of Daft Punk’s “Around the World” is a classic low pass filter sweep.
Mix-out: The last 10 or so seconds of a song with a bare beat, meant to be used for DJs to mix tracks together.
Reverb: The decaying sound heard when a sound is played in a large room.
1. Tenkah – “The Walk (Lambs remix)”
When I DJ, nine times out of 10 I will open with this very track. It has all the classic signs of an opening track: slow, non-corny filtered fade-in, perfect starting BPM—around 98 or so—and most importantly, a pounding beat to draw the people to the floor. The kick and snare drums are perfectly defined and crisp, which is key in your first few songs. The leads aren’t too overly pronounced, which really puts the focus on the drums. There are many interesting sounds that don’t cloud the overall danciness of the track. Halfway through the song, the drums fade, leaving only the interesting sounds, then the drums come back in at just the right interval to not bore people to death. Dance floors are, for the most part, about pleasing people. You have to have the right mix of moods and textures. Moreover, you have to know how to treat them just right or everyone gets bored. In the beginning, it’s important. This song takes the guesswork out.
2. Moombahton Neoterico – “Hey Got Lines”
A ballsy call, but I believe this to be crucial. Essentially, everyone who didn’t get on the floor for Tenkah’s track will get on the floor for this one. That’s what the game is about—dance floor unification. Once the walls come down, that’s when you blast everyone with the bangers. For now, though, you must erect the walls. This track is one such wall. Someone asks me the name of this track literally every time I play it. “Hey Got Lines” is 85 percent drums. Those partygoers who weren’t feeling the “nu-electro” groove of the “The Walk” will absolutely love this cut. As said before, the track is mostly drums—kick, snare, timbales and other percussion elements like agogo bells. Every now and then, a few synth notes will pop up, along with the occasional reggae sample—but don’t worry—it’s mostly one-word samples or a simple “hey” thrown in. This song keeps the whole dance floor scene very primal, appealing to the urge we get when we hear a drummer doing his thing.
3. Huoratron – “gBay”
A few other tracks around 112–115 BPM should be used to prepare the gathering for this track, your first flat-out banger of the night. I would recommend a song before this one that ends awash in echo or reverb, then fade this one in at the 0:30 mark. The track gets nutty around 0:52, so plan accordingly. If you’ve done your job right, the place will explode. The drums are nice and crisp, but not too crisp to outshine the crushing bass line. Expect a lot of people to give you a thumbs up. By four minutes or so, the track has, sadly, outlived its usefulness. Though “gBay” boasts one of the dirtiest basslines in the game right now, it just keeps going on and on. Pull the plug on this one two-thirds in so the party doesn’t get bored and start wrecking your place.
4. Lady Gaga – “Alejandro (Skrillex remix)”
Yeah, I know what it looks like, but hear me out. This is Skrillex we’re talking about here—a producer who can make literally anything sound great. Basically, that’s what he’s doing here. Skrillex’s main weapon is an onslaught of stuttered samples and different synth patches all delivered in a chaotically arrayed, yet very rhythmic manner. I’ve heard criticism of the “Skrillex sound,” which Skrillex uses to great effect on this track. All criticisms aside, however, this track is a certified monster and will certainly bring the ironic anti-dancing hipsters off the wall and into the party. Clocking in at 128 BPM—which is typical high-energy party fare—”Alejandro” should be played at the middle-end of your party, and save your ace tracks for last. To be honest, there aren’t many more right now. Except…
5. Usher – “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love Again (Hyper Crush remix)”
If “Alejandro” is perhaps too dated or just simply not hype enough for your shindig, then think about closing with this track right before you kick everyone out. While “Alejandro” is a great track by itself, it does have its lulls in between “Skrillex verses.” However, this song has only one lull—and it’s about four seconds long. Hyper Crush really knows how to take a pretty big turd of a song and make it listenable, and this is no exception; the song is paced very, very well, the mix-out beat is fly as hell, and don’t you dare be afraid to loop the part between 1:15 and 1:30—it’s far and away the best part of the song. Tempo changes abound, mostly in the aforementioned 15 seconds, and in the part before the mix-out: a certifiably dubstep part. This one will end your party right.
Of course, you will not be having a five-song dance party. My suggestions are merely that: suggestions for cornerstones of your party. Listen to them first, and if you like them, include them in your playlist. If you put a little effort into it, everyone will want to party with you, which may or may not be a bad thing.