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Friday, August 27, 2010

#73: The Perfect Playlist (part 2): Songs for jumping, jiving, bumping, grinding

                  Damn, don't you wish you were dancing at THIS wedding reception??

It is the ultimate balance between self-focused and good hostess- it is the challenge of creating the perfect playlist for dancing.

The good news is that there is enough time in a wedding reception to cater to everyone's musical tastes (to some extent). That includes yours, Aunt Bertha's, and little cousin Suzie who graduated from training bra camp this last summer and isn't quite so little anymore.

But you can't begin this task with naive and hopeful expectations; you've got to have a strategy. I'm writing today to share my personal strategy, and also to unveil our dance playlist. First, some tips:
  1. Think about who your main dancers are- these are the peeps who you think will want to dance throughout 50% (or more) or the reception. Cater to this crowd.
  2. Because above crowd needs potty breaks, snacking breaks, and chatting breaks, you'll have pockets of time wherein you can play what I call "specialty" music - songs that satisfy the special needs of small subgroups among your guests. These might include: granny-friendly tunes, line dancing (if you're into that), Spanish/ Latin music (which my family is into), and little ditties for Aunt Rose who STILL thinks she has a chance with Elvis.
  3. Remember the 75% rule: You can't make everyone 100% happy. Some people will complain about the music, and others will be proactive about it by making song requests from the DJ. And all of this is okay. Because all you need is for 75% of your guests to be 75% satisfied with your playlist. Trying for anything more will make your hair fall out with unnecessary stress and guilt.
  4. If you're feeling ambitious, survey guests (via e-mail, facebook, or in person at the next family party). But keep this simple. Ask them this single key question: What one song (fast or slow) will get your booty on the dance floor no matter how tired you are? Trust me, even grannies have an answer to this. This strategy is particularly helpful in catering to those whose musical taste remains a mystery to you, and also to those whose booties are shy.
  5. Don't forget to throw in your personal favorites.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, our perfect playlist:

Too Cool For School 
SexyBack (Justin Timberlake)
Promiscuous (Nelly Furtado & Timbaland)
Crazy In Love (Beyonce)
Gold Digger (Kanye West)
Let's Get It Started (Black Eyed Peas)
Bad Romance (Lady Gaga)
Telephone (Lady Gaga & Beyonce)
4 Minutes (Madonna)

Senior Citizen Special
Great Balls of Fire (Jerry Lee Lewis)
La Bamba (Los Lobos)
Jailhouse Rock (Elvis Presley)
Can't Help Falling In Love (Elvis Presley)
Unchained Melody (Righteous Brothers)
Tennessee Waltz (Patti Page)
Evergreen (Barbara Streisand)

Old School For The Not-So-Old
Let Me Clear My Throat (DJ Kool)
Bust a Move (Young MC)
Poison (Bell Biv DeVoe)
Motownphilly (Boyz II Men)

Baby-Making Music for One And All
Wonderful Tonight (Eric Clapton)
Don't Know Why (Norah Jones)
If I Ain't Got You (Alicia Keys)
Endless Love (Lionel Richie & Diana Ross)
After All (Cher & Peter Cetera)

I'm so kick-ass that I'll dance to anything, really.
I Like to Move It (The Hit Crew)
U Can't Touch This (MC Hammer)
I Gotta Feeling (Black Eyed Peas)
It Takes Two (DJ EZ Rock & Rob Base)
Gonna Make You Sweat/ Everybody Dance Now (C+C Music Factory)
Good Vibrations (Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch)
Jump Around (House of Pain)
Conga (Gloria Estefan)
Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough (Michael Jackson)
Celebration (Kool & The Gang)
Love Shack (The B-52's)
Simply Irresistible (Robert Palmer)
Best of My Love (The Emotions)
Got To Be Real (Cheryl Lynn)
I Like It Like That (Tito Nieves)

Spanish/ Latin
Hernando's Hideaway/ Cha Cha Cha (Edmundo Ros and His Orchestra)

Indie Line Dancing Songs (aka, tunes that are a tad bit cooler than Electric Slide and Macarena)
September (Earth, Wind & Fire)
Todo Todo (Uri)
Let's Get Loud (by Jennifer Lopez)

PS. If you don't believe that the above songs can be line danced to, just ask any Filipino (or other Pacific Islander you know) and they'll tell you that it's possible. Below is a clip. (Note the guy in the front who suddenly realizes he doesn't know the choreography and quickly leaves the premises.)


  1. Ok I have question then, while those are good ideas I have a wedding that will be 5 hours total (cermony and reception). It must end at 10 pm (coming from the city/reception venue. Any hints or ideas covering, when we'll really only have a 3.5 hour reception window that will include: first dance, uncle-neice dance, cake cutting, sundae bar.... Also did you do an ipod weddind since you did your own music? What exactly do you need (like did you use speakers and amps to plug everything). I've found ideas on doing playlists, but nothing that tells me what I need to hook everything up and actually get sound! I might steal some of the music ideas though:)

  2. Hi Jen. Yes, we used an iPod to DJ our wedding. What you'll need depends on the type (size) of your venue you have and what you're willing to spend. We bought this PA system:

    You'd use something like this to connect your iPod (or laptop with your music playlists in it, whichever route you prefer), into the PA system:

    But a warning about these products: When I tested them at home I liked the sound. But when I brought it to our very big and echo-y venue it sounded decent but not great because of the poor acoustics of the room. So if you upgrade to a better sound system, make sure it has a sub woofer, which will give you a strong bass effect that creates a more professional sound. This is absolutely necessary if you and your peeps are major dancers.

    Then again, you could also just rent a sound system, which I've seen some people do. I'm sure they'd give you advice on what would work best for you.

    As for your question about the 3.5 hour thing, can you clarify what your concern is? Is it that you want to pack in as much dance time for as many ppl as possible in just a few hours?

  3. OMG! How I miss the Todo Todo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And Let's Get Loud!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Insane. I'm ready for your photos, ok? Thank you po!

  4. Ahh, so Filipinos on down in Baltimore line dance, too? Nice. Wait, have you heard the news- there's a line dance for Lady Gaga's "Poker Face"! And you really must watch this HILARIOUS demonstration of the dance done by the parents of a very embarrassed kid out there:

    Wedding photos coming...eventually. :)

  5. LOL I did #4. I asked my friends on FB to name one song that got them dancing. I got some weird answers. My DJ asked me to write a must play list and a do not play list. I put in some oldies, some traditional songs for both of our cultures, some 80's music and a lot of modern dance music. My playlist was really long if you want me to post it I will.

  6. The picture of Filipino family line dancing to 'Let's Get Loud' just made me laugh really hard for a good two minutes. One of my fave weddings ever was a good friend from school where this rule was ABSOLUTELY true and boy, do they know how to shake it!

    I'm so glad the iPod thingo worked. Did you dance to 'Falling Slowly' too?


Babbling about weddings is so much more fun when people babble back. :)

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