The course load at the University of Michigan is time-consuming and requires a lot of hard work. Music definitely helps me to relax, unwind and chill out during a stressful day.

It’s no secret that students also like to unwind by partying, whether you’re in Greek Life or throwing a rager at your house or apartment every so often.

I recently found myself at a party where the music selection on a friend’s playlist was simply not cutting it. I stepped in and DJ-ed for an hour (read: plugged an aux cable into my iPhone and pressed play on a bunch of songs). By the end I felt as if I had compromised my own musical integrity for the sake of entertaining people. Everyone responded well to Katy Perry, Gnarls Barkley and Eminem, but the second I turned on some personal favorites like ZZ Top or Lil Boosie I could immediately see the dissatisfaction brewing in the crowd.

What exactly makes a good party song? How did I intuitively know which songs people would make people stay and which would be a stretch, and how do others know the same?

Obviously this article will be biased toward my own experiences, but I’ll proceed anyway.

To loosely define a “party,” as I’m trying to explain it, whoever is running the musical selection cannot personally know the music preferences of the majority of people attending and there can’t be a theme dictating the tunes.

There always seems to be a basic formula applied to concoct a playlist to appease the general audience. Typical playlists at parties consist of the following: EDM/Dubstep, throwbacks, pop music and novelty songs. All of these selections have either lots of bass or are simply well known.

Electronic music is commonplace at parties because it’s upbeat, exciting and often has aggressive, repetitive bass that’s easy to dance to. I’ve heard “Clarity” by Zedd way too many times. Throwbacks are tracks known by most everyone because of their convenient placement in our childhoods, so they resonate with everyone’s younger self and are fun to sing along to. In my mind, pop music consists of rap (whether for comical or hype affect) and anything on the Top 40 – “Anaconda” by Nikki Minaj, “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus or anything by Juicy J.

The novelty category applies to songs that a lot of people know because they are bizarre or wild. The couple tracks that immediately come to mind are “Gangnam Style” and “Hot N*gga,” both of which have accompanying dances, too.

And yes, that’s a lot of songs covered in the four categories, but there are still a number of genres left out.

As a music snob of sorts, I find myself exclaiming “this song sucks” a handful of times at parties, but is there crossover between good party music and good music in general?


Looking at my own track record of musical interests, I’m all over the board —rock, rap, hell, even heavy metal. I qualify most of what I listen to as “good” music because it requires skill in my mind. Accordingly, I often ponder the difference between what is more thoughtful rap and extreme gangsta rap — Gucci Mane, Migos, Lil’ Boosie and Chief Keef — and why a very white kid from the suburbs listens to some Boosie Bad Azz on the way to class in between Led Zeppelin and Elvis records.

Why do I like it? Analyzing gangsta music in the context of party playlists, it’s essentially a grey area between party music and good or personal music. It’s just fun to listen to – I don’t think it has any particular musical value to speak of, and I sure as hell can’t relate to selling crack out of a trap house. I’m not saying Oj Da Juiceman is the greatest rapper ever, but “Make the Trap Say Aye” is too funny not to blare on some speakers.

How do I relate this tangent to party music? The ever-constant song requester.

When you think about it, that requester bothering a DJ despite your carefully selected playlist is actually a good sign. The requester is just attempting to make a party more personal. While requests in my experience are highly obnoxious and frequent, the basic concept behind such requests shows exactly how party playlists are supposed to work — the requesters are satisfied enough to stay at the party even though a particular song they want hasn’t been played, but nonetheless they want to hear their own song so they can feel special.

So in the end, party music keeps everyone content and in attendance — until the booze runs out, that is.

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