The setting: A party, usually set in a house or an apartment. As the scene unfolds, partygoers enter the party with reasonably high expectations: Good music, lots of alcohol and maybe some room to dance or mingle with friends. As they walk down the basement steps, however, hopes are shattered. Why is this? Because the music completely sucks.

Paul Wong
Photo illustration by JESSICA JOHNSON

Ann Arbor is a city that prides itself on its diversity. Students from all over the world choose to attend the University, and the resulting atmosphere is one that is quite eclectic. This is especially true in terms of musical tastes and preferences. At parties, finding the “right” mix of music one that the majority of the guests can agree on is a largely daunting task.

It often seems as though the music for parties, in Ann Arbor at least, is suffering from the “least common denominator syndrome.” Rather than represent the diverse tastes of those who are listening and dancing to it, party music appears to have settled into an awfully stagnant pattern of teen pop icons and overplayed rap music.

“If it”s a high school or a college party, then current stuff is generally popular,” Mobile DJ Jim Michaels of AMS Entertainment said. Shaggy”s “”It Wasn”t Me” is real hot right now.” Make no mistake: Shaggy definitely has some decent music. However, quite a bit of the today”s “party music” can be downright scary.

On MobileBeat”s “Top 200 for the year 2001” list, for example, the top party song is “YMCA,” by the Village People. Trailing closely behind is Lou Bega”s irritating one-hit wonder, “Mambo #5.” Farther down on the list are songs such as “Bye Bye Bye” (“N “Sync), “Country Grammar” (Nelly) and Eminem”s “The Real Slim Shady.” But this music may not represent the taste of a typical University student.

“I have no party music genre of preference,” LSA sophomore Rachel Wolock said. “I just like music that you can dance to. I”m not a big fan of techno, though. I”d rather dance to music that I know the words to than just some random beat.”

Other students prefer to bring along their own music rather than subjecting themselves to the DJ”s selections. Art school junior Jeff Glogower said he only listens to Elvis mp3s.

“That”s all I”ll listen to at parties,” he said. “In fact, most times I will bring a Discman to parties and listen to Elvis, rather than what the DJ is spinning.”

Elvis Presley aside, however, many students use Napster and other mp3 websites as cheap and easy sources for music of all types.

“As someone who mostly listens to alternative and rock music, I think that Napster is a great way to download music of all types for parties hip-hop, rock, etc,” LSA junior David Rosen said.

Only time will tell whether the recent federal ruling against free music trading on Napster put a damper on students” party spirits. The recent rulings against Napster certainly may reduce the possibilities of music available to students. For those people who do not want to listen to the latest boy band or Barbie doll pop star, alternative sources for obtaining music are almost certainly necessary. Society is becoming increasingly mainstreamed, and, especially in a party setting, musical options are often limited to a few homogeneous bands and sounds.

Perhaps Lou Bega and Britney Spears will surprise us at some point, and a great work of musical genius will emerge out of their trite pop careers. We may be waiting a long time for that one to happen, however. In the meantime, I suggest putting on your headphones and popping an Elvis CD into your Discman it looks as though the Backstreet Boys and other musical monstrosities might just be here for a while.

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