By: Michelle Pesce
I have DJed events all over the world, for every single kind of person and party and there is nothing I love more than watching a crowd connecting and grooving together – heads bobbin', arms raised, booties shakin’. That moment when I know I got em'. And while there is nothing like having a top-notch DJ spinning at your party, because of availability, budget, logistics, etc this isn't always possible. Many clients are hiring DJ's to put together 'curated playlists'. Now to create a top notch vibe, without actually being in the same room with your party goers, takes skill and time. Gone are the days one can press 'Shuffle' on a hot pink iPod min and hope for the best. There is an art to it and it's not something you can do in 30 minutes or less. Trust me.
This month alone, I've crafted curated playlists for international party hoppers at multiple Cannes Lions events in France to island-seeking vacationers at the prestigious Hotel Wailea in Hawaii. Unlike the Wizard of Oz, I'll happily give you a peek behind the curtain and divulge some tips on how you can become an experienced 'curator' and make the perfect summer playlist.
Consider your surroundings
When I start putting together a summer playlist (or any playlist for that matter), I want to envision what the surroundings will be and the ultimate goal. Is it a 'windows down, music up' road trip? Is it a nighttime soiree starting at 9PM that turns into a dance party until the sun comes up? Is it an afternoon poolside get together? Figure out what the schedule of the 'event' will be, envision it and remember, it's a journey....
Take. Your. Time.
With a party, for instance, there are stages – a beginning/middle/end...maybe even an encore! I usually start mellow and build throughout the playlist. The arrival music adds a fun, but background vibe. Envision your guests arriving and having their first
cocktail. And then think about when the party will be crowded with people bobbing their heads, maybe into their second- or fourth- cocktail. A little looser and ready to let go. This can lead into Full Dance Mode w upbeat, high energy tunes. I tend to go harder the later it gets and then eventually shift into mellow, 'saying goodbye to the last guest' vibe.
Take them back
Summer is a time of nostalgia. Featuring occasional classics is a DJ must. There is literally nothing that connects people more to each other and to the music than a classic throwback that everybody loves and can jam to. There isn’t a party that I’ve played to that doesn’t love a little Michael Jackson, George Michael or Biggie.
Think about what’s happening now
In addition to old school sounds, it’s always smart to mix in of-the-moment tunes. We just recently lost two legends, Prince and David Bowie. These artists are on the minds and hearts of everyone, so playing their music is not only relevant, but people can’t get enough. Including myself. Likewise, think about what people are buzzing about. I added some Biggie and Lil Kim in here because some of your guests might have just attended the Bad Boy Reunion Tour. To have an concert experience like that fresh in someone's memory makes them connect to the songs even more. Mix up the old, the new and the now!
Think summer sounds
There are sounds that just scream summer. It doesn’t mean that you have to add a bunch of songs with 'Summer'’ in the name. That’s way too kitschy. Rather, sprinkle in some classic, rock-n-roll Americana. I added some Funk to my Rock and chose Lenny Kravitz. Also, a sprinkle of reggae creates a hot, bodies groovin' to the beat vibe...and always feels like a vacation.
Don't be scared to go away from the original version. As a DJ, I love to remix a song or use an uptempo edit. DJ remixes can help create a fresh, party vibe to new and old tunes. Also, since you want to keep the energy going, try to use songs that are less than 5 minutes. You don't have a DJ spinning to switch to the next song when the energy wanes ....and you don't want to be running over to the iPod. Keep the songs shorter and the result will be sweeter. Trust me.
Don't let the needle run off the record
While 'the shorter, the sweeter' is a good motto for song length... it’s not ideal for playlist length. Always, make the list longer than you expect to need it so that you don't run out of music. You never know how long guests will stay, and you don’t want to be stressed and putting tunes together when your party is still going. Or add an extra 'late night' playlist to go into when things start dying down.
Summer is fun and free, so get the wind in your hair and your dancing shoes on! This playlist covers about 90 minutes. It's a great starting point. Get inspired, add some of your favorite songs, be sure that 'Shuffle' is turned off and enjoy the audio journey!
1. Sade – Paradise
2. Aaliyah – Rock the Boat – DJ J-A Remix
3. Disclosure – Good Intentions (feat. Miguel)
4. BORNS – Electric Love – Oliver Remix
5. Blood Diamonds – Phone Sex (feat. Grimes)
6. Alicia Keys – In Common – Jako Diaz Remix
7. AlunaGeorge ft. Popcaan – I’m in Control – Throttle Remix
8. Alessia Cara – Here – Fabian & Will Groove Remix
9. Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop the Feeling (Evix Remix)
10. Prince – Hot Thing
11. Lenny Kravitz – Fly Away
12. Anderson Paak – Come Down
13. Drake – Too Good (feat. Rhianna)
14. DJ Snake ft. Bipolar Sunshine – Middle
15. Calvin Harris ft Rhianna – This is What You Came For – Disco Suckz Remix
16. Zayn – Like I would – Majestic Audio Remix
17. Belly ft The Weeknd – Might Not – Delirious & Alex K remix
18. LION BABE – Where Do We Go
19. Drake ft Wizkid & Kyla – One Dance
20. Kanye West ft. Post Malone – Fade
21. The Notorious BIG – Mo Money Mo Problems
22. Mary J Blige – You’re All I Need (ft. Method Man)
23. Dawn Penn – You Don’t Love Me (no.no.no)