Tonight's gonna be a good night
October 18, 2012 11:40 PM   Subscribe

Help me compile an all-star, best ever, awarding winning wedding playlist.

Asking for a friend.

We have a massive, huge, giant wedding of 300+ people ranging in age from 6 to 89. Most people cluster around late twenties and mid fifties. We also have a much higher concentration of party animals than the general population. Obviously you can't please everyone, but what are our best bets for creating the best dance party ever?

Additional guidelines/questions
-no extreme cheese, including chicken dance, electric slide, what have you.
-our preference generally is rap/hip-hop. Are there artists we should gravitate to that are more crowd pleasing than others? Stick to stuff everyone knows like Jay-z and Beyonce? Forget the rap altogether?
-what are the of the moment pop songs? Is it still "Call Me Maybe" or is that so six months ago?
-how many slow songs? I prefer less than 5 (in 3-4 hours of dancing).
posted by murfed13 to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't ditch the rap altogether, but to bridge that 20's to 50's age gap, you should concentrate on funk, soul and R&B. Reggae also seems to appeal across the board, but you don't want to overdo that if you want to keep things moving in full dance party mode.

Also you're legally required to play Groove Is In The Heart at least once (as proven by the fact that the internet made me watch an advertisement featuring a wedding before playing the vid!)
posted by mannequito at 12:02 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Your best bet will not be a heavy focus on rap or hip hop.

I went to a wedding once where the bride and groom both loved early 90s club classics. Great music. But not wedding music. However, it was their wedding so their choice. Not a single person danced. All night. Meanwhile in the same hotel we could hear another wedding that was rolling out the cheesy crowd pleasers - typically stuff from when the older generation were in their salad days - ABBA, Elton John etc. Their dance floor was the life and soul.

Wedding music is, in my experience, like the DVD you rent for a cold saturday night when you've stocked up on popcorn and ice cream: anything highbrow or challenging gets chucked out as you head straight for the aisle marked "feel good". It is tempting to reinvent the wheel, but there is a reasonably straight formula to follow that works.

In my experience it's often the older lot who keep the dancefloor going and you need stuff they can relate to. Bear in mind that on average most people's music tastes begin to calcify at the age of 31 and three quarters. So pick some motown classics, some 70s disco pop and funk and maybe some 80s electronica that the late twenties group will also know. Then fold in a very small amount of cheese. Then sprinkle liberally with a healthy dose of more modern stuff throughout.

Bonus: at my wedding, we asked our guests in advance what song would be most likely to get them onto the dance floor and used that playlist. It worked pretty well.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:07 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Gangnam Style is more of recent than Call Me Maybe, but I think even it is on its way out. Other stuff that's at the top of the Billboard chart seems really wedding-inappropriate (I Knew You Were Trouble, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together). Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen's Good Time could work, but I don't think it's quite as ubiquitous & earwormy. fun.'s "We Are Young" also seemed to be everywhere, but it seems more like an end-of-the-night singalong than a dance tune.

I think I'm with MuffinMan on going light on the hip-hop.
posted by knile at 12:15 AM on October 19, 2012

you should concentrate on funk, soul and R&B.

This. It should be the kind of music that you put on to dance around the living room in your underwear. Slightly cheesy, well-known, infectious grooves. Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Prince, Rolling Stones, etc. for your foundation, newer stuff in moderation, maybe some Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald to add romance and a couple slow songs.
posted by Specklet at 12:38 AM on October 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

Nthing soul, funk, and more classic R&B as your primary focus. I think you have to ask whether it's more important to play primarily rap/hip-hop, or to maximize the number of people on the dance floor -- because I suspect you can have one or the other, but not both. (Or, to put it another way, I think you'll have a lot more luck getting people in their 30s to dance to Al Green than you will getting people in their 50s to dance to Jay-Z.)
posted by scody at 12:48 AM on October 19, 2012

and in my experience, since the older folks will keep the fire burning on the dance floor, dropping a newer hip hop track in every 5th song or so all of a sudden invigorates the younger crowd.
posted by mannequito at 12:55 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Crowd-pleasers that have never failed to get a diverse group dancing (in my experience):
- "I Want You Back" or "ABC" by the Jackson 5
- similarly, "Thriller" by Michael Jackson (there are at least 5 people in any 50 who are totally into doing the dance, and everyone else will just love how cheesy it is)
- "Shout" by the Isley Brothers
- "Think" by Aretha Franklin
- "Twist and Shout" by The Beatles

I was really into my club classics and tried to make my wedding playlist reflect that, and all it meant was that a very small subset of my friends danced, and everybody else just sat and watched us awkwardly. I would avoid the rap/hip-hop (until maybe REALLY late into the night, when only the truly hardcore are still around) and focus on feel-good stuff.
posted by catch as catch can at 3:09 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

For a slow song, or background music during something or other, Define Dancing from the Wall-E soundtrack would be pretty cute.
posted by troika at 4:06 AM on October 19, 2012

I'd create a superset from the setlists which professional wedding cover bands post online and then whittle down to the ones I want.
posted by yoHighness at 5:25 AM on October 19, 2012

If you want to include some rap / hip hop earlier than the hardcore people only crowd, go back into the 80s / early 90s for the hip hop of that era. It's generally a bit more danceable to a wider crowd, but sets the tone for the transition into the "harder" stuff later. Maybe some stuff from the New Jack Swing portion of it all?
posted by skittlekicks at 6:04 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

agree with binning the rap.

Classic rock is a good safe, fun place to go.

- Renegade by Styx
- Can't get enough of your love by Bad Company
- All Right Now by Bad Company
- Sweet Home Alabama by Lynrd Skynrd
- Living On a Prayer by Bon Jovi
- etc.

Also, as said above, funk/soul is a very safe bet.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:00 AM on October 19, 2012

One thing that just occurred to me that might work is finding some mash-ups that mix older, more popular songs with hip-hop, like Girl Talk or Danger Mouse's the Grey Album. Don't know if that would work for your crowd, but it always gets the dance party started round these parts.
posted by dysh at 7:06 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Obviously Wobble Baby because of its associated dance. I think it has surplanted the Cupid Shuffle, although that's a wedding staple.
posted by Durin's Bane at 8:06 AM on October 19, 2012

Response by poster: Just popping in to say that all this old stuff is kind of boring. Don't people in their fifties know and like things from, say, after the Reagan administration? I'll play some of these tunes but I've got 3+ hours to fill-I'd like to include a significant chunk of music from the last 20 years. (There will be at least 125 people in their twenties- so it's not like the dance floor will clear off if I play Kanye). Suggestions on that front?
posted by murfed13 at 8:45 AM on October 19, 2012

This is why you hire a good wedding DJ. A good DJ is worth it - he can gauge the age and energy of the entire crowd, and based on experience, play the right music to get the crowd up and dancing. The best wedding DJ's (or bands) will start off the night with some classic disco or upbeat classic rock & roll to get the party started, then as the night progresses (and as older folk get tired or leave), will switch to more modern and/or more esoteric stuff. He'll also play the music you specifically request, working it in when it's most appropriate.

Hire and work with a DJ. A strict play-this-not-that song list won't allow you to adapt to the ups and down of the crowd's energy, and is likely to flop.
posted by Ardea alba at 9:03 AM on October 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

If you're looking for more recent dancy party songs, I'd go for:
- Where Them Girls At by Flo Rider (and David Guetta)
- Super Bass by Nicky Minage
- Girl Gone Wild by Madonna
- Who's that Chick by Rhianna
- I Love You Like A Love Song by Selena Gomez
- Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5
- Gangnam Style by Psy
- Raise Your Glass by Pink
- Dynamite by Tao Cruz
- Single Ladies by Beyonce
- Get It Started by Black Eyed Peas
- Tic Tok by Ke$ha
- Rock DJ by Robbie Williams
- Rock Your Body by Justin Timberlake
- Lets Get Loud by Jennifer Lopez
- Backstreets Back by the Backstreet Boys
- You Rock My World by Michael Jackson
- Maneater by Nelly Furtado
- Womanizer by Britney Spears
- Just Dance by Lady Gaga
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:12 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would agree that weddings are a time to play fairly accessible music because I think people who don't dance all that often like to dance to stuff that sounds familiar.

But I think it's fine to focus on the genres you like. Just pick stuff from those genres that have had a lot of pop-culture saturation, that are catchy, hooky, danceable and have a good, happy vibe to them, so people who don't normally listen to that type of music (or older people) will not be too put off by them. You could play "Hey Ya" or "Crazy in Love" or "Tightrope", I can't see a problem with stuff like that at all.

I would also suggest - this is my personal bias - you could get away with mixing in some familiar '80s songs that are dance-friendly. People in their 50s will know and enjoy that music (from their 20s) and people in their 20s will find it charmingly retro. I don't think you need to go further back than that if you don't want to. If you're interested in suggestions on that front feel free to MeMail me.

As for "of the moment" pop songs I don't think you need to worry too much about being super on-trend because I don't think most people are super on-trend as it is. IMO "Call Me Maybe" is fine, even if some people would think it's over-played, because people are just there to have a good time and even if they think it's a little cheesy they will embrace the cheese. People don't go to wedding receptions for the music after all - the expectations will be low and offering something different than the same 50 songs every wedding DJ plays is going to be exciting enough.
posted by flex at 9:14 AM on October 19, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks ardea alba, I have an excellent wedding DJ. He is encouraging me to make a playlist he can work into the evening.
posted by murfed13 at 9:22 AM on October 19, 2012

Start with music you love. This is your wedding, you should get to have some fun.

Add in songs your attendees will love. Or, rather, that subsets of your attendees will love. Instead of trying to please everyone with every song put in some songs that will make specific people happy. Personal touches will be more memorable than the overall playlist.

We knew the musical tastes of most of the people attending our wedding and put in some up-beat, at least quasi-dancey songs they would like. It depends on what your crowd is like but there were certainly people that got up and danced only for the songs programmed for them though we didn't tell anyone what we did. And even though our playlist was not at all standard wedding music (or maybe because of this) we had a lot of compliments on the music.
posted by mountmccabe at 9:35 AM on October 19, 2012

Good 80's stuff:
Into the Groove - Madonna
Thriller - Michael Jackson
Billie Jean - Michael Jackson
Celebration - Kool & the Gang
Kiss - Prince
Let the Music Play - Shannon
Push It - Salt n Pepa
Just Got Paid - Johnny Kemp
Vogue - Madonna
My Prerogative - Bobby Brown
Real Love - Jody Watley
Bust a Move - Young MC
Pump Up the Jam - Technotronic

90's stuff:
Baby Got Back - Sir Mix-a-Lot
Now That We Found Love - Heavy D and the Boyz
Everybody Dance Now - C&C Music Factory
Rhythm is a Dancer - Snap
Be My Lover - LaBouche
Tootsee Roll - 69 Boyz
Aint Too Proud to Beg - TLC
Poison - Bell Biv Devoe
This is How We Do It - Montell Jordan
Hip Hop Hooray - Naughty by Nature
Mo Money Mo Problems - Notorious BIG
Sexual Healing - Max-A-Million
Genie in a Bottle - Christina Aguilera

00's stuff:
Pussycat Dolls - Don’t Cha
Flo Rida – Low
Ke$ha – Tik Tok
Mary J. Blige – Family Affair
Shakira – She Wolf
Usher – Yeah!
Nelly – Hot in Herre
Pink – Get the Party Started
Destiny’s Child – Bootylicious
Beyoncé – Single Ladies
Gnarls Barkley – Crazy
Black Eyed Peas – I Gotta Feeling
Rihanna – Umbrella
50 Cent – In Da Club
Jay-Z – Empire State Of Mind
Justin Timberlake – SexyBack
Kanye West – Gold Digger
Kelly Clarkson – Since U Been Gone
Eminem – Lose Yourself
Lady Gaga – Telephone
Dont Stop the Music - Rihanna
Beyoncé – Crazy In Love
Timbaland - The Way I Are

More recent stuff:
Sexy and I Know It - LMFAO
F* You - Cee Lo Green
Moves Like Jagger - Maroon 5
We Found Love - Rihanna
I Wanna Go - Britney Spears
Born This Way - Lady Gaga
Without You - David Guetta/Usher
Firework - Katy Perry
California Gurls - Katy Perry
Give Me Everything - Pitbull
Grenade - Bruno Mars
Airplanes - B.O.B
Love the Way You Lie - Eminem/Rihanna
Carry Out - Timbaland/Timberlake
Blow Me One Last Kiss - Pink
Titanium - David Guetta
Starships - Nikki Minaj
Gangnam Style - PSY
posted by yawper at 8:28 PM on October 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

professional wedding dj here. if you're working with a dj already, don't worry about all that stuff in your question! your friends should make a short list (20-40 songs maybe?) of their and their friends' favorite party songs. think tunes that they and their friends loved back in the day, things they might have danced to together back in college, etc the more mainstream the better, but follow your tastes, that's what this exercise is about. also throw in some oldies that you know for a fact your parents/aunties etc love. the dj can use that to figure out what sort of stuff to play on the night, even if it turns out to not necessarily play every last one of those exact songs. as a dj i'm fine with throwing out different classics and seeing what people like best (are the younger people up on what's charting this month, or do they only care about things from 2-10 years ago back when they were clubbing? do the oldsters dig disco, or motown, or 70's rock, or what? do the younger ones like the oldies too, or is it an either/or proposition when it comes to pleasing the crowd? etc etc) but if i have an idea about where my clients' tastes run ahead of time, i can avoid a couple awkward clearing-the-floor moments (hopefully) and just straight up give people what they want to hear all night without having to feel it out so much.

also, every couple always says "we don't want any cheesy stuff" but that starts to look a bit self centered when everyone else at the party is requesting the cheesy stuff that everyone but the couple absolutely always wants to hear at weddings. i mean you can take it too far with the cheese but in australia it's not really a wedding reception till everyone's gone crazy for the grease medley, which generally dozens of drunken people clearly enjoy the hell out of every. single. time. my own personal wedding dj policy is "no cheese, other than the grease medley and maybe gangam style for the next couple of months seeing as it's unstoppable at the moment and everyone still loves it... ...unless someone actually requests a cheesy song! in which case don't be a jerk, just play what people want to hear already."
posted by messiahwannabe at 11:32 PM on October 19, 2012

basically, what i use my clients lists for is to a) get a read on their overall tastes, and b) prepare some songs i wouldn't have thought of playing, because they're specific to this particular client. not every crowd is going to go for country or uplifting house or whatever, but if i know ahead of time that this crowd will absolutely go nuts for song x or genre x, i'll prepare something along those lines ahead of time.
posted by messiahwannabe at 11:40 PM on October 19, 2012

The Guardian has a feature called Harangue the DJ where they get track recommendations from top DJs.

This is relevant because one of the questions is "What track would you play at your Auntie's wedding?" I know it's not quite the feel you're going for but it might be worth a browse for some suggestions.

Afrika Bambaataa's choice is DJ Casper: Cha Cha Slide so maybe all signs really do point towards cheese....
posted by Erberus at 4:35 AM on October 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I got away with playing "Standing on the Verge of Getting it On" once. The staff at the banquet hall actually thanked me...
posted by black8 at 4:35 PM on October 31, 2012

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