The keg is on ice, and the snacks are in the party bowls slowly going stale. The streamers are hung and the party hats are sitting on the kitchen table, perhaps ironically, perhaps not. The neighbors have been bribed with invitations or money, and the local police are on full alert. The drug dealers are slowly circling the block waiting for your friends to show up, and the zoo is missing several exotic animals. It's nearly party time.
But wait! What about the music? For God's sake, you didn't just throw a bunch of your MP3's together willy-nilly, did you? Or worse yet, you didn't just plug in your iPod, hit "shuffle," and let the cards fall where they may, did you? Oh, you poor simple fool. A party mix isn't something you throw together at the last minute. It takes care and craft. There are rules.
5. This is not your prom. The problem with throwing your iPod on shuffle is: you've got slow songs you downloaded because they were on the radio a lot when you were in 8th grade. You've also got a couple that really hit you right in the feelings when they played during those sad scenes in The Vampire Diaries. It's okay, everybody has sad, quiet songs they love. Party time is not the time for those songs. You should have left slow dances behind when you graduated high school. Keep the mix upbeat or mid-tempo at the slowest.
4. Get over yourself. There's this song that you LOOOOOVE that you know everybody else generally hates. A song that never fails to elicit groans and eye-rolls when it starts up. In fact, you've got a bunch of songs like this, and you've also got some really experimental artsy shit that you're very proud to be able to somehow sonically justify to yourself. Leave it alone, jackass. Play stuff that people like, or stuff that sounds like stuff that people like. Show them good songs they may not have heard, for sure, but keep it reasonable, keep it upbeat, keep it fun. Generally, a party you throw for your friends should be as little about you as possible.
3. You are not a DJ. Don't get fancy with the crossfades and remixes. An automatic five-second crossfade will sound astoundingly awkward if you don't test how each and every song runs into each other first. Remixes are made specifically to sound amazing in clubs, and over your speaker system without the proper lighting and atmosphere will just sound repetitive and boring as hell. And oh, holy shit, will you please put away that digital turntable you got for Christmas and played with for about an hour then tossed aside? Seriously, get rid of it before you hurt yourself.
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2. Know your partygoers. It seems simple, but you'd be surprised how many people just don't ever take a second to stop and think about the people who will be coming to the party. Do they prefer pop? Are they more about indie-rock? Are they old enough to have the proper appreciation for 80's music? Are they hip enough to dig Billy Preston and LCD Soundsystem back-to-back? Or will they balk at anything older/more adventurous than Kelly Clarkson? Sure, you could just download someone's six-hour, 220-bpm techno mix, but then everyone is going to know you're an unimaginitive dickbucket. Custom-fit your mix to your audience.
1. Know when to step down. In the end, you may find that you've thrown together an hour's worth of radio hits that were popular while you were in high school and now you're fresh out of ideas. That's when you have to be the bigger person and admit that you don't know shit about music, and call someone who does. That friend who you secretly resent for following new musical acts, who you sometimes refer to as a "hipster" because he says and does things that remind you how out of touch you are? Yeah, call that guy. He'll jump at the opportunity, and you can go back to deciding which kind of liquor will go best in the Jell-O shots.