The Eight Commandments of a Perfect Holiday Playlist

Everybody’s happy, everybody’s dancing.

By The Editors
December 22, 2015 9:00 am

‘Tis better to give than to receive.

Like most clichés, has the virtue of being true.

Especially when it comes to manning the decks at your holiday soirée. We don’t mean scratching vinyl here. We mean you might have a few people over and are henceforth responsible for manning the Spotify/Pandora playlist for a while.

Quick advice: This is not a time to experiment. This is a time to make everyone happy. So create the right mood. Your guests will thank you.

And their happiness is your gift.

1. Start slow.

People are arriving, the imbibing’s just beginning and, for now, polite conversation trumps dancing. Especially during the holidays, this is a good time to turn to the classics: Crosby, Sinatra, somebody doing “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

2. Speaking of holidays…

From music publicist/longtime Tri-State area DJ Rey Roldan: “Drunken Christmas songs like The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York,’ Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ or George Michael’s ‘Last Christmas’ need to be programmed toward the end of the night, not early. Those are the songs that everyone wants to hear and sing along to (drunkenly), so save them for later. And a good way to avoid the corny older versions of Christmas songs is to play the first two Very Special Christmas compilations. Play the inferior second volume — the green one — before the much-better and beloved first one. It fills a room nicely.”

3. Don’t totally stick to the holidays

Dancing time will hit a couple hours in. Nobody’s gettin’ down to “Sleigh Bells.” Adjust accordingly. You can go back as the night winds down.

4. Know your crowd, and find their nostalgic sweet spot

What’s their age and background? Did you go to school together? Aim for something the majority of the crowd enjoyed when they were 16-18 years old.

5. Avoid covers/mashups/remixes

Unless the version you’re playing is the most iconic version.

6. Take requests. But within your party’s comfort zone

If you’re (successfully) playing all ‘80s New Wave or ‘90s hip-hop and somebody’s yelling for Taylor Swift, ignore. If you’re playing pop hits of today, Taylor probably should make the cut.

7. Please the women. The men will follow.

Trust us.

8. Prep if you can

From friend and tunesmith of your correspondent’s regular New Year’s party, DJ Nixie: “Listen through your music daily and add the songs that make you feel the way you want your guests to feel. Troll blogs and apps for new music: Hype Machine, Spotify, BBC Radio, NPR, etc. Always play Sinatra, Connick or Bublé. Have Spotify or YouTube primed for the one person who requests Bieber. Play LCD Soundsystem to attract men, play Ed Sheeran to attract women.”

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