17 Apr Songs to Listen to Now as You Build Your Event Must-Play List
I was recently tapped by an event industry magazine to provide some expertise in building the perfect song list and selecting the correct songs for poignant moments at events like weddings, galas, fundraisers, corporate and private events. With Maggie Speaks, we have played over 3,500 shows since 1998 and have seen just about every scenario imaginable in the corporate and private event industry. I thought I would share some of my insights with our clients during this period of quarantine.
- Top Entrance Song (wedding and Bar or Bat Mitzvah child/family)
This song has to be high energy, whimsical and fun and it should also be something that you aren’t necessarily going to hear during the dance set later in the night. Think stadium “Jock Jams” here. My choice would be “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled.
- Top First Dance Song (wedding)
This song is typically something very personal to the couple, so while it is hard to pin one down, I often recommend “You Are the Best Thing” by Ray La Montagne because it is modern and hip, but has an old school feel with a nice horn arrangement. It makes it relevant for the younger people but comfortable stylistically for the older generation as well.
- Top Parent/Child Song (wedding and Bar or Bat Mitzvah event)
These are often very personal choices, and it is also really easy to be cliché here. I really enjoy “In My Life” by the Beatles as the lyrics are timeless. This is great for Mother / Son dances where non-cheesy options are limited. For Father / Daughter dances, I enjoy “Father and Daughter” by Paul Simon. It does a nice job of being sentimental without being too mushy.
- Best Song to Get Each Generation on the Dance Floor (all events)
Gen Z: For better or for worse, it seems to be “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X right now. We put a really hip horn arrangement behind it to really give it some pop, but this song broke every record there was last summer and it seems like even people that claim not to like it wind up on the dance floor. Call it a guilty pleasure.,
Millennials: “Good as Hell” takes the cake right now. Lizzo is really hot and also one of the few newer artists that a live band can actually cover. It speaks to individuality and freedom which is the calling card for Millennials.
Gen X: “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars is like Novocain. Give it time, it always works. It is throw back enough while still being hip. It also bridges the gap where parents feel like they are in tuned with something their kids can still tolerate.
Baby Boomers: “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire takes the cake here. The horn arrangement has stood the test of time and it reminds people of fun and simpler times.
- Top Song to Get All the Singles on the Dance Floor (all events)
“Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke still works like a charm. It starts with a great call to action…”Everybody get up…” and people just seem to migrate to the floor.
- Top Song That Gets Couples on the Dance Floor (all events)
I love “Give Me Everything” by Ne-Yo and Pitbull. Not a lot of bands perform this, so it is not played out, but sends a really positive message of having a good time in the here and now and seems to be something that energizes couples.
- Best Song to Get Girls on the Dance Floor:
“Hold On” by Wilson Phillips is great. It is a total guilty pleasure, and no one is expecting it. All the girls love the movie Bridesmaid’s, so it gives them license to cheese out together and just really have fun together.
Guys on the Dance Floor (all events): I love “California Love” by Tupac here. Not a lot of bands will take this risk and play it live, but it is amazing how much street cred you gain from the male demographic if you drop this tune just at the right time. Everyone seems to channel their inner rapper.
- Top Song for a Dance-Off (all events):
Here you have to go cliché like “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees or “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. Not everyone is a professional dancer and you need songs that have signature moves that people are at least under the illusion that they can replicate.
- Top Song for Dancing with Friends (all events):
“Ain’t No Mountain” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell is great here because generations young and old can all relate to this song of hope and positivity. It’s a 60’s Motown classic that has been used in so many movies that it has truly crossed generational lines, creating harmony on the dancefloor.
- Oldies but Goodies (all events)
I love “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5. If you are not dancing within the first 4 bars of this song with a huge smile on your face, then you should really check your pulse.
- Top Song That Will Have Everyone Singing Along (all events)
There are a lot to choose from here, but “We Are the Champions” by Queen seems to be a sure fire hit after the popularity of the movie Bohemian Rhapsody this past summer.
- Best Song for Networking (corporate events, galas)
The key here is that it needs to be fun and fresh where you can tap your toe and nod your head while still carrying on a conversation. I love “Africa” by Toto here because it is a total guilty pleasure without the urge to run out and dance. Plus the recent cover by Weezer, bought this back out into the public eye and made it cool to admit that you always really liked Toto.
- Great Cocktail Hour Song for Before the Dance Floor Opens (wedding)
I have always loved “Send Me On My Way” by Rusted Root here. It has such an infectious and positive vibe and a catchy opening riff. It’s use in several movies and commercials makes it recognizable but not overplayed.
- Best Last Song of the Night (wedding)
For a band, all bets are off at the end of the night if you have done your job the rest of the night. People throw caution to the wind and really want to let their hair down and rock out. “You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC always gets the crowd singing the first verse, a ton of air-guitarists during the solo and inevitably winds up with some guy tying his tie around his head.
15. Best Song for Kicking Off a Fun After-Party (all events)
“Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake is a fun tune for this slot. It is very danceable but also stands on its own as an entrance song, which is important because it doesn’t create an awkward vibe if people aren’t quite ready to populate the dance floor yet.