How You Can Create the Perfect Party Playlist
Every good party needs good music. Here are some tips and tricks for building a playlist that’ll guide your guests through a phenomenal party experience.
(Access this liquid hot magma here)
Through the marvels of modern technology, we all have a playlist we continuously throw on willy-nilly because we know it’ll be a crowd-pleaser. Or we create playlists on the spot by queueing up a bunch of tunes on the fly. The downside to this is the loss of a full musical experience. Vinyl heads excepted, there are very few people who take the time to listen to albums in their entirety from start to finish. No shuffle, no control, just allowing the artist to guide you through their vision. If you don’t know what it feels like to fully dive into a single artist’s unique offerings, try listening to a couple of wholesome, well-rounded albums before you start building your party playlist.
Our rules are simple: Start at the beginning, don’t shuffle the albums, and let yourself sink into the music 🎧
These two albums are significantly different from one another, but both have the full-tilt artistry to really pull you in. The point that needs to be made here is each song on both albums exists for a specific reason. The order of the songs on the album matters almost as much as the songs themselves.
That brings us to the first major key of playlist building: Order Matters 🔑
While it seems like a simple solution to just shuffle your “Backyard BBQ” playlist, building ordered intent into your party playlist is the ticket to starting the party, keeping the party going, and making sure everyone you’re with not only enjoys the shindig but the musical experience as well... as long as your friends or family don’t get reckless and start queuing up some old junk like Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” The trick is to make sure each song is there for a reason. A good playlist should flow from start to finish in the same way a full album or individual song is meant to.
We’re going to build a shortened version of a party playlist right now, along with a brief explanation for each choice, so you have the tools to craft your own party playlist to please the people. In the words of the late great Mac Miller: “There’s water in the flowers. Let’s grow.”
First and foremost, you’ll need the opening song to electrify ⚡️
There should be elements of surprise, danceability, and enough oomph to set the tone for both the party and the playlist. The first song is perhaps the most important. If you miss the mark, someone else will take over the aux and your efforts will be wasted. This song is meant to start conversations, set the mood, and get people fired up to crack open a bottle of Cazadores Tequila.
First Song: Miss Prince by Hey Steve
Do you feel it? Are you sitting still? Likely not. Someone probably just asked you “Hey… what is this song? It’s groovy af.” Consider the party started. But now it gets a bit more difficult. We need to focus on fluidity and interweaving genres and eras of music so each song perfectly complements the one before. We like to use an indeterminate number of songs to transition from one feeling to another. It’s similar to making the conscious decision to switch from drinking cocktails to sipping beers.
In order to properly achieve fluidity, we need to play on the vibe of the first song. This is what we like to call a "vibe string" 🧵
Vibe String 1:
The tone is set. The groove is coursing through the room. A seamless boogie is pouring out of the speaker from one song to the next. Depending on how much time you have, you can carry on with the same vibe for a while before flipping the switch and dropping the first curveball into the mix. While the funk may be within you, along with that tequila, it’s time to shake it up, crack a 4 Noses Brewing Perfect Drift Pilsner, and turn the corner into something a little different. A good MC will adapt the playlist to the tone of the party, but a great MC will create a playlist that dictates the tone of the party.
The first curveball is big. If you don’t get it right, the playlist will feel disconnected, so you need to make sure this song feeds off of the initial vibe ⚾️
Curveball 1: Planet X by Calimossa
This song has a little twang that harkens back to the funk/disco kick we hit to start this thing off. However, it’s also got enough variance to open up the possibilities for the next few transitional tunes. The occasional curveball needs to hit hard enough to inspire people to grab another beer. Maybe a frothy beer from the Breckenridge Brewery Sampler Pack will tickle your fancy.
Now we can start to look at the playlist like traditional lyric writing. Verse, chorus, verse… Curveball, vibe string, curveball… you get it. We just need a few more songs to hold the vibe steady before throwing another curveball. This vibe string, however, is meant to be a bit more of a buildup.
The playlist peak is a few steps away, so we’ll need to make sure this vibe string isn’t just a continuation of the vibe as much as it is building stairs up to the next curveball 🧗♀️
Vibe String 2:
Now we’re groovin' baby! A steady build into the next genre to pump into the ears of your peers. Following the stair-building analogy, most great staircases have landings. This landing is meant to throw a curveball, but this one won’t hit quite as hard.
Since we set up a vibe string with some lesser-known songs, this song is going to drop the hammer and bring people into full-on party mode 🥳
Curveball 2: What's Golden by Jurassic 5
Boom! Here’s some delectable lyrical genius from the legendary rap group Jurassic 5. This also sets us up to get into the rhythmic danceability of the hip hop/rap genre. Time to hit the classic head boppin’ party songs. In this vibe string, it helps to alternate between classics and ‘new school rap.’ By ‘new school,’ we mean tapping into the plethora of ridiculous songs we love from middle school dances in the early 2000s. The songs that remind you of the first time you got to hold hands with your crush or the teacher/chaperone walking around telling you to “make room for Jesus” between you and your dance partner.
Vibe string number three is also a good place to mix up a cocktail or two 🍹
(We would strongly recommend a classic negroni with Leopold Bros Small Batch Gin.)
Vibe String 3:
Gold Digger by Kanye West and Jamie Foxx (R.I.P. Old Kanye)
It’s a beautiful thing to intermingle all-time classics with the classics we didn’t know were classics until we started thinking back to our childhood in the early 2000s. This intermingling of classics will set the stage for the ultimate curveball. This curveball is meant to hit songs that make everyone want to sing and dance with a fresh beer from the Odell Brewing Variety Pack. There’s a limitless possibility for this section of your playlist, but we would advise taking some extra care in your choices.
How do you deviate from middle school/classic rap and hip hop to songs that will escalate the party from “Ayyy” to “Hell yeah!”? If we snuck in with “Temperature” in the last vibe string, people will likely have warmed up their vocal cords by screaming and fist-pumping along. Time for the final curveball.
The transition is difficult here, but when done correctly, it will have the right kick for everyone to dance right through to the end of the party 🕺
Final Curveball: Let's Dance by David Bowie
This is the ultimate curveball. It deviates quite a bit from our last section, but the surprise lies within the song. It might feel out of place at the initial impact, but with the reliability of Bowie, the mood shift will work perfectly and open up the possibilities for a top-notch end to your party playlist. Not to mention, it’s always nice to have a bit of a breather after getting wild for “Temperature.” Now we’re at the home stretch.
The final vibe string is meant to lead into what we call the ‘kicker,’ so make sure you play your cards right 🃏
Final Vibe String:
Black Betty by Ram Jam (air guitar required)
Ramble On by Led Zeppelin (sing the high notes)
Another One Bites The Dust by Queen (dance it out)
Juke Box Hero by Foreigner (groove for the sake of groovin’)
Everybody is on the dance floor now. Everyone’s singing along and finishing up the last of the Juicy Freak IPAs you ordered from Denver Beer Co. and pouring out the last drops of the bottle of High West Double Rye Whiskey.
It’s time for the kicker 🥾
The song that inspires your friends to have one more go on the dance floor to musically connect with each other before heading home. The kicker needs to be universally beloved. “Closing Time” by Semisonic is the easiest way to go, but not always the most fun. It doesn’t have the same kick it used to have. With that said, since we already got the people fired up with Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust,” this kicker will feel obvious. This is the icing on the cake, baby! Make it count!
Kicker: Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
Well, there you have it. The perfect party playlist. Now, the playlist we created here is obviously a bit too short to really keep a party in full swing, so when you create yours, be sure to throw more songs into each vibe string so you can maintain a certain mood for a more realistic time frame. This is meant to be a building guide. While there are no rules for playlist building, there certainly is a structure you can follow to effortlessly control the musical journey of your party.
Follow the playlist for inspiration here.
A few tips:
Remember not to shuffle the playlist when you begin.
Make it longer, and choose your vibes wisely.
You can play with pace/bpm in your vibe strings to migrate back and forth between heavy groovin’ on the dance floor and steady sippin’ with your friends.
If you’re tired and want to get people out of your house, put the kicker on the end of the playlist 3 times in a row. It almost guarantees people will get fed up and head out… or you’ll be stuck with people singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” on repeat in your kitchen until the sun comes up. Either way, it won’t be a bad time.
If you have a party, limit the invite list and encourage your family or friends to wear masks.
Whip up a party playlist and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org! We all know the ultimate measure of coolness today is the number of followers you have on Spotify. Be cool. Oh, and parties usually require some tasty beverages.
Keep it local and order on Handoff!