I have never met Mary Grace Cerni. She appears to be someone that I would really like -- a Los Angelino with strong opinions she is unafraid to share, a lady who enjoys a solid party and a good writer with presumably excellent taste in music (although if you continue attending Lorde shows, Mary, people may begin to doubt that). I have, however, met the recent object of her derision, the "lame, wannabe DJ" who takes command of the music by plugging in his own device without being asked. This may not sit well with Mary, but I know that guy. I like that guy.
I am that guy.
Now, Mary, before you "hang the DJ" (as the great Morrissey would say), let me explain. Not every host or designated DJ slaves for hours over her MacBook (humblebrag?), cobbling together the perfect playlist in the way you describe. Far too many hosts treat music as an afterthought, if it is even a thought at all. To those of us who understand how music can be so critical to creating the ideal climate for a great party, that is more than a shame; it is a tragedy. A tragedy that can be easily corrected by a quick change of device and a couple of clicks.
So, if you are wondering exactly what kind of musical scenario could be so dire as to make the iPod intervention not just acceptable but necessary, let me provide you with three real-life examples when I was left with no choice but to take the reins:
Party Emergency No. 1: In the middle of what can only be properly described as the playlist of doom, a familiar voice appears. Wait, is that Hootie? Yes, it was. Not with his Blowfish, mind you, which at least could potentially have some ironic entertainment value. No, this was country Hootie. Unless you are at a party at Hootie's house, this simply must be rectified. Actually, even at his house, you would still be right to step in.
Party Emergency No. 2: I have a friend who is the best entertainer I have ever known. He and his wife are always obscenely generous with their fabulous home, serving topnotch food and alcohol while tending to every detail for the occasion. The problem is that this couple apparently owns one album, Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet, for it plays on repeat every time I am there. Come on, guys. Even a karaoke bar won't allow "Wanted Dead or Alive" more than a couple times over the course of an evening.
Party Emergency No. 3: At an otherwise lovely affair, the host inexplicably attempts to play an entire Jason Mraz CD from beginning to end. I don't want to violate the pact I made with Mraz , so I will just leave it at that.
The point here is that sometimes an intervention is necessary, whether it is appreciated at the time or not. If Charlie and the rest of the Salingers hadn't intervened on Party of Five, Bailey would still be drinking heavily today. So, instead of abolishing the practice all together, how about we establish some basic ground rules for the aspiring self-appointed DJ?:
Continue to page two for the rules.
1. Like a pickup basketball team that gets to stay on the court as long as it wins, the host's music remains as long as it rocks. Do not change the house music unless it is a problem. If the tunes are good, no need to be a hero in an attempt to make them great.
2. Keep party themes sacred. If you are at an '80s party, sorry, but you are stuck with Dexys Midnight Runners, Taco and Falco (by the way, why these two never teamed up is beyond me). The only exception is if you can significantly improve the quality of music within the established genre. If you hear "99 Luft Balloons" for the third time and you have a truly unstoppable '80s mix on your iPod, have at it.
3. Leave the volume where it is. While sometimes the hosts prove themselves incapable of controlling the music being played with their irresponsible choices, they do have the right to control the volume.
4. Know your room. Yes, it is obvious that a skull-thumping industrial beat from Skrillex would give this lame suburban party where people are relentlessly discussing their children and comparing their mortgage rates the jolt it desperately needs. However, you must have the foresight to know that it will go over like a pregnant pole-vaulter and might encourage the host to overcorrect with something unwelcome to anyone with functioning ears, such as Michael Buble or John Mayer. Being a good DJ, whether appointed or not, is about pleasing the crowd.
Taking over the music is rooted in good intention -- the understanding that you have the ability to make a party better, not just for you, but for all of the guests. Is the guy who hauls in a Crave Case labeled as rude because the host has provided a nice plate of crudité? No, he is hailed as a hero as partygoers gleefully ignore the celery and carrot sticks in favor of greasy White Castle sliders. Is the girl who brings a couple of aggressively dressed friends with certain morally casual attitudes who are not on the guest list shunned from society? No, she has just secured an invite to every male-hosted party for the rest of her life. Is the guy who brings his acoustic guitar hated for attempting to slow things down with a campfire-style sing-along? Yes, because that guy sucks. But for those who seek to improve a party and have the requisite musical taste to do so, I say rock on.
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