10 Guaranteed Party Starter Songs

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10 party starter songs

Summer hasn’t started just yet — not technically. That’s still a few weeks off according to the calendar year we observe. But now that Memorial Day weekend is behind us, the unofficial beginning of summer has already arrived. Not that we’re giddy to speed along the process, but there’s one thing that summer has a lot more of than other seasons (except around the winter holidays): Parties! People, the weather is warm, the beer is cold, and all we need now is a playlist full of rock-solid jams. So that got us thinking — what song is absolutely necessary to get a party started? Journey’s “Anyway You Want It”? Not bad, but we can do better. There was a long list of preliminary songs that got narrowed down to the 10 elite tracks we have below. So we present 10 guaranteed party starter songs — now let’s get this party started!

Ramones Blitzkrieg BopRamones – “Blitzkrieg Bop
from Ramones (1976; Sire)
Buy at iTunes

This song will jumpstart anything. Not just parties — baby showers, memorial services, divorce proceedings, lawnmowers, episodes of The Good Wife. You name it. The first thing many of us heard from The Ramones is the source material for all adrenalized rock that came after it. I personally argue it’s more because of the weapons-grade guitar riff that launches the song than the “Hey! Ho! Let’s go!” lyric, because you could shout any four-syllable phrase after that riff and you’d still sound fired up: “Let’s! Get! Some Soup!” “Where! Is! The Glue!” “You! Get! A Car!” “And! Now! Coldplay!” Possibly a comment on the disenfranchised youth of the mid-‘70s marching towards an early grave, “Blitzkrieg Bop” pours down from the sky like a burned-out fuselage and still causes community leaders a great deal of concern. Watch out for the Jason Mraz cover (seriously, there is one), which will have the diametrically opposite effect, although it may give your dentist an undeserved sense of wryness. – PP

The Jam a Town Called MaliceThe Jam – “A Town Called Malice
from The Gift (1982; Polydor)
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Struggle after struggle, year after year/ The atmosphere’s a fine blend of ice/ I’m almost stone cold dead/In a town called Malice” Everybody, now! Dance! Written about Paul Weller’s hometown of Woking, “Town Called Malice,” is like a John Osborne play reimagined as a Motown single. And if you do take a breather and listen to the lyrics you’ll find an excellent picture of the dailiness working class life in early years of Thatcher. Then that bass line loops around again and you can’t help but “put some joy in.” – SC

Prince 1999Prince – “1999”
from 1999 (1982; Warner Bros.)
Buy at iTunes

Now, you could fill God’s own dance floor with Prince’s dance floor fillers, so picking just one is a lottery. But every wheel of chance must stop on something and “1999” is the winner. The title track and opening cut from 1999, Prince’s first double album, the song is blast from the opening synth attack to the shared lead vocals with members of the Revolution. While “Little Red Corvette,” was the album’s big hit single, “1999,” grew to be one of Prince’s signature songs and certainly help eased the world’s pre-millennium tension. – SC

Ginuwine - "Pony"Ginuwine – “Pony
from Ginuwine… the Bachelor (1996; 550)
Buy at iTunes

Raunchy songs about sex generally double as fine party fodder, probably because inhibitions go down as alcohol consumption goes up. And “Pony” — an extended double entendre in which the first entendre seems to be mostly absent — is just raunchy enough to make things interesting. Lyrically, Ginuwine doesn’t tread any ground that hasn’t been covered before, and that’s fine. It’s all in the deep funk of its hook, sure to send heads nodding and groins grinding. On Parks and Recreation, Anne Perkins inadvertently committed one of the infractions on Tom Haverford’s “Oh, no no” list: Not knowing who Ginuwine is. And it’s easy to understand his overreaction: It’s practically criminal to not know this jam. – JT

Daft Punk Da FunkDaft Punk – “Da Funk
from Homework (1997; Virgin)
Buy at iTunes

The greatest thing anyone ever wrote about Daft Punk was actually written by Anthony Strain for this very website: “You could start a party without the first twenty seconds of ‘Da Funk’ but I wouldn’t recommend it.” Never a truer statement was spoken or written, or felt in one’s soul. For the heavy, thumping beats of “Da Funk” comprise the essence of partying. It’s so phsyical and visceral, thudding with both precision and — as its name implies — funk. The French duo’s filter disco sound yielded its first perfect recipe here, all effects laden loops and dancefloor swagger. It’s not just that you can’t start a party without “Da Funk,” it’s that you can’t play “Da Funk” without a party breaking out. – JT

Mary J Blige Family AffairMary J. Blige – “Family Affair
from No More Drama (2001; MCA)
Buy at iTunes

Thhere are two imperatives for a great song on any party playlist: a good beat and easily digestible lyrics to match it. The most stressful part of creating such an important playlist is finding the first few songs that get right to it, and the queen of hip-hop soul does exactly that with “Family Affair.” I did a little experiment with this song when my fellow Treble writers were making suggestions for this list, and just as I suspected, this classic beat still has the power to get people off their asses and dance away the haters. This song is simply a crowd pleaser, and the lyrics are appropriate commandments for every party: “I told you leave your situations at the door/ so grab somebody and get your ass on the dance floor.” Mary J Blige revived her presence on the party playlist last summer with a reworking of Disclosure’s “F For You,” but decades from now when people are looking to get crunk, they’ll bring Mary back with this song. – DP

Outkast Hey YaOutkast – “Hey Ya
from Speakerboxx/The Love Below (2003; LaFace)
Buy at iTunes

Since Outkast is touring again, doing the whole we’re-reunited-so-let’s-play-a-bunch-of-festivals thing, which seems to be an epidemic in music now, it’s easy to believe that “Hey Ya” will be included in every set. And with good reason! First of all, it’s an awesome song. Second, how many times have we all recited, “Alright, alright, alright, alright, alright…Now ladies?!?” If you search “Hey Ya” on YouTube, it’s gotten 2,740,339 views as of May 28, 2014. That’s a lot of plays, and how many of those came during a rocking party? I would bet a lot.

“Hey Ya” is such an upper, and so goddamn catchy that it’ll never, ever die; we sing along every time. Play it during a wedding, a pool party, in your room alone. Whatever the situation, you’re guaranteed to dance. “Shake it, shake it, shake it like a Polaroid picture,” Andre 3000 says, and we do. Every time. “What’s cooler than being cold?” Andre asks over a shimmering acoustic strum and quirky bass and synth noises. “Ice cold!” they say. And what’s cooler than this song? Not much. – JJM

LCD Soundsystem Daft Punk is playing at my houseLCD Soundsystem – “Daft Punk is Playing at My House
from LCD Soundsystem (2005; DFA/Capitol)
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“Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” is a rare breed of essential party starter songs. It’s not only the ultimate indie rock party song, but the title alone captures the vision of what a good party is and should be. Because let’s face it, if there’s going to be an awesome party, a Daft Punk song is mandatory. If it’s a Daft Punk performance, then that’s already an epic party. If Daft Punk is playing at your house, well that’s just on some unprecedented middle-aged adult Project X level. In a utopian party world (Ed note: designed by John Hughes no doubt), where the neighbors can’t call the police, the jocks can’t get in the door, and fist-fights are brewing all before the show begins, as long as I’m a just a bystander to the fighting, that is one party I want to be at. – DP

Disclosure - SettleDisclosure – “When a Fire Starts to Burn
from Settle (2013; Interscope)
Buy at iTunes

The vocal sample at the center of “When a Fire Starts to Burn” — which consists of excerpts from a sermon by ‘hip-hop preacher’ Eric Thomas — is a stitched-together sentence of unrelated phrases that doesn’t even bother to make sense on its own. But like most of Settle, the debut album from British house wunderkinds Disclosure, literal meaning is hardly relevant. It’s all about the energy of the sample. Disclosure turn Thomas’ already intense delivery into a perpetual rhythm machine, a spiraling frenzy of a beat that somehow, despite its repetition, sustains the entire song. It’s the perfect dancehall mantra, and the rest of the song — the lurching synth bassline, those layers of synths — seem to emerge naturally, as though they were hiding in Thomas’ voice the entire time. The hilarious music video for the song, which depicts a cable-access preacher and his crazed congregation convulsing in the throes of religious ecstasy, doesn’t actually seem that far off. “When a Fire Starts to Burn” is one of the most compulsively danceable songs in recent memory; even the people sitting on the couch watching TV will probably at least not their heads. They’re probably not as possessed as the people in the video, though — they just know a damn good song when they hear one. – SP

Beyonce - BeyonceBeyonce – “Partition
from Beyonce (2013; Columbia)
Buy at iTunes

Here’s an idea for a drinking game: take a shot every time Queen B says, “Yoncé all on his mouth like liquor.” Seven shots might end the party before it begins for some, but hey, it’s just an idea. The “Partition”’s first half starts as any party song should, with lots of bass, and it builds to the second half where we come across the infamous Monica Lewinski euphemism. Bey’s music is the perfect conversation starter, because we all know how amazing she is in every sense of the word, and “Partition” is the perfect substitute for that one song still stuck in everyone’s heads. – DP

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