The Ingredients for a Perfect Dinner Party Playlist

Tomorrow night my husband and I are attending a dinner party hosted by some close friends- fun!  While we have known the host couple for 15 years, we only marginally know one of the other guests and don't know two others at all- even more fun (diversity!).  Upon being invited, I asked what I could bring, specifically suggesting that maybe my friend wanted me to make a playlist for the evening, which I thought would be a very thoughtful contribution.  Despite making that offer (twice), I was asked to bring a boring salad.  Boo! 

After I got done pouting about my salad assignment, I started thinking that maybe I could offer some guidance to the public at large about how to compile a dinner party playlist.  I firmly believe that the music helps set the tone for the evening, just as the guests, food and table décor do.  It's part art and part science.  I resist the temptation to use a dinner party as a forum for educating my guests about what I think they should be listening to while subtly introducing them to a few new sounds.  The trick is to make them feel comfortable with some familiar music interspersed with some songs to stretch them a bit.  I always have to temper my excitement when a guest comments on one of the songs and asks who sings it.  Success!

Here are a couple tricks so that you end up with a nice mix, you don't feel like you're listening to the radio, but the guests won't feel like things are too crazy:

• Throw some songs in from the high school and college years.  This is always comforting to those who feel uncomfortable with unfamiliar music.
• Put some songs in by familiar artists who have newer albums (for instance, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, and Michael Jackson have newish albums out)
• Use some familiar songs that have been recently covered by contemporary artists (Marc Cohn, Quincy Jones and Norah Jones all have such albums out during the past year)
• Put a couple songs in that might be unfamiliar but can be used for educational purposes (I can't resist), such as a lesser known Grammy nominated artists (Arcade Fire and Janelle Monáe might fit that category, depending on your guests)
• Mix up the tempo so that some songs are louder, faster, quieter, slower.
• Put a song or two in the mix that is just starting to be played on the radio.
• Put a couple songs in that you love to allow for the possibility that no one is commenting on the music, in which case you can say something clever, such as, "I love this song!" to force a compliment. 
• Remember that all music sounds better after a cocktail or two!

Here are some songs that might give you a few ideas, but as I reflect it's probably good that my friend told me not to bring the playlist.  After all, it's not my dinner party (this had to be pointed out to me by my husband).  Make it personal but well suited to your guests and have fun!

1. "The Suburbs" - Arcade Fire
2. "Fadeaway" - The BoDeans
3. "Ain't Good Enough for You" - Bruce Springsteen
4. "Funny The Way It Is" - Dave Matthews Band
5. "Crooked Teeth" - Death Cab for Cutie
6. "Layla" - Derek & the Dominos
7. "Romeo and Juliet" - Dire Straits
8. "MoneyGrabber" - Fitz & The Tantrums
9. "In a Daydream" - The Freddy Jones Band
10. "Tiny Light" - Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
11. "Thing of Beauty" - Hothouse Flowers
12. "Good People" - Jack Johnson
13. "Use Somebody" - Kings of Leon
14. "Hello World" - Lady Antebellum
15. "Look At Me" - Marc Cohn
16. "Whole Lotta Love" - Mary J. Blige
17. "You Are Not Alone" - Mavis Staples
18. "Little Lion Man" - Mumford & Songs
19. "Crash Years" - New Pornographers
20. "Solsbury Hill" - Peter Gabriel
21. "1901" - Phoenix
22. "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" - Queen
23. "Sanford & Son", feat. T.I., B.o.B., Prince Charlez and Mohombi - Quincy Jones
24. "Send Me on My Way" - Rusted Root
25. "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" - U2

I might need to have my own dinner party just to use my awesome new playlist!  Okay, off to make my salad...

Filed under: Playlists

Leave a comment