PermaLink Women: don't let guys pick your music05/10/2006 06:38 PM

Ever notice how guys always seem to think they know what music girls will like?  And they're almost always wrong?

I still DJ from time to time, mostly at a place which in recent years has been "trending younger," as marketers would say.  This is a place that for many years was the hangout of golfers and insurance salesmen and local government employees, mostly in their 40s and 50s, but since its sale a couple of years ago, has been attracting more and more people in their early 20s.

Normally, my gig starts early enough that there are mostly the older people in the bar, and as the night goes on, the younger people start to take over.  By the end of the night, I'm usually the senior member of the room.  I slowly shift my playlist to account for that, moving from, say, Neil Diamond, Elvis, Johnny Cash and early Stones to stuff like Pink Floyd and later Stones, with some funk and tasteful disco thrown in, before giving over to stuff like Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg.

Lately, there's been this one young bartender who figures that he, and not I, know what "the younger crowd" likes.  Mind you, he's 23, which means I have a few CDs that are about as old as he is, and I've certainly been doing this stuff longer than he's been alive.  But since he has no idea that anyone over his age knows anything about music, he takes it upon himself to come down to the end of the bar and give me completely unsolicited sociological observations which I guess he intends for me to translate into changes in music.  I smile and ignore him, since I, as a good DJ, know who to pay attention to in the bar when it comes to what "they" want to hear.

It ain't 23-year-old white guys who seemingly want to be black.

It's women, of course.

Whatever women want, they get.  Why?  Because guys really don't give a shit.  Guys, if they make a request for music, particularly un-guy-like music, are doing it so they can look more powerful to women.  "Hey, girl, I went up to the DJ and told him to play this, and he did, now don't you just wanna fuck me?"  When women make requests, it's because they really want to hear the music, and/or dance.   These two dynamics sometimes clash, because young men then set themselves up (to me, the 43-year-old guy) as the arbiters of "what the women wanna hear."  Never mind that there's usually a line of girls behind these dumbasses perfectly capable of making their own requests... no, these are the same sort of guys who, in another era, would have ordered their date's dinner and told her what to wear.

Every DJ has heard the same stupid things:  "if you play this, everyone will dance."  Me, I don't give a shit if anybody dances or if they go sit on a pole.  I'm not getting paid for this, about all I get is a free beer once in a while and the chance to hear about some new music I might not otherwise encounter.  In my experience, if someone comes up and says "everyone will dance," absolutely nobody will dance... not even the requestor.  So, I ignore those.

Then there's "young people want to hear XYZ..."  Again, they're perfectly capable of coming up and asking.  And the idea that "young people only wanna hear rap" is a chunk of shit concocted by young insecure white guys who listen to rap because they think acting something they're not (which is black and hip) will make them something they can never be (which is black and hip).  It's no different than "old people just wanna hear oldies from the years they were in high school."  I sure as hell don't, and don't know anyone else this applies to, either, except possibly a few guys with whom I went to high school.  Yes, I DJed our 25th reunion.

A great fallacy I love puncturing is "new equals good."  Since 90% of everything is shit, the idea that all new music is better than older music is laughable, and I ignore it.  I generally have a five-year rule for music:  I don't run out and buy it when it's new just because it's popular.  I let it age for a few years, and if it still sounds good, I buy it.  This has helped me avoid the pit that my ex-wife fell into in her music-buying habits.  When she moved out, you should have seen all the shit she left behind on cassette tapes:  Everything But The Girl, Mariah Carey, En Vogue.  How many of you still listen to Rick Astley or Tears For Fears, huh?  But then again, The Sundays, Sheryl Crow, Pearl Jam and Weezer have aged quite well.

The thing that people don't always understand is that the DJ is responsible for shaping an entire evening of music, not just the hour you'll be there, and that he or she is not and has never been your particular personal jukebox.  This is why you have an iPod or a car stereo.  I go out for an evening, not to hear only things I already know I like, but to hear new stuff and go up and ask what the hell that is you're playing there, man?  So, when you walk into a bar and what's on is, say, low-key Dire Straits, and you walk up and demand Kanye West's "Golddiggers," well, you shouldn't be surprised if the DJ can't or won't jump to your command that instant.  It takes him a while to change the mood.  So, yes, you're going to have to wait while he shifts up through some 1980s Rolling Stones, to some Green Day, and then maybe to your request.  And if you have a short attention span or only time for one beer, tough shit.  Come back next week, or better yet, don't you own that CD already?  Go out in your car and put it in.

When I DJ, I take many factors into account:  speed, beat, key, instrumentation, vocal styles, time period, and subtle things like topics and even puns and play on words (which allows me to go straight from Boston's "Smokin'" to the Tubes' "White Punks On Dope," for example).  I don't just stand up there stuffing MP3s into the playlist at random, any more than a church organist is randomly poking at keys.  You can't do it, at least not without some time and practice, so don't bother telling me how to do it.

And just remember, if it comes down to two competing requests, if you don't have concave genitalia, you're probably gonna get ignored.  Sorry.
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