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Top Five Classic Dance Tunes

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Time for another Top Five, coz, well, this here is my personal blog. And because I love music. And because I’m listening to some of these while working.

I blip (see sidebar) and I like dance music. I often think about what it would be like going to the wedding of a friend’s son or daughter (mine are too young, but some of my buds have procreated earlier and have kids in their teens already). So you have a bunch of 50-something, out-of-shape, now-dignified Gen-X’ers sitting in the ballroom with a bunch of twentysomethings who grew up on Ke$ha and Justin Bieber. What would get these moms and dads out of their seats and hustlin’, like I saw my parents’ generation do at my generation’s weddings when disco came on?

Here are my top five choices.

#5 The Safety Dance, Men Without Hats

How popular was this song? There was a 80’s themed annual party at my college called “The Safety Dance”. I personally thought the song was kind of dorky, and the dance this song spawned required liberal application of libations in order to watch without pain, but at the same time, there are very few dance songs that everybody of a certain generation could dance to… um… safely… without looking like they were total dweebs having a spasm attack. No matter your color, creed, religion, or sense of rhythm, you couldn’t possibly look more ridiculous than your neighbor dancing to this song.

A DJ just opening a set with a non-threatening song could do far worse than this tune to get the geriatric Gen-X crowd moving.

#4 Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now), C&C Music Factory

This was a surprisingly difficult choice, because the 90’s were filled with dance hits that all sort of blend together with similar sounds, beats, and vibe. Let’s just list a few, and you’ll see what I mean:

And they’re all great dance tracks. God knows I’ve spent enough time, money, and dripped enough sweat in various NYC clubs in the 90’s to these and other great dance songs. But of them all, Gonna Make You Sweat was the biggest and best-known hit. The second that command, “EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!” blares over the speakers, and the staccato guitar riffs start up, most of the people who used to party in the 90’s would subconsciously want to obey.

Plus, it has a pretty simple and easy to distinguish beat, making it easier on the crappy dances, but enough flares, vocal trills, and other complex rhythms to let the showboat go off in the middle of the big dance circle. Like we used to do in high school. I’d rank this song, and others in the genre, much higher, but fact is, this was a club hit. If you didn’t go to clubs in the 90’s, but instead went to bars to make out to “She Shook Me All Night Long”, you’re probably not a huge fan of this entire genre. Which limits the appeal to the formerly-hardcore middle aged party people at the wedding.

DJ should play this once the joint has gotten going, and most people have stopped caring what the music is, yet want to generate ooohs of recognition from the older crowd.

#3 Bizarre Love Triangle, New Order

This is, of course, the simple number one seat-emptier for the Gen-X crowd… if you’re Asian. Or you grew up in certain suburbs where “New Wave Music” was popular. Most people would recognize it, but honestly, I’ve rarely heard this played outside the Asian club scenes in the 90’s.

At the same time, this is one of the top electronica dance songs of all time, paving the way for the explosive growth of techno. The lyrics are mysterious and nonsensical, but all devotees likely know every word.

Bonus feature is that the backbeat is such a simple and slow one that most people without significant inner ear damage or hearing loss should be able to step side to side to the beat. By the time Gen-X’ers are going to their kids’ weddings, we might need that.

DJ: Play when you need to slow it down a touch to let the oldsters catch their breath, but want to keep people out on the dance floor. Do not be surprised if people break out in spontaneous sing-alongs and interpretive dances.

#2 Groove Is In the Heart, Deee-lite

Quite simply the most infectious bassline in all of musical history. I challenge you to listen to this song, and prevent your feet from tapping, your head from nodding, or making any sort of chair-dance moves. It’s impossible. Unless you’re deaf. Or dead. Plus, it’s just such a fun song. This is the song that people dance to while laughing or smiling.

The song never gets old. Never. I heard it recently in New Orleans, and the room full of twentysomethings, who were probably in diapers when this song was a hit, went absolutely nuts when this song came on. Never gets old, and you’ll get the bridal party dancing with the old fogies to this one.

#1 It Takes Two, Rob Base & DJ EZ-Rock

Right about now… you’re about to be possessed… by the sounds of… MC ROB BASE, and DJ EZ-ROCK!

Dance floor goes wild. Chairs empty. Some are turned over as fiftysomething matrons rush the floor. Young bridesmaids clutch their plum-colored dresses in terror as they are elbowed off the dance floor by the bride’s mom.

First of all, that bassline is sick. Sick, sick, sick. Pump it through some amps with juice, and it is literally impossible to not bop your head to it at least. Second, the drums on this are the definition of booty-moving.

Then you got that weird little “WHOO!” and “YEAH!” going on in the background. I don’t know why it is, but that just makes you want to do the Running Man or Roger Rabbit or something.

Because it’s hip hop, and Rob Base is doing the boisterous Alpha-Male thing, this is the only song in the Top Five that a totally manly dude who wouldn’t be caught dead on the dancefloor doing the Vogue can get on the floor and pump his fists to without feeling even the tiniest bit of worry. You can even dance with other dudes, and it will seem totally natural. (Only Jump Around by House of Pain might qualify for similar may-dance-with-other-dudes exemption). I look forward to looking totally silly with Dr. Jones, Judge Smith, and Congressman Johnson at some wedding in the future, as we sit there singing along with Rob Base:

I’m not internationally known
But I’m known to rock the microphone
Because I get stupid, I mean outrageous
Stay away from me if you’re contagious
Coz I’m a winner, no not a loser
To be an MC is what I choose-a

Tough To Leave Off the List

Obviously, all of the songs under consideration for #4 are great dance songs. But in compiling this Top Five, there are a few that were just incredibly hard to leave off this list.

Gin And Juice, Snoop Dogg: Incredible fat bassline, some of Dre’s best work in producing that familiar West Coast sound, and an iconic refrain: “Rollin’ down the street, smokin’ indo, sippin’ on gin n’ juice / Laid back / With my mind on my money, and my money on my mind.” I’d imagine any wedding taking place in California might replace one of the Top Five with this track. But fact is, this song is difficult to dance to. Try it. It’s a little too slow, and requires a bit of an attitude adjustment to flow with it. It’s the kind of song the old people will be yelling “MY MONEY ON MY MIND” to while they sip their wines at the table.

Vogue, Madonna: How the hell do you leave off the single most iconic dance song of the 90’s? It launched not just a dance, but an entire cultural movement, influencing fashion, media, aesthetics, and even politics. You couldn’t go to a party in the 90’s without hearing this song at least once. So how come this stays off? Because very, very, very few straight men will dance to this. We did back when we were trying to get laid by the hot chick from History 115, but now that we’re married, well-established members of society, and at a friend’s child’s wedding… there’s next to no chance that any of us is getting up and voguing. None. Zip.

The Humpty Dance, Digital Underground: Oh, how hard it was to leave this off the top five. For non-Asian folks, I’d seriously bump Bizarre Love Triangle for this track. Amazing grinding bassline, funny-ass lyrics, and the actual song tells you how to do the Humpty Dance:

People say ya look like M.C. Hammer on crack, Humpty
That’s all right ’cause my body’s in motion
It’s supposed to look like a fit or a convulsion
Anyone can play this game
This is my dance, y’all, Humpty Hump’s my name
No two people will do it the same
Ya got it down when ya appear to be in pain

Great, great dance tune. I’d rank it a very close #6. Very close.

That’s my list. What’s your Top Five?

-rsh

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Rob Hahn
Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

4 COMMENTS

    • The only reason is that song came out in 2002, and most of the Gen-Xers have moved on from the party scene by then… I think this would be in the Top Five for the Gen-Y crowd, though.

  1. Love, love, love “It takes two.” But actually prefer “Joy & Pain.” Just a bit…

    PUMP IT UP!

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