The article below was written by Ambient DJ's Mike Bacon, aka DJ Iron Mike. In addition to maintaining a busy performance schedule, Mike serves as Ambient DJ's Director of Musical Programming. He possesses an amazing memory for song and artist information that can be recalled at lightning speed. To book DJ Iron Mike for your upcoming wedding or private party, please visit Ambient DJ Service at www.ambientdj.com.
Songs That DJs Probably Shouldn't Play at a Wedding (but sometimes do)
As you probably know, I DJ a fair amount of weddings and anniversary parties throughout the year. I also attend my share of weddings and formal events. I'm sure if you're a DJ like me, (while at these events) your ears are open at all times. All of a sudden, you become the Roger Ebert of DJing, you say things to yourself like "wow, I can't believe he's playing that", "Bad Call" or occasionally you might "borrow" some ideas. In any case, I've noticed over the years that some DJs disregard lyrical content in dinner music more than they might think. Of course, I'm not talking about playing curse-loaded 2 Live Crew songs during cocktail hour. I'm talking about "love" songs that ain't so lovely. Here's a list of songs I've heard at weddings and anniversary parties that probably shouldn't be played. (Sometimes it's the couples request for some of these tunes, but I believe the DJ should alert these people of the lyrical implications.)
"What's Goin' On"- Marvin Gaye
I've heard this played A LOT of times. The song's a timeless classic, but guess what? It's an anti-war tune. When I think love and marriage, I shouldn't be thinking of thousands of soldiers that lost their lives in 'Nam and getting Platoon visuals. Granted, DJs probably play because it's has a nice vibe to it and it appeals to pretty much everybody. Either that or Rod Tidwell performing it at Jerry Mcguire's wedding comes to mind. Whatever the reason, Marvin intended for this song to be taken as a wake up call to drop the weapons and keep the peace and not knocking back a few shots with Cousin Eddie at the cocktail hour.
What to play instead: Try something like "Come live with me Angel" or play some of his classic Motown duets with Tammi Terrell such as"Your Precious Love" or "You're all I need to get by"; or if your at a less conservative event, Sexual Healing is a good call. It's got a great vibe to it and it's about sex… Not War.
"Escape (The Pina Colada Song)"- Rupert Holmes
My Pop's brought this one to my attention once, "why are they playing this? This guy's cheating on his spouse!" Yup, that's what this fun, island flavored banger is about. In actuality, he's attempting to cheat on his spouse with well, his spouse. Rupert's story has a Usual Suspect like twist at the end of the tune where after writing an ad in the paper in search of a more exotic relationship, the ad is replied to by the woman he's attempting to leave. While the true message of the song is to pay attention to your woman, maybe you have more in common with her than you know, The Lyric "I was tired of my lady, we've been together too long" probably shouldn't be blaring out of a DJ's speakers at a reception. In the end, play it if it's a strong request. Don't bust it out on your own.
What to play instead: This song is a true original, there's really nothing like it. But if you are looking for the white guy island vibe, I say go with one of the many UB40 covers: "Can't Help Falling In Love With You", "Come and Take Me (Here I am Baby)" or "The Way You do the things You do" - they'll all work just fine.
Fleetwood Mac (in General)
Here's a true confession…I like Fleetwood Mac. Go ahead, make fun of me…ok….enough already. I'm not sure why I like them, but those people are just plain talented. In any case, I heard a DJ play "Dreams" at dinner during a wedding reception some time last year. It seemed like a chill, under the radar tune to play, but then the lyrics kicked in… "Thunder only happens when it's raining", "Players only love you when they're playing"… ouch… THUNDER? RAIN? PLAYER? Not really words the bride wants to associate with the wedding. How Bout "Say You Love Me" sounds innocent enough right? WRONG… this joint is really about Christine McVie's love interest in the song using her as a late night last resort. The Same goes for "The Chain"… "If you don't love me now, they you may never love me again" Strong words Mac… You can also add "Go Your Own Way" to the list… The whole band had volatile relationships with each other and their problems bled into their lyrics. It's been said that divorce in America skyrocketed after the release of 1977's Rumors.
What to play instead: "You Make Loving Fun" slips past the sneaky breakup ridden F-Mac lyrics and serves the same purpose as "Dreams". You can also run with Stevie Nick's duet with Don Henley "Leather & Lace"...I'd also refer to some Steve Winwood for that chill rock vibe.
"On Bended Knee" and "End of The Road"- Boyz II Men
WOW!!! These are full fledged, knock down drag out breakup jams! These are the songs you blasted in your head phones on the bus ride home in the 7th grade when you couldn't woo the girl next to you in class. "On Bended Knee" has nothing to do with proposing or the like, It's all about reconciliation. Some years back, I was working for another DJ company and I was told by my boss to play "End of the Road" during dinner. I refused. I was never sure whether he was testing me or he really wanted me to play the 1992-93 breakup anthem. If you are in your mid to late 20's like me, you gotta love some Boyz II Men…but stay away from these joints.
What to Play Instead: Since our friends from The City of Brotherly love only racked up hits about heartache and loss (It's So Hard to Say Goodbye, Water Runs Dry) or Bumping and Grinding (I'll Make Love to You, Uhh Ahh) or Partying (MotownPhilly, Thank You) they never really made time for great love songs. For that early 90's r&b radio sound, I'd go with Shai's "Baby I'm Yours", SWV's "Weak" or Aaliyah's "At Your Best".
This is my first installment of "what to and what not to play". I got Plenty more where these came from. So I hope you enjoyed. Please add some suggestions, there's probably some tunes I shouldn't be playing…so...hook me up with some feedback!!!
-DJ Iron Mike