Friday, April 6, 2012

Let's Go Promming

NPR's been doing a series of stories about high school proms this week, including this little ditty from the All Songs Considered folks about alternate prom anthems.

This got me thinking about what songs I wish I had at my high school prom. So in flash of post-thesis (more on this big thing later) procrastination, I have compiled an ideal playlist of prom awesomeness, or at least idiosyncratic-ness.

If you are a Spotify user, you can listen to the whole playlist here. Or just check out the youtube links.

Anyways, here's the list with pithy commentary.

Gotta start strong, and some Sly Stone retrofitted with B3 organ, violin, and energy bursting at the seams fits the bill.

As per the rules for mixtapes set down by "High Fidelity," you gotta kick it up a notch on the 2nd track. This one's probably the catchiest punk anthem out there, with the right groove for those hilarious "Breakfast Club" dance moves.

To bring things back a bit, we spin this groovy neo-soul number, complete with sick horn battle. From my cover band experience, this baby keeps the bodies shaking, even at low temperatures.

Big voice? Deep grooves? Yes and yes. No brainer here.

Frere Monk - Duke Ellington
Yeah, we kick it old school around here. This one swings rul hard.

We also kick it international. Nigerian boogie, circa 1979. Teens are about the most unsubtle people on the planet, so why not put on a song with a most unsubtle lyric?

A pitch-perfect teen anthem, via Wes Anderson's pitch-perfect teen movie, Rushmore.

Little known fact: mandolins can groove as hard as booming kick drums. This one's a case in point.

Same thing goes for fiddle and cello. These were probably played at high school proms through 1900, so why not bring them back?

Love and Anger - Theo Bleckmann
Kate Bush's original is good too, but this one just has that organic bounce that so much dance music lacks. I don't care if the volume may be a little low. It just makes the groove experience warm and inviting, rather than cold and declarative (i.e. dance or else!)

Another one with a big voice and a deep groove. Plus epic harmonica!

I love it when DJ's spin it because it grooves harder than anything else they play. I hate it when bands cover it because they can't match the groove. So these cats just do it their own way and make it a super-jam. Perfect for keeping everyone moving for a good 10 minutes straight.

This is when the band/DJ fucks with the crowd a bit. Greasy half-time funk shuffle that then reveals itself to be in 9. Whoops.

The cheeky spurned love anthem with a hefty dose of soul. A great bit of ironic fun for this situation.

Over the top, just like stereotypical teenage behavior. Except this song does it in all the right ways.

Prismatica - Craig Taborn
We continue to venture in crazy electronic territory and begin the sonic overload. Also, the song gets 1000 bonus points for making the viola sound positively badass. Good job, Mat Maneri.

Again, I'm really into this whole "organic groove" thing. Vijay, Stephen Crumb, and Marcus Gilmore have that in spades. And here they keep it to 4/4 to allow even the most uncoordinated of young people to join the fun.

Sonic overload complete.

Coming to the end of the night, gotta pull out all the stops. Chris Daddy Dave brings the fat groove and Stokley adds soaring vocals. The lyrics are simple, but really capture the messiness of this whole time in life.

A little too depressing for a cathartic penultimate number? Not with the Bad Plus cover. Grooves in all the right ways, has these epic modulations, and orchestral chimes to boot. No better way to flush away one's high school life in song form.

And now we end the evening with the slow dance. Similar in bombastic poignance to the Smith's classic "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out," (I'd rather die with you than live without you) but with a better tempo. Maybe it's all a bit excessive, but so is high school, and so especially are high school proms. The best possible ender.

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