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Another "why doesn't this song work?" thread.


JimboK
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Why don't modern songs work?

 

My band isn't some super power. Local bar band, specializing in 80's stuff. We have folks loving what we are doing (in spite of my weak playing. Helps everyone else is a stud). The following is solid. The reactions to the music is undeniable. We play 80's monster hits (Don't Stop, Jessie's, Billie Jean, etc.) coupled with some harder rock (sweet child, crazy train, livin' after midnight). The crowd generally eats it up.

 

Live clip here (be kind, its just a cobbled together set of phone videos): Here

 

So my question is HOW do you determine what stuff works to meld into this 80's list that is more current? We tried 1985 by bowling for soup... DUD. Stacy's Mom by Fountains of Wayne... DUD. Those songs SHOULD work right? Speaking to the MILF crowd, paying homage to the 80's. Dance Beat, etc. Total lemons.

 

Now the boys wanna try "Shut up and dance with me" by walk the moon. Another song that clearly checks the boxes but I'm worried will be waste of time.

 

We tried the 90's thing, ran into the same problem.

 

Why don't these upbeat dance able songs work? We make sure to put them sandwiched in between sure-fire winners and yet they fail.

 

Is there a formula I'm missing? If I had to venture a guess, it's about being "girl songs". If the chicks love them, they are winners.

 

Uptown Funk is the exception. Maybe the FUNK is what is does it? People go absolutely NUTS for that song, every time.

 

Need any input you can give.

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Newer stuff is a lot more fickle. Of what goes over well for a short time, most of it falls off quickly and becomes dated. Only a few last, uptown funk being an example. If you're going to do new stuff it has to be CURRENTLY on the charts and be prepared to rotate it out with new stuff fairly frequently.

 

That said, depending on your crowd (if it's older), they may just not like, or be familiar with newer stuff - even 90s. Something as big and crossover as uptown funk will be known by all age groups, but other stuff may not even have ever been heard by folks in their 40s and 50s.

Dan

 

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I suggest you play a song as a band for your audience for a period of 6 months before concluding the song doesn't work. A song may not be working the first couple of times because the band is still new to it.

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I suggest you play a song as a band for your audience for a period of 6 months before concluding the song doesn't work. A song may not be working the first couple of times because the band is still new to it.

 

That's a really good point - I've had songs work with one band but not another. Was it differences in the crowd, or differences in the band? I've definitely been in bands where I didn't think we gave songs an adequate shot - play it once or twice then drop it. Usually it's more because the band never got comfortable with it and it was easier to drop it than to keep working on it and nail it, and lackluster audience the first night was an easy excuse.

Dan

 

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1985 and Stacey's Mom are conpletely different to shut up and dance. The former two are more niche, would have appealed to the pop punk crowd of the early 00s. Shut Up and Dance is a chart hit.

 

9 /10 times a global chart topping song will work at any gig. We occasionally do songs by bands like Blink 182 and Sum41, even did Stacey's mom. If we do them we only do them at bars, and if it looks like the crowd will be the kind of crowd who appreciate it. Would never do those at weddings unless the client was obviously into that.

 

We always start our second set with shut up and dance and it's an instant floor filler. Chart topping hits performed with lots of energy will generally work. You also have to bear in mind the "dark zone" of chart toppers: a song from the 80s to the very early 2000s is nostalgic. A song from the early 2010s is too old to be relevant and not old enough to be a classic. I see a lot of bands perform songs that were big 6-7 years ago and wonder why no one dances to it.

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We do a lot of 80s in one of my bands and we also mix in current stuff. Some of it works for a couple months but other stuff has huge staying power. We've been doing Uptown Funk since it came out and it still packs the floor. Shut Up and Dance as well. Rolling in the Deep- how old is that? Yet it still gets a great reaction. Can't Stop the Feeling, still works. It helps that our singer nails this stuff and our drummer has the perfect voice for Shut Up.

 

Sometimes, where you place a song in a set is a factor. We had a new Shawn Mendez song that tanked when it was put near the end of a set in the middle of dance stuff. Moved it to early in the 1st set, it does well now.

 

This set packs the floor from the 1st song. We throw a ballad in to give people a break. We take literally no time between songs. As one ends the next is being counted in or if it starts with a particular instrument, that person is starting the song.

 

Wouldn't Want To Be Like You

Turn Your Love Around (George Benson)

Rolling in the Deep >

Crazy > (Gnarles Barkley)

I Can't Go For That> 1999 > I Can't Go For That

Footloose

Funky Music

Faithfully

Shut up and Dance

Can't Stop the Feeling

Shake Your Body >

Billie Jean >

Uptown Funk

 

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We are in a similar situation: mainly 80's, big following (we generally run about 300 people thru a door on any given night).

 

Very similar setlist.

 

Shut and Dance works well for us: we play it right in the middle of a bunch of dance-able songs, no one leaves the floor.

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We play mostly Classic Rock and some Country, but like to add newer songs on occasion; there seems to be more acceptance of newer songs by the Country crowd.

 

Since we try to get people up and dancing (after the 1st set, when the get in the mood) we have tried new songs by playing the hit versions during the breaks and reading the crowd reactions. That helps some anyway.

 

My rule of thumb is: Will people still be humming, singing along with, or for girls, will they be still shakin the shoulders in their seats to this song a decade later?

 

Works for us.

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I held my nose as I listened to the garbage song Shut up and dance with me.

 

The question would be how could the band make the meager elements of groove in that "song" translate live?

 

I cannot bear to hear it... I listened for a few seconds in the middle of it.

 

I heard a bass drum 4 on floor.

That bass drum would be your key. The bass drum in your band would be about it.

The crescendo of that piece of garbage was done with mixing, not musicianship.

Think of a real groove band, Chic, James Brown EWF those bands made things intensify with their innate musical ability.

So with this "song" that would be difficult. Try it.. make sure bass drum is prominent

good luck

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

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We always start our second set with shut up and dance and it's an instant floor filler. Chart topping hits performed with lots of energy will generally work. You also have to bear in mind the "dark zone" of chart toppers: a song from the 80s to the very early 2000s is nostalgic. A song from the early 2010s is too old to be relevant and not old enough to be a classic. I see a lot of bands perform songs that were big 6-7 years ago and wonder why no one dances to it.

All good points.

 

Shut Up and Dance always works for us. Okay, we probably won't play it at our retirement home gig. You still have to know your audience. But in general, my guess is, if you've got a dancing crowd and they'e not dancing to this, you may need to work on your performance/delivery.

 

As a rule, modern hits are hot, then nobody wants to hear them, then sometimes they com back... but there are a handful that work from the start and never seem to fade. (Sometimes I wish they would.) People have mentioned Uptown Funk. Poker Face is another one.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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As a rule, modern hits are hot, then nobody wants to hear them, then sometimes they com back... but there are a handful that work from the start and never seem to fade. (Sometimes I wish they would.) People have mentioned Uptown Funk. Poker Face is another one.

 

True dat. Also Happy. Also Get Lucky. Also Blurred Lines. Basically Pharrell, is what I'm saying.

 

Cheers, Mike.

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Maybe this is a little contrarian, but I don't concur with the line of thinking that certain songs are jive or set list killers. In my experience,

 

It all depends on your audience. And giving them what they want. But that's really the secret to any business.

 

Yeah, I get that if you play nothing but a similar very similar set of gigs in a circle of very similar venues, you'll end up with a lot of overlapping/similar demographics.

 

But that's not what I see at my gigs, for whatever it's worth.

 

There are some audiences where Shut Up and Dance and Havana packs the floor. There are others where Oh What A Night and Dancing Queen is the shiznit. And others where it's all about This Is How You Do It, Freak Like Me, Ignition and California Love. Then there's the Motown audience, and the Friends in Low Places audience, and....

 

What works for us is 1) having a wide variety of genre under our belt and 2) having a BL who knows how to read the crowd and give them nothing but what they want and respond to.

 

I think it starts with observing who's in the room, and then seeing how they respond to your first couple of song selections - and adjusting on the fly from there.

 

just my 0.02

 

tim

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It's all about the beat. If the drums and bass make your hips move involuntarily, that will work. If it makes your legs move, it's still good. If you just tap your foot, maybe it's not enough. If it makes you move your whole body, you've got a winner.
These are only my opinions, not supported by any actual knowledge, experience, or expertise.
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No one is mentioning the big horny elephant in the room, which is that the main job of cover/dance bands is to get people laid. The dancing is just a means to an end, as is the drinking/bar tab. You have to help people believe they are sexy, or remind them of when they were, or allow those who actually are, to just be. Period.

 

Obscure songs make people feel stupid, and people don't feel sexy when they are feeling stupid. I think people forget that our job is not to make people like us, but to send them home liking how they are when they see us.

 

If you are a cover/dance band, if people come see you and go home feeling good about themselves, you will never go hungry.

 

Shut Up and Dance is a good little tune IMO. It's a straight-up 80's call-back with a handy get-you-laid chorus. Plus that solo is fun to play. I like all Walk the Moon's hits so far.

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Good obeservations, MOI, though not all audiences are largely singles on the prowl, especally if you play a lot of weddings and such. But yes, making people feel sexy or allowing them to express their sexiness is always a good thing, regardless of the endgame. Sometimes, as they say, the journey is the reward.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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Whoa, bad flashback. My first band after a reunion triggered my 25 year delayed return to music had a very diverse song list. We literally had 1985 in the set list. We did everything from 70s/80s rock hits to some 90s, some 00s and even some 10s. We had a Kathy Perry in there, some Pink (which I liked, btw), even a couple country rockers.

 

Everyone thought we played all songs well but the band never took off. Id notice during our sets that some people would respond to some songs, others would respond to others, but the entire room wouldnt respond to ANYTHING except a few: Dont Stop Believin, Livin on Prayer, and Sweet Child. One of my oldest best friends capsulized it really well you guys play well, but I dont know what you guys are trying to be.

 

He was right. Just as we would start to get part of the crowd going, wed hit them with a completely different song vibe and theyd all just leave the floor, go get a drink, start talking to each other, or .... leave.

 

My advice - which with $2 will get you a cup of coffee - if you play too wide a variation - you will lose the room. Not all agree with this advice. But be warned and deeply ponder the obvious: People that love classic rock hits dont even know most songs from 00s. kids that like current pop are bored by grunge era. Rockers say meh to country, and wince at Kathy Perry.

 

I lived a band that did exactly that formula of wide variety, the band was totally convinced this was a marketing advantage - something for everyone, it flopped like a greasy pancake despite plenty of talent.

 

** Unless youre a wedding band. Which, i guess, makes it obligatory? Not sure, never been in a wedding band.

 

2nd advice - pick UBER HITS - MEGA HITS. Always. No exceptions. You can stray to a different vibe if its a mega hit EVERYONE knows. I have a rock band and we play a rocked version of Play That Funky Music, crowd loves it. Because EVERYONE at an 80s rock show remembers that song.

 

1985 is not a mega hit, it was a brief nitch semi hit . Staceys mom is like a hundred other songs at that same time. My that band picked a lot of songs just like these that we thought were cool, were topical semi hits briefly. Not enough of the crowd knew any of them. your examples - I like both songs, for what they are, im not dissing them at all. Just stating fact - they are not mega hits. We did some Killers, and stuff like that. Crowd was meh - most didnt know it. they are not Sweet Child, Livin on Prayer, Highway to Hell, Dont Stop. Pick songs that you heard so many times you got sick of it. Songs that you know 90% of the lyrics before you even replay it the first time today. Thats what your crowd wants, they love songs they know the lyrics too - songs they can sing along to. They dont know the words to 1985.

 

Just my 2c

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** Unless youre a wedding band. Which, i guess, makes it obligatory? Not sure, never been in a wedding band.

Exactly. They're not coming to see you, and you need to keep a diverse group happy. But one part is the same, where you say, "Just as we would start to get part of the crowd going, wed hit them with a completely different song vibe and theyd all just leave the floor" ... Yup, even in a wedding band, if a bunch of people are up on the dance floor, do NOT change the vibe. I mean eventually, sure... as I said, you have to appeal to a diverse group, and besides, people get tired. But when you get a big chunk of the crowd up and dancing, I'd stay with that vibe for probably a good 15 minutes before moving on to something else. Though one advantage of a wedding over a bar... people aren't quick to leave merely if they're not happy with the music you're playing at that particular moment.

 

Pick songs that you heard so many times you got sick of it. Songs that you know 90% of the lyrics before you even replay it the first time today. Thats what your crowd wants, they love songs they know the lyrics too - songs they can sing along to. They dont know the words to 1985.

Tangetially, I used to get on the case of lead singers who didn't know the words to really huge songs and needed to have the words in front of them. But most front people do know the songs to the hits. So another guide based on your observation is, if your singer doesn't know the words to the song, you might want to pick something else. ;-)

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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Good obeservations, MOI, though not all audiences are largely singles on the prowl, especally if you play a lot of weddings and such. But yes, making people feel sexy or allowing them to express their sexiness is always a good thing, regardless of the endgame. Sometimes, as they say, the journey is the reward.

 

I dont necessarily mean singles. I mean the couple who has a rare babysitter and might go home and rekindle, the third-date crew, the divorcees, the older never-marrieds, the happily married who are looking for an excuse to sanctify the chamber, and yes, the younger single folks who want to show their best game. People get laid, you get paid.

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A different tack -- you may want to listen to good DJ sets that essentially cover the same material, especially DJs who are hired because they consistently fill the floor. There are, of course, lots of events that cater to specific kinds of music where the DJs have skills in a particular set of genres, I don't know what the gigging scene is like, but in my clubbing days I'd go to specific clubs to hear specific DJs because they had a solid rep for playing the kind of music I liked for dancing.

 

Something like this YouTube search, with results sorted by number of views (not 100% reliable, but pretty decent), for instance: YouTube 80's DJ Mixes, by view count

 

Now, being a live band has some definite advantages as songs can "mix" in a lot more ways than a DJ can do, but paying attention to which songs, when, and how they're blended into each other from DJ sets may provide some ideas to jump off of.

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Newer stuff is a lot more fickle. Of what goes over well for a short time, most of it falls off quickly and becomes dated. Only a few last, uptown funk being an example. If you're going to do new stuff it has to be CURRENTLY on the charts and be prepared to rotate it out with new stuff fairly frequently.

 

That said, depending on your crowd (if it's older), they may just not like, or be familiar with newer stuff - even 90s. Something as big and crossover as uptown funk will be known by all age groups, but other stuff may not even have ever been heard by folks in their 40s and 50s.

 

This pretty much sums it up.

 

Or, as another poster put it - MEGA HITS!

 

It's really hard to find other musicians who know the difference between a hit they like, and a hit everyone likes.

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The following is from my experience as a DJ - so feel free to leave it if not appropriate.

 

I wouldn't work up Shut Up And Dance at this late point. It was kind of a one hit wonder, and has come and gone in my rooms.

 

For newer band tracks that hold their value over the years, take a look at Maroon 5 if you can handle it. I'm still playing things like This Love and Moves Like Jagger to good response. Sugar is actually fairly easy to sing, and still works good as new even though it's 4 years old. What Lovers Do... absolutely huge.

 

Also think about Bruno Mars beyond just Uptown Funk. 24K Magic and Finesse are floor packers - and probably still will be 10 years from now. That's just classic stuff.

 

Also for something stupid simple and easy to work up, try Body Like A Back Road - Sam Hunt's huge country crossover hit from last year. I'm using a B&D DJ mix, but there's no reason you couldn't add a little more bass and drums as a band. There's even a little B3/Leslie in there. This song is incredibly flexible - it works with young, old, rock fans, country fans... you name it.

 

I play it practically every night.

 

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Funny I was thinking the same thing about shut up and dance....would probably still work for a little while but definitely on borrowed time.

 

Did some of the maroon 5 and other stuff for a while and already dropped some of it. For instance, songs that went over great but are now dropped: Moves like Jagger, Blurred Lines, I gotta feeling, Get Lucky.

 

This is primarily a classic rock and 80s rock band with the occasional new song, so very similar situation, but even more ROCK, especially classic variety, yet here are some that are still working that are against the genre (not necessarily new): You Should Be Dancing (bee gees), Everybody (backstreet boys), Bye Bye Bye (N'Sync), of course Uptown Funk.

 

Next on the list among others, to Bill's point, is 24k. I'm sure it will go over,

Dan

 

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And to your point Dan I wouldn't work up Moves Like Jagger now either. Among other things it's extremely difficult to sing. I've heard many bar bands try and fail...

 

I have to admit that I used it last night though, but it was for a general purpose festival event and not a normal club night. I kind of have an affection for it because it mixes so well. I can loop that whistle and bring it in over practically anything else in Bm - then release the loop into the track.

 

Blurred Lines has been slowly fading in popularity, and even though this would have been the perfect night for it a couple of years ago I didn't use it. Gotta Feeling and Get Lucky have been pulled for years.

 

Kind of OT... last night was so huge that I couldn't even get off the stage during the final 2 1/2 hours. There was just no way to move through that sea of people. The dance floor was so packed that it was spilling onto the stage itself, with security trying to help as best as they could.

 

On nights like this you've just got to hold it - but the adrenaline is pumping so hard that your body pretty much shuts down the urges to go.

 

But boy did I ever let it out afterwards :laugh:

 

 

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And to your point Dan I wouldn't work up Moves Like Jagger now either. Among other things it's extremely difficult to sing. I've heard many bar bands try and fail...

 

I have to admit that I used it last night though, but it was for a general purpose festival event and not a normal club night. I kind of have an affection for it because it mixes so well. I can loop that whistle and bring it in over practically anything else in Bm - then release the loop into the track.

 

Blurred Lines has been slowly fading in popularity, and even though this would have been the perfect night for it a couple of years ago I didn't use it. Gotta Feeling and Get Lucky have been pulled for years.

 

Kind of OT... last night was so huge that I couldn't even get off the stage during the final 2 1/2 hours. There was just no way to move through that sea of people. The dance floor was so packed that it was spilling onto the stage itself, with security trying to help as best as they could.

 

On nights like this you've just got to hold it - but the adrenaline is pumping so hard that your body pretty much shuts down the urges to go.

 

But boy did I ever let it out afterwards :laugh:

 

I think Maroon 5 fails singing that song, to be honest.

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Newer stuff is a lot more fickle. Of what goes over well for a short time, most of it falls off quickly and becomes dated. Only a few last, uptown funk being an example. If you're going to do new stuff it has to be CURRENTLY on the charts and be prepared to rotate it out with new stuff fairly frequently.

 

That said, depending on your crowd (if it's older), they may just not like, or be familiar with newer stuff - even 90s. Something as big and crossover as uptown funk will be known by all age groups, but other stuff may not even have ever been heard by folks in their 40s and 50s.

 

This pretty much sums it up.

 

Or, as another poster put it - MEGA HITS!

 

It's really hard to find other musicians who know the difference between a hit they like, and a hit everyone likes.

Exactly. Musicians get tired of / bored with mega hits, they latch onto some quirky semi-known song that has a unique riff or run or peculiar transition. dog whistle to the audience, they want to rock n roll all night and party every day. They do not appreciate your nuance.

 

Im amazed every time Metal Health (bang your head) slays a crowd. Damn i hated that song when it came out, never learned to like it. But i love watching a crowd lite up to it. Weirdest thing. I could sit it out but i vamp an electric guitar voice and hit some 5ths just so i can be part of it

The baiting I do is purely for entertainment value. Please feel free to ignore it.
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And to your point Dan I wouldn't work up Moves Like Jagger now either. Among other things it's extremely difficult to sing. I've heard many bar bands try and fail...

 

We had a top notch vocalist - one of the best in town, it went over very well back when we did it. But that and the others I mentioned that have been dropped were dumped 1-2 years ago. Something like blurred lines would probably still be ok to play - the DJ's still play it when we're on break...but it won't slay the way other songs do, and it's all about making sure every song goes over great!

 

Something else I had thought of earlier but didn't say: it is MUCH easier to find an old song that has become cool with the kids, than to find a new song that the older crowd knows and likes. That's why "Don't Stop Believing" works and "Shut Uo and Dance with Me" might not.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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