Sean Beckwith: Wedding playlist has got me under pressure
August 15, 2017
I do my best work under duress. People decry procrastination, but I look at it as an art form. Packing on a deadline is easier because you're forced to make decisions without thinking. Tough wardrobe questions are answered unconsciously. Blue shirt or green shirt? Blue. How many pairs of drawers do I need? Screw it, just grab the comfortable pairs; that should be enough.
One of my most personally satisfying college papers was written on deadline without any sources. It initially received an "F," but my presentation started such a lengthy discussion that the professor had to cut off questions (and raise my grade to a "D").
However, I recently had to temporarily lift my procrastination practice. My sister is getting married and she and her fiance asked me to provide the music. So in the past year I've been learning the guitar. I hope they like "Smoke on the Water" in instrumental form for five hours straight.
That's a lie. Well, not the "Smoke on the Water" part. I know the basic riff, but that's the extent of my guitar skills. They want me to create a playlist for the reception — a five-hour playlist.
There's no doubt in my mind that I can put together a mix that's pretty much a fifth of a 24-hour day. DJs at radio stations do it all the time, even if the one time I sat in at KDNK I had trouble coming up with songs with two other people for a three-hour show. Again, a situation where preparation could've helped, but listeners called in to praise our set so I felt like we crushed it.
This is different though. I can't blast 2pac's "Strictly for my N****s" during the hors d'oeuvre or dinner portion. (I probably can't blast it at all as much as I want to.)
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Families with small children might be offended by Big L's line "Since I'm looking slick and my pockets are thick, I need surgery to get chicks removed from my heyyy."
I could rain beautiful hip hop on that reception like Skittles at unicorn's birthday.
To be honest, I could fill this entire column with lyrics from songs I can't play.
In addition to a PG-13 playlist, I need to make sure tunes during appetizers and dinner are appropriate. Short of queuing up Kenny G's greatest hits and a bunch of CDs from my dad's smooth jazz collection, there is no easy solution other than to pour over Spotify and Pandora.
I've been listening to so much Motown, Frank Sinatra and classic jazz that random segments of life feel like scenes from "American Hustle." I brush my teeth with Al Green's "Here I Am (Come and Take Me)" and wash my face to Curtis Mayfield's "Pusherman." It turns out Hall & Oates catalog drops to Mariana Trench levels after the first five hits or so.
How much Steely Dan is too much? I don't know, but I can tell you I snapped after "Deacon Blues" came on Spotify for the 5,000th time.
As for the dance portion, I had some initial thoughts but not three hours' worth. Obviously Michael Jackson will be played, but I never thought I'd be critically examining if and when "Bad," "Beat It" and "Thriller" should run.
Whenever I make a playlist for the mountain, all I have to do is compile a bunch of bangers and hit shuffle. Now, I'm trying to figure out how to work my way from Huey Lewis and the News to "Single Ladies."
There's an almost scientific aspect to it. I'm 100 percent convinced that every professional DJ has a wedding playlist (or seven) in his or her repertoire.
I'm not even in the wedding, but somehow I feel more pressure than the best man. I gladly would rather write a five-minute speech.
"Zach is a good guy. I remember the time he locked himself outside our hotel room in his skivvies looking for and finding a place to relieve himself. Hahahaha. What an idiot."
See how easy that was? A couple more anecdotes and I'm drinking Champagne stress-free for the rest of the evening.
Do you know how much everybody hates a bad DJ? The answer is a lot. Nothing ruins a dance party like a misplaced ballad or stop-and-go lineups.
You can't follow up "Return of the Mack" with "I Will Always Love You."
Silly college term papers and vacation preparation can be executed under tight time constraints. This playlist — Rock 'n' Lobster Roll — requires dedication, intellect, taste and time.
Not only is it an examination of your musical taste but, more importantly, it's the soundtrack to one of the most memorable and joyous nights of someone's life. In this case it's my sister and her soon-to-be-husband, so just a casual amount of weight rests on my musical predilections.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Send him your feedback and wedding playlist suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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