Working as a DJ in a bar is a lot of fun and very different from DJing at a wedding. Weddings expect to have slow songs played every few songs, so all the couples can have their time to dance. Depending on the bar slow songs may or may not be expected. The small town bar and eatery I “spin” in has their DJ night set up more like a dance club so although we have low beat hip hop breaks, usually we play one slow song at the end of the night.
As it is the last song it is important on two fronts. First it serves as a reminder for patrons to finish their drinks and go home and secondly it allows all the couples or people who have hooked up, to have one romantic dance. That being the case choosing the last song can be tricky indeed. You need to make sure that you have a song that covers both fronts and leaves everyone feeling like the night ended on a good note. So how do you manage that when you’re dealing with rowdy singles and die hard romantic couples?
For me it’s a combination of choosing the right lyrics, tempo and reading your crowd. The crowd being the most important thing to focus on as they are the ones paying for you to be there in the first place. So, for example, let’s say that the bar is full of mainly single guys with a few girls who have been on the dance floor all night. Your last song will be slow, but should be more of an upbeat sing along than a romantic love song. If the bar is full of couples or your girl guy ratio is fairly even then hitting them with a love song is perfect, but it’s got to be fast enough to make any singles feel like the end of the night isn’t dragging on. If the crowd seems really rowdy and you just want them to go well your last song can be practically whatever you want because if they don’t like it and won’t dance to it, chances are good they’ll head for their last drink and then head out.
Tempo is always something to watch. Some of the 80’s power ballads are actually faster than you think and can really upset your balance if you were going for that love song. Other love songs are way to slow and let’s be honest as much as the couples love dancing, if they just met or are a new couple starring into each other’s eyes and going around in circles becomes uncomfortable after 3 to 4 minutes.
Which brings me to length, I think no matter what vibe you are going for the last song should be under 4 minutes. Unless it is a classic that everyone will sing along to, in that case it’s okay to go to 5 minutes, but 6 is pushing it. You want the song to fill the last few moments of the evening, but not erase all memories of the other fantastic tunes you played.
Lastly let’s talk lyrics. Usually the older the song the safer your lyrics will be. I’ve heard some modern slow songs where the vulgarity just shocked me. I mean as a DJ we can shake our heads and say “Oh, looks like our regular diva has chosen new prey for the evening. ” We really don’t want the lyrics of the song to reflect that. They should either be sweet and romantic or empowering and fun. Everyone loves to sing along to I’ve had the Time of my Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes. PG lyrics will always be your best bet for a last slow song.
So if i stick to this formula usually the end of the night goes nice and smooth. Personally I think the slow song as the last song can be difficult to work around, but it really does make some people’s night. As the lyrics of Semisonic’s Closing Time states, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”
~ The Incidental Scribe