Although everyone is probably familiar with the phrase ‘cheese’ when it comes to music, there’s no doubt that it means different, sometimes very different, things to different people. Both DJs and clients alike have very differing perceptions of what a cheesy song is.
To a lot of our clients the cheesiest songs are ones that involve those ‘enforced fun’ dance routines such as ‘Oops Upside Your Head’ or ‘Saturday night’. However, über-cool clubbers would find classics such as ‘Show Me Love’ or ‘I Got A Feeling’ somewhat cheesy. So it really does depend on your, and more importantly your clients’, personal tastes as to where the threshold of cheese is situated. One person’s anthem is another’s slice of pungent cheese.
Some cheesy tracks are simply children’s songs aimed at the very young, and as a DJ I would consider very carefully whether such travesties as the ‘Hokey Cokey’, ‘Superman’ or ‘Crazy Frog’ should have a place at any party you are in charge of. I find that ‘if in doubt, leave it out’ is the best motto in this instance.
One feature that identifies a certain ‘flavour’ of cheese is certainly the actions or dance routines that are associated with the songs. To the novice DJ they represent an ideal starting point to get interactive with an audience. Who hasn’t witnessed dozens of arms waving around the dance-floor to ‘YMCA’ and the strict formation manoeuvres of the ‘Cha Cha Slide’? But it’s just those kind of actions that many clients – especially wedding couples – have a problem with for their special day. On the other hand, of course, others expect – and even embrace – them at their party, so the only rule is that there is no rule!
One way of avoiding any accusations of playing cheesy music is to go for the less obvious musical choices. The more seasoned DJs out there can create an amazing atmosphere and spectacular playlist without resorting to the obvious 50 or so songs that they (and their dancers) have heard too many times. I also find that another good rule of thumb is that a song should be listenable outside a party scenario, and still be enjoyable. Has anyone seriously listened to ‘Agadoo’ at home, on their iPod, or in the car?
There is definitely a ‘fear factor’ to working outside of your comfort zone. As DJs we think we know what works and what doesn’t. However, this isn’t necessarily the case, especially these days - never has there been more choice and accessibility to such a vast range of music. When I started my DJ business over 30 years ago there was a lot less choice, fewer genres and our clientele certainly had a fraction of the musical knowledge they have now. Today I find it a challenge to fit in all the good music that’s out there, so avoiding the obvious is easy! My advice is to talk to those music loving dancers out there and also other DJs (they often surprise me by suggesting a few tracks I would never have contemplated). Most importantly, don’t be afraid to try new things and venture off the musical beaten track.
However, it’s also important to remember that everybody doesn’t automatically hate cheesy music. There is a good percentage of cheese-lovers out there, and it’s your job to actively identify them as such. Communication is the key here: client meetings, music lists and requests (both online and off) will give you all the clues you need.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 72, Pages 40-44.