Party Songs That Actually Sound Like Parties

Pop songs with party sounds in them constitute a genre of their own, one that we’ll call party-sounds pop. I mean this literally, as these songs contain the actual sounds of celebration (laughter, genial greetings and affirmations, clinking bottles and glasses, general carousing) and loosely, because songs with party sounds in them are almost always party songs. They are songs about partying, with the sounds of partying in them, meant to incite partying or augment partying already in progress. How meta!

The majority of these songs sound like they were recorded in a studio packed with people engaged in actual partying; imagining these scenes of debauchery is part of the fun in hearing these songs. Others sound like they were edited to include field recordings or found sounds, sometimes in experimental ways, like Dean Martin’s “(Open Up the Door and) Let the Good Times In,” The Beach Boys’ “Wonderful,” and Van Morrison’s “Virgo Clowns.” Live songs with audience noise in them were not considered, unless the audience sounds more like a party than a concert crowd (see: “Let Me Clear My Throat” by DJ Kool, “Mercy Mercy Mercy” by Cannonball Adderley, “Voodoo Chile” by Hendrix). Some, despite the mirth, are melancholy (“Tracks of My Tears” by the Pharoahs, “Undone – The Sweater Song” by Weezer, “Good Times” by Eric Burdon & the Animals, a song that presages Modest Mouse’s “The Good Times Are Killing Me” by 37 years).

Regardless of the particulars, the ultimate effect of putting party sounds in a pop song is a sense of living, breathing atmosphere. It creates narrative and adds context, putting you right there in the song, sharing a high point of someone’s life. Also, hearing party sounds is infectious. Run this playlist to a room of people on the brink of a good time and you’re all but guaranteed to tip the proceedings into full-blown throwdown.