Throughout the night, Phoenix’s crowd turns up to an eclectic mixture of music. Rap fans of the new school, old school, and femcees aren’t disappointed. The standard “my fav is better than your fav” debate always arises when current and former top 40 is spun. And those seeking vintage gay anthems try to make it to the bar’s 4 a.m. closing time, when the last 30 minutes transform into a Madonna- and Cyndi Lauper-fueled heaven.
Across the nation -- at various safe spaces for LGBTQ nightlife -- other DJs stand in the same position as Erol, balancing their personal tastes with the demands of their audience. Ultimately, these DJs are responsible for setting the tone for others' night out as well as honoring the vibes their hosting venues wish to put out. It’s not easy, but all can agree that a dancing crowd is a sign of a happy crowd.
Billboard spoke with seven DJs from across the nation about the songs and artists they enjoy spinning -- as well as the ones they’re sick of -- and their personal observations when assessing their crowd’s musical tastes.
Spinning Billboard Hot 100 Hits
The same night DJ Erol received a request for Iggy Azalea’s hip-pop single “Switch,” the pop world had one of its more interesting days. In less than 24 hours, Camila Cabello released her first solo single, “Crying In The Club,” since departing Fifth Harmony, and Katy Perry followed up her Witness release date announcement with a new single featuring Nicki Minaj, “Swish Swish."
Jon ALi -- a DJ who runs his own music blog and makes appearances at the Barracuda Bar in Manhattan as well as various parties in Hell's Kitchen -- was surprised to inform Billboard that “Swish Swish” was the most requested song of that weekend. He believes the song was successful with his crowds because of its old school house production and modern qualities (Nicki Minaj, trap), diagnosing it as a case of “the nostalgic and the new.” He noted the older crowds “really like” Perry possibly because of her surrogacy for Hillary Clinton, and her new sounds serve faint reminders of the disco revolution. He says the older crowds also favor Bruno Mars.
On the other hand, DJ Begbick -- who has weekly residencies at three Boston spots, Club Cafe, Alley Bar and Machine -- revealed “Katy Perry hasn't really been hitting” the Monday after the singer finally released Witness. Begbick claims “many are criticizing the timing” of Perry’s righting of her past controversies, although he personally finds her efforts “sincere.” His final thoughts on the matter: “So far, her singles have been interesting, but not outright bangers.”
Aside from the constant “Swish Swish” demands, ALi says that the pop diva consistently passing his signature “when everyone has their hands up in the air” test is Ariana Grande, particularly when he plays her smash “Into You." And songs from Britney Spears' Glory still receive some of ALi’s best crowd reactions. As far as the new crop of Top 40 is concerned, DJ Barry Harris -- a Juno Award winning artist and producer from Canada, who DJs at various events and nightclubs in the U.S. as well -- noticed Halsey is “garnering the biggest attention world-wide right now." And when it comes to his gigs, DJ Erol knows “Beyoncé and Rihanna almost unanimously unite the dance floor every time."