In your life, what percentage of parties that you’ve attended have lived up to the excitement of getting ready? Half, maybe? Nah, probably more like twenty percent. Ten percent? Not a lot, anyway.
Parties are great — sometimes — but it’s mostly unreasonable to expect them to live up to the momentum built by preparing for The Night Out. The electricity generated by getting dressed, listening to your hype playlist, taking a shot or two for the road before taking that first step into whatever the evening has to offer: that’s the real rush, the real exhiliration of possibility and wonder. The best the party can hope to do once you get there is just not to disappoint too badly.
Miley Cyrus and Swae Lee agree with this — or at least, their new song does. “Party Up the Street,” the highlight from Miley’s just-released She Is Coming EP, is all about that downhill roll of early-evening anticipation, that feeling of knowing with absolute certainty that the party is out there, and perfect, and just a block away. “Party up the street, even though there is no place to park,” the two trade off advertising on the chorus, the latter detail suggesting both the fantastical energy and practical inconvenience trademark to the most alluring happenings. “Party up the street, and you know what happens after dark.”
Of course, the song’s lyrics don’t literally tell a story of makeup application and travel arrangements: Like most Swae Lee productions, outside of the chorus, it’s an elliptical set of language snapshots that jump around thematically and chronologically. Some of the verses view the occasion from an obscured vantage (“You can see our feet from the street/ Since the garage was halfway open”) while others seem to be taken directly from its center (“The way that you movin’ your body, I want money/ Soon as I put it on you, you wanna guard me”), and both the lyric and the evening end with the mutual declaration, “We can go out with a bang” — Miley even mocking an explosion sound effect for extra pre-climax emphasis.
But while the lyrics aren’t a straightforward pre-party narrative, the production is. Co-produced by Mike WiLL Made-It — a longtime collaborator of both Swae and Miley, which might explain why everyone involved seems to be vibing so comfortably and naturally — as well as Ear Drummers producer Pluss, the song starts out with a warm synth-bass pulse that sounds like it’s echoing into the open night. Gradually, muttered backing vocals creep in, as if indiscernible conversation from across the street, while wash sounds pan from right to left, like cabs zipping through the wet roads. It’s not until one minute and two choruses in that the beat even enters, a clipped stroll that suggests without ever insisting, even as more and more vocals and synths — and eventually, a full string section — get layered on top of it.
“Party Up the Street” shares DNA with a number of pop history’s great party songs: listen close and you can hear trace elements of Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” and DeBarge’s “Rhythm of the Night” in its swaying rhythms and melodic generosity, maybe even a touch of Off the Wall Michael Jackson. But unlike any of those songs, you probably wouldn’t actually play it at a party. It’s not that it isn’t gratifying, or unifying, but just that it’s too much about what’s about to happen: Lionel Richie might have advertised that they were going fiesta, forever, but he also went and provided the horn explosion with which to properly do so. “Street,” on the other hand, builds throughout without ever totally detonating, dropping you off at your destination but letting you enter on your own. You know what happens after dark.
“Party Up the Street” might be the year’s most accurately titled song, teasing you with the magnetic draw of the event of the summer happening just out of sight, but also promising that yes, it’s really there, and yes, it’s really worth it. Is it actually? Doesn’t matter. Your night won’t be getting any better than this, and that’s totally OK.