In the past decade, few songs have fulfilled pop music’s utopian promise better than The Black Eyed Peas’ electro-rap anthem “I Gotta Feeling” — which turns 10 years old this week.
“I Gotta Feeling” presents a world in which rap is pop, rock is pop, EDM is pop, synths are the only instruments, 4/4 is the only time signature, hangovers don’t exist, humans come pre-loaded with auto-tune, weeks consist of eight days, and two of those days are Saturday. Will.i.am once aptly dedicated the 14-week Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 “to all the party people out there in the world that want to go out and party.” It’s “Big Rock Candy Mountain” if “Big Rock Candy Mountain” was about a club.
A collaboration with French house DJ (and eventual pop-dance mainstay) David Guetta, “I Gotta Feeling” gives off the distinct air of a song you’ve heard before, even upon first listen. Most of that’s due to Guetta, who in this era of his career had his ear to the ground, taking existing sounds from the indie, alternative, and dance music universes and optimizing them for mass appeal.
Less than two months prior, Guetta dropped the Kelly Rowland-assisted “When Love Takes Over,” which is based around a piano melody that’s very reminiscent of Coldplay’s “Clocks.” His other contribution to The E.N.D., the BEP album that contains “I Gotta Feeling,” is “Rock That Body,” a song that’ll sound very familiar to fans of the Justice and MSTRKRFT-style bloghaus genre that was just waning at the time. “I Gotta Feeling” itself was inspired by melodies from U2’s “I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” (at least according to Jimmy Iovine, BEP’s label head at the time), but came out more closely resembling a 2006 song by another anthemic Irish rock band. Guetta’s a master of smoothing things over for pop consumption.
As with any song that seems divinely predestined for chart success, “I Gotta Feeling” has had its detractors since day one. As is the case with those that actually do go on to dominate airwaves for months on end, the 2009 hit’s haters have probably grown even more entrenched after being unwillingly subjected to it in public, in media, and at social gatherings for the past decade. Despite all that, “I Gotta Feeling” is a survivor, especially at weddings.
Billboard’s own 2016 list of the most popular wedding songs — which featured input from wedding DJs across the country — ranked “I Gotta Feeling” at No. 19, making it the only song in the top 20 that was released between 2007 and 2012— too recent to chalk up its success to nostalgia, and too distant to be anything close to hip. To unpack the song’s unshakable pop bonafides, Billboard got in touch with several of those DJs and asked them to attempt to explain its persistence.
Billboard: Why do you think “I Gotta Feeling” is a popular choice for wedding receptions?
DJ Taiga, The Remixologists: It’s a upbeat song with an infectious melody, celebratory vibe, and it literally talks about having the greatest night of your life! It hits the ‘must play party song’ trifecta.
Jeff Christenson, Jay Fox Productions: From the first few notes you know it’s gonna be a fun song… It starts with the promise that, “tonight’s gonna be a good night,” and then sets out to prove it by making sure the room is jumping in unison.
Jimmy Harris, DeepBlu Entertainment: It reflects the energy that everyone in the room is already feeling— “Tonight’s gonna be a good night”. Wedding guests already kind of know that, so this song just propels the thought into the universe.
DJ Blair, Nashville Party Authority: It feels like a summer evening. It feels like a cruise. It feels like a wedding reception.
Marc Sense, Integral DJs: It’s a popular choice for certain people because the lyrics are super generic and easily relatable.
Could you tell it’d be popular from the first time you heard it?
Aaron Kannowski, Uptown Sound: It definitely sounded like a hit, but it’s hard to know for sure how popular a song will become. There have been plenty of songs that became extremely popular that didn’t sound like hits to me at all, and vice versa.
Jimmy Harris: Absolutely! Not only does it have a great hook, it just screams, “please play me at weddings!”
DJ Blair: Absolutely. One of our DJs took a cruise to Jamaica after he and I had discussed this song. I told him how huge it was going to be, and he came back and said, “You’re right. They played that song three times a night, every night.” But the Black Eyed Peas had the Midas touch in those days. It was an easy prediction.
Have you noticed its popularity increasing and/or decreasing at all over the past 10 years? Has the rise and slow decline of EDM seemed to affect it at all?
Nate Nelson, LeForce Entertainment: I think it definitely set the stage for EDM to break into more of the popular genre.
DJ Taiga: It was a monster the two years after release, then its popularity decreased over the next few years from it being overplayed so much those first two years. With the rise of EDM, different remixes and bootlegs gave it a fresh new sound that started its resurgence. The song has made it into the pop canon for sure.
Jeff Christenson: Not at all. I play it almost every wedding and/or event I work.
Aaron Kannowski: There’s such a diversity of ages and musical tastes at wedding receptions that it’s not really about the popularity of a particular genre (like EDM), but rather about how popular a particular song is. I don’t see people running to the dance floor, for instance, because I’ve played an EDM song or a country song; it has to be the right song, like “I Gotta Feeling” or “Friends in Low Places.”
Marc Sense: It has become one of those cheesy, cliché, played-out wedding songs that is now a staple of the “do not play” list. It’s much more of a pop song than EDM, pretty sure that music community would never claim it.
Stephen Darby, Darby Events: I will say that while it is not as effective on the dance floor as it used to be, it’s still something people don’t mind hearing, especially older guests. Unfortunately, popular songs often get too much playtime and in turn people slowly get tired of hearing them. This is a song I do occasionally see on my couples’ “do not play” list.
DJ Blair: Of course… “I Gotta Feeling” is coming back around again, but that doesn’t have anything to do with EDM. It’s because it feels a lot fresher than “Uptown Funk” does.
How does the endurance of “I Gotta Feeling” compare to other dance-pop songs from that era, such as “Party Rock Anthem,” “Tik Tok,” “Give Me Everything” and “Raise Your Glass”?
DJ Blair: “I Gotta Feeling” is bigger than those songs. “Tik Tok,”” Raise Your Glass,” etc., have more of a generic Top 40 Sound. They are very of-the-moment songs. They don’t have longevity because they sound like a lot of other songs.
Jeff Christenson: Much stronger than the others. I don’t play any of the others anymore.
Aaron Kannowski: “I Gotta Feeling” definitely ranks way up on the list of songs from the late ‘00s and early ‘10s. There are a handful that I see requested more often, like “Party In The USA,” or [Flo Rida’s] “Low,” but the Black Eyed Peas’ song is in the top 10 from that time period, without question.
Marc Sense: That era of pop anthems hasn’t endured well on musical merits, but there will be a generation for which it will [always] be a nostalgic throwback.
Scott Smokin’ Silz, Hot Mix Entertainment: I think all the songs you listed above will be around for a long time— all great uptempo party records, something that we have not seen much of in the past couple of years.
Jimmy Harris: The other songs mentioned are still good and they still rouse the crowd, but “I Gotta Feeling” seems to appeal to more people, young and old.
Are there certain age groups/demographics that it performs better with?
Marc Sense: It performs best with people who have basic taste in music.
DJ Taiga: The beauty of a song like “I Gotta Feeling” is that it resonates with all age groups. Whether you heard it on pop radio driving home from work, in college partying at your favorite club, or to the Kidz Bop version while in grade school, it was everywhere!
Jeff Christenson: No, this is a universal hit. Everyone loves it.
Aaron Kannowski: “I Gotta Feeling” has a pretty universal appeal, which is why I think it has stood the test of time quite well. I watch brides, grooms, and their friends all singing along, and at the same time their parents are on the dance floor and also know all the words.
Nate Nelson: I think the 20-26 year old brides don’t want it, where the 26+ brides are ok with it. Think about when it came out. Does it remind [the under-26 crowd] too much of being a “kids” song?
Stephen Darby: I have found that the older guests and 30- to 40-somethings will take better to this song at a wedding. Younger guests don’t seem to care for it as much as the older attendees.
Jimmy Harris: No, it seems to appeal to everyone. It’s not uncommon to see millennials and octogenarians dancing to it at the same time.
Do you like the song or hate it?
Marc Sense: It’s pretty bad, but I understand that BEP found a lane that they exploited solely for the purpose of commercial success.
Aaron Kannowski: It’s a great song— catchy melody, easy to sing along to, and easy to dance to. That said, I hear it quite often “at work,” so you won’t hear me bumping it in my car.
Nate Nelson: I love music. I became a DJ to celebrate with people, and to take away all the stresses and pressures of the outside world. I would play this song over and over on repeat if that’s what my clients wanted… Definitely not deleting it from my music library.
Stephen Darby: A good DJ puts their personal tastes and preferences aside when entertaining at any event, especially a wedding. If I know a song will keep people rocking out and entertained, even if I hate it, that’s what I’m going to play.
Jimmy Harris: Just as it is with any song you hear dozens of times, it does tend to feel overplayed (from a DJ’s point of view of course), but seeing the crowd’s reaction when it is played rekindles the love for the song.
DJ Blair: Oh, I like it. I like it because it gets the job done. I like it because people like it.