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90s Dance, Music Programming

The Ultimate Guide to a 90s Theme Night

Mastermix Label Manager Richard Lee breaks down how to structure a 90s theme night

Introduction

The 90s is a fascinating decade filled with an eclectic mix of music styles. As the 80s ended and the 90s began it was the emerging Dance & Indie scene that was to lead the way…although there was a healthy dose of Pop and Novelty hits kicking around as well. Just like the 80s it was a decade that delivered so many great tracks, and some not so great, from a large range of genres.

I’ve performed many 90s Theme Nights and always approach the night in the same way I do with all themed events. By creating a Start, Middle and End I am able to programme a night to ensure there is something for everyone as well as guaranteeing a strong reaction on the dancefloor throughout the night. From the moment guests arrive to the very last song played it’s important for me to have some sort of structure in place whilst not making things too regimented regarding the music for the night. It sounds obvious to many of you reading this but it’s something that is often over-looked by a lot of DJs and often resulting in unnecessary panic over what to play next. 

The 100 Collection: 90s

The biggest dance hits of the 90s with added intro & outro beats allowing you to create innovate sets for your audiences. The collection has been compiled in alphabetical order (artist) and features the greatest DJ floorfillers of all time.

Part of the fun for me is researching the music and then creating set lists & music crates which I can draw inspiration from at key parts of any theme night I perform at. Taking a little time to look back at the decade will often throw up some forgotten gems or inspire you to play additional songs to complement the ones you were already going to play.

90s Warm Up Tracks

As guests arrive I like to immerse them in the decade they have come to enjoy. Far too many DJs overlook this section of a theme night and, whilst I would never tell another DJ what to play, for me it requires a little more thought than sticking on a 90s compilation and hoping for the best.

This section of a theme night is where you can dig out those classic tracks that you probably wouldn’t play as part of your main set but will serve you and your guests well for the earlier part of the evening. I use the Number Ones Collection from Mastermix as a starting point to reference the big songs of the decade. The collection has every UK chart-topper from the decade and by carefully selecting tracks from this collection you can quickly build up set lists for each part of a themed evening. Other Mastermix products, including Classic Cuts, will allow you to add to your set lists and create the perfect music solutions for the relevant parts of the event. Another excellent place to visit is  www.officialcharts.com where you’ll find archive charts from 1952 to the present day. By taking a little time to visit sites like these you can create innovative playlists that really set you apart from your competition. 

Here’s a selection of tracks that I like to use as part of my 90s Warm Up sets:

90 – 110 BPM

  • I Wanna Sex You Up – Color Me Badd
  • Weather With You – Crowded House
  • Just Another Day – Jon Secada
  • Stars – Simply Red
  • Freedom ’90 – George Michael
  • Say What You Want – Texas
  • Would I Lie To You – Charles & Eddie
  • Sleeping Satellite – Tasmin Archer
  • I Can’t Dance – Genesis
  • I Wanna Be The Only One – Eternal feat. Bebe Winans

110 – 120 BPM

  • You Get What You Give – New Radicals
  • A Night To Remember – 911
  • Blood On The Dancefloor – Michael Jackson
  • Praise You – Fatboy Slim
  • Enjoy The Silence – Depeche Mode
  • Star People ’97 – George Michael
  • My Destiny – Lionel Richie
  • How Do You Do – Roxette
  • Broken Stones – Paul Weller
  • One Week – Bare Naked Ladies

120+ BPM

  • How Bizarre – OMC
  • Where Have All The Cowboys Gone? – Paula Cole
  • A Girl Like You – Edwyn Collins
  • Together Again – Janet Jackson
  • Save Tonight – Eagle-Eye Cherry
  • Cosmic Girl – Jamiroquai
  • All I Wanna Do – Sheryl Crow
  • Ur The Best Thing – D:Ream
  • Good Vibrations – Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch
  • Constant Craving – KD Lang

I have on occasion been asked to create a “cooler vibe” as part of my 90s Warm Up Set and included some of the following tracks that have worked perfectly:

  • Remember Me – Blueboy
  • Tom’s Diner – D.N.A. feat. Suzanne Vega
  • Walking Down Madison – Kirsty MacColl
  • Life – Des’Ree
  • Your Woman- White Town
  • Sweet Harmony – Beloved
  • Connected – Stereo MC’s
  • Love Is The Message – Arthur Baker feat. Al Green
  • Hi-De-Ho – K7
  • Here We Go – Stakka Bo

The above tracks are in no specific order, and there are 100’s of alternatives, they simply represent the kind of tracks that can be used as part of a Warm Up set. Music is subjective and I’m sure there are a few tracks in there that some DJs would choose to play as part of their Main Set…that’s what I love about music!

You can use individual tracks to programme your sets or take advantage of a range of mixes that have been created by Mastermix:

  • Mastermix presents The Warm Up Mixes: 90s
  • Grandmaster Warm Up 5: 90s
  • Pat Sharp presents The Golden Years – features a range of mixes from each year of the 90s
  • Mastermix presents Retro Mixes: 90s

Plus a large range of other 90s mixes & Collections that cover wide range of music styles. All can be viewed here

90s Main Set

I always like to kick a theme night off with a track that allows me to introduce the evening and welcome guests. It also allows the transition between sitting down & dancing to have maximum impact rather than guests trickling on to the dancefloor.

In the past I’ve used tracks including:

  • Children – Robert Miles
  • Sunchyme – Dario G 

The brilliant TV Sets Collection offers some alternative options including:

  • Friends Theme (Instrumental)
  • Top Of The Pops Theme (Early 90s Version)

Both are big instrumental dance hits allowing me to either continue in a similar style or simply cut away when the introductions are over and launch into my main set with an appropriate track depending on the audience and how I feel they will react. There are loads of 90s themes that you could use and the TV Sets collection is well-worth a look at…and you have the option of adding some classic themes into your set at various parts of the night:

  • Baywatch Theme
  • The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air (DJ Edit version)
  • Chucklevision
  • Funhouse
  • The X-Files

Try slotting a few in to your set…you might be surprised at the reaction your audience gives you!

The TV Sets Ultimate Collection

The greatest collection of original TV themes available to professional DJs. Each theme has been carefully selected, digitally remastered & compiled firmly with the DJ in mind. This Collection features 200 of the biggest TV themes of all time from the 50s onwards.

The first track after the introductions is crucial and careful music programming really comes into play here. Ideally you want as many people as possible heading for the dancefloor and this can easily be done by building the music throughout the night so by the time you play your first track your audience are ready to hit the dancefloor.

This will come down to personal choice of course but here are a selection of tracks that have always worked well for me as opening songs on a 90s theme night:

  • Let Me Entertain You – Robbie Williams
  • We Like To Party – Vengaboys
  • Man! I Feel Like A Woman – Shania Twain
  • Believe – Cher
  • Groove Is in The Heart – Deee-Lite

Whatever you decide to start your theme night with it’s important to build on it and create the desired atmosphere for the rest of the night. Grouping tracks into genres / styles will allow you to create innovative sets for your audiences. If I’m playing a 90s Rap set then I’ll play 5/6 tracks and cut them up to create a 10-15 min set. If I’m playing an Indie set then I find it’s best to pick 3 or 4 big tracks and play them in full…it’s all down to your skill as a DJ and how you judge your audiences. Here’s a few ideas for genres / tracks:

90s Dance

  • It’s Like That – Run DMC vs. Jason Nevins
  • I Like To Move It – Reel 2 Real feat. The Mad Stuntman
  • Insomnia – Faithless
  • Dreamer – Livin’ Joy
  • Things Can Only Get Better – D:Ream
  • On A Ragga Tip – SL2
  • Turn Around – Phats & Small
  • Freed From Desire – Gala
  • Don’t Give Me Your Life – Alex Party
  • U Sure Do – Strike

90s Britpop

  • Parklife – Blur
  • Live Forever – Oasis
  • Wake Up Boo – Boo Radleys
  • Common People – Pulp
  • Disco 2000 – Pulp
  • Animal Nitrate – Suede
  • Alright – Supergrass
  • Bitter Sweet Symphony – Verve
  • Connection – Elastica
  • You’re Gorgeous – Babybird

90s Indie

  • Step On – Happy Mondays
  • Sit Down – James
  • Kinky Afro – Happy Mondays
  • The Only One I Know – Charlatans
  • This Is How it Feels – Inspiral Carpets
  • I’m Free – Soup Dragons
  • Unbelievable – EMF
  • National Express – Divine Comedy
  • Tubthumping – Chumbawumba
  • The Size Of A Cow – Wonderstuff

90s Pop

  • Vogue – Madonna
  • U Can’t Touch This – MC Hammer
  • The One & Only – Chesney Hawkes
  • Tragedy – Steps
  • Keep On Movin’ – Five
  • Re-light My Fire – Take That feat. Lulu
  • Baby…One More Time – Britney Spears
  • Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) – Backstreet Boys
  • Wannabe – Spice Girls
  • I’m Too Sexy – Right Said Fred

90s Rock

  • Place Your Hands – Reef
  • November Rain – Guns ‘n’ Roses
  • Maria – Blondie
  • Get The Funk Out – Extreme
  • In These Arms – Bon Jovi
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
  • Under The Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Creep – Radiohead
  • Hard To Handle – Black Crowes
  • Everything About You – Ugly Kid Joe

90s Urban / Rap

  • California Love – 2Pac
  • No Diggity – Blackstreet
  • Return Of The Mack – Mark Morrison
  • Here The Drummer (Get Wicked) – Chad Jackson
  • Here Comes The Hotstepper – Ini Kamoze
  • Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice
  • Summertime – DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince 
  • Baby Got Back – Sir Mix-A-Lot
  • People Everyday – Arrested Development
  • Let’s Talk About Sex – Salt ‘n’ Pepa

Party

  • Macarena – Los Del Rio
  • Saturday Night – Whigfield
  • 5,6,7,8 – Steps
  • Cotton Eye Joe – Rednex
  • Mambo No.5 – Lou Bega
  • Livin’ La Vida Loca – Ricky Martin
  • Dance The Night Away – Mavericks
  • Grease Megamix – John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John
  • Love Shack – B-52s
  • I’m A Believer – Reeves & Mortimer

If you sense that your audience will go along with you then you can always create a cheesy party section and include tracks like:

Novelty

  • Barbie Girl – Aqua
  • Living Next Door To Alice – Smokie feat. Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown
  • Doop – Doop
  • Mr Blobby – Mr Blobby
  • Achy Breaky Heart – Billy Ray Cyrus
  • Hillbilly Rock Hillbilly Roll – Woolpackers
  • Turtle Power – Partners In Kryme
  • Mona – Craig McLachlan & Check 1-2
  • Teletubbies Say Eh-Oh – Teletubbies
  • Do The Bartman – Simpsons

Tread carefully if you do go down this path though!!!

The 90s was the decade for cover versions…they were everywhere…some good…some bad…but all having helped define the decade:

  • When The Going Gets Tough – Boyzone
  • Uptown Girl – Westlife
  • Cecilia – Suggs
  • Killing Me Softly – Fugees
  • Live & Let Die – Guns ‘n’ Roses
  • More Than A Woman – 911
  • Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini – Timmy Mallet
  • Fog On The Tyne – Gazza & Lindisfarne
  • How Deep Is Your Love – Take That
  • Under The Bridge – All Saints

Whilst unlikely to find their way into a main set there are a number of absolute 90s bangers that I personally love and wanted to share as part of this blog:

  • Naked In The Rain – Blue Pearl
  • Right Beside You – Sophie B. Hawkins
  • I Touch Myself – Divinyls
  • Freestyler – Bomfunk MCs
  • Afternoons & Coffeespoons – Crash Test Dummies
  • Why Don’t You Get A Job – Offspring
  • Regulate – Warren G & Nate Dogg
  • Far From Home – Levellers
  • Mr Jones – Counting Crows
  • Disappear – INXS

The 90s is a brilliant decade for music and this blog showcases only a very small amount of the music available. A little research will not only extend your own music knowledge but also that of your audiences. You could play the same old 90s tracks, the same as every other DJ…or you could take a time to do your homework and add some real gems to the obvious tracks that you will invariably play.

As your night draws to its conclusion you have to think about what you are going to play to leave your audience on a high….or a low…it’s your choice!

The 90s had its fair share of classic love songs:

Love Songs

  • I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston
  • Love Is All Around – Wet Wet Wet
  • Everything I Do (I Do For You) – Bryan Adams
  • My Heart Will Go On – Celine Dion
  • Without You – Mariah Carey

Personally those tracks are amongst the ones that were the epitome of all that was wrong with the 90s…but each to their own!

If I did decide to play a selection of Ballads / Love Songs then I would probably select from the following and keep a small amount of dignity at the same time:

  • Sacrifice – Elton John
  • One – U2
  • Killing Me Softly – Fugees
  • Torn – Natalie Imbruglia
  • Waterfalls – TLC

As an alternative to a love song you may decide a sing-a-long track is a better option:

End Of Night

  • All Together Now – Farm
  • Angels – Robbie Williams
  • Wonderwall – Oasis
  • Don’t Look Back In Anger – Oasis
  • Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life – Monty Python

Or you may decide to go completely leftfield and end the night on a big Rock, Dance or Indie anthem…there’s plenty to choose from!

Personally I like to end on a high and often round a 90s theme night off with one of these tracks:

  • Should I Stay Or Should I Go – Clash (UK Number One – 1991
  • Let’s Get Loud – Jennifer Lopez
  • Sandstorm – Darude
  • Everybody Get Up – Five
  • Jump Around – House Of Pain

As with all theme nights it’s down to personal choice regarding what to play & when. Theme nights can be great fun…don’t take things too seriously though! Whilst it’s important that the audience are enjoying themselves it’s also crucial that you are having fun too…enjoy!

The 100 Collection: 90s

The biggest dance hits of the 90s with added intro & outro beats allowing you to create innovate sets for your audiences. The collection has been compiled in alphabetical order (artist) and features the greatest DJ floorfillers of all time.

Dj Beats 90s Dance Collection

DJ Beats Collection: 90s Dance

The biggest dance hits of the 90s with added intro & Outro beats allowing you to create innovate sets for your audiences. The collection has been compiled in alphabetical order (artist) and feature the greatest DJ floorfillers of all time.

For the complete range of 90s tracks and mixes, click here!

More ideas and inspiration for themed events:

  • The Ultimate Guide to a 70s Theme Night
  • The Ultimate Guide to an 80s Theme Night
  • The Ultimate Guide to a Soul & Motown Theme Night