1. Angsty girl rock jams
See: “Stay” by Lisa Loeb, “Criminal” by Fiona Apple, “Celebrity Skin” by Hole, “Ironic” by Alanis Morrisette, “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt, “Foolish Games” by Jewel
When we get drunk, we all become very sad, lonely women and our inner Liz Lemon comes out. Suddenly, we are that episode where Liz Lemon enjoys a glass of wine on a treadmill and then drunk dials a co-op board, while singing Alanis Morrisette. We’re ladies, we have lady parts, we have feelings, and goddamn it, we want to sing about them. Although almost any Alanis or Fiona song is a perfect drunk jam, there’s a very special place in my heart for Courtney Love, who is like my drunken spirit animal. If you want to get fucked up and make some bad decisions in public, she’ll teach you everything you need to know. Let her show you the way.
2. 80’s hair metal and rock anthems
See: “More Than a Feeling” by Boston, “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger, “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns ‘n Roses
“Don’t Stop Believing” is the official national anthem of inebriated people everywhere, and the year the White Sox won the series in Chicago, you couldn’t trip over a drunk person without hearing it. (I think it’s playing in Gary Busey’s house at all times, just on a loop.) 80’s hair metal and glam rock were created specifically for drinking. What do drunk people do if they don’t listen to Eddie Money? I don’t even know. If you ever want to see a room full of totally drunk people suddenly come to attention, like a line of soldiers, play them “Take Me Home Tonight.” It’s their call to arms.
3. Songs that are way outside of your vocal range
See: “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele, “Fallin” by Alicia Keys, “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, “Countdown” by Beyonce, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey
When people get drunk, they get brave and often forget that they can’t sing at all — not even “This Love,” which only requires about three notes. Have you ever heard a bunch of drunk white people try to sing Michael Jackson? It sounds like kittens drowning as they gracelessly claw for help. If you’re attending karaoke night, some person will always get super wasted and think they are the second coming of Adele. They will insist that “those bitches on The Voice… they ain’t got nothing on me.” Luckily, a lot of Adele songs make more sense when you’re drunk and a little angry, so that works out.
However, drunk people should be forcibly detained when around Mariah Carey songs. You can’t hit that note, and fetch will never happen.
See: “California Love” by 2Pac, “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, “Ignition (Remix)” by R. Kelly, “Hot In Herre” by Nelly, “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot
I don’t know what the deal is, but when people get drunk, they think they can rap. I actually now refuse to play “What You Know” at parties because I think T.I. deserves better than skinny white dudes gyrating cluelessly while thinking they “be hood an’ shit.” You’re not hood. You’re from Winnetka. When you’re drunk, Sir Mix-A-Lot is particularly dangerous, because it’s one of the few rap songs almost everyone knows all the words to. And they want to prove it to you. This was not proof you ever needed.
5. Really sad music
See: “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor, “Martha” by Tom Waits, “Iris” by The Goo Goo Dolls, “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brick” by Ben Folds Five, “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley
If someone plays one of these songs when they are drunk, you need to immediately take their iPod, Walkman, boombox, record player or recorder away from them — because they might be suicidal. At what point in your life have you ever gone, “Man, I’m in a great mood and want to live to see tomorrow. I’m going to put on ‘Hurt’ by Johnny Cash. That’ll lift my spirits.” No, no one has ever said that. When you’re depressed, all you do is smoke a lot, drink whiskey and listen to Tom Waits — which is what I imagine Tom Waits does every day. Depression is his gasoline.
6. Music you might never admit to liking sober
See: “Firework” by Katy Perry, “One More Night” by Maroon 5, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift, “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen, “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson
Sober me hates “One More Night,” mostly because I resent the fact that it kept “Gangnam Style” from being number one and Psy from doing the shirtless concert he promised if it went to number one. Sober me would never admit to liking a Maroon 5 song, ever. But drunk me loves some Adam Levine — because in my drunken state, I become a 40-year-old white woman. I also have a Jekyll/Hyde thing with Taylor Swift, who drunk me totally understands. Maybe I’m also a twelve-year-old girl when I get drunk? Or am I just the United States of Tara?
7. Late 90s teen music
See: “I Want It That Way” by Backstreet Boys, “Baby One More Time…” by Britney Spears, “Bye Bye Bye” by NSYNC, “Wannabe” by The Spice Girls, “Candy” by Mandy Moore
Somehow, I have in my life seen more than one drunken thirty-year-old stand on a table and belt “I Want It That Way” while being totally smashed. I don’t know why God chose this path for me, but (s)he made me the oracle of drunken BSB antics. There’s really no way to go wrong with 90s music when you’re drunk (I also personally recommend Evan and Jaron, because Jewish twins hit the spot every time), and the Girls of Spice particularly warm the hearts of drunk folks everywhere. They might not know what “zig-ah-zig-ah” means, but when you’re drunk, it doesn’t even matter.
8. Songs that require less singing than shouting
See: “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry, “Zombie” by The Cranberries, “We Will Rock You” by Queen, “Roxanne” by The Police, “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga, “We Are Young” by fun.
Can you not sing at all? You’re in luck, because these songs require almost no actual singing on in order to follow along. In the case of “Zombie,” no one really knows more than ten words to it, anyway, so as long as you can shout “Zombay-ay-ay!” and “In your head! In your hay-ay-ay-ead!,” you’re more than in. I know a lot of the words to “Roxanne,” but everyone knows it’s all about putting on that red light. That’s the time everyone in the bar comes together to tear the house down with shout-a-long goodness.
And in the case of Katy Perry, she can’t sing, either, so you’re in good company.
9. British music
See: “Wonderwall” by Oasis, “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve, “Common People” by Pulp, “Hey Jude” by The Beatles, “Yellow” by Coldplay, “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones
Almost every song Oasis, Coldplay and The Rolling Stones ever recorded are perfect for this list—because Europeans understand something special about inebriation. They know how to drink. When I lived in Europe, we would drink with breakfast, which I didn’t realize was unusual until I came back home and served my mother a giant mug of wine with her breakfast eggs. She looked into the mug and asked, “Is that wine? It’s 9:00 in the morning.” I responded, “Great! Perfect time to start.”
10. Songs they don’t actually know the words to (or just the chorus of)
See: “Gangnam Style” by Psy, “Song 2” by Blur, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vita” by Iron Butterfly, “Macarena” by Los Del Rio, “Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners, “1901” by Phoenix
Drinking makes you forget a lot of things, like the bad decisions you’re about to make or the person you’re with’s name. It will also make you forget that you don’t know any other languages, and thus, have no real idea what Psy is singing about. He could be singing about fucking your mother (Gangnam Style!) and you would have no idea. And that technical language barrier won’t stop you from rocking out to the catchiest K-Pop tune known to man. Just don’t be surprised if your mother has to have a difficult conversation with you about your new stepfather, Psy, afterwards. You asked for this.
Also, for the record, Phoenix is singing “fold it” in “1901.” It’s not “falling.” I know that doesn’t make any sense, but I’m just the messenger.
11. Songs about drinking or partying
See: “Tubthumper” by Chumbawumba, “Shots” by LMFAO, “Champagne Supernova” by Oasis, “Party Hard” by Andrew W.K., “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse, “Closing Time” by Semisonic
Like all of LMFAO’s music, “Shots” is a perfect drunk song because it requires almost no work to keep up with. Do you know how to sing the words “shots” and “everybody?” Great, you’re in. Andrew W.K. and his above cohorts (except for Winehouse) are great for drinking, because they’re like musical drinking buddies, encouraging you to drink more. Chumbawumba even gives you options: lager, whiskey, vodka and cider. However, I wouldn’t take their suggestion about pissing the night away. You’ll have to clean that up in the morning.
Bonus: The music of Toto
See: “Hold the Line,” “Africa,” “Rosanna”
Toto is a category and a genre unto itself. If you’re drunk at a wedding anytime soon, throw on “Africa” and watch everyone go absolutely apeshit. You won’t be sorry.