What Makes a DJ Awesome?

DJ Mag just opened the polls for its annual Top 100 DJ list. I might vote, but I get annoyed with any kind of poll that requires me to be logged into Facebook. Can’t I vote in private?

Regardless, I have a lot of opinions about DJs, mostly because I’m a fan of them more than anything else. When I saw that the poll was out and #Top100DJs was trending on Twitter, I wondered what makes a DJ awesome.

Obviously, a lot of it is a matter of personal opinion. Off the top of my head, I can tell you that my two favorite DJs are Laurent Garnier and Miss Kittin. I tend to like the styles of music they spin. I love that both DJs take more of an emotional course throughout their sets. They both set a mood and that mood gradually changes over the course of the night. They both mix the old with the new, the known with the unknown, and still the keep the crowd’s attention the whole time. They also never stick to one genre. That’s important to me.

I prefer DJs who take a lot of risks in their sets. The ones who drop banger after banger lose my attention pretty quickly. I don’t want to know everything you play. I want to find out about the song because you played it.

I’ve been involved in music on a professional level since I was 19. That’s a long time, but, still, I’m very comfortable saying that I don’t know everything. There’s too much out there and I rely on the DJs that share decks with me and the ones I go to see to fill in those gaps.

I also prefer proper DJ sets over DJ/producer gigs. I’d rather hear someone take a load of songs they didn’t make and piece it together in a way that makes sense. It’s like building a giant puzzle. I listen closely while I’m dancing because I want to hear how you’re going to mix. Are you going to do a quick cut? Are you going to extend the mix? Is it going to be smooth, ambient segue? Even if you mess up, it’s cool with me. Your set doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to feel real.

Now, I’m curious. What do you look for in a DJ set?

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