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Pick Your Party Music

Set the mood for your event with the right playlist.

By Kate Chynoweth
Stereo systemJames Baigrie

"Playing background music helps make guests feel welcome, especially those who are first to arrive," says Ann David, co-owner of David Reinhard Events, a party-planning company in New York City. Try one of these playlists compiled by Chris Nashawaty, a senior writer for Entertainment Weekly magazine.

Playlist 1

For Cocktails and Conversation

  • Live, by Erykah Badu (Universal, $14, amazon.com). Smooth, silky R & B from one of the finest female singers around.
  • Mezzanine, by Massive Attack (Virgin, $17, amazon.com). Electronic chill-out music from London.
  • Me and Mr. Johnson, by Eric Clapton (Reprise, $19, amazon.com). One of the greatest blues guitarists of the second half of the 20th century pays tribute to Robert Johnson, the greatest blues guitarist of the first half.
  • Beleza Tropical, various artists (Luaka Bop/Warner Bros., $15, amazon.com). A compilation of sunshiny Brazilian pop songs selected by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne.
  • True Love Waits: Christopher O'Riley Plays Radiohead (Odyssey, $13, amazon.com). Elegant solo piano pieces that may sound strangely familiar.


Playlist 2

For Sit-Down Dining

  • Feels Like Home, by Norah Jones (Blue Note, $19, amazon.com). A guaranteed crowd-pleaser―musical comfort food.
  • North, by Elvis Costello (Deutsche Grammaphon/Universal, $19, amazon.com). Lush orchestral jazz from a onetime punk-rock bad boy.
  • Our Man in Paris, by Dexter Gordon (Blue Note, $12, amazon.com). If you like Miles Davis's jazz classic Kind of Blue, try this recording from a legend of the tenor sax.
  • Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook (Verve, $34, amazon.com). The ultimate in sophisticated dinner music.
  • Talkie Walkie, by AIR (Astralwerks, $19, amazon.com). A cool collection of lilting electronic lullabies from France.


Playlist 3

To Get the Pary Started

  • Dancemania Vol. 1, by Tito Puente and His Orchestra (RCA, $11, amazon.com). In Puente's greatest album, he captures the caffeinated, mambo-crazy sound of Cuba before la revolucion.
  • What's the 411?, by Mary J. Blige (MCA/Uptown, $10, amazon.com). Dance beats and sultry slow jams from the queen of hip-hop soul.
  • Old School Jams: Volume 4, various artists (SPG, $17.50, amazon.com). The perfect ’80s mix for when you don't have time to make your own.
  • James Brown 20 All Time Greatest Hits! (Polygram, $14, amazon.com). This is a party, right? Time to call in the hardest-working man in show business.
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