The best dance party I ever attended took place at a Christian event.
This past February, a couple fraternity brothers and I were at a '90s-themed dance party as a part of Greek Conference 2014 in Indianapolis. Things were pretty tame as far as dance parties go. People were mixing and enjoying themselves, but there was nothing particularly extraordinary happening. The DJ was alright – he interspersed some solid '90s hits with the usual Top 40 fare, but nothing was really riling up the crowd. As Will Ferrell might say, there was nothing to "get the people going."
The last song ended up being Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop," and, needless to say, people were upset. Everyone just started booing the stage. We demanded more. Even at a place like Greek Conference, there comes a time when you have to meet a certian level of standards. The DJ had to do something, and he had to do something fast.
The DJ looked out at the crowd of angry, booing Christians, and he made for the microphone. “Hey – one question before you guys go.”
We stared back at him. How was this guy going to reconcile with us?
Allow me to interject here: I know the stigma that "Turn Down for What" carries around. That is, it carries around the stigma that it sucks. I feel that. I really do – the trap is pretty average, and Lil Jon phones it in by doing the usual things that Lil Jon does (mainly, being loud and obnoxious). However, there is something to be said about how songs translate to a space, and it is here that "Turn Down for What" finds its biggest strength. Now, I present Exhibit A:
The Greek Conference DJ looked out at the crowd and asked his question, “When this hotel asks you if you want turn-down service, what do you say?” No one moved. No one knew what to say. As I found out, there was only one thing to say. The DJ pushed the button.
"TURN DOWN FOR WHAT?!?!"
Those holy, holy words blasted out over the crowd, and as the trap boomed over the group of 300 God-seeking college students, things got dirty.
I cannot even remember what the room was like prior to that song. I just know that at the very moment the bass pounded over us, people became twice as attractive, twice as hot, and about four times as energetic, sexual and charged. If we were leaving room for the Holy Spirit before, then that rule went out the door as soon as Lil Jon stepped into the picture. I am not even sure "krunk" is a verb, but for the sake of depiction, allow me to say that people were krunking like crazy. If krunk is an adjective, then it was about as krunk as anything has ever been.
"Turn Down for What" transformed Greek Conference 2014. It turned a group of Christian college students into a gang of dirty, raw, krunk-tastic individuals, and it redefined what was possible in the world of religiously-affiliated social gatherings. It is here, in this way, that Lil Jon and DJ Snake's party anthem is the quintessential example of how songs can contribute to a mood. Ultimately, it reveals the value of Top 40 pop. This stuff drives our parties, moves our feet and brings us together. Purists can rip on it all they want, but sometimes, you have to give the people what they want.
Now, whenever I hear this tune, I cannot help but break it down again. The beat is catchy, the electronics are infectious, and Lil Jon (while still being, you know, Lil Jon) shouts out his anthem like a boss. "Turn Down for What" allows you to forget for a second that you are listening to so-called trashy Top 40 because you can invite the song into the space and just go nuts. It tells you that it might be okay when songs like "Timber" or "Talk Dirty to Me" are popular, because somewhere out there, there is another place like Greek Conference, where people just want to bust loose and bump the jams.
You can hold the turn-down service. "Turn Down for What" completely validated popular music for me. It revealed that no matter how "bad" a tune is supposed to be, its influence on a space still gives it merit. Until that disappears, we can keep krunking. Turn down for what, indeed.