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Confessions of a Millennial Birthday DJ



April 10, 2024
Image by Grendel Grin
Image by Grendel Grin

As an early '90s baby, music industry professional and extremely good DJ, I've found myself being asked to play at friends' 30th birthdays and other milestone functions over the last few years. Such engagements aren't work to me: to see my friends stare in disbelieving recognition, throw their arms aloft and mouth the hook of some long-forgotten anthem is payment enough. However, the hands of time uncomfortably tease out my generation's relationship with pop music, and it has become my responsibility to navigate this twilight dimension. Along the way, I've been surprised, intrigued, and terrified by some of the things I've learnt, and I find myself with no option but to relay these findings to the world. These are my truths.

1) We are bound by the Late Millennial Nostalgia Window (with exceptions).

Someone has made YouTube videos compiling short clips of every song on a given Now compilation. They feel like mainlining the radio of a random month in history, and they're quicker for DJ reference purposes than looking up each individual song or a Spotify playlist. As I watch them chronologically from the start, I initially feel my inner music nerd being engaged as perennials and cult favourites parade past. Next, I start to feel part of the culture on display, connecting songs to specific memories. Before long, I'm practically reliving my youth, as a(n always surprisingly dense) rush of iconic bangers washes over me one after another. This state lasts for a while, but something strange happens around Now 80. The songs that bring a smile thin out, and but for a few scattered gems, I feel increasing contempt for the music on offer. Soon, the songs induce the same response I have to most chart pop today: I Don't Care, Because This Is Irrelevant To Me*. This trajectory is a product of the Late Millennial** Nostalgia Window.

The Late Millennial Nostalgia Window lasts from 1996 to 2010. Music from this time period is more likely to induce an uncontrollable emotional reaction in people born in the early 1990s than any other music. Obviously, the period aligns with my generation's childhood; for me, it spans the ages of 3 to 18. There are roughly two-year buffer periods at the beginning and end of the window, making 1998 to 2008 the most reliable era to draw from; however, while the most effective tracks in the buffer periods are exceptional, they are essential. 1996 gave us "Insomnia" and "Firestarter", while any DJ going into the booth without 2010's "California Gurls" or "Like a G6" is playing a dangerous game.

There are exceptions to the rule. Just before 1996 you'll find certain Britpop classics and other curiosities. After 2010 songs had to be really massive, distinctive and charming or absurd to penetrate our consciousness: "Party Rock Anthem" (2011) is one example, while "Call Me Maybe" (2012) is an unusually late must-have. Another trick to extend the window is to identify the music our contemporaries would've been listening to beyond it; for middle-class early 2010s university graduates, this puts student union records of the day like "Au Seve" into play. This is cheating really though - those weren't pop hits, and monoculture was already over for us at that point.

The Late Millennial Nostalgia Window is a depressingly predictable framework for DJ selection. Clearly, the music that resonates most with us is that which accompanied us growing up, as we formed our conceptions of pop culture and associated it with our happiest, most innocent memories. That said, the millennial DJ experience isn't as simple as playing something from these years and hoping for the best, and anyone would concede that we did happen to grow up with some phenomenally banging pop music***. Indeed, for those hoping to perform with music outside of the Late Millennial Nostalgia Window, all I have to say is: good luck.

*Am I joking? You decide.

**Note that I will be using the term "millennial" throughout this piece for comedic effect, even though I believe it and similar terms like "zoomer" are stupid as fuck and generate suspicion between like-minded people in different age groups.

***My parents agreed, purchasing CD singles of "Re-Rewind (The Crowd Say Bo Selecta)", "Lazy" and "Still D.R.E." among others just because they liked them so much. Get back to me about the pop singles I buy in my late thirties.

2) No-one else has ever sounded like Fatboy Slim or Eminem.

When you study the archives as comprehensively as I do, you find that most artists copied or were copied. Two pop bizarrely unique formations stand alone in the territory I inhabit: Fatboy Slim and Eminem.

You might be tempted to think of Fatboy Slim's hits as club records, but they're not really. They're rock 'n' pop if the backing band were The Rolling Stones and Archie Bell and the Drells jamming during a Texas bar fight, the recording engineer insisted on getting his money's worth out of the most advanced outboard saturator known to mankind and a homemade dub siren and the only lyrics allowed were single lines from obscure golden age hip hop recordings repeated ad infinitum. As good as the other big beat boys could be, no-one else had Mr. Slim's particular sense of humour, secret engineering weapon Simon Thornton or several previous attempts at refracting their DJ aesthetic into a chart radio format. Of course, only someone born in Bromley could conceive a tempo change as brilliant as "The Rockafeller Skank"'s.

Eminem's singularity is partially ensured by his rightfully well-regarded rap chops, but what makes his classics feel so exotic now is that, for someone as respected and even feared as he, Eminem's kitsch was off the charts. While cartoonish rap was nothing new, it's almost unbelievable that the MIDI trumpet riff Em self-mockingly mimics on "Without Me" and the Pee-wee Herman scream chorus of "Just Lose It" were sonic trademarks deployed by the best-selling rapper of all time. Eminem's bold embrace of bright juvenilia made his light threat irresistible to Newgrounds kids in a way that, say, Jay-Z or Kid Rock wouldn't've been seen dead trying. The flies on the walls of the Interscope boardroom enjoyed the world's greatest A&R crash course in the run up to the release of the "My Name Is" video, where Slim Shady, fully-formed and amazingly committed to comic book pantomime*, embodies corporate pop's most complete artistic success. Time has sealed Eminem's individuality; while his most acerbic lyrics are still striking, they reverberate from an era when tabloid gossip mattered more.

Uncoincidentally, goofiness is the ingredient the Fatboy and Mr. Mathers' discographies share. When did stars get so scared of being silly?

*Observe the costume changes Eminem undergoes in this video and try to imagine any rapper today executing the same. Ditto "Without Me", "Just Lose It", "The Real Slim Shady", etc..

3) The big songs don't work anymore.

If you had to guess, which songs do you think I've seen bomb the hardest? A blend of two stylistically incongruous hits like "Since You've Been Gone" and "Cry For You"? Something sung by children*? A cult "lost" non-hit**, beloved by anoraks with a PopJustice forum login but mystifying to literally anybody else?

It pains me to say it, because I think they're two of the most well-conceived-and-executed records of all time, but the songs I've seen most comprehensively neutralise any threat of social excitement are two you know very, very, very well: "Wannabe" and "Hey Ya!".

On reflection, it's obvious why these songs don't currently do the job: we're bored of them, because their attributes energised their exposure so intensely we wore out the buzz their airing triggered. I remember semi-nostalgically acting the entire "Hey Ya!" rap with dozens of friends at numerous house parties around 2009, only six years after it came out. "Wannabe" suffers among my generation for its slightly advanced age, overfamiliarity being the trade-off for kickstarting a new wave of British pure pop groups. 

The original "Barbie Girl" has been rendered similarly ineffective, both by endless debates on pop cultural irony and the progress perceived in its titular brand (despite clearly transcending both). I fear a similar fate may have befallen "Call Me Maybe", a song I've seen invoke both ecstatic rapture and embarrassed retreat, and I pray to god that the effervescent spark of "Murder On The Dancefloor", one of the finest arrangements of sound achievable and the song that closed out my own 30th (pre-Saltburn obviously, I'm not a child) isn't dimmed by its recent omnipresence.

Such is the self-cannibalising routine of pop culture. Our boredom makes space for the revival of less familiar songs which then get boring too. Eventually, we'll run out of millenial songs altogether, but by that point society will be run from a Google bunker on Mars by those tech guys whose de-aging routines make them look like washed up child actors and no-one will remember The Spice Girls. I think we're living in the better era.

And of course it wasn't the "Since You've Been Gone"/"Cry For You" blend. That tore the fucking roof off.

*A deeply underrated song - see 14).

**A masterpiece, frankly. Stock and Aitken strike back.

4) The Black Eyed Peas had more iconic hits than anyone else of their era.

Some artists are fortunate to score one calling card smash. A few might hit several times. Anything more is Extreme Pop Success, and The Black Eyed Peas' imperial phase was nearly as extreme as it gets.

I'm astonished by the number of Black Eyed Peas songs in my rekordbox. They don't exude the credibility of songs produced by, say, Max Martin or The Neptunes, but the Peas' skilful surfing of pop music's sonic tides resulted in an impressively diverse catalogue of megahits you definitely know and would party to: "Where Is The Love?", "Let's Get Retarded"*, "Don't Phunk With My Heart", "Shut Up", "My Humps", "Pump It", "Boom Boom Pow", "I Gotta Feeling", "The Time (Dirty Bit)". That's nine immediately recallable (word), once-inescapable pop monoliths**, and those are just the ones this nocturnal studio-dwelling synthesiser freak was above ground long enough to be exposed to.

will.i.am and the gang's affinity for pop formulae is fondly referenced within the industry, and closer inspection reveals their methodicism. I use the term "jingle hook" to describe a pop song's primary hook phrase that doubles as its title; the earworm that advertises itself. When you were reading the above list of Black Eyed Peas hits, you likely recalled a few of these. In fact, every single one has as obvious a jingle hook as possible, a clear title phrase placed in the fulcrum of the chorus. Several interpolate older songs, that tried-and-tested means of setting up a creative stimulus, tapping into pre-existing familiarity and mobilising the nostalgically doomed YouTube commentariat. Stylistically, they range from post-Coolio string quartet boom bap to Guetta-ish EDM, employing Fergie's pipes, the others' raps, group chanting and even an uncredited Justin Timberlake, covering more idiomatic ground than three or four ordinary pop acts put together. Plus, "...Love?" excepted, they are all bangers, not ballads, perfectly pitched to accompany alcopop-induced throwing up from Cancún to Croydon.

Don't worry, "Oops!... I Did It Again" and "Hollaback Girl" aren't going anywhere. Pharrell's just lucky he was too cool to sing about curvy lumps. Or was he?

*Look, I don't name the songs.

**Actually, "Where Is The Love?" was not a big hit in the USA. I guess Americans were unimpressed by its message of peace, empathy and social harmony.

5) Whatever happened to...?

LeAnn Rimes? Christina Milian? Samantha Mumba? As I trawl the charts of decades past, certain names ricochet off dreamlike memories hidden in obscure recesses of my brain. I hadn't perceived, let alone really thought about, some of these people for decades. 

While it's tiring how rosily we remember the past, the historical record is both more and less interesting. Ronan Keating's solo work was extraordinarily popular. The Now compilations were keen on someone called Jaimeson, who I hadn't heard of but made nice pop garage. Pre-tween hymn "Who Let The Dogs Out?" never actually topped the UK charts, but one song that did reach #1 during Baha Men's stint in the top ten was "Barbie Girl" verse ripoff "Can't Fight The Moonlight" by - that's right - the mythical LeAnn Rimes. 

I admit that my ignorance might be facilitated by my Brit perspective, specialised interest in fringe music and general social reclusion - the chart-botherers I forgot could be gargantuan TikTokkers for all I know. Maybe they just aren't seeking out the limelight; artists who stick around tend to engage in exhausting legacy maintenance, and the music business can be fickle and offputting. Besides, it's no bad thing for your music to overshadow your profile. "Dip It Low" is a stone cold smasher.

6) Dance music has always been coolest...

One of my greatest pleasures as a DJ is tracking the dissemination of dance music styles throughout pop, possibly its ultimate crossover phenomenon. Witness how Chicagoans turned disco into house, New Yorkers sampled disco records to make house, underground Parisians took the concept and codified it, Daft Punk and co. went stratospheric with it, credible soundalikes appeared, fellow Frenchies continued the wave, the New Yorkers reasserted themselves, random Italians had a go, Kylie confirmed its mainstream acceptance, the sound flooded electronica in general, it fed into the nascent electro house sound, Ed Banger reshaped and reclaimed it for the indie set, and it spattered across new media in infinite permutations: "Stronger", nightcore, future funk and on and on.

You could do the same for big beat, trance, garage, electro house* - all of the major dance styles that broke out of clubs, became desirable signifiers, coated the airwaves like wallpaper then receded from the greatest commercial heights after major stars had their way with them. It's my personal belief that the most definitive millenial pop records lie here, the ones that best demonstrate pop's aesthetic churn and encapsulate their eras whilst embodying the distilled passion that makes anyone put a record on in the first place. The enthusiasm people exhibit for "Perfect (Exceeder)", "Heartbroken" or "Wile Out" is unreal - at least, to someone who hasn't dimly recounted their usage in some childhood TV ident as they reintroduce themselves over a Funktion One soundsystem, their perfect basslines liquidating an entire dancefloor's sense of individual identity.

*Without looking, in what year do you think Benny Benassi's "Satisfaction" was released? The answer is 2002, years before the electro house sound it pioneered broke out with hits like "Love Don't Let Me Go (Walking Away)" and "Put Your Hands Up For Detroit" (both 2006). A truly influential record well ahead of its time. OK, sorry to continue this tangent, but I love that "Satisfaction" sounds the way it does because it was made on a copy of Logic that hadn't been installed properly. Give it a listen in the highest quality you can find - it sounds absolutely trashed, like a 96 kbps MP3 someone using different left and right studio monitors shoved through several instances of a free mastering plugin with all of the parameters maxed out. That didn't stop it becoming one of the biggest club hits of all time. What do you have to say to that, mix engineers?

7) ...but we need to let someone else have a go.

Our obsession with millennial dance hits plays out in the pop being made right now. When I first emerged in the music industry, I felt that electronic club music was in its Britpop phase - an arbitrary aesthetic reverence that distracted from its best qualities and any original ideas that did appear. Today, it's nearing the end of its indie landfill era, with every invocation of a four-to-the-floor kick drum psychotically spawning a Korg M1 Organ 2 bassline*. The summer of 2022, soundtracked by "Afraid to Feel" and "B.O.T.A.", carried a distinct sense of saudade as my peers pined for the dance pop hit parade they'd reconstructed in their minds and dazzled subsequent generations sublimated their FOMO. Last year was even more explicit, as "9pm (Till I Come)" effectively re-entered the charts and the return of the return of Kylie, our crossover queen, was willed into being.

I like all those songs, but they are undeniably reminiscent of millenial dance pop, and I found myself adding them to my geriatric party toolbox. However, there are other, more futuristic clues as to this lineage's fate. PinkPantheress, the most influential musician of the last half-decade, is obviously a descendant of the Kisstory playlist, and her work gets more groundbreaking with each release. In any case, expect to hear the sound of the past as well as the sound of the future in the club - especially if I have anything to do with it.

*One thing I will request while I have the platform: can we literally never use the Korg M1 Organ 2 on another record ever again? No-one did it better than StoneBridge on "Show Me Love" anyway. Except for that one song.

8) Camp always wins.

Wherever you play, there'll be a group of (unsecurely) straight men who mostly just look at the DJ with a stern gawp and only shuffle if they hear a track they think one of Masters at Work might've made*. Happily, as the night wears on and drinks turn their inhibitions into camaraderie, this group follows the rest of the crowd and gets down to what it really wants: the gayest songs possible.

We've all tried singing along with them: "Grace Kelly", "That Don't Impress Me Much", "I Believe in a Thing Called Love". This is an arena that transcends our era: good luck getting a mainstream crowd to flip out to any '70s funk stormer, but put on "Gimme Gimme Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" and watch the least musical people you've ever met break into impeccably synchronised dance, sounding every Swedish phonem in word-perfect chorus**.

These songs work so well because they bring out the theatre kid in all of us. They often feature a section that's difficult to sing, challenging both the self-effacing and the show-off, and they provide a safe haven for the misunderstood within the ridiculousness of their lyrical conceits. They transcend generations partially because of their communal efficacy and the nostalgia that engenders but also because there aren't enough of them to go around. When Richard Curtis needed to make Colin Firth and Hugh Grant beating each other up in a Greek restaurant even more camp, he got Geri Halliwell to re-record one of the ultimate camp anthems, producing a key millennial singalong in the process.

These are difficult records to make. You need a gift for ostentatious melodies, the bravery to pitch them, the chords and arrangement to make them fly, a performer who can pull them off and industry channels atypically sympathetic to silliness. Then again, commensurate riches are at stake, and you'd think more of the corporate pop complex's considerable resources would be invested in testing worldwide blokes' collective falsetto.

*I adore Masters at Work btw and am acutely aware that their music is much less straight than the ketamine brigade realise.

**To be fair, ABBA's impeccable legacy maintenance via ABBA Gold, Mamma Mia! and so on pushed their music into the realm of millennial nostalgia anyway.

9) The Now compilations' omniscience is a corporate illusion.

The Now That's What I Call Music series sits in the British public's imagination as the definitive pop music anthology*. Perusing a volume of your preferred vintage, you'll encounter a barrage of hits assured to vindicate anyone convinced that they did indeed live through the best musical era in all of recorded history. It was the starting point of my millennial DJ voyage, and while analysing them I was amazed at the quantity of nostalgia bombs they yielded. It wasn't long, however, before missing hits started to surface from my subconscious: my collection had holes in, and I was more vulnerable to requests than any good DJ should be. What was going on?

The Now compilations were were conceived by Virgin Records and EMI in partnership (corporate shenanigans mean Universal and Sony fly the Now flag now). Business logic dictates that rival companies were keen to avoid participation, notably Warner, the major excluded from the current partnership. That means some of the biggest pop cultural moments of the modern era never appeared on a Now compilation**: Missy Elliott's seminal hits, anything by Madonna, and, devastatingly, Junkie XL's Elvis Presley remix. Sure, they appeared on rival compilations like Hits, but you didn't know that, did you? (I'm not talking to us, PopJustice weirdos.)

The Now team were apparently masters of alpha branding, but their dark secret demonstrates an underestimated music industry phenomenon: how the cartel-ish arrangement of different companies shapes the cultural landscape without us realising. In addition to all the other artistic, commercial and social forces at play in pop, we're subject to invisible barriers and connections barely related to musical style or audience demographics. Deep pop fans are aware of this but it's easy to forget that this dynamic shapes festival lineups, collaborations between artists, award ceremonies and so on; our hyperreality is even more artificial than it is.

Sure, enjoy a trip down memory lane if you want. You'll need a more comprehensive reference to hand though if you want to be a serious millennial DJ.

*To be fair, this article actually highlights the point I'm making. So maybe it doesn't.

**I refer to the main series - not the weird multi-disc retrospectives like Now That's What I Call Mum, Now That's What I Call Sing or Now That's What I Call Now. You can't just rewrite history because you got it wrong the first time or bought one of your competitors, you cheeky major labels!

10) Where did the wine mum guitar pop go?

Picture Gina, thirty-nine, a mum of two. It's early 2005. She's just dropped the kids off at school and she's driving back home to tidy the house before lunch with the girls at twelve. A DJ's voice buzzes from the car stereo: "and that was "Bad Day" by Daniel Powter, what a great song. Now here's something for everyone feeling a little bit glam this morning." The opening strums of Scissor Sisters' "Take Your Mama" float out of the speakers. Gina turns up the stereo; she likes this one. She mouths the lyrics at the traffic lights and thinks about what she's going to wear to lunch: that new Jane Norman dress or something a bit more rock 'n' roll? Then Jake Shears splits her trail of thought: "we're gonna take your mama out all night yeah, we'll show her what it's all about". Gina stares at the volume dial and, in anticipation, slowly turns it up more. She stops just before the falsetto kicks in, and belts along: "DO IT, TAKE YOUR MAMA OUT ALL NIGHT, SO SHE'LL HAVE NO DOUBT THAT WE'RE DOING ALL THE BEST WE CAN!" A car behind her beeps; the light has turned green. She giggles a little bit. She gets home, pulls into the driveway and turns the radio off with a twist of her car key, but not before savouring a few bars of the piano bassline introducing Maroon 5's "This Love". Today's going to be a good day.

There was a time when the music industry embraced a certain flavour of softly soulful guitar-based pop music of varying degrees of flamboyance (Mika could go here too) whose tunefulness and palatable production appealed to the masses but counted chardonnay-supping, ladies-lunching middle-aged mums as its core audience. With Virgin Radio the soundtrack to a million school runs, this was one of the most influential pop demographics of the noughties - I'd argue that the likes of KT Tunstall, James Blunt and Paolo Nutini owe the wine mum their fame.

However, a glance at the charts today or sample of the radio reveals no music likely to inspire crowing consensus in Beckenham Pizza Express, let alone anything stylistically similar to the aforementioned. Scissor Sisters' stupendous success feels particularly distant, a weird addendum to electroclash that cosmically rang several bells beloved by the British public (David Bowie? The Bee Gees? Blankety Blank?). Maroon 5's unusual discography is a reflection of corporate pop's perpetually shifting sands and the moves it takes to stay successful within them. I just checked and learned that Daniel Powter is still alive, thank god.

11) Downloading music is hard.

I DJ with 320 kbps MP3s. DJing-via-DSP isn't my style, hampered as it is by the requirement of a steady internet connection, gaps in streaming platform distribution and its incompatibility with bootlegs and original productions. Don't get me started on the small dick lunacy of FLACs. However, for an industry eternally desperate to monetise itself, the music business does not make MP3 shopping in 2024 easy for the pro DJ*.

Most glaringly, there isn't an authoritative one-stop shop for pop MP3s, let alone more obscure stuff, as different download stores unpredictably lack specific titles. My MP3 shopping is mostly split between 7digital (my favourite and the platform closest to my ideal design, but not complete), Beatport (club-oriented, which means it has certain random dance classics missing elsewhere), OTOTOY (a Japanese site which, in the tradition of Japanese record shops being the best in the world, offers the biggest catalogue but is largely restricted to Japan-based customers) and Bandcamp (which for its indie credentials may well host zero millenial pop smashes).

These shops all offer MP3s in their highest quality - 320 kbps - but if a particular hit song isn't offered by any, which is surprisingly common, my next resort is to rip it from my fantastic, massive CD collection**. That is, if I have or can get it. If not, then I self-loathingly resign myself to my least favourite option via my least favourite retailer: downloading it from Amazon.

Amazon's digital music shop is flagrantly useless and annoying in that distinctly 2024 internet way, with its track preview function triggering a shuffle playlist of literally any songs other than the one you chose to preview. Even worse, it doesn't offer 320 kbps MP3s, only VBR (variable bitrate) MP3s. These are smaller files generally considered to be noticeably lower quality; even I, the least sound quality-motivated person in the entire global music industry, am inclined to agree. Amazon's sadistically pointless proffering of suboptimal MP3s begs the question: who are they for? To this day, my MP3 of Platinum 45's "Oi!" featuring More Fire Crew*** is a VBR MP3 from Amazon, and I worry that crowds won't receive it in its full glory when I play it.

Incredibly, the fuckery doesn't stop there. The corporate tribalism demonstrated by the Now compilations affects the distribution of music downloads too. The only MP3 of Junkie XL's "A Little Less Conversation" remix (apparently the most unobtainable song in the universe) I could find is from the compilation album Lilo and Stitch Island Favourites for some reason. Sometimes, a song will only be downloadable as part of a whole compilation (often a retrospective mega-Now), which means shelling out a tenner or more for forty songs I mostly already own or have made a point of avoiding****. On top of that, these compilations can suffer from appalling quality control, with blown-out remasters and edits pulled from mix CDs polluting the tracklisting. Navigating this shitshow requires careful planning and considerable patience lest you waste cash on duplicates and inferior versions.

In a consumerist, novelty-driven economy, MP3s don't provide ample opportunity for exploitation. The tatty state of download stores reflects this, with most still frozen in 2014. However, I'd be lying if I claimed that I don't enjoy scouring the back alleys of the world wide web for musical gold dust just a little bit. Besides, MP3 is a wondrous technology, and some things can't be improved upon. This DJ knows that as well as anyone.

*Yes, I'm aware of other means. No, I'm not a criminal.

**I recommend CD ripping as a hobby if reading endless inconclusive archival discussions on dusty audiophile forums about terms like "smart encoding" and "joint stereo" sounds fun to you.

***"Oi!", the first grime song in the UK top ten, doesn't get the props it deserves. At least More Fire Crew man Lethal Bizzle's other big hit, the legendary "Pow (Forward)", is available in 320 kbps. "Pow" is a marvellous posse firecracker that features several of the most unhinged raps ever recorded and was so rabble-rousing clubs literally banned it. It was the grime track that most decidedly affected the suburban grammar school scene; my favourite memory of it might be entering the first Underage Festival as Lethal Bizzle performed the song on the main stage, then running into the mosh pit and joining the rest of the pre-ironic Home Counties kids screaming its incendiary chorus. It was real, I was there.

****Still featured on Now That's What I Call The 00s!

12) Kaiser Chiefs' early hits were really clever.

I have a soft spot for the indie disco canon, since it comprises the hits I was most directly engaged with while they were happening. It's hard to mix in "That Boy That Girl"* and "Ice Cream" when the crowd want Girls Aloud and Craig David, but this is smartphone midlife, not White Heat. Still, it doesn't stop me from enjoying some private appraisal, and (of course) it's not just the cool tracks that have lasted.

More than the NME-fêted new ravers, Kaiser Chiefs risked association with "indie landfill", the surfeit of blokey guitar-based troupes popular in the mid-to-late noughties: The Pigeon Detectives, The Twang, The Enemy, The Wombats, The View, The Fratellis. Most "indie" songs employ a meat-and-potatoes vernacular, the chord changes and song structures honed by self-taught lads for pissy pub staring contests. With that in mind, put on Kaiser Chiefs' "I Predict a Riot" and observe how many outré songwriting moments it packs: the cheekily foreboding riff, the glam-ish semitone bass movement underneath the "ah-ah-ahh ah-ahh"s, the weird modulation from that into the major key chorus, the even weirder modulation from the chorus into "so if there's anybody left in here...", and the song's repetitively delayed final chorus. This all underpins Ricky Wilson's Jarvis Cockerisms describing unfolding crowd anarchy, a blatantly meta hype routine. It's a seriously impressive song, and makes for barnstorming karaoke in specific company.

They didn't stop there. The verses of "Everyday I Love You Less and Less" unusually oscillate between major and minor F# chords, a device outlined in the intro by a synth playing in the major key and a guitar playing the minor chord at the same time, generating a palpably queasy tension. This is the kind of tonal playfulness I'd expect from an Irving Berlin song, not a night out at an O2 Academy in a mid-sized British city. The transition into the chorus from the pre is pretty handy too. I reckon "Riot" and "Everyday" were the Kaisers' most sophisticated moments, though the louche seasickness of "Oh My God" holds its own alongside the indie disco stalwarts, and "Ruby" is a wish-I'd-written-that melody so potent it became an actual terrace chant.

"I Predict a Riot" went double platinum in that satisfying way resonant, well-constructed songs occasionally do. It's intriguing because it shows how a bog-standard template utilised inventively can scale the same dizzy heights as our camp classics. It's debatable even The Greatest Indie Band Of All generated that particular effect.

*I think the "every slut and whore" stuff in this song embarrasses people now, which is a shame, because while it is misogyny (despite Hadouken! having a rare female member) "That Boy That Girl" is the most truly "new rave" production, combining the crunch of amplified guitars, the subtractive buzz of a microKorg-or-similar and grime-positive shouting like no other record.

13) We're still told what to like.

The fascinating thing about DJing with old music is that, while the past can never change, the way we view it always does. This is partially due to the phenomenon described in 3) (The Big Songs Don't Work Anymore), but that's not the only factor influencing our response to songs we already know.

The audience feedback loop of media recommendation algorithms is the most prominent force driving the millennial DJ canon today. YouTube's discursive content arena is important research territory for me, as public comments give clues to popular motivations and the user experience itself tells its own story. As an identifiable millennial music lover, YouTube really wants me to watch "The Weekend" by Michael Gray. However, it has never recommended me "At Night" by Shakedown. They're both fantastic electro disco tunes, top ten hits ("At Night" actually charted higher) and fixtures of the millennial subconscious, but YouTube's preference for "The Weekend" is a product of the viewing habits of, let's just say, non-professionals. Both the plebeian impulse to watch "The Weekend" and the signal boost produced by the algorithmic ouroboros push it towards dreaded oversaturation. On the other hand, "At Night" possibly hasn't entered my audience's consciousness since its chart run, and I know which one would spark a greater dancefloor revelation.

In fairness, we've always been told what to like. You could play a very successful millenial DJ set only dropping music used on CBBC in the early noughties. In some ways, this situation hasn't even changed; Sophie Ellis-Bextor's aforementioned Saltburn revival moment feels more like the force of monoculture than the fragmentation of cloistered shortform video. Still, us DJs have to think for ourselves.

14) When in doubt, check the credits.

If it says Cathy Dennis, Gregg Alexander, or StarGate, you're probably fine.

15) If you're REALLY in trouble...

16) I occasionally play records I don't like.

Just joking.