The 10 Easiest Things Dance Songs Ask of You

The 10 Easiest Things Dance Songs Ask of You

Go ahead. Brush your shoulders off. It doesn’t get any easier. Or does it?

10. Brush your Shoulders Off (Jay Z) — Time passes, seasons change, the Electric Slide gives way to the Cha Cha Slide at weddings, but one thing remains: DJs and emcees always want you to do something. While some music may ask more of us than dance music does, no other sort has the gall to up and demand it in the lyrics.

At least Jay Z here had the courtesy to demand something simple and easy to do that doesn’t require you to move your feet or get your heart rate up above 60 beats per minute or so. You can even do it while you’re holding your drink! Now I understand why the man is so successful — he doesn’t waste energy. (And because Universal has embedding on lockdown, here’s the DJ Danger Mouse remix. It’s probably for the best)

There’s also the sense that Jay Z wants you to do it for your own good, which is a mixed blessing. On one hand, it’s courteous and encouraging. On the other, “Who do you think you are telling me what to do, Jay Z! Geez!”

9. Lean Back (Fat Joe feat. Terror Squad) — Never one to be out-lazied, Fat Joe does Jay Z one better, since you’d probably have to tilt your upper body a little bit one way or another to get the shoulder brush right anyway. “Lean back” sets down the bare minimum effort for conventionally bossy dance songs, but is more demanding than it sounds: it includes an implicit condemnation against other dances. Plus, it tells you to pull up your pants, which is the sort of thing I expect from my mom, not the world’s most aloof MC. NEXT!

8. Nod Your Head — Most sequels raise the stakes. The first Leprechaun was set in neither space nor the ‘hood. The first Muppet Movie contained nary a caper, nor the Taking of Manhattan, nor a Christmas Carol. Raising stakes is what the future is for. That an flying cars.

Will Smith’s “The Black Suits Comin’ (Nod Ya Head)” is the most dramatic lowering of the stakes in a sequel that I have ever seen (or, um, heard). “Here Come The Men in Black” had you bouncing, sliding, walking, making your neck working, freezing, all of it. The sequel has inexplicably inferior faith in its audience’s mobility.

Of course, if, like most men, you’re trying your best to stand off the side and look cool without moving too much, this song is pretty much the maximum you’re going to do, and even then you’re only going to do it with like 10% enthusiasm.

“Nod Ya Head,” is, well, what it sounds like. Simple and basic. Doesn’t require a lot of effort. Kind of unimpressive. Leaves you thinking it should be part of something bigger and better instead of standing alone. Just like a Men In Black movie.

The funniest part of the song is how worked up Will Smith gets about it, trying to compensate for the fact that he doesn’t have as much jiggy stuff for you to do by telling you to do it really loudly.

22 Comments on “The 10 Easiest Things Dance Songs Ask of You”

  1. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    First of all, amazing work as always.

    Secondly, there’s a new song that a strong contender for this list: “Move (If You Wanna)” by Mims.

    I love that they bothered to put that subtitle in there. It’s like just asking people to move was a little too bossy. The message of the song is, feel free to do absolutely anything, but only if you feel like it.


  2. lee OTI Staff #

    “Superman that ho” from “Crank that Soulja Boy” is either a very easy or very difficult thing for a dance song to ask of you, depending on if you interpret the command as a dance move or as…something else. (Look it up in the Urban Dictionary if you don’t know what I’m talking about)


  3. sheely OTI Staff #

    I would add “Do the Standing Still” by The Dismemberment Plan, a DC Post-Punk Band (let’s see how this embed works…. I love me some grooveshark):


  4. sheely OTI Staff #

    And no, embedding a song player didn’t work, as I suspected. At any rate go listen to the song on grooveshark (or any other purveyor of fine streaming music!)


  5. DaveW #

    “Don’t stop; keep on doin’ what you’re doin’.
    Gotta keep movin”

    Are you thinking of Bad Eyes, by Madonna?

    “Get up on the dance floor
    Everything is groovin’
    Get up on the dance floor
    Got to see you movin’
    Let the music shake you
    Let the rhythm take you
    Feel it in your body
    Sing la de da de

    Don’t stop doin’ what you’re doin’ baby
    Don’t stop, keep movin’, keep groovin’
    Don’t stop doin’ what you’re doin’ baby
    Don’t stop, keep movin’, keep groovin'”

    etc, etc


  6. Ben #

    @Sheely: thanks for the Grooveshark love! Sorry the embed didn’t work, but you can try using to get a short link to the tune you mentioned on Grooveshark.

    btw, nice tune.



  7. Rob #

    Excellent piece, Fenzel, and I think you hit the nail on the head with no. 3, “Keep on doin’ what you’re doin'”. (Likewise DaveW in the comments.) These instructions are consistent with Newton’s First Law, which states that in the absence of an external force, an object in motion will continue in motion and an object at rest will remain at rest.

    Other Newton-friendly dance songs include “Hella Good”, where Gwen Stefani asks us to “Keep on dancing”, and “Keeping It Moving”, wherein A Tribe Called Quest speaks in praise of keeping it moving – which takes no effort at all, assuming that the coefficient of kinetic friction is zero and the initial velocity is non-zero.

    However, it is surprising how many popular dance songs ask us to stop.

    1. “The Humpty Dance” begins, “Alright, Stop what you’re doing, ’cause I’m about to ruin the image and the style that you’re used to.” Perhaps Humpty Hump is notifying us that classical physics is obsolete, and we should ignore Newton’s laws, because he is about to drop some 20th-century science like the Enola Gay.

    2. “U Can’t Touch This” directs listeners to stop solely because it is Hammertime. It is my opinion that this is hardly worth the effort; I would prefer to reinterpret the line as a command to prevent Hammertime from occurring.

    3. “Ice, Ice, Baby” immediately strains the limits of our working memory and social skills, by asking us to “Stop, collaborate and listen.” That’s a fairly complex task, to begin with, and executing it requires not only defying our inertia but defying the increasingly solipsistic and inattentive tendencies of the modern office worker.


  8. fenzel #

    @DaveW —

    Nope, I tried that one when I was searching; it’s not it.

    Good attempt, though!


  9. Sheely #

    @Ben- Wow, you groovesharks sure do circle the waters of the internet quite well, looking to ensure a high-quality user experience. Thanks for the referral to Tiny Song. FWIW, here is “Do The Standing Still”:


  10. Equinspire #

    Heh, sucks when google lets you down… Have you been trying to find out what the song is called since August 2005?


  11. Matthew Wrather #

    It seems to me that this post should have a companion piece. Something like: “The 10 Most Demanding Pop Song Titles.”

    “Hit Me Baby One More Time”
    “Testify” (Rage Against the Machine)
    “Take Me with U”



  12. Gab #

    I may be a lady, but if I’m not feeling like a pimp and am not a… well… you know… would I still have to follow Jay-Z’s instructions?

    I noticed a number of the songs you picked had other requests/demands in them apart from what you focused on. Lots of stuff about turning up music and clapping hands.

    Just for fun: “The Time Warp.” Let’s do it again. Come on, you know you want to.

    Song title: “Kiss Me.” It’s not a request, but a command, in the age where consent is sexy- pretty bold stuff. “F*** the System” by System of a Down (not the system being f***ed) is pretty high-level demanding, too. And here’s another one: “Cry Me a River” by Justin Timberlake. It really does make me sad about it, after all, and I’m not even the one that did anything; and it sarcasm gives it a nuance others don’t have. (I could keep going and going…) But Wrather, I noticed how Rage was the only artist you specifically pointed out. Any particular reason why?

    And most demanding song period: “The Hokey Pokey.” Not only is it filled with order after order, but it’s also incredibly arrogant. I mean, presuming its own existence is what everything is all about. Hmph.


  13. fenzel #


    The most demanding song title ever? That’s easy:

    “Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car.”

    It takes a special man to have a #1 hit song that combines some of the creepiest and brashest demands of stalkers and child molesters.

    That special man is Billy Ocean. And his song is awesome.


  14. stokes OTI Staff #

    Any other clues about the mystery song? (Is the singer a man or a woman? Do you remember the song’s genre, or at least the general mood?)

    I’m guessing your googling would have already turned up Bobby Byrd’s “Keep on Doing What You’re Doing,” but that’s no reason not to post a link to it, since it’s an awesome song even if it’s not what you’re looking for.


  15. neubauer #

    the image of obama in the featured content is perfect. Who gets kudos for that? lee?


  16. stokes OTI Staff #

    As for easy things that songs ask for, how about the moment in Toots & the Maytal’s “54-46 That’s My Number” where he tells the audience to “Hear me now!” This isn’t necessarily easy for everyone, but the target audience — those listening to the song — have already complied.


  17. neubauer #

    @lee: I remember when Obama did it during the campaign. My question was, who decided to use the image with the article? I still think it’s you. No one else has stepped up to take credit.


  18. Vlvtjones #

    Mystery song: “Keep Keep Movin”, Dub Pistols. It was on the Mystery Men soundtrack.


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