I wish that I could give you a definite answer. I wish that I could say, “Oh yes, these are the absolute ten best songs for swing dancing out there, and that’s a fact.” But I can’t do that, because “best” is a subjective term, and each person has their own idea of what the “best” songs are for swing. This is a fact that both perturbs my scientific mind and pleases my artistic soul. While everyone’s got their own musical taste and ideas of what the best swing dance songs are, there are some general things that make for a good swing song - the chief of these standards is this: the music has to make you want to move. So, while I cannot give you an absolute list of the top ten best songs for swing dancing, I can give you a list of my favorites (in context of how good they are for dancing, not just how much I like them), all of which inspire movement in me.
Since you just said swing, I’ll give lists for both lindy hop and west coast swing. Bonus! ;)
Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen. I tried to pick which artist, I really did. But there are so many versions of this song, and I love almost all of them! This song is one of my most favorite songs of all time, and it’s great for dancing. I love how dynamic it is; you can really express yourself. It has bluesy bits, swinging stretches, and some opportunities for fast dancing.
Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens by Louis Jordan. This song is straight up silly. In that way, I feel like it embodies swing dancing. Also, it’s the perfect song for peckin’.
I Diddle by Dinah Washington. The first time I heard this song, it was one of those moments where you just go, “OOOOH.” It’s got a great beat, fun lyrics, and it’s got a lot of character. And really, how could you not love a song where “hehe” is part of the lyrics? Super fun to dance to.
Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball? by Count Basie and His Orchestra. I think I first discovered this song via Pandora. I love this one for reasons not fully known. It’s just a fun song.
Diga Diga Doo by Jonathan Stout And His Campus Five feat. Hilary Alexander. I love this song a lot. It’s quite fast, and is great for Charleston as well. Two other versions I love are by Artie Shaw and Duke Ellington.
Comes Love by Artie Shaw & His Orchestra feat. Helen Forrest. First off, this has Helen Forrest, whom I adore. Second, I love the overall sound of the song, and I’ve always loved the lyrics. It’s a slowish lindy.
Harlem Mad by Glenn Crytzer and His Syncopators feat. Meschiya Lake. This is a pretty fast one. I’m a big fan of Glenn Crytzer and His Syncopators!
Minnie the Moocher by Cab Calloway. I cannot be dissuaded from my love for this song. It’s a bluesy lindy or a lindy-ish blues. I know every single word and, yes, I will sing them all while I dance.
On Revival Day by LaVern Baker. This song has a great tempo, it’s very happy, and it’s playful.
Yes, Indeed! by Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra. I lovelovelovelovelove Tommy Dorsey. He’s one of my favorites - if not my number one - of the classic swing dudes. I own quite a few of his vinyls. Yes, Indeed! is probably my favorite song of his for lindy hop. It fits lindy hop so well.
West coast swing
Pinpointing “best” songs for WCS is even more difficult than for lindy hop, simply due to the nature of the dance. You can make any song into a west coast, really. It should be noted that, for WCS, I generally seem to prefer bluesy/sultry/R&B more than funky/pop-y/energetic.
Tonight (Best You Ever Had) by John Legend feat. Ludacris. This is just a great song for west coast. Personal anecdote: one time I was dancing to this song and I was singing along. The guy I was dancing with said, “I take it you know this song?” and I, singing along, responded with: “I don’t wanna brag…” and it was a golden moment. Then, months later, I was dancing with someone else to this and I told them the story and just so happened to sing “I don’t wanna brag” at just the right time again. Amazing.
No Diggity by Blackstreet feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen. A classic. I also really love the Chet Faker cover.
California Dreamin’ by Queen Latifah. In my opinion, Queen Latifah’s cover of this song is the best version out there. California Dreamin’ is my magical song; every dance I’ve ever had to this song has been amazing. Like, people on the sides applauded after watching me dance to it. (Which is remarkable considering I’m pretty much a derp-face Westie.)
Heartbreak Hotel by Grieves. Words cannot express how much I love this song. Dancing to it is like a dream. It’s a slow, lyrical west coast and it actually stumps quite a few dancers. But if you can find a partner who is comfortable with their musicality, this song is absolutely magical.
Sexxx Dreams by Lady Gaga. Some venues won’t even go near this song, and I mean… I understand why. But I love it so much. It’s great fun to dance to; there’s a lot of room to play around and it’s ah-may-zing for double trouble and/or stealing.
I See Fire (Kygo Remix) by Ed Sheeran. I’m not generally a fan of remixes, but this one is superb. I got to do a legendary double trouble to this with two friends of mine, so it holds sentimental value. Worth noting: Ed Sheeran actually has quite a few good songs for dancing.
Traum by CRo. Yes, this song is in German. I’ve never heard it played at any WCS dances, which make sense considering I live in the US. This is a fast west coast, but quite happy and enjoyable. I really enjoy dancing to it.
Don’t Wait by Mapei. Just a beautiful song. Its beat is easy to hear, too.
Am I Wrong by Nico & Vinz. This song just suits west coast. It just feels so right. Am I wrong? ;)
Latch (Acoustic) by Sam Smith.Latch has recently really caught on (pun not intended) with the competition circuit, and for good reason. For starters, it’s a beautiful song. But it’s great for WCS. A lot of acoustic songs don’t quite cut it, but this one works. The original, a collaboration between Disclosure and Sam Smith, also works for west coast, but it has a decidedly different flavor. Personally, I prefer the acoustic - but the original is good, too. (Worth noting: La La Latch by Pentatonix is amazing and works as a fast WCS.)
I hope you’ve enjoyed this verbose listing. It’s not a definitive list of the “best” songs for swing, or even the most popular - but it’s a list of songs that make me need to dance, that suit the mood of the dance, that are quality pieces. I hope this answers your question well enough!
This is important, I thought after listening to Vince Staples’ debut album, Summertime ‘06. Though, from just one listen I couldn’t pinpoint what exactly about this album, this artist, that exuded importance. It was the album’s production that my ears noticed first; assisted by DJ Dahi and Clams Casino, Summertime ‘06 was chiefly produced by Dion “No I.D.” Wilson and is driven by crude distortions, amplified street sounds, and steady bass lines that counter Staples’ offbeat rhyming. The album will make you stand up and move. Though, when given a second and more concentrated listen, it was clear that the importance was in what Staples’ was communicating, and not necessarily the album’s production.
Growing up in Long Beach, California, Staples’ was introduced early to a lifestyle that is the inspiration of this album. Staples’ father was in prison for most of his childhood, while living with his aunt he joined the 2N Crips gang, and during the summer of 2006, Staples’ best friend was shot and killed. Staples speaks about the summer of 2006 with grief and contempt, but Summertime ‘06 is not about hopelessness. His album offers much-needed insight and awareness, and as he explained to Paper Magazine, “These are just institutions we have because we don’t have a Boys & Girls Club. Because of our location, these are the things we have. I’ve never really gotten out of gang life because gang life is not criminal life.” Through his rapping, Staples dissects this time in his life with enough retrospective distance that it offers listeners a glimpse of who the newcomer is, though Staples says in his mission statement for the album, “I want people who listen to this album to define it in their own way.”
The album has an urgency that is complimented by Staples’ rapping. On his track “Dopeman”, featuring Joey Fatts and Kilo Kish, his lyrics hit hard:
Alright, tryin’ to make a dollar bill/ Don’t hide, pay me mine and getcha mama killed/ Whatchu need, whatchu got makin’ plays/ ‘Til I’m laid in the grave, gettin’ paid.
His syncopation and vocal dynamics only add to the effect of his lyrics, like in “Norf Norf” when he gives a shout out to his hometown, North Side Long Beach! The proud west coast artist slows down at the end of the first disc during one of his most effective tracks, Summertime. “My teachers told me we was slaves/ My mama told me we was kings/ I don’t know who to listen to/ I guess we somewhere in between,” Staples croons. Once an opener for other west coasters such as Schoolboy Q, his debut album has ultimately separated Staples from the rest. Summertime ‘06 is a vital album that shows rap can still be personal, political, and dynamically entertaining.
For Draco's birthday, how about Hermione forgets it and Draco is understandably upset. So she makes it up to him.
She entered the kitchen sheepishly, her hands behind her back. “I got something for you,” she said, hopefully. When he didn’t look up from the Prophet or otherwise react at all, she grimaced. “A birthday present.”
“Sounds great,” he said, but his voice was clipped. “Only three-hundred and sixty-three more days to go until then.”
Hermione sighed. “Come on, Draco. I said that I was sorry.”
“And your apology was duly accepted.”
She resisted the urge to stomp her feet childishly. “But you’re still angry,” she complained. “Come on. I think you’ll like your present.”
“I can’t wait to open it.” He smiled, coldly. “In a year.”
Groaning, she sat down at the kitchen table beside him, setting the present on the table. When he made no move to pick it up (obviously thoroughly engrossed in horoscopes that he wasn’t reading), she sighed gustily and grabbed it, pulling the wrapping paper off. She pushed the unwrapped box towards him, and he hummed thoughtfully at his horoscope and turned the page.
“Okay, it’s not a birthday present,” she said. “It’s… a… Happy June 7th Day present.”
“Oh, wonderful,” he said, setting his newspaper aside. “And a happy June 7th to you, as well.” She rolled her eyes a bit, but didn’t snark back. She truly did feel bad. When he lifted the photo out, he squinted at it, forgetting for a moment to be petulant. “A photo of a broom?”
“Your broom,” she said. “It’s the new Starsweeper XXI.”
“That hasn’t come out, yet,” he said, eyebrows rising.
“I bought it from Ginny,” she admitted. “Now that she’s writing for the Prophet, she gets sent products in hopes that she’ll write good reviews on them.”
His head cocked. Potter was rich, and he doubted Ginny parted with the broom easily; everyone was eagerly awaiting its release. “How much did you pay her?” he asked, curiously.
She sighed. “I’m tutoring James,” she said, sourly. The boy had come back for Christmas during his first year at Hogwarts having almost failed transfiguration. Between his complete inability to concentrate and his equal inability to not take a single damn thing seriously, it was no wonder he wasn’t doing well in the class; the new transfiguration professor had complained that all he seemed to do was make a clown of himself to get laughs out of the rest of the class.
She’d been resisting the idea of tutoring him since the Christmas hols, despite Harry’s frequent pleas.
Draco smiled. It was a very high price to pay. “I’ll accept your Happy June 7th Day gift on one condition,” he said, dropping the photo in the box. His mischievous smirk made her go pale.
“No!” she whined.
“Yes,” he said, firmly. “Thirty minutes.”
“Twenty, or I burn this box and give you the cold shoulder until next June 7th.” Her nose wrinkled, and he knew he’d won.
Later that afternoon, he twisted his new broom through the air, laughing jubilantly as his wife screamed death threats from the seat just before him and clung to the stick for dear life. “This was a good birthday present,” he said, when he’d slowed down. They were coasting about three hundred feet over the ground, and she was whimpering quietly.
Leaning forward, he nibbled on the nape of her neck. “Next year, though, let’s make sure you get it to me on the right day, hmm?”
“I learned my lesson,” she moaned. “Can we please go down. It’s been at least twenty minutes.”
“It’s been seven,” he assured her. “Grab on tight.”
“Oh, God,” she muttered, scrambling to grip the broom before he sent them surging forward again, his laughter mixing in with her screams the entire way.