Anti-Party Jams

5 minute read

Over the course of your life, you’ll be invited to countless social gatherings. And, if you’re anything like us, sometimes you just won’t feel like going. But while there are plenty of valid reasons for skipping out on a party, it can feel like there’s a stigma attached to saying, “No thanks.”

You’re not imagining it. This attitude—that raucous celebrations are the best thing in the world—shows up a whole lot in popular culture. For every thousand songs about going to the club, how many are about curling up with a good book?

Honestly, we can’t think of too many examples. But we can offer a nice assortment of songs that unabashedly tip the sacred party cow.

So dim the lights, get in some comfy clothes, and put on your best headphones. This is the soundtrack to your next night of cozy introversion. (CW: Some songs contain slightly suggestive language; discretion is advised.)

Courtney Barnett - "Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party" (2015)

Best line: “I'd rather stay in bed with the rain over my head / Than have to pick my brain up off of the floor”

Forget about F.O.M.O. This track from Australian indie darling Courtney Barnett suggests an even scarier possibility—that, if we do stay home, no one at the party will even notice.

Still, the singer’s desire to get a good night’s sleep outweighs her desire to go out and get wasted. Though this philosophy might not exactly sound “rock ‘n’ roll” on the page, when sung by Barnett, it’s pretty convincing.

The Smithereens - “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” (2008)

Best line: “Though I’ve had a drink or two and I don’t care / There’s no fun in what I do if she’s not there”

Sometimes, opting out of an event is as much about preserving the feelings of others as it is about protecting one’s own. In this under-appreciated Beatles tune (a b-side to the smash hit “Eight Days a Week”), John Lennon throws himself an epic pity party, spurred on by a recent break-up. The infectious melody—along with George Harrison’s delightfully twangy guitar licks—will almost have you forgetting what an absolute bummer the lyrics are.

This 2008 cover by the popular New Jersey-based rock band The Smithereens is pretty faithful to the original version. The main difference is that the delightfully mopey lyrics are a bit easier to understand.

Alessia Cara - “Here” (2015)

Best line: “But honestly I'd rather be / Somewhere with my people / We can kick it and just listen to / Some music with a message, like we usually do”

Nearly three years before she was named Best New Artist at the 2018 Grammy Awards, Canadian singer-songwriter Alessia Cara struck gold with her debut single “Here,” a sober, cynical response to the in-your-face, drug-fueled parties so often celebrated in pop music. The track topped Billboard’s Mainstream Top 40 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop charts, proving that there are quite a few listeners who prefer quiet conversation to unbridled celebration.

Lesley Gore - “It's My Party” (1963)

Best line: All of them.

When it comes to anti-party anthems, this one may very well be the G.O.A.T. Lesley Gore plays the role of a young girl whose boyfriend, Johnny, suddenly runs off with another girl named Judy. Oh, by the way... this all happens to the narrator ON HER BIRTHDAY.

Bonus: The unnamed protagonist has her revenge in Gore’s follow-up single, “Judy’s Turn to Cry.” When Johnny spots his ex-girlfriend kissing another guy, he promptly attacks him, and then dumps Judy for our narrator.

Granted, this doesn’t exactly sound like a healthy relationship, but it does make for a memorable pair of songs.

The Riverdales - “I Don’t Wanna Go to the Party Tonight” (1997)

Best line: “I know my ex-girlfriend will be there / Kissing kids in front of me, as if I care / I don’t care”

The Riverdales were a punk power trio, formed by members of the influential Chicago pop punk band Screeching Weasel with the intention of emulating the music of The Ramones. And, like many Ramones songs, it’s equal parts irreverent and antisocial—an anthem for those of us who always check the RSVPs to an e-vite before we click “Attending.”

Beastie Boys - “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)” (1986)

While this one’s been a mainstay at both clubs and house parties since its release in 1986, the guys who wrote the song have always been open about the fact that it was actually a spoof of party anthems.

As luck would have it, the joke flew right over the heads of many listeners, making “Fight for Your Right” a hit with the very crowd it was making fun of. “There were tons of guys singing along who were oblivious to the fact it was a total goof on them,” said Mike D, one of band’s three founding members. “Irony is oft missed."

The fact that so few people got the joke led the Beasties to distance themselves from one of their biggest hits. But hey... it’s 2018. Isn’t it about time we reclaimed this one for the homebody crowd?

Snakehips ft. Tinashe & Chance the Rapper - “All My Friends” (2016)

Best line: “The nights we won’t remember are the nights we won’t remember”

This 2015 single from electronic duo Snakehips is an ode to nights at the club when things get a little out of hand. It may not be anti-party, per se, but it’s cautionary enough to remind listeners that going out isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Boosted by vocals from singer Tinashe and three-time Grammy winner Chance the Rapper, “All My Friends” found receptive audiences across the globe—cracking the top five in the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand.

Amy Adams & Miss Piggy - “Me Party” (2011)

Best line: “I’m having a me party / I’m the first and last to show / There’s no one at this party / That I don’t already know”

Don’t let yourself be tied down by the dictionary definition of “party” (“a social gathering,” according to Webster’s). A party can, indeed, be almost anything you want it to be. From the soundtrack to 2011’s The Muppets, the gorgeous and talented Miss Piggy teams up with Oscar-winner Amy Adams to extol the virtues of having fun on one’s own. Try not to smile while listening to this. We dare you.

Nat King Cole - “The Party’s Over” (1957)

Best line: “They’ve burst your pretty balloon / And taken the moon away”

This classic show tune was originally composed for the 1956 musical Bells Are Ringing. But we’re partial to Nat King Cole’s velvet-smooth rendition. “The Party’s Over” is a reminder that, for better or worse, parties are fleeting things. And hey, just because you’ve declined this invitation doesn’t mean there won’t be other opportunities in the future—that is, if you wouldn’t rather just have a nice night in.