I love to sing. Y’all know that.
For us Asians, singing is in our blood. It doesn’t matter if you can carry a tune or not. If there’s music, by god, there will be singing.
Naturally, our brothers and sisters in Japan invented karaoke.
Karaoke is a community event–in a bar, in private karaoke room, or in your friend’s living room. You don’t have to be able to carry a tune to enjoy this singing activity with your friends and total strangers. Alcohol is not needed but it does make things more fun and less awkward for everyone. 😉
The key to having a great time at karaoke, aside from alcohol, is to let loose. We are ALL in this together–singers and audience. Everyone is not always on key. Everyone always messes up. Everyone is supporting each other because we all know nobody is perfect.
…unless you are Jewel in disguise as “Karen” singing Jewel’s songs at a karaoke bar.
Now, having said all that, as a karaoke veteran (with 100% confidence and about 25% skills), I have some suggestions for making your night out a lot more entertaining.
Keep It Short
If you sing “American Pie” or “November Rain,” expect to get shanked on the way to the bathroom. Never ever pick a song that goes on and on and on…
Have Three Go-To Songs
You don’t need a set list (ahem…see below), but you need at least three songs in your arsenal. One fast, one slow, and one a little off the beaten path.
Why? Just in case someone already picked your song–or songs. Always have ONE fail safe that is not the usual karaoke suspect, but not too far off the path. See the next tip as to why you don’t want to be obscure with your song choice.
And by all means, do run through your list once in a while. I mean, you already do when you sing your car/shower/around your house anyway! 🙂
Stay Upbeat & Recognizable
Fun, popular songs keep the party going. Songs people can join in with you are even better. There was a guy who covered “Sugar.” The whole bar was singing along with him. Even our two friends who started off a bit reluctant but eventually gained enough momentum for the bar to yell “(You gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” along with them. It was magical!
See? Everyone loves fun, well-known, even participatory, songs. Stay on the Top 40 chart of any era, and don’t stray too far.
Also, nobody wants a mood killer. Keep your serious, powerhouse ballads to the first hour of the evening. Once the party gets rolling, we don’t care if you sound exactly like Mariah Carey, we don’t want to hear “Hero” at a lively bar.
And finally, consider keeping your renditions of “Cats In the Cradle,” “Hallelujah,” or “Creep” for your drive/ride home. We’re here to have fun, not to commit mass suicide.
Look, if you came willingly to the karaoke space, it’s because deep down somewhere, you WANT to sing. Don’t deny it. I know you type.
So, embrace it. Own that space. Channel your artist and go for broke. Move. Dance. Head bang. Air guitar. All that dancing you’ve done in your car and in your living room? Time to bring it.
If you’re into it, we’re into it. So, be into it!
One of the best karaoke singing I’ve seen in my life was this girl who channeled Ducky from the movie “Pretty In Pink” as she sang “Try A Little Tenderness.” I mean, she was on her knees on the floor! I don’t even remember if how she sounded but I remember her commitment to the song.
Ham Up Ballads
Outside of the first hour, no ballads should be sung seriously. Remember the “no mood killer” tip?
But after that first hour, feel free to ham up the ballad! Be over dramatic. Goof off. Impersonate. Parody. We’re here to be entertained, and if your ballad is going to be over the top and crazy, we’re in!
I’ve seen two burly men belted “Total Eclipse of the Heart” with their best falsetto, and a couple reenacted “Dirty Dancing” while singing “(I’ve had) The Time of My Life.” The awkward failed attempt at the Lift was also hilarious. At least I think that was intentional…
So, if you must sing “Creep,” sing it as Kermit the Frog.
Do all of those tips work? My go-to three songs from all of my choices are “Call Me Maybe,” “Don’t Stop Me Now,” and “Wrecking Ball.” At my recent outing, I went full pop star kawaii with “Call Me Maybe.” I saw people in the bar dancing along and heard my friends laugh. Nailed it!
I put the OAK in karaoke, bitches.
Mindy Kaling covered karaoke etiquette in her book. She said, “It’s up to you to sing a kick-ass upbeat song that sets the mood for your friends to have fun, drink, and pick up girls and guys.”
So, do some prep work and get out there and be the rock star you’ve always believed you are!