It’s National Karaoke Week! Karaoke is one of my favorite pastimes and I fancy myself a bit of a karaoke expert. I even have a 2nd place trophy and a “Karaoke Champion” shirt I was given as a gift to prove it. That being said, I know that everybody doesn’t share my same passion and obsession for the art form. In an effort to encourage more people to take a chance and give karaoke a try this week, I thought I’d share some bits of karaoke wisdom that I’ve learned over the years.
10. If you are a girl, please stop singing Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-A-Lot.
Look, there was a time when we all enjoyed this song. It was a very good song and a very funny video! But the song has run its course, and it is no longer amusing, especially if you are a girl. I’m happy that you know all the words, but everyone knows all the words. Now, if they have “Posse on Broadway” or anything from the Swass album, by all means PLEASE sing that (and tell me where you are, because I want to come sing it too). But this karaoke week, once and for all, let’s officially retire this song from female rotation.
9. Pick songs that you know
More important than having a great stage presence is being able to get through an entire song. That’s why it’s important to try to recall the verses of the song before you get up on stage. Your smartphone can be a big help! Google the lyrics before you get on stage. See if they seem familiar to you and if you can hum the melody in your head. If you do happen to get up there and don’t remember the words, just make something up. Don’t be like this guy and try to blame the karaoke host:
8. Crowd favorites are musical courage
If you’re nervous and want to get your karaoke-feet wet, I suggest trying crowd favorites. I’m talking about: Sweet Caroline, anything by Journey, Livin’ on a Prayer, Total Eclipse of the Heart – the ones where even the coldest of hearts can’t bring themselves to NOT scream along with you. Even us karaoke regulars will yell “BUM BUM BUM” back to you during Sweet Caroline. Every. Single. Time.
7. But remember, just because it’s familiar doesn’t mean it’s easy.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T – everyone knows that song. But Aretha can WAIL. Those who are a bit on the shy side might want to stay away from strong singers their first couple times. When people are suspecting a heart-wrenching, bold yell and they get a head turned away from the mic, little peep – they might be a little disappointed. That being said – take this lesson lightly. This is one of the “rules” that is meant to be broken. Continue reading…
6. Karaoke is all about YOU.
Completely contrary to lesson #7 – sing whatever you want! If you’re really feeling Aretha but aren’t sure you can pull it off – TRY IT! One of the best places to try out new songs before you hit the big stage is at home (many cable companies offer karaoke on-demand options, or you can find videos online – your hairbrush makes a great home microphone!) or if you live in a city that offers private room karaoke, grab a couple of your friends, rent a room for a couple hours and sing your little hearts out.
5. You do not have to be a good singer. Seriously. It’s better if you’re not.
One of my personal karaoke pet peeves is when a dude or lady uses the karaoke stage as their own personal concert. I’m happy that you can sing well, but I don’t go to karaoke to hear people sing well. I’d much rather watch a comical, off-key performance of Superstition rather than someone who (usually falsely) thinks they are the next Stevie Wonder. Let your mantra be: Sing it loud and sing it poorly.
4. The more you do it, the less liquid courage you will need.
I used to need several adult beverages before I got up to sing. Now I need zero. I will sing anywhere, any time. The more you do it the less intimidating it gets. You’ll also create a nice little rotation for yourself. You’ll get used to singing songs and learn little ways to make them more fun each time you sing them. It will CONSUME YOU. Ok – maybe it won’t consume you, but it’s common to develop a love for karaoke pretty quickly.
3. Keep a list of the songs you want to sing
Sometimes it’s hard to think of a song you want to sing when you’ve got a giant book to look through. And once you’ve sang the same songs over and over again, you’ll probably get sick of them and want to incorporate some new ones. I use the “notes” feature on my iPhone to keep a list of songs that I want to learn & sing at karaoke. My current list is:
I also use the iPhone app Shazam (the app that listens to a song and tells you what the artist/title is) to capture songs that I hear on the radio and want to sing. Keep your songs organized and on-hand and you’ll never be left wondering “What should I sing?”
2. The cordless mic is your friend.
Remember that 2nd place trophy I mentioned? Well, first of all, I was robbed. I totally should have gotten first place. But despite the oversight, I still was able to walk away with an award. How, you ask? Because the karaoke place had a cordless mic which allowed me to run all over the bar and I even went OUTSIDE and sang on the street. The cordless mic has no cord for a reason, they WANT you to move around. Walk around the bar, demand the attention of the people who are just trying to quietly enjoy a drink. If they didn’t want you up in their grill, then why are they at karaoke? This logic has not failed me yet (surprisingly).
1. HAVE FUN!
Karaoke is a great way to unwind and a reminder to never take yourself too seriously. Some of my favorite memories have been at 1:30am in a dimly lit karaoke bar and I’ve also made some of my closest friends through the impenetrable bond of song. If you’re nervous, try to remember, it’s supposed to be fun! Just take a deep breath and give it a try! And most importantly, clap for EVERYONE that sings. It’s hard to get up there sometimes, so make sure to show your support for those that are brave enough – no matter how bad they are.
What are your favorite songs to sing or greatest karaoke stories? I want to hear from all of you – karaoke veterans and those currently too scared to give it a try. We’re all in this together! It’s NATIONAL KARAOKE WEEK, after all!