Never Do "Freebird" or Frampton Comes Alive at Karaoke

Nov 7, 2012 at 1:06 pm
Never Do "Freebird" or Frampton Comes Alive at Karaoke
Illustration by Mike Gorman

Karaoke can be a dangerous endeavor. What can you sing that won't make friends shun you? How can you go balls-out during your next performance? Each week in "Ask a Karaoke Host," RFT Music writer and professional karaoke host Allison Babka answers your burning questions about maximizing your melodious mutterings and minimizing your friends' pain. Ask her stuff by emailing [email protected] or hashtagging #rftkaraoke on Twitter.

1970s music (my fave, along with '60s) has many live versions that are all-time classics. Would it be inappropriate to karaoke the live version of "Freebird" or anything from "Frampton Comes Alive?" -- Show Me the Way

Oh, pumpkin, that's never appropriate. If you tried to sing "Freebird" or anything at all by Mr. Talk Box at my bar, I'd turn down your volume faster than a hooker rushes to the nightstand for her cash.

Theoretically, though, performing the stage versions of songs is fine when you know what you're doing. Most karaoke hosts have at least a few tunes created from artists' significant performances, and singing these well-known ditties can endear you to an audience as you bring everybody back to a special place in history. Goodness knows that my inner '90s girl gets swoony when a guy writes on his arm while singing the unplugged version of Pearl Jam's "Porch."

But there are two major downsides to performing these live songs. First, live versions often are obscenely long. In general, if you choose a song that lasts more than four minutes or so, the audience (and your host) will turn on you. Second, you run the risk of seeming like a fanboy or douchebag when you try to mimic an idol's every iconic move, vocal contortion and lyric change. Unless you can really bring Freddie Mercury to life with crazy clapping and a molester 'stache on the Live Aid version of "Radio Ga Ga," I'd recommend sticking to the traditional stuff.

Is there a song you're guaranteed to hear once drinks kick in? -- Beer Time

It's a hazard in my job, but people often turn to predictable or high-note selections once they've had two hours' worth of booze. The following songs assault my ears almost every Friday about 45 minutes before close: "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Don't Stop Believin'," "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," "Piano Man," "Friends in Low Places" and "Me and Bobby McGee." Looks like my list of most-hated songs is growing, no?