No, Playing Guitar While Singing 'Renegade' Isn't Karaoke

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No, Playing Guitar While Singing 'Renegade' Isn't 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.

Do you ever let anyone play guitar while they karaoke a song? -- Three Chords and the Truth

I've previously talked a little bit about what does and does not constitute "karaoke." Sorrynotsorry to tell you that strumming while singing (Like, literally. Not euphemistically, pervs.) doesn't really cut it. While there's some overlap, the audiences for karaoke and performance art often are different -- karaoke crooners might be miffed if an instrumental concert were forced upon them, and vice versa. In addition, some bars have specific types of permits. For example, one of my bars gets the green light for karaoke but doesn't have a permit for live music. If you want to go all-in on some John Mayer shit (Please don't, unless you're talking about Katy Perry's boobs), you'll have to take your talents to an open mic night.

Sometimes emotion forces me (or my bar) to make an exception, though. At last week's Valentine party, an older gentleman asked if he could play his saxophone to Michael Bolton's version of "When a Man Loves a Woman." He wanted to dedicate it to a couple at his big table that clearly was celebrating something important. After discerning that he was a professional musician who just happened to have his saxophone in his car from a previous engagement that evening (instead of someone who purposely brought his horn to the bar), I told him I'd allow the sax solo as long as he understood that it would be for one song only and would be among the first three songs of the evening. I queued up the formerly-mulleted Bolton, and the gentleman went to town, delighting the entire audience and endearing himself further to his friends. Could we have gotten into trouble for that? Yeah. But those three minutes of spontaneity and warm fuzzes were totally worth it.

Has anyone been "discovered" from a karaoke session? -- I Love L.A.

Ha. Ha ha ha ha ha. You've been watching "American Idol" a little too much, haven't you?

Label bigwigs don't often frequent the bars and events where I host karaoke. A stray "American Idol" top-25 contestant occasionally shows up, but no one who can send you on your way to stardom. Being discovered at a bar, on the street or in the restroom might happen in Los Angeles or New York City, but in a tiny joint in south St. Louis County? Not so much.

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