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Monday, November 26, 2012

We Could All Learn Something From the Biker Tearfully Singing "Danny Boy" At Karaoke

Posted By on Mon, Nov 26, 2012 at 11:04 AM

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I'm sure that this varies among different types of karaoke establishments, but are there any best practices surrounding the popularity of the songs that you pick to sing? In other words, who is karaoke for: the singer or the audience? -- Sell Out

First, karaoke is for you, the singer. It's therapy for some of us and a realization of rock star dreams for others. If you're not having fun and feeling a high from the song vomit or from the attention, the rest won't matter.

Secondly, karaoke is for the audience. People at the bar -- some singers, some not -- want to be entertained, and like it or not, you're part of the pleasure crew. Does this mean you have to give everybody lyrical happy endings? No, but it does mean that you should consider how people want to be massaged.

Like I've written before, nothing kills a karaoke night like an out-of-place song. If the audience has been eating up Justin Timberlake songs all night, they probably will give you the stinkeye if you cry through "Nothing Compares 2 U." So yeah, don't do that.

As for the popularity of the songs themselves, I advise performing stuff that people can mumble along to. I'm not talking about big bar singalongs like "Piano Man," but rather straight-up radio singles. If others are adding their voices to yours because they, too, have heard Katy Perry sing "Firework" during drive time, you'll get a boost of self esteem as well as some instant cred. Once you level up in the audience's eyes (could take a single song, could take a month), then you can tell them "Hey, check this forgotten tune out" without much fear of figurative tomatoes being thrown.

What do you think the average karaoke-goer appreciates more: someone singing in his or her own voice, or in the voice of the tune's original signer? I sing Digital Underground's "Humpty Dance," and it seems to be a hit when I sing it in my own voice, but I also can do a pretty solid impression of Shock G. What should I do? -- Sing Loud, Sing Proud

Boy, it's really "Know your audience" day around here, isn't it?

Like most things, the answer is this: it depends.

Do other people at your favorite karaoke joint sing in their own voices? When someone does try to channel Celine Dion, are they giving a full-out, face-contorting performance, or are they merely sprinkling her weird pronunciations throughout the song? Figure out what seems to be the standard and go with that.

That's not to say you shouldn't do your own thing -- lord knows that the audience needs some variety, you need some extra creative outlets and I need an Advil. What I'm more saying is that you should take note of your audience and your singing brethren before immersing yourself into something that falls flat. Performing completely as somebody else can be tricky, as I've mentioned. Do the whole song that way, and the schtick gets old. Do only a bit, and you force the crowd to look at you with "WTF?" eyes. There's a balance in there somewhere, but hell if I know how to tell you to achieve it.

In the end, just make yourself happy without making the audience hate you. Find your own glowy ball of Jedi light.

As a Friday-night karaoke host at a South County bar, Allison Babka receives her share of drunken song dedications, occasionally makes people cry and even has been glorified by a singing psychic. She's considering adding "Call Me Maybe" to her personal karaoke repertoire, and she hates herself for it. Bug her with karaoke nonsense on Twitter at @ambabka, and use #rftkaraoke.


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