Tuned In


The overriding principle in karaoke is, “If you can’t be good, be loud.”  Which is a nice way of saying if you’re going to suck, at least own it.  Don’t tip-toe up to the edge of the cliff; throw yourself off the damn thing.  Unless you did something insane like choosing “American Pie,” it’ll all be over in about three minutes or so, and you can get back to your drinking and making fun of the other singers who are no doubt worse than you are.  Until you decide you’re better than you think are and get up and try it again.

See, karaoke is no fun when the singers are actually good.  That’s like a gold medal sprinter showing up at the Special Olympics:  yeah, we get it, you’re good, but did you really have to prove it against this level of competition? Oh, we’ll clap and cheer, but inside we’re all thinking, “Wow, thanks for blowing the curve, Pavarotti.”

It also helps if the song isn’t very good.  Nobody wants to hear some beloved classic ruined by a guy on the fourth night of a five-day business conference who just found out the hotel lounge’s happy hour runs ’til midnight.  Save “Yesterday” and “Thunder Road” for the car stereo when no one’s paying attention.  This is the time for “Kung Fu Fighting” and bad Old Elvis songs, where you can parlay how untalented you are into some kind of ironic commentary on the quality of what it is you’re singing.

You’ll also need to carefully monitor your alcohol intake.  There’s a sweet spot that exists a few drinks in where you’re just about perfect.  Your inhibitions are lowered enough to get on stage and possibly make a fool of yourself, but you still retain the mental faculties to read the lyrics off the screen.  It also helps relax your muscles, so you actually sing a little better.  Not enough to fool anyone, or let you reach the high notes in “Take On Me,” but it’ll do.

I’m giving out this useful information because last night I did karaoke for the first time in at least five years, in a smoky little dive bar that helpfully advised us that motorcycle club colors were not allowed.  Good thing I left the leathers at home.  I busted out my old stand-by, “Mack the Knife,” a song I can do passably well.  I usually sing better when I can do it in some kind of character, so I get all lounge singer and just ooze smarm for a few minutes. Good enough to be enjoyable, just ragged enough not to be a show-off.  I just wish I enjoyed hard liquor more, because singing that song with a tumbler of scotch in my hand would be downright perfect.

But not too perfect.  That’s not karaoke.

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