At the University of Michigan, there's a house where you rent rooms that have full karaoke and light machines. You pay $20/hour and it's BYOB. The last time I went to this place, I think I performed Kid Rock's entire Live Trucker album without looking at the lyric screen while people tossed me Busch Lights out of a 30-rack. It was awesome.
After doing my due diligence on this place, I discovered that these private karaoke rooms are actually a Korean pastime called "Noraebang," which translates to "singing room." Now, because I'm at that age where I'm a little too old to be hanging out on college campuses, I can't just be hitting up Ann Arbor Noraebangs every weekend after dancing with 21 year-old coeds at Rick's.
But lately, I have the itch. I crave the lights, the music, the 5 minutes of fame of that come with karaoke. The unfortunate truth is that I have to graduate from the mom-and-pop Noraebangs and spread my wings at your more typical post-grad karaoke establishments. These bars have it all: bigger crowds, louder music, a full bar where you actually have to order drinks. But to whom much is given, much is expected, which is why I have to put my nose to the grindstone and follow some tried and true principles of karaoke.
Choose A Classic
No one wants to hear motherfucking Ariana Grande for the millionth time this month. No one came to this bar to listen to what the kids are listenin' to these days. We came to rock our cocks off and laugh at each other while doing it.
I know the lyrics to endless classic songs because my parents crushed oldies when I was a young buck. Yeah, I may have thought the chorus of "Bad Moon On The Rise" said "Bathrooms On The Right", but that's close enough when it comes to karaoke.
We're talkin' "December, 1963 (Oh What A Night)", "I Want You Back", "Celebration". These'll get people movin' and allow you to crush the simple lyrics that you've had ingrained in your head since 1992.
I mean, I have a friend that did the Star Spangled Banner. Talk about a fucking classic.
Be Familiar With Your Song
Cue the most suspicious sentence I've ever written: when I was living in San Francisco, I frequented this Karaoke bar that had $2 Peronis. The bar only had one Bob Seger song — "Old Time Rock n Roll" — so obviously I did that every time. It was evident that the DJ never wanted me to do "Only God Knows Why" by Kid Rock because he thought it may bring the vibe down. So, I kept on the Seger Train and stuck with my personal classics.
If you're going into karaoke bars and/or Noraebangs ill-equipped, you're pretty much begging for the crowd to boo the fuck out of you (and justifiably so). You can't use the lyric screen as a crutch, you have to use it as an additional spotlight for when you sing the song that you know by heart.
I'm not going up there singing "We Didn't Start The Fire" and "It's The End Of The World" thinking I'm Freddie fucking Mercury. I'm a skinny-fat dude with great hair and a terrible voice, the last thing I need is to do is forget the lyrics and make people uncomfortable.
Don't Shout, Unless You're Singing "Shout"
This isn't Ozzfest. The more you scream into the microphone, the more people stop in their tracks and say, "What the hell is this guy doing?" Quickest way to make enemies at a bar crowded full of hammered people is to annoy them by trying to sing over the music itself.
Marcel The Shell recently said, "Life's a party, rock your body." I don't care if you get onstage and sound like Mariah Carey — if you're not seducing me with your cocktail of moves, I'm not buying what you're selling. No one ever left a Miley Cyrus show saying, "Wow, she sounded just like her album!" They left talking about the time she twerked all over her back-up dancers. Now, I'm not saying you have to twerk or be Dan Aykroyd in The Great Outdoors, but just show me you care. I've got my arsenal of white dad moves and I'm not afraid to use 'em.
Choose a Duet
If you're a mental midget who doesn't have the stones to get onstage alone, your only move is to do a duet. At the end of the day, doing a duet is better than being the nerdy square on the sidelines who visibly lacks any and all self-confidence. While singing Elton John and Kiki Dee's "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" is going to make you look pretty soft to the rest of the bar, it's better than looking uncomfortable in your own skin.
And when it's all said and done, I don't think you're going to regret getting that rapport going onstage with the little biscuit singing with you, if you're smellin' what I'm steppin' in.
As for me? I've been practicing Earth, Wind & Fire for the past week because even through it's the dog days of fall outside, I'll be dancin' in "September" on the stage.