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Karaoke is seriously okay / by Chris Lee

Karaoke is a great opportunity to get boozy with a few friends and read words off a screen. What’s more summer than that? Nothing, ever. Also, did you know that Do-Re-Mi is open til 3AM if the owner falls asleep? And that Karaoke means 'empty orchestra' in Japanese? That’s poetic as fvck. Here are a few tips to keep you on track.


Karaoke combines the art of song with the sexual chemistry of human beings yelling things at each other. It’s for this reason that DUETS are the key to your karaoke success. Before you start, make sure to communicate your vocal preferences to your partner through unflinching eye contact. They’ll know what you mean.

When choosing a duet to perform, make sure to pick a song with distinct vocal parts. A good example is 'With a Little Help From Your Friends.' You’ve got Joe Crocker’s drunken showboating and the falsetto coo-coos of his back-ups. It's the perfect rallying cry for your karaoke experience. And it's the theme song from The Wonder Years. Rad.

A duet can also help you connect with a crush. Karaoke reveals what you feel in your heart through your face and mouth. I once saw two bros sing 'Careless Whisper' to each other in a sports bar. Now they’re gay married and own a bed and breakfast in PTown. One of them was Dan Savage, or became Dan Savage? That's the power of karaoke.


Who says 'Wuthering Heights' is out of your vocal range? I do, and it is. But your natural human limits shouldn’t stop you from flail-singing in a red (or white) dress. Channel your inner Kate Bush and go for those high notes. If your voice cracks, so be it. Just make sure to carry yourself with poise and determination, and the karaoke spirits will find favor in your offering. Chalk it up to an outpouring of emotion, and try to force some tears if you can. You’re out of tune because you’re sad. You’re sad because you’re Cathie. You’re pining at Heathcliff’s window. So co-o-o-oooold.


Karaoke is about making connections. Choosing a song shouldn’t have to be a long process, but the first consideration should always be how you (yes, you) connect to your song choice. Journey is alright. It’s also really standard. Would you order white bread on a first date? No, you would order multigrain, because it’s higher in fiber and nutritional value. Babes dig fiber, so find your multigrain.

It’s important to choose songs that speak to your performance style and personal history. Maybe you were big into Avril Lavigne as a gothy tweenster. Maybe you have the full Dashboard Confessional discography in a closet somewhere [er, not me, promise]. If you believe in your song choice, others will believe in you. That said, embarrassing songs will probably hit better than cool songs. Because…


You will be tempted to choose the hippest of song choices. Resist this temptation! As great as it would be to perform all Smiths’ songs, do we really need to hear another slick take on 'This Charming Man'? No, we don’t. Try Will Smith. Or Will-ow Smith. These are better Smiths choices. Did you know Do-Re-Mi has the Fresh Prince theme song? Thank me later. And quit being the asshole who keeps doing The Strokes. There’s no shame in karaoke. Except the shame of not being shameless enough.


A cardinal rule of karaoke is to never bail from a song choice. Can you really do justice to Busta Rhymes? Probably not. But you made yr bed, now SING in it.

This also applies to vocal delivery. Don’t bother with Janis Joplin if you can’t sell that rasp. Don’t Alanis if you can’t sing Alanis-ly. DO pick a Creed song if you’re game to hold your arms wide open for the whole track.

If you're really dying out there, use one of your lifelines to phone a friend. Which brings us to this next thing:


You’re thirty seconds into ‘Push It” & you’ve lost the beat. Where did the beat go? It’s cool, you’re drunk. It's cool, they're drunk.

Salt had Pepa to back her up, and Spinderella to lay down the beats. Gladys Knight had the Pips, whatever those are. Stand united like X-men in X2: X-Men United. If you falter, your mutant buds will be there to support you. Get back on that song-horse. Karaoke is all about these kinds of clichés—like a trust fall, but instead of fighting gravity with your body you’re fighting music with your voice.

Pass off the mic if someone’s feeling a song harder than you are. You can still do the ooh-ahhs, and they’ll appreciate you for your generosity. But never, ever let someone take the mic from you without your consent. That demonstrates a real lack of character, and a failure of consensus decision-making. Have them do LFO’s ‘Summer Girls’ on repeat until they’ve learned their lesson.


A ballad is a tricky thing. It can also be the best thing. Don’t be afraid to slow it down, even if you have to follow some Vengaboys. It’s your prerogative to bum out the room with your feelings. As a karaoke wizard, you have the power to tap into the full range of human emotions: sadness, hunger, buttrock. With mic in hand you are a conductor of weird vibez. Had a shitty week? Heartbreak? Manic Monday? This is your time to unload. Treat karaoke like your personal therapy session, and you will be rewarded with the newfound respect and uncomfortable looks of your friends. Success.


Maybe you’re tired of the same ole schtick. An unusual song choice can be a hit. Speak another language? Don’t speak another language? Try it. Can you do a pitch perfect Edith Piaf? You can’t, but a decent rendition of a foreign language track could earn you serious cred with the karaoke elite, and help you brush up on that French you once learned to impress that boy in your cinema class (GOOD RIDDANCE).

Demonstrating versatility is also a huge crowd pleaser. TLC’s Waterfalls is a great example of an excellent jam that also has a killer rap hook. If you can nail those last verses without the help of the on-screen lyrics, you’ll do Left-Eye proud [R.I.P.]. Bonus points for knowing the rap version of No Scrubs.


Karaoke is seriously okay.

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