The right track maketh the singer
By Jacey Gibb, Distribution Manager
Karaoke deserves its own section in the pantheon of weird hobbies that shouldn’t be fun, but for whatever reason, it is.
Unfortunately, some members of the general public are actually talented singers and make the rest of us karaoke-goers look bad. Thankfully, with over a decade of experience under my belt, I’ve devised a failproof six-point rubric for picking the perfect song to help trick people into thinking you’re good at karaoke.
First off, the song needs to be a crowd pleaser. Forget about picking a B-side track from an obscure musical; ain’t nobody got time for the B-sides at karaoke. We’re a self-obsessed species and we’re infinitely more inclined to be invested in songs we’re familiar with. Pick a track that people will recognize and might even know the words to, and the bar will be following along instead of shout-talking over you.
However, please don’t confuse crowd pleasers with karaoke clichés. There’s an unofficial roster of songs that generally make their way into every evening of karaoke, and while they’re still objectively enjoyable, everyone’s heard them dozens of times before. If you’re new to the pastime, do some Internet research to see what these clichés are and avoid them.
The perfect karaoke song also waxes nostalgia. Whether it was on the first cassette/CD/record you ever purchased or it reeks of awkward intermediate school dances, nostalgia will get people going. For whatever reason, nostalgia can even redeem an inherently terrible song. Take for example Linkin Park’s “In the End,”—it’s loud, it’s whiney and overdramatic, and yet people fucking love hearing it shout-sung at karaoke. Dust the mothballs off those far reaches of your brain and dig deep to discover some well-hidden past gems.
You should also pick a song with a shorter runtime. The folks watching don’t have the attention span for longer tracks, and realistically, you probably can’t sustain the kind of energy needed for those eight-minute-plus bangers. Stick to songs that are less than four minutes—or even shorter—to leave the audience feeling blitzed.
On the topic of feeling blitzed, please, please, please avoid sad, slow ballads. No one’s out for karaoke to hear people sing songs about death, and one sad track can kill the evening’s momentum and vibe. Save the upsettingly bummer songs for when you have headphones on like the rest of us already do.
My final nugget of karaoke wisdom is to always sing duets, even when the song isn’t made for two people. Having a co-karaoker gives you the freedom to stop and drink a beer mid-song, but more importantly they can help cover up for any lyrics you don’t actually know. Duets also mean you have someone to dance with and riff off of while onstage; they’re the Maverick to your Goose, or vice versa.
Karaoke can look like an intimidating beast when you’re on the outside looking in. One of the worst excuses I get from friends who haven’t sang karaoke is they’re not a good singer, but that’s kind of the point. We’re all messy, subparly talented humans, and if you follow some of the above pointers, you just might trick people into thinking otherwise.