Karaoke is usually a pretty loose affair. You go, you drink, you pick some absurd song from a collection of titles that’s woefully thin, you end up doing the same song over and over, you become a hack, nobody wants to go hear the same people sing the same songs poorly anymore, and eventually you quit going to karaoke.
Despite the informality of the occasion, karaoke actually has a fairly serious etiquette. It’s more complex than common sense stuff, like “Kid Rock probably sucks even more as a karaoke performance,” but with a bit of forethought and attention, we can make the karaoke bar fun for everyone except the worst of all human beings. I mean assholes, not the Carolina Panthers.
1) No Pink Floyd
Christ, talk about turgid, boring and long. If you’re trying to put an insomniac to sleep, sing him some Pink Floyd by way of lullabies. If you’re trying to rock a bunch of drunks, only a retard would pick Pink Floyd, especially without an accompanying laser show (if you know what I mean, and some of you do).
2) Know Your Range
It’s not hard to sing. It’s hard to sing really well. Most people can carry a tune in a certain range, so find that and stick to it. Here’s a riddle: What’s terrible? The answer is “Some dude singing ‘Roxanne’ by the Police and thinking it’s all hilarious because he’s shrieking the ‘Roxanne!’ part all off-key. That’s not hilarious. That just fucking sucks.”
3) Rock Hard
Pick an upbeat song — one the crowd knows — and give it some motherfucking soul, fool. Karakoe is best when everyone is drunk and rowdy, otherwise it’s just a bunch of sots pretending they’re rock stars. No one cares if you sing well. They care if you entertain. Jump around, but not like an idiot. Sing your heart out, but don’t scream. Act out the lyrics, but don’t be all choreographed. There’s a fine but distinct difference between a guy rocking karaoke and some retard acting like a musically stunted Jim Carrey.
4) No Meat Loaf
That dude never made a single song of less than 214 minutes’ length. Even if it’s that goddamn “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” duet, skip it. It’ll be much better to see you and some honey-bunny singing “Summer Nights” or “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease. Yeah, Grease is ass, but it’s way less hellish than Meat Lumps and all its songs conclude in one quarter of the time.
5) White People Shouldn’t Karaoke Rap
Sorry, honkies, but it’s true. If you’re bad, the “irony” of some spindly little cracker stumbling through Snoop will cease to be amusing 10 seconds into the song (see below). If you’re good, it doesn’t matter — you’ll just be seen as a no-account Eminem wannabe. The two exceptions here are Eminem and Vanilla Ice. Eminem has way better diction, pacing and breath control than you, but if that’s not true, you’re in the clear. On the other hand, “Ice, Ice Baby” is so stupid it Rocks Hard (q.v.), so jump in with both feet.
6) No R&B. Ever.
Hey, Smooth Operator, why are you in a karaoke bar instead of getting a little “quiet storm” action if you’re such a sultry undercova lova? Also, this shit’s too downtempo, and you’ll just be pissing on everyone’s good time with some bullshit slow jam. Note: You may break this rule if you are a black guy. Sorry, black women, but y’all have to stick to disco (or Aretha Franklin) if you’re going to do “black music,” especially if you’re fat.
7) Being Hot Can Work Against You
It is so very sad to see a smoking hot girl stone cold wrecking some song. Look at cutie-pie on the left here. If you came into the bar and she was up there, not moving much, timidly plugging her way through some mousy Norah Jones song, you would cry. You’d think, “God is a cruel fellow, to make such a rad creature but give her no soul.” On the other hand, if you and your creepy friends were all huddled around the songbook and some fucking Pat Benatar blasted through the speakers and sweet thing started howling about “You better make sure you put me in my place!” when you looked up your brain and guts (particularly your heart) would explode 95 percent of the time. The point is, if you are hot, the onus is on you to Rock even Harder than normal, earthly people. If you fail, your beauty will be as a flawed diamond, suitable only for tipping drills.
8) Irony Is Danger (for You)
If your karaoke joint is filled with douchebag college students, you can get away with irony. Har har har — isn’t it funny how punk-rock you is singing the Backstreet Boys? No, and since it’s going to go on for four more minutes, it’s only going to get more not-funny when I have to slug down two more beers just to get to that point. When I get drunk, I get fighty, and this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve thrown a bottle in a karaoke bar. No one seems a better target than the ass-goblin smitten with his own cleverness.
9) Ballads, Especially Power Ballads, Must Be Treated With Care
They’re slow, yeah — they’re ballads, dumbass — but sometimes you need to break it down. All the dudes there Rocking Hard get the ladies all fired up, but the dude who drops bombs on “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”* Rocks way Harder, but in an understated way. On the other hand, the dude who goes up there and mauls Garth Brooks’ “The Dance” is just bringing everyone down, not breaking it down. Don’t get me wrong, Garth Brooks can rule the joint (“Friends in Low Places” is an even better drink-along song than Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”), but every song has its place, and most of them are Not Here. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is a magnificent song, but if you don’t work it, it’s going to be tedious up there, with you slowly plodding through, grasping at imaginary doves to heighten the drama. “Free Bird”? Forget it. Not even shitty-ironic-funny, like some stupid cheeser who shouts out “Play ‘Free Bird’!” at some non-Skynyrd concert.**
10) On the Matter of Rick Astley
Shit, man, if some dude can bring down the house with Rick Astley, I will buy him 100 drinks. He won’t need it, though, because all the ladies will have swooned and will be taking his number to join him when he heads home. Tearing it up with George Michael earns you 50 drinks, as well.
* Me. If you ever sing my song again, Shane, it’ll end with you calling 911.
** Some shitbag did this at a Moby concert I attended a few years ago. Moby complied, playing all fucking 6,000 minutes of “Free Bird.” And then he played “The End” by the Doors. When I woke up, eight weeks later, the “joke” was still taking place. And I missed Hybrid opening, too.