Last week, I made my annual State Fair pilgrimage. My partner and I went on a steamy hot Monday, so most of our time was spent indoors looking at 4-H Club dioramas. However, on our walk to and from the car, we were serenaded by some of the worst karaoke singing I’ve ever heard. The stage was strategically set up right near the gate, so everyone parked in that area would be forced to hear the nervous, monotonous mumbling of unconfident singers attempting ‘Uptown Funk.’
The experience inspired me to give you my tips and tricks to giving a standing ovation-worthy karaoke performance. As anyone who has ever had the misfortune of watching me up on the stage while I act out one of my signature jams can attest, I have zero vocal talent. Like, off-key singing along to The Ramones bad. I’d be the guy on one of those ‘America Loves Singing!’ competition TV shows who would be brought on just to get laughed at. BUT- I can almost always get an applause and a few high fives afterwards, so I must be doing something right.
With all the time I’ve spent watching and participating in karaoke in Oklahoma, I can safely give you some handy tips to show up at your local bar and slay the crowd:
Karaoke night should be something you plan on attending in advance. Unless you’re Kristin Chenoweth and can just belt it out, it’s a good idea to get yourself hyped up for the night. Figure out what songs you want to perform, and know them well. It’s okay to look at the monitor now and then for the words, like an early morning KOCO reporter. But nothing is more embarrassing than being like, “Oh, I know this song!” and then realizing you only know the hook, only to find yourself dying onstage for the rest.
Also, keep in mind that if the song you choose is longer than like 3 minutes, or has a 36-bar instrumental break for the guitar solo, you’ll feel pretty awkward standing up there.
Get In the Appropriate Beerzone
Most of us need a couple o’ drinks to loosen up before we willingly embarrass ourselves in front of a smoky room full of absolute strangers who are judging our bodies and our voices. The liquid courage can be a helpful boost, but also betray us quickly. Two (non 3.2%) beers is usually the sweet spot- just enough to drop our inhibitions, but not enough to where we’re slurring “Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti” during a Toto song.
Play To Your Audience
There are so many karaoke nights around the metro, and each one has a different crowd. If you choose a song that they love, they’ll be so busy singing along that they won’t even notice that you’ve got the vocal range of a horny bullfrog. Maybe you’ve got a younger, millenial crowd like at The Pump’s karaoke night. In that case, do some bullshit early 2000’s song that they remember from their dad playing. If you’re at a Celebrity Club-style dive with older regulars sipping their 7 & 7’s, pick out some bullshit 70’s or 80’s song that your dad played a lot.
Nobody wants to see your limp body hold the microphone too far away from your face as you look at your shoes and stumble through ‘Creep’ from Radiohead. Dance! Have fun! Unless you’re Luciano Pavarotti up there, give us something to look at while we’re sipping our Coors. This especially applies if you’re an awful singer like me. If you can’t deliver on the vocal front, give the crowd a show.
When In Doubt, Go Country
This kinda goes along with the ‘Play To Your Audience’ rule, but at nearly any karaoke bar you can win the crowd over by doing a country hit. ‘Friends In Low Places’ is almost as cliched around here as ‘Don’t Stop Believin’,’ but if you wanna make friends with everyone at the bar and possibly score yourself a few free drinks, it’s a go-to. This can also include hits by other stars like Alan Jackson, Shania Twain, or Lady Antebellum if you have a duet partner.
What are your favorite karaoke jams, and where do you like to sing? Let us know down below and maybe I’ll watch you drown onstage sometime!