Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My Love For Karaoke Bars

Typically I'm not the type of person who loves the spotlight.

No that's a lie. I'm sorry, I didn't take my "truth pill" this morning. I've been running around town telling everyone I'm Andrew Jackson's great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson. It's been a real mess.

Anyway, there's an amazing facet of American life that I think is all too often shadowed, if not outright ridiculed: The Karaoke Bar.

I know what you're thinking reader "haha, yeah ok, good one, let's all get drunk and yell into microphones all night. I got the first round of scorpion bowls!" No. No you don't and shut up while I tell you why you're wrong and I'm right.

Karaoke is a sport of shameless self promotion and exploitation. Like all sports it takes guts to get out in front of a crowd of people and give it all you got for their adoration and respect. And just like any other sport, if you blow it big, the crowd won't hesitate to let you know from the peanut gallery.

You wipe the sweat out of your eyes, the track (which, because of copyright issues, is always played in an different key) and you glance at the words as they scrawl across the little monitor in front of you. You hesitate, your stomach clenches, the sudden soberness of the situation strikes you due to the fact that this is a song you've selected because of your knowledge of the words- yet can't remember a damn lyric. I mean, you sing it almost everyday in the car on your way to work; this all seemed like such a good idea twenty minutes ago when you signed up. Now you're looking down the barrel of scorn and shame.

"Dontcha wish your girlfriend was hot like me..." comes a voice similar to yours from your own mouth, much to your own shock.

What also makes Karaoke like a sport is the fact that it's televised for our collective pleasure. "American Idol" is in it's 8th (or close to?) generation, and if anyone tells you that "American Idol" and the Karaoke night down at your local pub are different, you tell them to shut the fuck up, because they aren't. In fact, where else can you go to watch assholes screech out warble-y versions of your favorite tunes? Half the fun of both "American Idol" and Karaoke night is seeing how awful the people are. No one gives a shit for the mediocre masses that make up the bulk of both venues, because they're nameless, faceless entities that leave no impression. But we always remember the winners and the losers.

Who was that semi-retarded Chinaman from a few years ago? That motherfucker put out a Christmas album- I shit you not. And we all remember Kelly Clarkson, The fat black guy, that chick who looks and sounds like Lianne Rhymes, and the other chick who apparently couldn't read, if I remember correctly.

It's the same at Karaoke night; you watch a few people go through who have the bare minimum of talent and it's boring. But everyone once in a while you get someone who's really good, who maybe sings in your local church's choir or took lessons when they were in high school. And if you're really lucky, you get some inebriated fool who thinks he can harmonize to "Three Times a Lady." He has a pack of smokes rolled into his Ted Nugent' Live in '95'-concert t shirt, his jeans are tar stained, his lungs are beer stained, and he lets loose a salvo of off-tune notes from his beer belly, while showering the mic with gobs of partially digested food and spittle.

All of that, for the price of maybe two beers? It's almost as if I'm ripping off the bar.

My favorite song to sing at the bar? I'm glad you asked. If I could sing at all, it'd be Cory Heart's "Sunglasses at Night," but that's a little too emo-ish. I think songs at Karaoke night need to be fan favorites that everyone knows and can sing along with. The last thing you should do is sing a song from some indie-label, underground hipster band no one but you and your shitty friends have heard of. You can never go wrong with a classic rock selection, just make sure it's between two and three minutes, because much longer than that and you'll probably bore/drive the crowd into a riot with your awful rendition.

Another Do: Feel free to get into the crowd and walk around, sing to people sitting at tables if the mic cable stretches that far. This not only get the crowd more into your performance, but it also shows that you know the words and aren't anchored down by the monitor.

Don't: Drink and sing. Like drinking and driving, you're only going to manage to spill your drink all over yourself, and when holding a live mic, that can be bad for every one.

Don't: Do an encore. One song per night is enough.

Do: Take requests. See what people want to hear, feel out the crowd. As demonstrated in the 1980 film "The Blues Brothers" when the Band played a gig at some shit-kicker joint out in the wilderness, they nearly got killed by playing "negro music." Quickly, Jake and Elwood changed their sound to a more honky-tonk flavor for their audience. So take heed when selecting a song to perform, unless you like the idea of being dragged out into the woods chained to the back of a pick-up truck, and brutally raped by moonlight.

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