02 June 2008

Rules to Sing By

Late-ish last night I got back from spending the weekend at the chalet (or as Dr. Awesome calls it, the "shallot") with Jane. Spending time with Jane always convinces me that I want to sing karaoke. This is because Jane has a deep political and philosophical fondness for karaoke since it is, according to her, the most democratic of all leisure activities. (Everyone gets a moment on the stage, other singers understand that it is important to be a good audience, it is less about talent and more about heart, so on and so on.)

The problem is that I'm not built right for karaoke. Sadly, I do care about sounding decent. I am not a "performer," so I don't have the option of pleasing a crowd by being purely entertaining. (Whatever that means. For instance, I can't jump on a table and belt out "Sweet Caroline" like Andy Z.) As a result, I'm really uptight about picking the right song, and then I get honestly nervous until I get called. So, I'm not really much fun.

This is completely exacerbated by the fact that (and try to hold in your surprise about this one, readers) I am sort of a control freak, so I can't get drunk as a way to enjoy the karaoke experience and calm the nerves. In fact, I tend to only engage in karaoke when completely sober.

Let's be honest, people, I'm just not that much fun.

But I do (and I say this very, very self-consciously) love to sing. So I can't NOT sing karaoke, if it is offered to me.

As a result, I have developed a set of strict rules for choosing karaoke songs for myself. Here, for the first time in print (well, not print, but you know what I mean) are:

Kristin's Rules for Karaoke Song Selection:

1. The song must be under 4 minutes. No one wants me up there for the whole of "Carry on Wayward Son" or the long version of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" or anything by Meat Loaf. It's too long. I don't need that much stage time.

2. The song must not have an intro, outro or bridge that lasts more than about 4 measures. I get nervous. So I don't want time to wonder what to do with myself (and particularly my hands) while I am up there. I want it to be all singing, all the time, if possible. You do too. No one wants to watch me wring my hands onstage during a guitar solo.

3. The song must be in my range. No struggling to make high or low notes. That's a bad scene.

4. The song must not have any potentially embarrassing lyrics. Hey, I know that my brother once won a karaoke contest by doing a ripping version of the Divinyls' "I Touch Myself", but I couldn't get through it in front of strangers. Or people I know. I just couldn't get through it. I am a lady, after all.

5. No power ballads. This one breaks my heart, because no one wants to bust out some "Angel" or "What About Love" or (the king of all power ballads) "Still Lovin' You" as I do. But power ballads usually break 3 or 4 out of the other criteria, and so I have had to ban them as a class. These are songs that, sadly, are relegated to my car.

6. The song must have lyrics that are already completely known to me. I'm going to watch the words the whole time that I'm singing, but it isn't because I don't already know them. It is because I don't want to make eye contact with anyone watching me. I don't want to screw up, and the best way not to screw up is to already know the words.

These are some songs that meet all the criteria above, and that I have thus approved for possible karaoke choices: "Manic Monday", "Johnny Angel", "Teenager in Love" (which becomes somewhat more inappropriate the older I get), "Love is all Around", and, occasionally, "Ramblin' Man". I have also recently come around to thinking that I should add the Violent Femmes song "American Music"--there are lots of fun uh-uh-ohs in that one . . .


fsk said...

I used to have a problem singing karaoke too. i would sit and watch as everyone else had fun, but i could do nothing about it. drunk or sober, it horrified me to think of getting up there. i too am no entertainer.
but i discovered what i think may not be a good solution for you, but has been magic for me: private group rooms. i now sing as much if not more than anyone. and badly. very, very badly. but it's ok because there are no strangers, you don't even have to get up in front of people, and your friends will even sing along. it is fun enough to make me act drunk (uninhibited) without actually being so.

qwanty said...

Ramblin' Man? I had no idea.

I've never sang karaoke. I've had lots (and lots and lots) of karaoke fantasies, though. Wow, that's embarrassing.

In addition to wringing your hands during a guitar solo, do you also pull your turtleneck up over your mouth? I bet you do.

KRD said...

F: I've never done that--although you are not the only person I know who sings the praises of the individual karaoke room. We should do that TOGETHER sometime!

Q: I'm not at all surprised that you have karaoke fantasies. And although you have never done that--you have, on occasion, done the Nicole Kidman dance from To Die For, which is actually much cooler than karaoke.

And I DO still pull my turtlenecks over my mouth, although I own far, far fewer turtlenecks than I used to--thanks to my current environs.