Karaoke may be the last pure art form left.
True, we could sit here and debate whether or not singing your own untrained vocals over a canned version of a hit song really qualifies as “art”, but it’s one of the few low-risk ventures for those folks out there looking for the thrill of performance.
It requires little (or no) money.
Anybody can do it.
You won’t feel like you’re risking your personal reputation by doing it (versus a stand-up comedy open mic, bugging your friends to see your band, or trying to get people to come to your poetry reading).
“But John,” you say, “I can’t sing!” Have no fear. Karaoke is one of the few art forms left where success in the medium isn’t heavily weighted by who has the best skill set going in. That being said, if you really and truly can’t carry a tune in any way shape or form, maybe you’d be better off backing someone up. STILL, with that caveat, here are the keys to making sure your time on the karaoke stage is successful.
1. Play against Expectations
I was recently at one of my favorite karaoke spots in the country, Ego’s Bar on Congress in Austin, TX. The reigning king of Ego’s is the honorable Reverend Barry Willie Black, an older bearded cowboy of a gentleman who wears all black leather, a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, and has arms covered in Texas-themed tattoos. A small sample of his usual selections: “OMG” by Black Eyed Peas, “Call me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen, and “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5. Two friends of mine, Murphey and Michael (both white dudes in their mid-20s), sang a flawless version of “It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy. A heavyset black woman sang “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi, and a clean-cut fratty looking guy sang a Fiona Apple song. If you go outside of your comfort zone and a little bit into comedy, the audience will be with you from the start, no matter how off-key you are.
2. Pick a song with good dynamics
This isn’t all that hard, since the most popular karaoke songs tend to follow this formula, but a song that uses the same level of intensity throughout is less likely to be a smash hit than one that alternates. Even if you’re not the most gifted singer in the world, audiences will be impressed that you had the balls to pick a song that has moments of OOMPH in them. The most common layout is a song that has a normal level verse, and then a belting chorus or bridge.
3. Commitment is Key
This really should have been number one. You have to stick to your guns, and like a fun, over-the-top movie, never laugh at yourself or give up or look nervous or believe that you are anything less than the star-studded rock god/goddess you know you are. It’s all about the attitude.