What Songs will Make My Karaoke DJ Hate Me?
Karaoke can be a dangerous endeavor. What can you sing that won't make friends shun you? How can you go balls-out during your next performance? Each week in Ask a Karaoke Host, RFT Music writer and professional karaoke host Allison Babka answers your burning questions about maximizing your melodious mutterings and minimizing your friends' pain. Ask her stuff by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or hashtagging #rftkaraoke on Twitter.
Illustration by Mike Gorman
Don't judge, but I've never done karaoke. I'm up for it, but what are the top five newbie mistakes and how can I dodge them?
--The 40-Year-Old Karaoke Virgin
I'm glad you asked, and not just because I like making lists and telling people what to do. You're not alone in your karaoke virginity; people wonder all the time about overcoming the fear of that first solo performance. I've got a few tips that should help you save face until you feel confident enough to do whatever you damn well please.
1. Don't go without pals. And I'm not talking about that douche bag Johnny who thinks his sarcasm is an endearing way to toughen people up. Go with friends who are supportive, who you'll hear clapping the loudest as you finish up your song. Their confidence and pride in you will be infectious. Besides, if you freak out while singing, you can always beg a friend (or the DJ) to come up and help.
2. Don't reach for the heavens. Look, I know you'll want to sing something that will knock everyone's socks off, but don't stray too far from what's within your vocal range and what you're familiar with. You'll want to feel as comfortable as possible your first time out, and it's hard to do that if you're attempting a falsetto that you don't actually have.
3. Don't forget to practice. Pre-karaoke, make a list of songs you love and know inside-out. Practice those suckers every chance you get, because those will become your go-to selections. Sometimes choosing a tune at the bar can be overwhelming to newbies (and veterans, too). Having a list you're confident about will take a bit of that edge away.
4. Don't be a downer. I implore you to pay attention to your audience. If most of the barflies are singing festive pop, choose something from your list that's in the same vein. It's hard enough to sing alone for the first time; you won't want to compound that with people shooting you dirty looks or going outside for a smoke because you ruined the mood with "A Long December." Bonus: you'll naturally smile and relax more if you sing something fun.
5. Don't be a jerk. Don't get sloshed and do obscene things with the microphone. Don't crowd the DJ or ask for her number. Don't chat at your table louder than someone is singing. Don't forget to clap for everyone, even that one girl who unwisely performs "My Heart Will Go On." But most of all, don't worry; someone somewhere sings worse than you do.