Why Go to Therapy When you Can Go to Karaoke?
Is "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" one of the worst karaoke songs, or is it the worst karaoke song? -- The One to Walk in the Sun
Oy. I wouldn't call it the worst karaoke song; some people can sing it pretty darn well. But when eight ladies in a bachelorette party drunkenly clop up to the mic to perform it while waving their pink feather boas, yeah, I pretty much want to die.
Why do you do it? I mean, there are a million other things you could do with your time, like writing a novel or learning to juggle or, heck, going to a karaoke bar to actually sing? What makes being a host worthwhile? -- Once More, With Feeling
Who's to say I'm not writing a novel or juggling? I typically host karaoke only once a week (plus some special events and parties), so I fill the rest of my time with my regular profession, going to concerts and researching pageants that my cat may be able to enter and win.
But obviously karaoke has become quite important to me. I've always enjoyed singing, though my voice is merely adequate instead of spectacular. I was the six-year-old urchin who pushed her way into a solo during the Vacation Bible School recital. When Rock Band came out, I gladly kept the mic while my friends were content to flick buttons on plastic guitars. I regularly waste gasoline driving and singing for hours at a time, and my brain focuses more on making playlists and music videos than it does figuring out ways to keep my car out of impound. Basically, I want to turn my life into "Glee," but without the dumb Rachel Berry singing faces.
Karaoke is a way to channel all of that and more. As I've karaoked with friends over the years, I've leveled up in confidence, engagement, silliness and peace. That last one is important. For me, karaoke has turned into a form of therapy, a way to lyrically barf out the feelings that I can't simply talk about. In love? Performing Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine" hits the spot. Break up? Out comes "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morissette. General surliness? I've got a 90s grunge songlist a mile long.
And once I became a karaoke host, I realized that I could play a small part in contributing to others' emotions and well-being. I can read a room and decide if I need to raise the party level with One Direction (shudder) or indulge folks in their collective melancholy with some Smiths. I can help a newbie gain confidence and incrementally blossom until they rock Europe's "The Final Countdown" without fail or fear. I can comfort a regular with some selections from Peggy Lee, his late wife's favorite. And I can throw karaoke parties that bring ten former high school cliques together to sing "Party in the U.S.A."
It may sound ridiculous, but this is all powerful stuff for me. I'm a big believer in using The Force. It's just that sometimes The Force happens to be song instead of a way to blow up the Death Star.
As a Friday-night karaoke host at a South County bar, Allison Babka receives her share of drunken song dedications, occasionally makes people cry and even has been glorified by a singing psychic. She's considering adding "Call Me Maybe" to her personal karaoke repertoire, and she hates herself for it. Bug her with karaoke nonsense on Twitter at @ambabka, and use #rftkaraoke.