Five Surefire Moves for Karaoke

Karaoke_Gorman.jpg
Illustration by Mike Gorman
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 rftkaraoke@gmail.com or hashtagging #rftkaraoke on Twitter.

I've never done karaoke before because I have a feeling that people dance around and pretend like they're rock stars while they're singing. I can't do that! HOW DO I DO THAT? -- All She Wants to Do Is Dance

Ok, calm down. By your use of all caps, this is obviously a really vexing issue for you. And why shouldn't it be? I mean, you're constantly bombarded with performers on AmericanVoiceTalentFactorIdol who belt out some Aretha while prancing around like nobody's business. It's natural to feel pressured to do the same and apprehensive when you know that's just not your style.

But you know what? IT WILL BE OK! The TV singers have been coached on "presence." Your favorite band members have spent years learning how to work a stage. Hell, even Steve Jobs practiced those Apple presentations so that the fanboys wouldn't pick him apart on teh interwebz. These people didn't pop out of the womb ready to rock, and neither did you. So long as you don't look like a stiff taxidermy experiment gone wrong, no one will care that you're not licking the microphone the way Steven Tyler does. Just believe in your song or in the silliness behind it, and it will show on your face and in your voice.

I can tell that's not enough for you, though, so I'm going to share the real secret: sometimes you have to fake it to make it. Yeah, sorrynotsorry for sort of turning this into a sex column yet again. But when you're trying something for the first time, when you're not quite feeling the rhythm or when you don't really want to be there, you can change your outcome by changing your attitude. Grandma always told me that even when the day is shit, I should put on lipstick because I'll feel a little more confident and people won't think I'm a pasty, surly wench -- and it's true. Sex and karaoke work from the same principle. So here are a few simple fake-it moves to get you into the mood:

  • Diva hand: Hold the microphone in one hand and let your other hand rise and fall as you sing inspirational lyrics. You also could try the finger-wag if you're singing a "boy/girlfriend done me wrong" tune.
  • Come hither: Sing something you're super-familiar with so that you can periodically look away from the screen and make eye contact with others. Wink, if you're up for it.
  • Don't look: Close your eyes and channel some attitude on those rock-out parts, or just do the whole thing with your peepers shut.
  • Jump around: When your song builds up to the super-spazzy fun part, you might as well jump -- even if it's just once.
  • Smile: Seriously, this is the easiest thing. If you're smiling while you're singing, you'll feel happier inside, plus you'll get the audience in your corner. So pick a song that makes you happy and go to town.

I can't really tell you what to do about straight-up dancing, as I'm pretty much Willard from "Footloose," but without the triumph of being Kevin Bacon's star student. Still, using these tips to fake your confidence should help make you comfortable while you build up your performance prowess. Who knows? You may even turn into Steven Tyler eventually.

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