What Am I Doing Here?
Where does one begin when delving into the murky hot spring that is the karaoke bar? Before you can answer this question, you must first ask this one:
Why am I here?
The variety of answers is far greater than you would expect.
Am I a casual observer wandering around with nothing to do because there’s NO WAY I’ll ever go “up there?”
Am I here because the birthday party invitation had this address?
Am I just looking to get drunk, and couldn’t care less what’s going on outside of my own three foot radius?
Am I an aspiring singer who wants to see just how hard it is to get in front of a bunch of strangers and pour my soul all over the cranberry juice-stained carpet in front of me?
..Or am I "the one?"
If you answered yes to that last option, you’re already on the right track, but you may be a little full of yourself (don’t worry, that’s a good thing). Believe it or not, the karaoke world needs you. Not because you’re a star, not because you have a huge following, not even because you may or may not be able to carry a tune. None of that matters if you have the one thing that every karaoke night needs; the ability to capture the crowd for four minutes.
There are two kinds of people, those who want to sing, and those who would rather take an arrow to the knee. If you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume you choose the non-arrow option. So let’s figure out who you are and what you can do to own the room and be the four-minute rock star you know you are.
The most important aspect to owning the room is knowing your limitations. You may be able to pull off a killer Journey track, but Michael Jackson eludes you. You may own the golden vocal range of Lady Gaga, but fall on your Poker Face with anything by Heart. It’s okay. Nobody can sing everything. This is why you need to find your range. Range isn’t even a good word. You need to pinpoint your individual tracks.
Finding your songs requires a lot of prep time. Singing in the car is crucial. Don’t EVER go up there completely “dry” (singing a song you’ve never sung ever). You need to at least know that you can hit 90% of the notes, and what order to sing them in. The karaoke crowd can be very judgmental, and you’re only guaranteed their attention for ten seconds after your first note, so either you nail it, or they’re all going to go back to talking amongst themselves about the local sports team. So make yourself an iPod folder or throw all the MP3’s onto a CD of all the songs you THINK you can sing, or at least would like to try. Then, listen to them in the car, over and over and over. Once you know the subtle nuances of the track like a dear friend, then, and only then, should you begin to sing along. And don’t sing it like a person in a car, sing it like you’re going to sing it on the stage. You’d be amazed what your voice can do when you push it up to 11.
Your next step is crucial. Sing along as always, but this time, turn the music down and go acapella. How do you sound now? Keep singing, but adjust the volume so you can hear your vocals and Justin Timberlake’s at the same time. Do we have a match? If so, you are on your way. Now let’s just make sure there’s no single note stuck in there that will throw you off. There are plenty of songs that I would personally love to do, but can’t because my voice just doesn’t go there. No shame in that, just pick another song. There are lots, you’ll be fine.
Now that you know you can sing the songs you want, you need to ask yourself a very important question; is this a song that will own the house? Let’s face it, everybody who gets behind a microphone wants to be noticed and appreciated, and the more mainstream and fun your song is, the bigger reaction you will get. The short list of obvious crowd winners has been shared a million times, and I’m sure that if you can sing anything by Bon Jovi or Journey, you don’t need to be reading this. But what else is out there that’s going to pop the crowd? For my money, you can’t beat the 80’s. Your typical karaoke bar crowd is going to love, or at least be familiar with something by Prince, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Madonna, etc. If you’re stuck searching for a song that you can own, start there, most of it is very easy and familiar. What you should NOT do (if you want the crowd on your side) is find some deep album cut by Steely Dan or whatever. That’s four minutes of everyone else in the bar counting the minutes until they’re up next.
Finding out who you are and what you can do is the first step to being the Four-Minute Rock Star. The rest is easy, but you don’t get to find that out until you get up there.