On Karaoke Ambitions

I’m breaking two self imposed rules here: 1) don’t write about music and 2) don’t write about something with no actual relevance beyond self indulgence. But hey, you know what? My blahg. My rules. And my breaking them. Or something.


I’ve been thinking about the art of karaoke a lot lately, probably because I’ve been playing copious amounts of Just Dance 3 and the visuals, with their scrolling lyrics and step-by-step (move-by-move?) instructions, are vaguely karaoke-like in nature. (Also, I’m working on a fic that heavily involves karaoke–yes, I write fan fiction, and no, I won’t tell you my pen name.) The one time I did karaoke, it was at a dive bar in Columbus, Ohio. We siblings and our significant others were visiting our brother to celebrate my nephew’s first birthday, so naturally, the night before his party, we went to this dark, dank place that didn’t have taps and didn’t take credit cards. One of my brothers took on House of Pain’s “Jump Around” without looking at the monitor, a stranger did a shockingly sincere version of “One Jump Ahead” from the Disney animated classic Aladdin, and Scott channeled Real McCoy with his flawless rendition of “Run Away.”

Personally, I was leery of the idea. I searched through the songbook for a Beatles song, any that clocked in at less than two and a half minutes, settling on “Eight Days a Week.” When my (fake) name came up, I didn’t exactly rock the mic like a vandal, but I did a decent job, not staring at my feet the whole time, but playing with the microphone cord and over-emphasizing the “luh-UH-uh-UH-ove you” as Lennon and McCartney intended. I’ve wanted to give karaoke another go ever since; however, this was well over three years ago, and I simply haven’t.

Now, I live in a city where karaoke machines are abundant and I might even be able to drag some friends along for a night of faux stardom on a slightly elevated platform in a crowded room with sticky floors and beers on tap. So here’s a list (whoa there!) of the songs I wouldn’t mind giving a go.

Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg when he was still Snoop Dogg, “California Girls.” I unironically love a number of Katy Perry songs, and while this is certainly not my favorite, it has the highest novelty factor. Sure, the Kanye-tinged version of “E.T.” is nearly as absurd, but something about Snoop’s rap in “California Girls” is so egregiously out of place. And I conveniently know every word, because that’s just the kind of girl I am, and I love the idea of switching from Katy’s endearing squeak to Snoop’s casual misogyny and back again.

Also, Katy Perry is probably a misogynist, too. And I’m probably OK with that.

Bob Dylan, “Like a Rolling Stone.” I used to be a halfway decent singer, and I can still stay on pitch and carry a tune, but having not belonged to a choir in over a decade, my pipes have suffered. However, I can pull off a decent impression of Dylan, because he’s not a particularly good singer. (Surprising, I know.) Also, this is a short song with no lengthy musical interludes, which is always a plus.

Cat Stevens, “The First Cut is the Deepest.” I wouldn’t mind taking on any number of Cat Stevens songs. “The Wind” is extremely short and incredibly beautiful, “On the Road to Find Out” is a delight to sing along with, and “Wild World” has all those “La la la” bits to contend with. But “The First Cut is the Deepest” has the perfect combination of “Baby, I knows” and awkward pitch changes–perfect, because no one’s going to be able to tell if you mess up, and isn’t that what’s really important here?

Cake, “Never There.” This was my favorite song when I was 11 years old, because of course it was. I still love it. No one but John McCrea can put so much emotion into talk-singing. I wouldn’t be able to do the same, but I would be really good at shouting “Hey!”

Kanye West, “The New Workout Plan.” I feel like the spoken word portions would be particularly impressive. Also, the “Surprise! I know all the words to a number of Kanye West songs, and this one is the funniest!” factor.

The Beatles, “Here Comes the Sun.” This is my favorite song to sing in Beatles Rock Band, and Beatles Rock Band is essentially karaoke without an audience other than the people playing the drums, guitar, and bass and whoever’s waiting their turn. It’s one of my five favorite Beatles songs, it’s short, it’s lovely, and it’s not actually that hard to sing.

Billy Joel, “Only the Good Die Young.” Do I really have to explain why “Only the Good Die Young” would be a stellar karaoke song? It’s catchy and brief and really fun, with no instrumental breaks to speak of and it’s a happy song by Billy Joel, so it’s kind of like a unicorn.

Honorable mentions and why they can’t make the cut: Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” (there’s a really long instrumental break that would be very awkward), Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” (same issue as “Don’t Stop Me Now” except there’s MULTIPLE really long instrumental breaks), Josie & the Pussycats’ “Three Small Words” (there is no possible way any songbook includes this), and The Faces’ “Ooh La La” (far be it from me to ruin perfection).

Maybe next time I’ll analyze some television or something. For now, I’m going to tap my foot and think about what you’re supposed to do during instrumental breaks.


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