Few things can tell you more about a person than their karaoke song selections. I’m not going to wax on about folks with terrible taste in music usurping the mic for the better part of the night—no—I mean you can learn a lot about someone by how willing they are to sacrifice their own merriment for the benefit of the crowd. Karaoke is a favorite past time of mine. I prefer the private room Koreatown experience over on-stage-in-a-bar scenarios, but really anytime you can belt out guilty pleasure tunes without fear of social retribution is a terrific way to spend an evening in my opinion. If you’ve ever been to a karaoke bar, you are probably aware of which songs will bring the house down—the karaoke standards like “Bohemian Rhapsody” or anything by The Beatles or Boyz II Men. You also know which songs will lead to awkward pauses and eyerolls—songs with a vocal range far too challenging for the average Joe or anything with 12+ measurements of “instrumental break”s (you can only clap, tambourine, or fist pump for so long). Still, nearly every time you go to a karaoke bar there are a couple of people that don’t seem to have a grasp on The Unwritten Rules of Karaoke, or are acutely aware of them and defy them anyway.
I think most people that are “good at karaoke” would excel politically. The most successful and celebrated karaoke-ers are the men and women that can strike the right balance between what the crowd demands and what he/she wants to sing. You have to be mindful of others but if you aren’t personally invested in your song selections, the performances will fall flat. A general knowledge of the lyrics is essential—think of how energetic and sincere speeches can be when they aren’t stiffly read from teleprompters and are instead performed by heart. You can inject so much more emotion and passion when you’re not worried about misreading the words. Like with the best speeches too, pacing is essential. A karaoke playlist should read like the plot of a good book (or good pornography), a slow build to an intense climax with a sweeping euphoric resolution. You can’t begin the night too intensely or the crowd will quickly burn out. You can’t stack too many ballads back to back without losing momentum. Save the huge group sing-a-longs for the end of the night when everyone is too drunk and hoarse to want to hear the sound of their own voices standout over the mass’s.
No matter how talented of a singer you are (or think you are), practice modesty while karaokeing. Your friends are not there to hear you flex your vocal muscles, they went to have a good semi-embarrassing time among other non-professional (mostly not very good) performers. The more you distinguish yourself from the crowd the less they will feel a part of the process and the more they will wait impatiently for your Mariah Carey marathon to end. Remember too, that no one will be impressed that you know all the lyrics to some obscure Brian Eno song during karaoke. Don’t fool yourself thinking everyone can sing along to that Television song you love so much. Think of how much unnecessary outrage a little arugula caused not too long ago…save the obscure or what might be perceived as “snobbish” for home. Like in most situations, modesty and self-deprecation are heralded above over-confidence and self-congratulation. I’m not saying that you should be completely communistic about it, but limit your personal glory moments to one or two performances a night.
Distilled down, all this essentially means is don’t be a self-glorifying prick. No one wants to party with someone (literally or politically) that elevates their own happiness over that of the masses. So next time you make your way to Koreatown or wherever you get your karaoke on, kick back, drink some Coors Light and sing Third Eye Blind like no one’s recording-to-post-to-facebook-later.