#63 Bad Karaoke

p3130304There is no greater social experience than a packed karaoke joint on Friday night. The number of talented performers is shocking when you compare that to lesser cities (San Francisco, Boise and Seattle). Boiler Room, Chopsticks, Alibi, Bear Paw, Galaxy, Gypsy and Grand Cafe provide the largest crowds of karaoke faithful. On most nights, it seems like an American Idol audition. But at any one of these joints you are bound to hear awful renditions of:

  • “Give Love a Bad Name”
    Overweight drunk dude, please stop screaming
  • “Bobby McGee”
    Ladies, you don’t even know the words… sit down
  • Disney tunes
    You are not going to show me the world
  • “Love Shack”
    The original is annoying, what do you think you can add?

Ultimately, these performances give Portland’s karaoke scene a bad name.

Karaoke is when amateur singers perform popular songs for entertainment. You know that gal who sings a chilling rendition of “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera? What you just witnessed was an effortless performance. It should be noted that she also chose that song forty prior times and usually picks from a list of ten songs she’s comfortable with. Same goes for that guy who sings “Renegade” by Styx. All his friends know he’s picking it as his first song the moment Boiler Room is suggested. These two are examples of karaoke masters and they know how to entertain the masses.

However, karaoke is also an opportunity to be a jackass in front of a crowd. Portlanders are nice enough to applaud, but its painful to sit through a slur of “Dancing Queen”. There is an appropriate list of songs that you just can’t just screw up if you’re smashed when the KJ calls your name. Girls… pick any Madonna song. I have never heard any drunk chick screw up “Like a Virgin”. Guys… you stick to Neil Diamond. So good… So good…

For those of you who want to be better amateur singers, Alex Williams has created the Ten Karaoke Commandments:

Karaoke is not a singing contest
No text message voting, no record contracts, you won’t win any awards

Leave it all on the stage
Don’t just stand there, get up and do some moves. Just perform, don’t have any regrets.

Use a fake name
Create a persona, it’s not you, it’s that other person

No groups – Two people at most
There are only two microphones so if you’re not holding a microphone, you’re irrelevant and get off the stage

Know your range
Know what type of voice you have, if you can’t sing Don’t Stop Believing, stop believing you can sing it. Sweet Home Alabama is a great song to sing, not too high not too low. Don’t be a hero.

Pick a song you would play at a party
The party test: A song you’d play at a packed party, if you wouldn’t do that, don’t do it in karaoke. That quirky song only you know and love? Fun for you, but 3 minutes of awkwardness for the crowd.

Know the verses of the song
If you don’t know the verses of a rap song, don’t do it.

Musical measures are the enemy
A long guitar solo is a long you solo

Karaoke DJ is The Soup Nazi
Hand them your slip, a tip and walk away (they’ll never be your friend)

Adapt to your Audience
Pick something the audience would like, not just something you want to sing.

Don’t forget to tip your K.J.

7 thoughts on “#63 Bad Karaoke

  1. You a-holes are among those destroying kareoke and its fun, turning it into a wannabe talent contest with rules and winners and just ruining the fun for the rest of us! It isn’t suppose to be taken seriously, folks! Yet you show off what a supposedly wonderful singer you are (even though you can’t get a career in it). Do you know what the word means in Japanese? “Tone deaf!” I am literally tone deaf and can’t sing anything correctly but that won’t ever stop me because it is YOU who is in the wrong. I had one jerk tell me not to “worry,” I just need to pick a few songs and practice. He loses the whole freaking point! The humor! The fun! People like the writer of this CRAP had to ruin that! You people slowly, insidiously took over kareoke. I’ve been helplessly watching you do this since the mid 90’s. F**** You!

  2. I’ve been singing at Portland k-bars for 15-ish years. (Some may know me as “the artist formerly known as randal”.)

    I’ve long observed that there seem to be “karaoke mandatory” songs, like “Crazy”. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I was at a k-bar all night, and didn’t hear Crazy at least once.

    Another rule, more for the KJ, but you should also help out by not asking for it is: NEVER PICK A SONG SOMEONE ELSE HAS SUNG THAT NIGHT. It’s just embarassing, either for you or for the guy who didn’t do it as well as you (or better :). And don’t grumble if someone does “your song”. Just pick another one. The books are pretty big these days.

    Also, please understand that the words change color as you sing them. Don’t immediately read the words the moment they’re on the screen. (I see that at least once every third night or so.)

    Ultimately, it’s not about how well you sing, but about how well you have the crowd like you. Face it, most of the crowd is tone-deaf, or they wouldn’t be able to be at a karaoke bar… so sing with feeling, even if you’re not exactly hitting the notes. It’ll work. Just keep repeating “What I lack in skill, I make up for in stage presence.” That’s what karaoke is about. 🙂

  3. “Bobby McGee”
    Ladies, you don’t even know the words… sit down

    LMFAO! For some reason that’s about the #1 karaoke (female) song in Oregon. For males, that “Bodies Hit the Floor” s**t is probably #1. They seem to think screaming as loud as you can = singing.

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