Every day on my way to work I pass a non-descript Applebee’s with some very descriptive signage. KARAOKE THURS. NIGHT 9-11PM, its small billboard screams, usually with an exclamatory tag like COME JOIN THE FUN! or SING YOUR HEART OUT! It serves as a constant reminder to me that the majority of the world’s population can be broken down into three groups: those who would take a bullet for karaoke, those who tolerate karaoke, and those who would like karaoke to die in a fire. I don’t know if one can “geek out” to karaoke, but I’ve been around enough karaoke-lovers to know that it’s not something to take lightly. Sure, it’s fun and silly, but for some, it’s also serious business.
In case you’re wondering, I’m not one of those people. Sorry, sorry, but that’s not where this post is going. In another life, I spent nearly a decade around theatre-types: actors and “actors,” stage managers, designers of all kinds, and backstage workers to the nth degree. Many of these folks were more than happy to perpetuate their entertaining spirits, and those of others, with drink and song. Karaoke bars were frequently the hot spots after shows; I can still name a handful of popular places in a couple cities that I’m sure don’t exist anymore.
But even though I was accepted within the general revelry, karaoke was not for me. I was okay with the “drink” part, but you could keep the “song.” Though I sang in school and church choirs from grade school through most of college, I didn’t (and still don’t) like performing solo. Even the effects of alcohol couldn’t get me up on that little stage with machine, monitor, and mic.
Except…well…there was this one time…
Maybe the stars were aligned just right. Maybe I had consumed the perfect magic formula of substances. Maybe my confidence level had somehow risen to astronomical proportions. Whatever was in the air that fateful night, I karaoke’d…three times! Yes. Not one, not two, but three. I sang three songs for the happy, drunken crowds that evening. Surprisingly, I didn’t make a complete ass of myself either. I didn’t throw up, I didn’t trip over myself getting on or off the “stage,” and I was able to show my face at work the next day. In fact, it was one of those seminal experiences that I can still recall down to little details, from the people we were with to the amazing renditions by our actor-friends of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” and “Love Will Keep us Together” to conversations with the bartender about vodka and the perfect Lemon Drop. My “set list” for the festivities was simple, standard, not very flamboyant, and easy on the vocals. When the next blue moon rolls round and we go karaoke’ing, these’ll probably be the three songs I sing.
“Joy to the World” (Three Dog Night)
I really have no idea I chose this song as my first ever attempt at karaoke. It wasn’t a complicated, so maybe that’s why. It had a low register (my soprano-esque days were well and done by then), so it’s easy to sing. Plus, I knew all the words. Truth be told, when I’m by myself or in the car, I tend to sing, and this is one of my staple tunes in that regard. “Joy to the World” made it sound like I could sing, and that was enough to get things rolling.
“I Will Survive” (Gloria Gaynor)
As I was told that evening “no karaoke evening is complete without ‘I Will Survive’!” This was another easy song that I had committed to memory during my Dance Fever years. The disco beat made it sound complex, but she’s really only singing, what, four or five notes? Also, it’s one of those guaranteed crowd pleasers, enough to turn even the most drunken disco-hater into Tony Manero. It helped that my next turn to sing came during a high point in the evening – people were ready to dance by then, and they did!
“Mickey” (Toni Basil)
Okay, I probably should have quit while I was ahead because I was no Toni Basil. But my dearest and most manipulative friend convinced me that I should do one more song before closing time. The bar was a little bit emptier by then, the mood had dimmed slightly, but people were still a’singin’, so to the songbook I went. As with the previous two songs, I picked “Mickey” because of the easy tune, mostly just scales up and down. But because I didn’t possess the ability to belt (i.e. sing loudly from the gut), the adventure turned out, to my ears, only so-so. But it was still fun to watch people bop along supportively. After “Mickey” though, I had definitely had my fill of karaoke’ing for a lifetime.
Do you karaoke? If we went to my local Applebee’s for karaoke (dear lord, not the food), what would you sing?