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Is this a good goal?
April 30, 2011 11:35 PM   Subscribe

I have a personal goal to do karaoke in the future. It's not because I enjoy making a spectacle of myself in public or want to show off my singing voice (to the contrary!), it's because I currently have severe social phobia. I think doing something that anxiety-inducing would be a great stepping stone and I'd also like to use that hopefully positive experience as a marker for how far I've come. What songs would suit an otherwise mediocre female voice that surprisingly sounds decent singing There Is A Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths and most of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen? I'd prefer if the songs are available on your average bar's jukebox, but feel free to suggest obscure songs. Genre does not matter.
posted by Sara Bellum to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (26 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Go for the Queen song. Bohemian Rhapsody is pretty much a karaoke staple, plus it's fun, so just enjoy it!
posted by jonathanstrange at 11:43 PM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bowie's Man Who Sold The World might work well

most important though is you just enjoy making a spectacle of yourself..
posted by mannequito at 12:54 AM on May 1, 2011


I should add I sing Sober by Tool semi-decently as well.
posted by Sara Bellum at 12:54 AM on May 1, 2011


If you haven't practiced BR, it is a pain in the ASS to sing with key and octave changes. If you have practiced BR, knock yourself out.

But start with something easy. Green Day's Time Of Your Life is pretty simple. If you know any other easy songs, practice. Practice practice.

Yes, half the people in the bar will be drunk. That's beside the point. You want to KNOW the notes before you sing in front of other people; if you can at least hit them reasonably you'll feel a lot more comfortable about it.

Have a drink first. Just one, about two songs before you go up. Warm up beforehand by humming or talking with friends. And yes, you should bring friends who will support you.

On Preview: I used to sing the SHIT out of Sober. If you know that one, I highly recommend that as a second song after whatever you warm up with. If you think you're up to it, you could even use that as your first since it starts off so easy. Once the melody really kicks in on the second (or was it third?) chorus, your lungs will be ready to belt the crap out of it.

Don't be afraid to close your eyes. Easier to pretend there's nobody else there. Or you could be like that one singer whose name I can't remember that for like twenty years sang in concert with his back to the audience, because if he looked, he'd choke.

Thereyago. Song advice and other advice. I sing karaoke very regularly, and I was like you when I first started. These days half the bar cheers when I come up on stage, and if I'm singing a 'new' song, I just laugh it off when I screw up.

Let us know if/when you decide to go, and tell us how it went! It's a fun thing if you can sing well and people appreciate it. (:

In closing: Look at this video of Jewel. If your karaoke bar is anything like this, you'll do juuust fine!

holycrapwalloftext... tl;dr says 'Green Day Time Of Your Life' cuz it's easy or 'Sober' because it fucking rocks, have a drink, you'll do fine
posted by Heretical at 1:01 AM on May 1, 2011


I think this is a great idea! I am one of those people who don't dance because I am too self conscious, and doing karaoke really gave me a boost. As mentioned, one drink, a few songs before, and off you go. It's way more dun than you expect it to be. I eased into it by singing with a friend or two first, but soon found they were cramping my style and I wanted to go it solo :)
posted by Iteki at 1:55 AM on May 1, 2011


Just about anything by Billy Joel is wonderful for karaoke. You probably already know most of some of his songs, and the range of most of his songs is great for most voices. Plus, some of his more canonical songs ("Piano Man" comes to mind in particular) makes everyone in the venue happy, which also means it's a safe choice if you're especially shy.

(Also, I love karaoke and would totally go with you if you're anywhere near me!)
posted by zizzle at 5:29 AM on May 1, 2011


Why people choose other karaoke songs when "Louie Louie" still exists is a puzzle far beyond my understanding. One barely needs to carry a tune. If you mistake some words, no one will know. And if it's not warmly received, irrespective of performance, you'll know that karaoke bar is nowhere you want to be, and the people inside it are not to be trusted.
posted by .kobayashi. at 6:16 AM on May 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I Would Walk 500 Miles is a good one--narrow range that is nearly spoken... plus you can get everyone to join in during the nanana naaahs.
posted by emkelley at 6:38 AM on May 1, 2011


I saw a karaoke brand-newbie do "I wanna Be Sedated". He got so into it and worked up while on stage he took off his jacket, spun it around in the air and threw it across the room. Simple lyrics, melody, but energetic. And it looked like he had great fun.
posted by Gorgik at 6:53 AM on May 1, 2011


Defective Yeti has a pretty good blog post with tips for picking a karaoke song. He specifically recommends against Bohemian Rhapsody on the grounds that it's too long.

But on the whole, karaoke at bars is a pretty forgiving enterprise, so try not to get to psyched out by the song-choice issue. Good luck!
posted by bookish at 7:02 AM on May 1, 2011


I have one song that is the only one I would do if ever forced to do karaoke: "Everybody Plays The Fool" by The Main Ingredient. Even though it's a man's vocal, the register is still high enough and the song is not gender-specific.

And the bonus is, it's one of those songs that everyone can probably relate to (good for crowd response), and it's recognizable enough to be not-your-usual-karaoke-tune.

Apologies for not linking to an audiofile - I haven't figured out how to do that yet.
posted by sundrop at 8:12 AM on May 1, 2011


My advice is that it doesn't matter what you sing or how well you sing it. If you get up there and sing with confidence and it's obvious you're having a good time, the audience will respond in kind. So whatever you sing, as Heretical says, sing the shit out of it.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:24 AM on May 1, 2011


No self-respecting karaoke emcee will allow booing to go on. You'll know pretty quick whether you're in a decent room or not. Go with a group of friends and just have fun up there, and it'll be great.

More to your point: how about Pat Benatar? Heartbreaker if you're feeling grittier, Love Is A Battlefield if there's a more dancey vibe going on.
posted by evisceratordeath at 9:26 AM on May 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


With the caveat that I know not much about talking about music, it sounds like you're a low-ish alto. I fall into that general range and have felt good doing karaoke to songs by Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, and the Go-Gos. "Vacation" is upbeat and fun and people know it, so that's usually my default.

If I can find it, though, Elvis's "Trouble" is super-fun to do--it requires more attitude than skill, so if you can sell the bad-girl thing, you're golden.
posted by MsMacbeth at 9:32 AM on May 1, 2011


In my experience, the best song you can pick is one that's upbeat, was a big hit in the 80s, but isn't one of those classic Karaoke staples (Bohemian Rhapsody, Don't Stop Believin' and Livin' On A Prayer are all played out). What you want is to pick a song that everybody knows, kind of likes, and hasn't heard in a while. An easily sing-alongable chorus is a great .

In my experience, good choices are:

Easy crowd pleasers - just stand there, dance and sing it with a smile on your face, and simply giggle if you mess up, the crowd will probably fill the rest in for you:

I Just Called To Say I Love You, by Stevie Wonder
What's Love Got To Do With It (or Private Dancer) by Tina Turner
Maneater by Hall and Oates
You're The Best Around from The Karate Kid

Medium Difficulty - these songs might pose a bit of a challenge, you'll have to pump your fist a bit and headbang or dance to pull this off, and you should really know the song well:

Baby Got Back, Sir Mixalot
Jukebox Hero, Foreigner (avoid all other Foreigner songs, they are very difficult to sing)
Dancin' With Myself by Billy Idol

Slightly advanced, requires a little extra drama:

Rocket Man, Elton John
Total Eclipse of The Heart, Bonnie Tyler (this is a constant crowd pleaser)
Careless Whisper, Wham
Dream On, Aerosmith

Requires a little bravery but often pleases the crowd:

You Oughtta Know, Alanis Morisette
Do You Wanna Touch Me, Joan Jett
Friends In Low Places, Garth Brooks (you'd have to sing it up the octave, but everyone sings a long)

Do NOT:
worry about whether or not you will sound good.
Pick a low energy song or ballad unless you can sing it with great feeling.
Pick a classic Karaoke standard (the ones I mentioned above are off limits - also, My Way by Frank Sinatra. Don't do it).
Pick a song with long instrumental interludes, unless you're ready to do some dancey hijinks
Bring ANYBODY up with you unless you're doing a bona fide duet
Apologize for your performance, hide behind your hair, or say "Oh my god I'm so embarrassed"
Worry too much about it!

DO:
Pick a song you know ALL of the words to
Have a list of songs in mind that you've listened to a few times before you go
Have a little liquid courage in your system, but not too much ;)

I was the lead game designer on a Karaoke Video Game. I love Karaoke beyond all measure of reason. I may or may not have it down to a science. Remember you are in a bar, enjoying music you love with your friends. All songs are awesome songs in a karaoke bar. Everybody wants to sing along, laugh and have fun. If you mess up, awesome, just pick it right back up, keep the energy going, laugh, dance, sing as loud as you can, and have a great time!
posted by pazazygeek at 9:40 AM on May 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


The whole point of karaoke is to just have fun, not to be the perfect singer (that's not even what American Idol is for, so...).

Here is a story: when I was in elementary school, I discovered that karaoke was the greatest thing ever. Then I got older and learned how to be self-conscious, and even though I love to sing, I became hyper-embarrassed about singing in front of other people, so I have not done it in many years because I was too afraid. Well, I happened to go just last weekend to do karaoke for the first time in a lot of years, and spent far too much time trying to pick The Song I Could Sing Perfectly, wasting valuable time I could have been spending having fun. I eventually picked "Magic Man" by Heart because I LOOOOOVE Heart and thought about how much I loved that song, and I got up there and started, and my voice cracked and I sounded generally horrible because I couldn't sing loudly enough for half the song, because when I'm singing it in my car I'm not critiquing myself on performance, so I had no idea I would bomb it. I was mortified about it for the entire time I was up there, and I had the very beginnings of tears welling, and then it was done and the whole room cheered for me even though it had sucked that much. I realized 1) almost everyone else who is willing to get up there and sing is not a professional singer and doesn't have expectations of anyone else either, and 2) everyone is just glad you're there because they like karaoke and you like karaoke and karaoke is most fun when shared.

All that said, I live in LA and we have a lot of access to karaoke here, but "Bohemian Rhapsody" and several Smiths songs were on the roster at the place I went to last weekend. Part of the difficulty for me was the overwhelm of song choices, honestly. Maybe a Step 1 for the anxiety levels you have could be to go to the place you intend to do karaoke, then just check out their song choices and just watch other people. I'm 99.9% certain that this will increase your comfort level and make it easier to just get up there when you're ready to take that step. :)
posted by so_gracefully at 10:27 AM on May 1, 2011


I've been in your same position and I feel you. I had a job where going out afterwards for karaoke was a major element of the bonding, and it got to a point where I couldn't avoid singing anymore. I can't say I love karaoke now, but I am capable of doing it, and I have a solidly mediocre voice. It's easy to say, "Just relax and have fun!" but I think having a good song is half the battle.

Anyway, most Madonna works very well, because her voice isn't that great (Like A Prayer is an exception). La Isla Bonita and Borderline always seem to be crowd pleasers.


Other occasions, I Love Rock & Roll and Son of a Preacher Man have worked well for me. Holding Out for Hero by Bonnie Tyler is a good one, too--it's not as common and dramatic as Total Eclipse of the Heart, but still recognizable.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 11:31 AM on May 1, 2011


By the way, rock band might be good practice. You can try out a slew of songs and turn the mic down real low so people cant hear you well. I saw some people do this at a party and thought it was a clever idea.
posted by mbird at 12:36 PM on May 1, 2011


I second rock band and also, find songs you'd LIKE to sing and practice/learn the words, sing them by yourself in your car/get used to how you sound singing them so you don't get tripped up your first go and feel nervous suddenly in the middle of things.

That'll also help you know if there's this FOREVER LONG instrumental part where you....do what? exactly? on stage til you can sing again.....I never know.
posted by nile_red at 1:58 PM on May 1, 2011


Do some Journey. EVERYONE LOVES JOURNEY.

This is a great idea! Doing karaoke weekly has made me somewhat more confident of singing, and I'm FAR LESS nervous in front of people now.

I wish you were in my city, I'd invite you out on one of our weekly outings! :D
posted by bibliogrrl at 4:05 PM on May 1, 2011


I suggest you should first go to a karaoke bar or two with friends, find a place where you feel comfortable. Some places are all about appearances, while others are local dive bars where it seems everyone is just relaxing and having fun. Once you find the latter, browse the song books, and watch how the night plays out. You'll see people who are really good at their songs, and others who are off-key and poorly timed, but have fun. As long as someone isn't being obnoxious, everyone is happy.

If you want to, you could ask your friends to sing a song you might want to perform on your "preview" night, to hear how this version sounds.

Once you get comfortable, you could even get the audience to sing the chorus with you. If it's a really laid back place, people might normally do a bit of that. I've had unplanned duets that were a lot of fun.

If you happen to be in California and you can make it to the San Luis Obispo area on a Friday or Saturday night, I suggest you check out the Wikipedia definition of a dive bar: The Merrimaker.

And seconding Rock Band and similar games that show you where you voice is and where it should be. I don't sing well, and that game has helped me to sing more on-key.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:10 PM on May 1, 2011


Contrary to pazazygeek's advice, if you like a song and have fun with it, it doesn't matter one bit if it's 'played out' or not. You're not there every night, and neither is everyone else (most likely), and there's no room for snobbery in karaoke anyway.

I have a lot of fun with Livin' On a Prayer and Manic Monday.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:06 AM on May 2, 2011


I love karaoke. And I have a horrible voice. Like dying-crow-squawking bad. But every time I sing karaoke, I bring the house down.

How?

I start off with two short sentences. I say, "You guys, this is going to be real bad. But it's also gonna be real, real good."

And then I pay it off. I sing my fool heart out as loudly and as lustily as I can. I ham it up on the stage. I hold the mic up high and get on my tiptoes to try and reach the high notes, even when my voice cracks. I just have an awesome time, which makes everyone else have an awesome time.

I like to think my job in the karaoke bar is to show all the other bad singers that you can be bad and still rock and roll. Somehow, thinking of it as a public service makes it easier to let go.
posted by missjenny at 6:47 PM on May 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks, everyone, for the encouragement and suggestions. I'm having a difficult time choosing a best answer.

The only reason I would avoid singing Bohemian Rhapsody is because my voice goes to hell starting at "I see a little silhouetto of a man. Scaramouche, scaramouche, will you do the fandango?" and then I start to sound semi-decent again at "So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye?"

Do people normally improvise while doing karaoke? I seem to do well improvising songs with a higher-pitched tone and an almost operatic flair than the original song calls for. I can't sing songs I like as the artist sings them without sounding horrible or extremely bland. I sing Sober by Tool like one would try to sing Evanescence and The Smiths like I'm singing a Theatre of Tragedy song.

I'm considering Seven Nation Army. It seems like a relatively safe and fun song to sing, and I wouldn't feel the need to improvise so much. What do you guys think?

Using Rock Band to practice is a good suggestion. I forgot I owned the game.
posted by Sara Bellum at 5:35 AM on May 3, 2011


Yes, absolutely improvise as long as you're not overwhelming the microphone-- that can get intensely annoying really quickly.
posted by eamondaly at 10:34 AM on May 4, 2011


Karaoke has no rules, except have fun. If you're having fun, even if you're not singing all that well, you're good in most situations (especially with supportive friends). Personal style or flair is always fun, and hamming it up is 100% allowed (assuming you won't be singing Sinatra in the Philippines).

Even if someone does an amazing cover of Michael Jackson, complete with dance moves, right before you go up, just get out there and give it a go. And if a song you picked gets played before you go but after you put in your request, a good karaoke host will ask you to pick another song, or set your request to the back of the queue.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:47 PM on May 8, 2011


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