How to Survive a Karaoke Bar
Forget biker bar stabbings, date rapists pillaging campus pubs, and violent mosh pits at punk dives. Karaoke bars are the most dangerous kind of watering hole, hands down.
A few weeks ago, two men were hacked to death with a cleaver as a result of a four-year old hogging the microphone at a karaoke bar in Xi’an, China. While this should have been an anomaly, it’s actually the latest in a string of karaoke killings over the last decade, and since the early 2000s, several karaoke-related murders and assaults have been reported throughout the world.
Who would have thought that the combination of strong personal attachments to people’s favourite songs, various styles of terrible singing, and a room full of judgmental drunks would be a recipe for hostility? Either way, the next time you’re planning to have a black-out drunk, stab-free time at your local karaoke spot, here are some things to consider.
Don’t Sing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”
Ol’ Blue Eyes is responsible for popularizing the Phillipines’ most dangerous song, a catalyst for dozens of murders and countless injuries over the past decade. “My Way” is banned from virtually every Filipino karaoke establishment for its strange ability to provoke rage. Some say it’s because of the often blasphemous hatchet-job renditions of Frank’s velvet voice, while others blame it on how awesomely invincible you feel when you’re singing it. Either way, the “My Way” ban is basically the karaoke version of the “No Stairway to Heaven” rule, but with lethal consequences. The situation is so bad, that Filipino bars employ bakla (gay men) to cool things out by acting really queen-y and mollifying the angry straight men, which is sort of genius really.
The tell-tale sign that someone is unable to handle their booze and drugs is their unwillingness to shut the fuck up. We’ve all been guilty of this. But, you might pay dearly if you pull that kind of behaviour at Applebee's Karaoke night. No matter how good of a singer you think you are, no one wants to listen to the same voice over and over. Unless you’re going to bring down the house with hit after hit, covering the songs that we all know and love, you better get ready to get killed.
Okay, while it’s much easier to say “don’t sing like shit” than actually do it, consider this: karaoke enthusiasts treat their favorite songs like precious little babies, so imagine how they feel when someone comes up and sings their go-to jam completely off key and out of time? It’s basically like watching your baby get ass-raped by a stranger whose friends egg them on. Singing out of tune will get you shot.
Stay in Your Range
Sure, there is a certain amount of leeway when dealing with a bunch of drunk amateurs, but unless you’re a small girl or a guy who’s genitals have been horribly mutilated in a bike accident, you should at least try to pick a song without any falsetto tremolos. If you mockingly croon Dio’s “Holy Diver” in Wisconsin, you might get knocked the fuck out. And while singing something high like Kate Bush’s "Wuthering Heights" in a comically low voice – like that idiot from Crash Test Dummies – is funny for one verse, that shit gets tired really fast.
No Backpack Rap
Rap should be about smoking blunts, rolling up on honeys, and staying strapped. All that poetry slam, pseudo-intelligent hip hop is garbage, especially live. If the price to pay for keeping rap legit is that 100 people get into a huge brawl peppered with stabbings and gunshots at a Rapper Karaoke Night in Gaithersburg, Maryland, then that’s just the way it’s got to be.
Singing Nazareth’s “Love Hurts” in front of belligerent strangers requires no less than 11 whiskey shots, three stolen pours from a frenemy’s pitcher, and a Colt 45 chugged at home before arriving. If you want to become Captain Shit-Disturber by throwing ego-expanding cocaine on top of all that, well, that’s just throwing fuel on the proverbial fire of horrible singing, horrible song choices, and horrible tempers.
Duets are Safe
Don’t hog the mic and don’t hog the glory. Duets help to mask the mistakes that you and your partner will surely make after 12 shots of dirt cheap tequila. Not only do on stage duos speed up the request rotation, if you’re nervous, duets cut the pressure in half. To remedy nervousness, please carefully review the blurb above on “Cocaine.”
Difficult Songs and Fantastic Vocalists
Unless you are a triple black belt karaoke ninja, don’t even think about singing these: Bad Brains’ “Pay to Cum,” Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” Prince’s “Purple Rain,” Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” or anything by R. Kelly. If, however, you are capable of delivering these well, I’m afraid that these are the only songs you are allowed to sing. Save the easy ones for the rest of us.
Be Nice to the Request Person
Yell-spitting at the person controlling the karaoke machine to let you go up before everyone else because “it’s your birthday” or because “you’re going to leave soon” will only lead to your request being pushed to the very back of the line completely forgotten. This is much worse than harassing DJs to play “anything by the Black Eyed Peas”.
Strip-singing will be sure to bring all of the boys, girls, dogs, cats, lions, tigers, twinks, and bears to the yard. Do it. Simple as that. It also leads us to our next point:
Showmanship is Your Friend
A lot of people pick a song simply because they like it and that’s fine. Ask yourself though: "I enjoy listening to this song, but am I able to actually sing it? I know the chorus (so does everyone), but do I know the verses?" Instead of spending all of your energy reading the lyrics on the teleprompter, you should be focussing on some goddamn showmanship. Swing the mic around during the instrumental interludes. Make sustained, awkward eye contact with a stranger as you sing No Doubt’s “Just a Girl.” Pepper your jams with some fancy footwork. All these fun and hilarious things are impossible to pull off if you’re using the screen 100 percent of the time. Aim for 30 percent or less. You’re on a stage, act like it. Even if you’re a horrible singer, at least you’ll be entertaining.
What it all boils down to is this: don’t be an asshole. Share the microphone, accept the fact that most people are untalented vocalists, and make an effort to sing sincerely. At the same time, if you do run into some trouble for busting out Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” for the third time that night, don’t be afraid to throw down in the good name of karaoke. Learn some self-defence moves if you have to. The way that you’re singing, you just might need it.