Had a few drinks have we? It’s quite all right as long as you don’t wake up the next morning feeling as if your reputation has been sullied. But as you drown your sorrows amongst the comfort of friends, beware of black binders bearing pop standards. Of course, everyone else around you treats the situation with its deserved lightheartedness, but for you this isn’t simply a chance to embrace your communal tone-deafness with your drinking buddies, but an opportunity. As you live in a world where battle lines are constantly being drawn and any sort of public setting is a chance to broadcast your well-earned cred, you cannot be under the impression that just any 70s or 80s radio classic will do. Consider the following as a set of healthy reminders when making your next karaoke selection.
Now, as it goes without saying, your vocal abilities are nearly a non-issue, as the general bar-going public’s vocal range tends to veer from drunken mumbling to downright embarrassing incoherence. We may safely assume you fall somewhere along this spectrum but if at any point you feel as if your stylings are causing you to lose your audience, you can counteract this by simply acting drunker than you actually are. That being said, song selection is the key, and your greatest prospect at showcasing your superiority.
If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in a bar that boasts a somewhat more substantial, nice n’ beefy karaoke songbook you’ll be facing a broad range of options. You may even find that the book ever so slightly touches upon your cherished indie pallet. And while your average ham-and-egger karaoke star may choose to sing The Smiths, or “Kool Thing” to impress his friends, he should be made aware that he is only pleasing himself, as he gains the indifferent shrugs from the 95% of the room that do not understand his references and nothing but resentment from the remaining 5% that do.
However, there is always the well-established, long loved bastion of irony to guide you in your next embarrassment onstage. Irony has served the introverted and the jaded well since its invention in the early 90s, so rather than sing anything you actively profess to enjoy, you must select what you publicly loathe and/or secretly love.
Do you remember the term “Adult Contemporary”? If not, you are indeed fortunate, but it is our solemn duty to thrust it under your nose in remembrance once more. Never has there been such an apt label for such an irredeemably lame genre of music, however that’s precisely the reason we must dive headlong into it. Your first idea while working within the confines of this genre might be The Carpenters, but since Sonic Youth claimed them long ago as their go-to source for irony, you’ll simply be seen as unoriginal. Consider something along the lines of Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville’s “Don’t Know Much” as a step in the right direction. For starters, it’s a duet so you’ll at least have someone to help shoulder the burden, and you’ll get a chance to finally show off that Aaron Neville impersonation you’ve been working so hard at. Jeffrey Osborne’s “On the Wings of Love” should also be made a solid part of your karaoke repertoire if you are to continue down this path.
Taking not such a big leap forward, it would also be a healthy idea to familiarize yourself with the singles history of Shania Twain. Any rube can go up and sing “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” and seem somewhat daring, but only after a spot-on run-through of “That Don’t Impress Me Much” and even getting just the right inflection on the line “Okay…so you’re a rocket scientist.” will you truly have your audience staring at you with absolute bewilderment.
If you fancy yourself as a hip-hop connoisseur and you long to “spit” on the mic, you’re going to want to limit yourself strictly to the Will Smith catalog, focusing primarily on singles attached to soundtracks. Anything older and more street than that and you may simply appear as an out-of-touch traditionalist; anything newer and cruder and you’ll just be playing into the whole “nerdy-white people rapping” cliché. Unless, of course, you’re reading this and happen to be black, then you should most likely be singing John Mayer in order to achieve similar results.
Finally, consider it best to simply avoid the standard classic rock hits that typically populate your usual karaoke night. Although your secret love of “Bat Out of Hell” runs quite deep, you’re likely to find a nearly toothless fifty-something awaiting you at the bar who isn’t quite clued into your biting wit and you may find yourself trapped in a full-blown conversation about how that album really got him through some heavy nights.
Just remember that open and honest appreciation for anything will not be tolerated. Earnestness in karaoke is never a quality that should be upheld if you value your cred in any way whatsoever. Bear that thought in mind next time you drunkenly slur a few off-key notes into a microphone in a public setting.
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