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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Five Tips for Becoming a Karaoke Superstar: Be Drunk, Don't Sing Jewel, and More

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 7:15 AM


As you strive to improve yourself in the new year, in addition to crap like running on the treadmill, not eating in bed, only wearing sweatpants at home and sometimes to the grocery store, and doing laundry more than once a month, make at least one resolution you'll actually want to keep.

Today's suggestion: Become a karaoke superstar. Never mind your friends who are learning how to cook vegan meals or make blown glass art to sell on Etsy. Instead focus on mastering these five easy steps to singing other people's songs in places where beer is sold in 24-ounce "schooners," and the food, the bathroom, and most of the other patrons are all a little bit sketchy.

1. Develop your standards.

Make a list of all of the songs you belt when you're alone in the car, the shower, the kitchen, or whatever. Now cross off the ones that remind you of your ex, your long-lost best friend from high school, that summer you didn't get accepted to grad school and drank a bottle of $3 pinot grigio every day, etc., and circle the ones you like to sing just for the pure goddamn joy of it, the ones that make you get down on one knee and scream in the faces of your audience (aka your rather alarmed cats). These songs are your greatest hits.

But before you take them onstage, make sure you can pronounce all the words and hit all the notes. It's super lame when someone tries to sing, for example, "Waterfalls" by TLC, and the rap sounds like gibberish spoken with a mouthful of oatmeal. Also, during an instrumental break, don't just stand there and sip your drink. Feel free to get down, freestyle, do yoga, eat an entire sandwich, share your thoughts on the horrible injustice of high-waisted jeans, do a cartwheel, etc.

Also remember there are some songs that no one should ever sing, ever.


2. Know your audience.

Sure, you could just say "fuck it" and sing that terrible Jewel song you used to hum while writing in your journal, but no one wants to hear that shit, and karaoke is way more fun if you can make a roomful of drunk revelers love you.

For example, if you're in a dive filled with grungy old men and women who got tattoos when tattoos meant "step off" instead of "I'm totally still a snuggle bunny," your soulful rendition of "Long December" by Counting Crows might not go over so well. Likewise, if you're surrounded by hipsters who were born in the 90s and who can only look away from their smartphones long enough to take a slug from their PBR tallboys, no one will want to hear a completely un-ironic rendering of your favorite Creed song, and you should be completely unsurprised when 15 Facebook statuses say, "im @ kareoke omfg this guy sux."

If the audience applauds without being prompted by the host, you win. If people dance, double win. If someone buys you a shot afterward and/or compliments your performance while in line for the bathroom, you are well on your way to karaoke superstardom, and assuming you're under 30 and a total douche, you should probably go ahead and try out for American Idol. Live the dream, motherfucker.

3. You're better when you're drunk.

Unike driving or trying to convince your boyfriend not to break up with you, karaoke is not an activity better done sober. In fact, one friend of mine describes it as "at least a seven-beer activity." That's because karaoke is not about precision. It's about taking a song and dropkicking that shit so high that it explodes and showers everyone in rainbows and unicorn hair.

If you're sober, your brain will try to stop you. It will say things like, "Why am I shaking my ass to 'The Sign' by Ace of Base, and why did I ask that woman who smells like pit stain and old shag carpeting to be my backup dancer?"

But if you kill that part of your brain with beer, you and Ms. Pit Stain will dominate (because trust me, she's a veteran seasoned with gin, and she's been singing "Paint it Black" every day for a decade), and for one blissful moment everyone will either want to be you or be with you. It's called letting go, motherfucker, as illustrated in the Community clip below:

4. Channel only the flashiest, most badass performers.

So you just got dumped, fired, or otherwise wronged, and you want everyone to know how miserable you are. I have one word for you: No. Go home. Unless, of course, you're willing to chug three beers, which is the bare minimum for karaoke success, and shake it the fuck off.

But if you really must sing a sad song, it's best to do it in the style of a total badass. For example, try singing "Stay" by Lisa Loeb as Aretha Franklin, who can turn being royally wronged into something sassy and soulful. Or if you really must touch an Elliott Smith song (I love him as much as the next sad sack, but karaoke is neither the time or the place), channel a bit of Axl Rose, perhaps.

Also, keep in mind that when more than three people sing together, the performance generally becomes an awkward, self-conscious muddle. At that point, we feel like we're watching the birth of a high school pecking order. And no, we do not want to drink to that.

5. Know when to pack it in.

So earlier I mentioned Ms. Pit Stain, your rockin' backup dancer from that time you sang "The Sign" by Ace of Base. It's true that she might be intermittently awesome, but Ms. Stain has one problem: She didn't know when to call it quits.

That's not to imply that karaoke is an activity better suited to the young, because I'm pretty sure you rock harder the older you get. It simply means that night after night, Ms. Stain stuck around for one more song, and subsequently one more drink, and eventually she was feeding some deep-seated need for karaoke-based approval, and she came to resemble something that belongs in the seedy déjà-vu of a nightclub from a David Lynch movie.

So after your third song of the night, when you're veering toward blackout drunk and your neurons are firing through Jell-o, just consider catching a cab home. That's all I'm saying. Because I think we can all agree that all things Lynchian should remain on Mullholland motherfucking Drive. They should never follow you home.

Previous Advice From Angela Lutz:

The Five Ingredients of Shitty Chick Flicks ... And How to Fix Them

Crafting with Cat Hair: Not Just for Crazy Cat Ladies

Why Smartphones Are Pretty Much the Worst Boyfriends Ever

Here's Five Reasons You Love Cat Videos So F#$@!ing Much

Best and Worst Hangover Cures from a Hungover Girl


Follow Angela Lutz on Twitter at SF Weekly's Exhibitionist blog at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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