How I stopped worrying and learned to love karaoke
Last Saturday I decided it was time to venture out of the apartment and head to Eagles Pub to have a beer in celebration of the Milwaukee Brewers beating the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Eagles’ is a regular spot I head to whenever I’m downtown, but on this night I decided to revive an old tradition.
The pub is a destination for karaoke every Friday and Saturday, and on this particular night I dusted off the vocal cords to sing AC/DC’s “Big Balls.”
Some of the other patrons in the bar were cheering, though that’s probably because they were confusing the song’s title and lyrics about ballroom dancing with something else.
For those who have never sang or sat through a karaoke session, I encourage you to do it at least once. But first a warning: karaoke is not for the faint at heart.
If you have a favorite song — especially one that is popular — chances are a random person may belt out that particular ballad in a way that causes you to take that song off your iPod for the next few weeks.
It’s not like I heard anything that bad at Eagles last week. I listened to someone sing a nice rendition of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.”
This warning actually comes from the things that I saw the first few times I went to karaoke with my friends.
One particular performance that stuck with me was when someone sang “You Shook Me All Night Long.” In my mind, this person was ruining the song because he sounded nothing like vocalist Brian Johnson. He didn’t even attempt to raise his voice.
Another incident was when a fella sang the “Theme from Shaft” only his vocal range didn’t go as low as Isaac Hayes’, nor did he censor himself when he referred to detective John Shaft as one bad mother-.
“Shut yo mouth!”
Hey, he was only singing about Shaft.
After I accepted that I would have to live with random people butchering my beloved tunes — in my eyes — I started to enjoy the karaoke atmosphere and realized that it was more about having fun with your friends.
Then I actually starting singing myself. After experimenting with a few songs in my own voice, I started to do impressions of certain singers.
In my natural voice, I sound nothing like Bon Scott or Billy Idol, but I can get away with imitating them when I’m singing “Big Balls” or “Cradle of Love.” As for mannerisims of the performers whose voices I’m impersonating, — specifically Mr. Idol — that’s a different story.
If you want to sing karaoke for the first time, here are some tips that can make your first time a little easier:
• Don’t be afraid to ask the emcee for some help if you find yourself stuck on a song. Many hosts will step in if they see you struggling with a song.
• If the host isn’t able or willing to come to your aid, grab a friend.
• Alcohol can provide a little bit of courage and loosen the tension you may have, but it can also cause you to slur your words and not focus on the screen.
• Sing what you know. Pick a song with lyrics that you know by heart or at least 90 percent of it.
• Try and get the audience involved with a song that has parts where everyone can participate. Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” is a good example as the audience can join in with the “bah, bah, bah.”
• Most importantly, have fun. Even if someone gets irritated with your singing, that’s their problem. Best case scenario it forces them to gather their courage to sign up.
Al Stover can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.