Thursday, May 26, 2011

Karaoke: What to Do if You Can't Avoid it

Let's face it: given the sound of your voice under pressure, it would be best for you to turn down all who offer to take you out for karaoke.  However, sometimes there are invites that cannot be refused if a nerd wants to keep her hard-earned friends.  Here are some guidelines for surviving a night of extroverted entertainment.
 My friends
What to Wear 

Whatever the social occasion might be, I can be relied upon to strike the wrong note with what I'm wearing.  Take, for example, the time in fourth grade when I wore a pink dress on picture day.  That was the year everyone else decided they were too cool to dress up for pictures, and I felt like a total dork all day at school.  Things haven't improved much since then.  That is why you should not listen to my sartorial advice.  Consider yourself warned.

Before you decide what to wear, first do some research on the type of venue you will be forced to attend.  If you suspect that the establishment has pretensions to seriousness, you are safest in nice jeans and a black shirt.  If it is a tiki bar or other themed joint, you are in luck.  You can almost do no wrong.  Getting into the theme will grant you bonus points without you even having to open your mouth.  If you aren't into themed garb, wear your jeans and black shirt with a token themed accessory, so when the cute girl teases you about not being sporting, you can point out your fiesta-colored belt or your tiki torch lapel pin to prove her wrong.  She will appreciate that. 

Selecting a Song
If you think you will get drunk enough to sing, have a list of songs on hand that you think you could pull off.  That is, you know the lyrics to these songs reasonably well and they are not totally out of your range.  No one wants to see you reading the song book all night like a big nerd.  Stay away from anything too slow or depressing.  Most songs by the Cure are a bad choice, except for their two happy ones.  This point was demonstrated by a lovely girl with greasy, uncombed hair wearing slubby jeans and a sweatshirt the Saturday I went out with my friends.  It turns out that most Cure songs have a 36-bar intro that's difficult to surmount even if you're a perky blonde.  It's okay to do a song that's creepy if you make it funny, or if you are an attractive female.  However, be aware that karaoke brings out the creep factor in a lot of songs that previously seemed sweet and benign.  If you don't believe me, try singing "Every Breath You Take" in front of a crowd and see their expressions change as the audience slowly realizes that it's about being a stalker.  They will have plenty of time to read the lyrics because the song is so slow.  Instead try the much funnier "The More You Ignore Me, the Close I Get."  Morrissey is a much more entertaining obsessive-compulsive type, and is therefore suitable for nerds to parody.

Avoiding Singing Altogether
Of course, it would be preferable to just sit out the singing altogether.  Pay attention to the types of people who are singing already.  If they actually have good voices and/or take themselves seriously, you should definitely sit this night out.  I have compiled a list of tasks that you might perform to entertain your fellow karaokers without having to actually go onstage:

- Write out song slips for everyone else with the funniest or most inappropriate song possible for them to sing.  This can keep you very busy, and you will appear to be doing some real research in the song book.  Also, this is a way to communicate non-verbally, as it will be too damn loud in there to make decent quips.  Your friends can take your facetious advice as a joke or merely keep the slips as a memento.
- Do back-up dancing for your friends while they sing.  Even funnier, do back-up dancing for complete strangers while they sing.  People will think that you are really extroverted and entertaining, while really you are just avoiding the microphone.  Or, they will just think you're drunk.  Still, that's better than them realizing how terrible a singer you are.
- Buy people drinks.  They will like you.  Plus, you will seem pretty cool buying drinks for people and not even bothering them with chitchat afterward.  But hey, you have things to do.  Downside: this is not the budget option for avoiding your singing duties.
- Take photos of people.  They don't have to turn out.  As a matter of fact, they probably won't, considering the dimly lit interior of the average karaoke establishment.  That doesn't matter.  Taking pictures just screams, "I'm having fun!"
- Wrap your head in a lei.  It worked for this guy.  His girlfriend looks super impressed.

- Take up smoking.  Don't spend this evening attempting to take up harder drugs, however.  The bathroom will be too crowded to be a refuge.  Smoking, while not recommended by the surgeon general, is still legal and gives you an excuse to go outside.  If, like me, you don't smoke, simply get up with your cell phone obtrusively in hand and walk out of the bar.  Once outside, spend some time poking at it like you're sending a text message, even if you haven't received one in ages.  This could be a good time to re-establish some texting relationships you've let slide.
- Sing along to what others sing.  But be cautious when using this technique, as it doesn't fly in every venue.  Singing along without a microphone is like making a pass at your date: you want to make sure he's either really receptive to it or really drunk before you start up.

Do you have any karaoke avoidance techniques of your own?  Please share them in the comments!


Rebecca said...

I read your article twice and got some good tips. However, I'm surprised not to see you mention the most useful tip of all: get drunk. The more you drink, the better everyone starts sounding. You'll start appreciating the subtle genius of Miley Cyrus's song lyrics. You'll begin to wonder why the K.J. doesn't have his own record deal already. And, most amazing of all, you'll discover that even nerds like you--yes, you in the fiesta-colored belt and tiki torch lapel pin--can "sing your life" out on the karaoke stage. Any fool can think of words that rhyme. / Many others do / Why don't you?

Gina said...

Thank you so much for your sage advice. It really illuminates my understanding of your karaoke experience. These are great tips, and you are the best nerd I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. Getting drunk is in fact the most useful thing to do while trying to survive a night of karaoke.