Feedback: How To Sing A Killer Karaoke Duet

Lindsey isn’t a very good singer. Nor is she a particularly bad singer. That, and a typical weakness for attention from strangers, is what makes her at her happiest while performing karaoke. Ever since she discovered that belting Tammy Wynette and 4 Non Blondes in front of crowds substituted perfectly for therapy, she’s been pressuring her friends to listen to her sing weekly at a plethora of karaoke bars across NYC. Meanwhile, while not singing, she’s developed very strong opinions about what constitutes the proper etiquette of karaoke–everything from song choice to mic-handling technique. Her opinions (while regarded trustworthy by some of the greatest karaoke’ers in town) are her own, so feel free to disregard. After all, if you’re just dying to sing “Don’t Stop Believin'”* you’ll probably just go ahead and sing it. Send your karaoke questions for Lindsey to karaokeconfessional AT gmail.com.

(Special Duet Edition!)

Boyfriend/girlfriend duets? Take ’em or leave ’em? –Michelle

Chemistry is chemistry, man. And if that chemistry shines through your performance, I’ll be all cheers. But if I see another chick draaaaag their significant other up to the microphone and force them to miserably hum along to something ‘NSync-flavored, I’ll cry. There’s your difference.

Something that also makes a difference? Authentic vs. non-authentic duets. An authentic duet means that there are, naturally, two parts. Unless you’ve got some sort of prearranged, fancy split of verses and choruses (which, trust me, I’ve done!) I basically don’t want to hear two people sing the same (non-duet) song together. There are plenty of duets out there. These days, they disguise themselves by noting “featuring so-and-so” — but, I promise you: those are duets.

OK, here’s an etiquette question. How obnoxious is it to sing along with someone else? I don’t mean going up to the mic or anything–just sitting in the bar, singing along to other people’s songs. Totally obnoxious? Not obnoxious at all and everyone does it? I can’t help it–I always want to sing along with everyone! –Caitlin

If no one in the bar is singing along with you, it’s time to either find a new bar or find a new hobby. Seriously, there’s something wrong—or is the bar perhaps empty? Did you check? Singing along with the karaoke-r is part of the fun, or we’d all be merely there to wait in line to sing our song. These aren’t Idol auditions.

There’s one thing, however, that can go very, very wrong when people start “singing along”…

Recently, a karaoke bar, I sang Whitney [Houston]’s “Saving All My Love For You,” (which I added to my repertoire shortly after her premature death). Without consulting me, another patron picked up the second mic and joined in the song. This is something we all know happens in karaoke, but it was particularly annoying to me because I was doing such a torch song (and my singing companion was totally butchering it, to boot). However, I finished the song and didn’t say anything. I DID make sure I knew where both mics were on all my future songs. My question is: How do you handle this situation without seeming like a karaoke diva who takes herself too seriously? How can I avoid unplanned duets? –”Happily Solo”

My condolences to you, “Happily Solo,” this situation is truly one of the worst. Perhaps, the worst. Your intended dramatic effect, your kind and thoughtful tribute to one of music’s greatest stars–a brave belting slow song, no doubt!–thwarted by a possibly drunk, definitely rude fellow patron. To me, this is unacceptable.

Good for you for keeping your cool and powering through the ballad. Your tip for future songs is a smart one: always know where that pesky second mic is. The Karaoke Jockey should actually note your preferences and keep the other mic in check. I would recommend that if this happens again, you gesture toward your KJ and somewhat stealthily let her know that this now-duet is unwanted. She should grab the mic and you can continue on. I promise you won’t look like a diva–you’re sparing the room from a screaming match on the mics.

What’s wrong with looking like a karaoke diva? Hey, you’re the one singing Whitney–she’s the diva–so you should be bold enough to act like one, too.

Previously in Feedback:

* Should You Ever Sing a Slow Song At Karaoke?

* Things Good Singers Should Never Do At Karaoke

Lindsey Weber is a writer living in Brooklyn. Her karaoke bar of choice is Montero’s Bar & Grill and she limits herself to singing “What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes only once a month. You can follow her on Twitter: @lindseyweber. Send your karaoke questions for Lindsey to karaokeconfessional AT gmail.com.