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.
In this week’s edition of Feedback, I’m coming to you LIVE from New Orleans. More specifically, from one of the country’s most perfect karaoke bars: Kajun’s. If you’re ever down south, make sure you visit. There’s nothing like ‘discovering’ karaoke bar when you’re far from your local singspot. Speaking of Karaoke Tourism, let’s go:
Can you talk about the different types of karaoke spots? My friends always want to go to asian spots, with tiny rooms, but I prefer grimey bars and stages. How do I convince them that I’m right and they’re wrong? –Dan
While karaoke styles are totally up to personal preference, I can’t lie: I agree with you. You’re right, that grimey bar karaoke is the only true way to sing. You’re there to release some pent-up stress, to battle stage fright, to get all eyes on you and to really feel the spotlight. In that way, a small room with a bunch of people screaming will never do. You know what else will never do? $8/person/hour. That’s right. Good luck getting 5+ drunk people trying to settle a $150+ bill.
If that type of reasoning doesn’t work, make sure you use the opportunity to try out some new material. No need to please the crowd or be completely confident in your song choice, a small room with a bunch of friends allows you to try new things. Maybe you’ll even find a new karaoke standard!
Is it wrong to sing the same song at karaoke every single time no matter what? I seem to have fallen into a rut with “Dr Feelgood” (Aretha Franklin, not Motley Crue). I mean, it works really well with my voice and I know it like the back of my hand, and I think I’m a pretty good singer so there’s none of that off-key warbling that a lot of people seem to get with Aretha tunes. But am I going to be “That Girl Who Sings That Song” everywhere I go? Or more importantly I guess, will people hate me for it? –Ann
Do you see how I stack these questions in a very particular order? Singing the same song, one that makes you feel confident, proud and mostly important: like a good singer, is never a crime. No one can fault you for that! But as a karaoke enthusiast, and a KJ (Karaoke Jockey’)s BFF, can I encourage you to try something new? If you’re frequenting the same bar each week, with some of the same friends, you’re always gonna feel stale. Perhaps you ask the true expert, your KJ, if he/she can suggest a song that might be good for you. I guarantee that if you truly sing your standard as much as you think you do, your KJ will be happy to help.
Would another Aretha song do the trick? If you can pull of anything by The Queen of Soul, I promise you there are plenty of songs in your karaoke future.
What’s the etiquette on feigning a twang or Southern accent when singing country songs?
Your friend in low places,
Faking a southern accent is a karaoke party trick that, when used properly, is magic. Now, I don’t mean pronouncing certain words the way they are done so in the song (see: “water”/”warrrter” in Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter”) to keep the rhymes correct. I mean: a full-out, entire-song farce.Is this something you can do? Yes, you can. Up north? Out west? Go wild. Meanwhile, if you’re down south and attempting to feign a southern accent, you might wanna tread softly. I have yet to have this experience, but I imagine you could encounter some haters.
Speaking of country music, I find that country karaoke is terribly underrated and (where I frequent) not nearly sung enough. For singers who aren’t as confident in their voices, country can be the perfect solution: often low-pitched, filled with great narratives and they also tend to be confidence boosting sing-alongs. To get you started, I’ve asked Georgia native and karaoke killer Kelly Reeves to create a country beginner’s playlist. Enjoy!
Kelly’s Kountry Karaoke Playlist
The Crowd Pleasers & Vague Country Committals
1. Garth Brooks, ‘Friends in Low Places’ - The Ultimate Crowd Pleaser
2. Shania Twain, ‘Man I Feel Like a Woman’ – If you’re hesitant to fully commit to twang, a track from the original queen of pop country is a great choice and fun for any gender.
3. Carrie Underwood, ‘Before He Cheats’ – This girl power anthem is even better when paired with a Shania song since Carrie disses “Shania karaoke” in the track.
Old School Classics
You can’t go wrong with a classic country hit where a majority of the crowd will at least know a few words of the chorus.
4. David Allan Coe, ‘You Never Even Called Me By My Name’
5. Patsy Cline, ‘Walking After Midnight’
6. Tammy Wynette, ‘Stand By Your Man’
Ridiculous But Fun Lesser-Known Hits
To be honest, I have no clue if anyone knows these songs aside from me, but the lyrics are so silly that the crowd will stay interested by simply trying to follow the nonsense (and your grade A performance, of course).
7. Patty Loveless, ‘I Try to Think About Elvis’
8. Joe Diffie, ‘John Deere Green’
Grab A Partner, Do-Si-Do
For when you need that crucial male / female duet
10. Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers, ‘Islands in the Stream’
Previously in Feedback:
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.