Feedback: Should You Ever Sing A Slow Song At Karaoke?

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

What’s your take on slow songs? I feel like most people want to keep it upbeat. I don’t mean like, “The Freshmen,”  but can you get away with a “Save the Best for Last” or a “Video Games”? –Julieanne

Oh man, I love singing slow songs at karaoke. The sadder, the better.

The obvious issue with singing slow, sad songs at karaoke is you’re going to run the risk of bumming out the audience. In the beginning of the night, when everyone’s just getting started, it’s probably a bad idea to belt out a slow ballad. Once, my friend J sang Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” perhaps a bit too early in the evening, and now every time we got to the bar the bartender reminds her of the time she sang “Fast Car” and “people left” and how now: “no one’s allowed to sing that sad song.” I always remind her, repeatedly, that it’s not because of her performance. A slow song, especially one about abusive relationships, is probably something you want to save for the shower–or for 3AM. A loophole to the “try not to totally bum out the audience” rule is 3AM. If it’s 3AM (or any time around then) you are free to sing a slow song. In fact, sing the saddest song you know. Even if it’s “Superstar” by The Carpenters.

Another way to get that sad song out of your system without chasing people away is to choose a sad song that just happens to be upbeat. I know, how Morrissey of me! But if singing The Smiths cures your woes, by all means do so. I happen to be obsessed with disco-era songs that are lyrically downers: like Freda Payne’s “Band Of Gold” or Donna Summer’s “Last Dance.” Try one of those.

Not so much a question, but a jumping-off point.
John Clark

Thanks John! I chose this “question” because a) who sings sad songs with more passion and triumph than Melissa Etheridge? And while those songs may be sad, Etheridge’s oeuvre is full of karaoke gems. Deep-voiced verses with choruses that allow you to belt? And force you to dramatize desperation? That’s a power karaoke-r (who happens to be a mediocre singer’s) dream. “I’m The Only One” is one of my personal favorites, and I promise you: it gets the job done–if ”the job” is gaining a complete emotional breakthrough through the power of karaoke.

Bonus Track: Lindsey’s Incomplete List Of Sad Songs That’ll Heal You Through Karaoke Playlist:

  • Gloria Gaynor – “I Will Survive” (NOTE: This song is severely underrated and underperformed.)
  • Sheryl Crow – “If It Makes You Happy”
  • Cat Stevens – “The First Cut Is The Deepest”
  • Melissa Etheridge – “I’m The Only One”
  • Donna Summer – “Last Dance”
  • Carole King/The Shirelles – “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” (NOTE: The Shirelles’ version is falsely peppy, while the Carole King one shows its true, sad cadence.)
  • Semisonic – “Closing Time”
  • R.E.M. – “Losing My Religion”

Got any additional suggestions? What do you sing to get your sads out?

Previously in Feedback: 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