For most of my life, I've been an unapologetic karaoke nerd. The first time I went to a neighborhood BBQ with karaoke, I knew I'd found my calling.
I had a karaoke DJ at my Sweet 16, went to a karaoke bar for my 21st birthday, and can vividly recall when I first moved to California, and the 'mini danidee' that didn't have any friends yet would go straight home to hog the living room and karaoke Ricky Martin on the set my parents bought me.
It was 1999. Don't judge.
So I think you could say that I take my karaoke pretty seriously, and since I am such a seasoned karaoke professional (sarcasm), I have decided to compile a list of rules - or more accurately, pointers - for going to a karaoke bar.
DO: Step up your look.
Take a good look at what you're wearing. You're swimming with the sharks at a karaoke bar. You need to show them you're a rockstar, but remember: no sunglasses indoors. (This rule doesn't count when singing Ray Orbison. In which case, use all instrumental breaks to shoot finger-guns at the ladies.)
DON'T: Rap after three beers.
Yes, three beers. There's a window of opportunity at two where you're not afraid to be the white kid with no rhythm, but then you finish off that third bottle, and it's all downhill from there. (Well, unless you're drunk Adele on a Nicki track, then do whatever you want.)
DO: Give a crap about song selection.
Good song selection separates the pros from the amateurs. Pick a song you know backwards and forward. Being comfortable with a song means you'll have more time to think about your delivery and, more importantly, your playing-up of the cheese factor. (All good karaoke songs have a cheese factor.)
DON'T: Forget the 90s.
You don't have to know the newest Justin Bieber song to make karaoke work. You don't even need to know any Journey songs. Your safest bets will always be 90s music. We were all there. Well, unless you were born after the year 2000 - in which case, what the hell are you doing inside a bar, dude?
DON'T: Cheat by manually adjusting the key or pitch.
Okay, not everyone thinks that this is cheating, but that's TOTALLY cheating to me. If you can't sing it in its regular key, don't sing the song! Look at Rihanna. She's pissed.
DO: Find your optimal beer consumption vs. song difficulty ratio.
If you're going for the almighty M's (Mariah, Meatloaf, and the Michaels Bolton and Jackson), you're probably going to want to be shit-facted before you attempt the falsettos. Here's a rule of thumb: Drink two shots while your song's still in queue, and if you didn't hit that chart-shattering high note, spend the rest of the night acting like you drank four (or more, if you think any of your friends would believe you). Botching the almighty M's is much more forgivable when you're wasted enough to forget how the song goes.
DON'T: Waste a good instrumental break.
Most pop songs have at least a 20-second break of some sort. If you reach this break and don't know what to do, the least you can do is headbang. Never underestimate the power of good hairography. Even just an enthusiastic nod of the head to the beat is something. Any type of choreography is necessary during breaks, especially if you can do it like the original artist. (Just don't try Alice Cooper unless you're spitting out bloodied bat heads. Professionals only, folks.)
I love duets because I feel like there's been one written for every occasion. You could be out singing with your best friend, your ex-girlfriend, or maybe even the last guy your ex-girlfriend slept with, and you'll still have an appropriate song somewhere in the song list. Just keep the important rules of song selection in mind. Also, Sonny and Cher ? Still definitely in bounds.
So there you have them - the do's and don'ts of a karaoke outing on the town.
If you follow these rules carefully, you'll not only be able to hold onto your dignity, but the patrons will warm right up to you too. Who knows? You might get free drinks and a few telephone numbers. (And if not, don't lose hope. Keep at it, grasshopper.)