I Won't Apologise For Being Really Bad But Really Good At: The Karaoke Edition
Straight up I will say I am the worst singer. I know this because I have recorded myself sing on my iPhone. Every day as soon as I get in my car I turn into an Australian Idol reject. My stage is the road, and my audience is every unlucky driver who is positioned next to me at a red light. I used to think my car was an automobile, but over time it has revealed its true purpose as a mobile recording studio.
I drive a 1999 Purple Volkswagen Polo, the type of car that entered the new millennia adopting certain technological advancements (electronic windows for the two front windows ONLY) and skipped out on others (no cup holders). One of my car’s shortcomings is that there is no USB port and it does not support music devices. If I want to listen to my own selection of music I need to take it back to 2002 and make a mix CD. This was exciting to begin with, until I grew tired of all of my CDs. The ones I still loved got the accidental ‘speed hump scratch remix’, which forced me to become a patron of commercial radio.
Commercial radio has improved my memory by 100% percent – I know the words to every Taylor Swift song, the order to push the channels on the dashboard without looking, and can recite the ads like a Broadway monologue. I play radio roulette with myself where I scan through all the channels maniacally, until I hear the song I want. While skipping songs at this pace I've created the world's best medleys like a sound sommelier – try pairing Fleetwood Mac with Run DMC. It’s magic. I even pull over to the side of the road to Shazam songs.
I began knowing the words to every song on the radio, old songs, new songs, and even when the song did not have words I would passionately hum the tune, or worse invent words. I had outgrown the car stadium. I was ready to perform to a carefully selected audience of 9 to 13 close friends for optimum microphone rotation and drink voucher distribution. I was ready for karaoke.
Karaoke is one of the few places in life where being really bad at something means you’re really good at something. I am really bad at singer, however when you put me in front of an oversized television with one of those ‘We don’t own the copyright to this video clip so here is one we made with people happily roller skating in various locations/a couple breaking up while eating fast food in a shopping centre/or someone aimlessly travelling through life driving solo behind a green screen scene’ karaoke video clips, I am good. I don’t know if it is the carpeted soundproof walls, the easy to clean vinyl couches, or the ability to dim the lights to your exact preference, but in the confines of a karaoke room anything is possible.
My obsession with karaoke led me to develop the following dogma to maximise the karaoke experience:
Never choose to sing a rap song unless you have practiced in a mirror holding a hair brush while star jumping at home first. It’s called rapping because it is not singing, and rapping is hard. Rapping is voice cardio. You think you sound like Kanye, the reality is you sound like a Labrador panting heavily for some water.
Naturally gifted singers are shunned in the karaoke room. If you are a Selena/Elton/Mariah you need to pretend you are the sixth member of a boy band. The one that got kicked out of the band right before they became famous.
Imagine if you were at a concert and in between songs the singer paused to decide which of their hits to sing next or sexted their famous lover on stage or counted all the loose change in their wallet so they could buy one last sparkling wine. That is YOU when you don’t cue up songs in advance. Karaoke is not just karaoke – it is the concert of our lives.
If you think reading every volume of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica might be confronting, try reading the A-Z karaoke song book. In the dark. And mildly drunk. This is why I enter the karaoke ring with a secret list of karaoke songs stored on my phone. On the top of that list is Mr. President’s ‘Coco Jumbo’.
I am a terrible singer, therefore I have to rely on my performance to get me through a song. A performance can be seriously distracting and transform your voice from Britney Spears in The Mickey Mouse Club to Christina Aguilera in The Mickey Mouse Club. If I am singing Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers' duet ‘Islands in the Stream’ I will force my partner to look me dead in the eyes as we sing to each other. If I sing Lisa Loeb’s ‘Stay’ I will slide down against a wall during the dramatic verses. And if I sing Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ I will pretty much sing on my knees for the entirety of the song like I am about to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy Awards.
The number one rule when doing karaoke is to never leave a session without singing in unison with everyone in the room Natalie Imbruglia’s ‘Torn’. It brings people together. This is the only song where being a microphone hog is excused. I'll dangle the microphone upside down over my head and sing into it chaneling the inner recording artist I will never be. I’ve come a long way from singing in my car and for that I won’t apologise.
Illustration by Alice Oehr.