Whether you decide to belt it out at the Brewhouse, Eastway or your friend's birthday party, karaoke can either be an awesome or horrifying experience to observe and partake in. Follow these simple Dos and Don'ts to make sure your singing experience isn't one you'll regret.
Pick a song within your range
Not every woman can sing like Mariah Carey. Not every man can sing like Barry White. Even though your voice might sound like a choir of angels in the comfort of your shower, there is a good chance the average Joe actually sounds more like William Hung on stage. If you are not a trained vocalist, remember to pick a song that suits your voice. If you aren't sure whether or not the song is a good choice, try asking an especially honest friend if you can pull it off. If he or she gives you the thumbs up, go for it. Hopefully they aren't just playing a cruel joke on you.
Pick a song everyone knows and can sing along to if you're nervous
Karaoke is meant to be fun, not a talent show. No one cares how many obscure Radiohead songs you know all the lyrics to. If it's your first time singing and the bar suddenly grows suspiciously quiet as you grab the mic, don't freak out. Be prepared to sing a song everyone will inevitably start shouting the words to. That way if you bomb it, no one will even notice. Classic '80s tunes are always a fun choice, as are any Top 40 pop hits from the past decade. If you sing “Fight For Your Right,” there's a good chance everyone will be screaming “YOU GOTTA FIGHT... FOR YOUR RIGHT... TO PARRRRTAAAAY!” and you'll be remembered as the person who picked “THE BEST SONG EVER!!!” not the person whose voice sounded like Peter Brady going through puberty.
Pick a song you are familiar with
Nothing is worse than someone bombing your favorite song right before your eyes. You can prevent someone booing you or throwing a drink in your face if you are familiar with the song you're about to sing. You don't have to know every lyric (that's what the handy singalong screen is for), but at least know the melody. Fake it till you make it.
4Get into it (but not TOO into it)
It's much more entertaining to watch someone having a good time while they're performing than staring at a shy singer who doesn't move for a full five agonizing minutes. Dance and bop along to your song, but don't get too wild. Swinging the microphone is never a good idea, and walking into the crowd just makes you look like a tool. And please, for the safety of yourself and others, do not even consider crowd surfing. This is karaoke, not a concert someone paid for. Keep yourself and others safe during your performance.
If you're nervous, pick a song that will make people laugh.
No one wants to watch someone singing a really intense or romantic song. If you can't decide on something that is universally appealing to you and your audience, try something funny. But make sure you sell it — don't get up there and start giggling. “Mambo Number 5” is a good choice, but don't point to any ladies while you sing. I doubt their names are actually Monica or Rita. “Push It” is also a good option, but please, keep the thrusting to a minimum.
Plan something in advance if you're singing with a friend
Duets ease the pressure of performing, especially if you're a karaoke rookie. It's a good idea to plan something in advance with a friend so you aren't awkwardly singing over each other when you start your song. Designate one person as Freddy Mercury and the other David Bowie if you expect to successfully pull off “Under Pressure.” Avoid an uncomfortable duet like “Afternoon Delight” if your singing partner is a relative.
Learn where to hold the microphone
If you're screaming a song like “Sabotage,” hold the microphone a generous amount away from your face — about five inches or so. If you're doing “The Whisper Song” (for whatever reason), hold it close to your mouth. Whatever you do, don't make out with the microphone. Let's not spread germs, friends.
Be mindful of when your turn is
If it's a busy night at the karaoke bar, request a song early. Don't wander off to smoke a pack of cigarettes or take a nap for two hours. Make sure you're ready to grab the mic when your name is called. Don't harass the host or DJ about letting you go first — wait your turn. You learned these simple rules in kindergarten.
Have a backup plan if someone picks your song
Try not to have an emotional breakdown if someone starts singing the song you were dead set on selecting that evening. Bring a list of potential songs you'd like to sing. Keep the aforementioned rules in mind, however, and don't pick something like Rage Against the Machine just because you're angry in that moment.
Keep your clothes on.
This should really go without saying, but you'd be surprised.
No emotional songs (NO Creed!)
No one should ever want to sound like Scott Stapp when they sing. Creed is never a good choice. Just don't do it. Likewise, don't start singing a song that will cause you to drunkenly start sobbing as you think of your ex. Keep the mood light and fun. No Michael Bolton or Celine Dion either. PLEASE. This isn't 1997: no one wants to hear you belt out “My Heart Will Go On” off-key.
Don't get too drunk
Singing when you're drunk might be fun and hilarious to others, but if you're stumbling on stage and/or throwing up mid-song, you don't look like Jim Morrison. You look like you need help. If you must, have a few drinks to build your confidence, but don't get out of control. Everyone's secondhand embarrassment will fill you with regrets.
Karaoke is not "American Idol"
Something about placing a microphone in a person's hands either makes them cower in fear, or it makes them turn into an egomaniac who thinks they are the next Kelly Clarkson. Singing in a bar or in front of a small group is not supposed to be a talent show. If you obnoxiously try to prove your singing finesse, you will be faced with a room full of Simon Cowells. Just keep it fun, and don't try your hardest to impress a room full of strangers.
Don't pick anything too vulgar
Dirty songs can be funny, but keep your audience in mind. If you're trying to pick up a girl or guy, a song like “My Neck, My Back” doesn't give off a great first impression. Likewise, if you're singing karaoke in front of your co-workers, professors or family, maybe stick with a clean tune. If you have the balls to sing about balls, I guess go for it. Just remember the consequences.
Don't pick a song that's based on a dance
After a long night of drinking, I highly doubt anyone is going to want to relive their youth by doing the “Cha Cha Slide” in a crowded bar. This could end in disaster. If you don't speak Spanish, don't even attempt to sing “Macarena.” If you weren't hired as the evening's MC, don't waste your turn pretending you were. You might get away with “Teach Me How To Dougie,” but make sure there's enough room for your audience to bust a move.
Don't go up with a large group
Unless you're in a high school choir or Wu-Tang Clan, it is hard to get away with successfully performing a song with a large group. Don't pick a song with 10 different singing parts unless you and all your friends have practiced and perfected it. Trading the microphone from person to person will most likely result in missed lyrics and confusion. Don't even think about trying to shout-sing Spice Girls with a group of girlfriends. It's going to annoy everyone, I promise. Keep the singers to a maximum of three, and remember to assign your singing parts beforehand.
Don't go up with your significant other and sing your future wedding song
It was sort of cute when Shawn and his date sang “I Got You Babe” on “Boy Meets World,” but that's because the audience was invested in the characters. If you and your loved one gaze into each other’s eyes singing a heartfelt Boyz II Men rendition, you will receive a lot of moans and groans from your audience. No one wants to see you exchange melodic vows at a bar. Save it for your wedding day.
Don't heckle performers
If someone has failed to read these important tips, don't hurl insults at them if they suck. They could be giving it their all, and your laughter or booing could crush what little self esteem they may have. You don't have to fake applause, but don't be rude. You wouldn't want the same thing to happen to you while you're belting it out.
Don't point the mic at the speaker — feedback is annoying
If you start flailing about in the middle of “Walkin' On Sunshine,” please try not to lean with the microphone into a nearby speaker. The resulting sound is extremely loud and unpleasant, and it will show you're a first-timer who doesn't know what they're doing. Keep a safe distance between you and the speakers, and all will be well.
Don't pick an epically long song
If you try to sing “Free Bird,” you're going to be standing there for a while during a really long guitar solo. This is not the opportunity to bust out your “awesome” air guitar skills. Avoid overly long songs. Keep your song choice in the 2 to 3-minute range. “Stairway To Heaven” is going to put everyone to sleep. Keep your singing performance short, fast and fun.