Mic This

Our list of bad karaoke behavior—plus a tip for the bar

We admit it's a little sad and counterintuitive to create a list of proper etiquette for karaoke, a ritual that embraces the tacky and tasteless, but lately we've been witness to such unmentionable transgressions, such gross violations, that the Don'ts clearly need to be spelled out for some participants—and we have an additional one for bars too. So tape the following rules to the mic, pass them out to your friends. Your near-perfect rendition of "Me So Horny" deserves only the most worthy audience.

1) God doesn't smile on Stevie Nicks. Not on karaoke night. "Changes" is the kind of sentimental poo you unleash at the high school talent show—or your best friend's wedding.

2) Socially-acceptable hoochie fest? Hmm, maybe not. In the same way that some women use Halloween as an excuse to slut it up, so too will they do the same with karaoke. Ergo: those sexy renditions of "Dirrty," "Voulez Vous Couchez Avec Moi" (i.e. "Lady Marmalade"). Have you ever noticed the comparatively less self-conscious picks from many of the guys? Journey. Jovi. Sir Mix-a-Lot. Something from the underappreciated Huey Lewis canon.

What crimes have been committed at Sing Sing?
photo: Corina Zappia
What crimes have been committed at Sing Sing?

This disparity between the sexes always makes us a little sad.

3) Who let in the cast of Fame? Everyone has that one pal who can actually carry a note—invariably the same friend who's always pushing karaoke night to begin with. This is okay. Let them belt out their college-acapella version of Hootie or Tori one more godforsaken time, because, hey, you're not a hater or anything. But we've been out when a 10-performer-strong party of Tisch grads descends, and all of a sudden, everyone's listening to perfect renditions of NKOTB, or Toto even. We once heard "Wicked Game" done so well that we half-expected Helena Christensen to materialize, sand-encrusted underoos, bored expression and all. But lo, it's just some pud nonchalantly crooning dead-on Isaak while guzzling a bottle of bud, cheered on by his equally voice-coached pals. Cheaters.

4) Nobody likes a songbook hog.

5) "But I didn't sing any songs—why do I have to pay?" This is like when you go out to dinner a friend's birthday, and somebody has to "duck out" early and thinks $20 will cover their share. "But I just got a Diet Coke and an appetizer," you'll hear later, when innocently inquiring why the dinner cost you an extra $80.

And so it is with karaoke parties. Walk into the rented room, and you're financially committed for as long as you're there. It doesn't matter if you didn't sing—no one ever seems to sing quite enough at these things, do they? Just by being there, you have partaken in karaoke magic. Now cough up for those shrimp wontons.

6) The boozin' must be cheap. Here's a Don't directed at the bar itself. Samantha Fox's "Naughty Girls" deserves all the glories of a high school rec room and $2 PBR. Yet on Friday nights, Second on Second Karaoke actually charges a $5 cover, we assume to pay off a DJ saddled with the Herculean task of manning . . . of manning . . . what, exactly? What you got there? A deck? Press-play karaoke machine? Add to that a coat check and a two-drink minimum per booth. Their website even makes mention of bottle service. I believe we've stumbled on Karaoke Fancy, as incongruous as slurping caviar off a Cheeto.

 
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