Life lessons from the National Karaoke League, including how to 'give the crowda boner'
When you're an only child you spend a lot of time alone, often singing. This is in order to prevent a future life of loneliness and drinking by kidding yourself that there are people paying attention to you. From the age of 4 to now, I've become good at the art of performing to no one in particular- in front of the mirror or for the home video camera while singing "Goodbye Horses" or in the shower or while driving home from work. I love music and I love my idols. I want to be my idols. Sometimes I dress up like my idols! Most recently I watched Purple Rain in my billowy peasant blouse and cursed God when I gave myself a charlie horse trying to hump the ground at the speed of light. You know what a twenty-something from the Northeast looks like while singing "Darlin' Nikki?" Constipated.
When I first moved to Austin, I really didn't know anyone, so I joined the National Karaoke League. A close friend recommend we form a team—Steve Perry's Excellent Adventure—and we recruited six other misfits to partake on our non-bogus journey. If you're not familiar with NKL, the competitive karaoke league was formed in 2008 by self-proclaimed karaoke nerd Whitney Francis and has been growing ever since. Teams duke it out week by week for the championship title and are voted on by the audience. Some go all out with choreographed numbers and full make-up and wardrobe, while others bring a more subtle approach. The league is a blast and if whether you're a karaoke junkie or not, I recommend checking it out.
Steve Perry's Excellent Adventure consistently placed last every league night. It's not that we sucked, it's just as newbies, we hadn't won over the crowd yet. We had a long way to go, but eventually we earned some street cred. Team highlights included two male engineers from AMD dressing in schoolgirl outfits and lovingly singing T.A.T.U. to one another, a collective performance of "The Sounds of Silence" in mime, and the entire group dressed as the Bluth Family while crooning Europe's "The Final Countdown." By season finale night we went from last place to first based off of our pure sexual magnetism.
In other words, I'm a karaoke champion.
Here are a few tips I learned about the art of karaoking, and how you can become a karaoke champion too:
No Morrissey- Listen, don't be the jerk that sings slow or obscure songs. You'll become known as that person that brought down the mood and forced everyone do some unwanted self-analyzing while listening to the "The Boy with the Thorn in his Side". People are going to be drunk at karaoke and you don't want to get people crying.
Engage!- Engage the audience- nobody likes watching you stand like a deer in headlights mumbling words. Have a Rupmplemintz, heck, have ten Rumplemintz, and then get up there and take off your pants. Lean down really close to someone and whisper in their ear. Make them uncomfortable. Crawl on the ground. Hump a bartender. You know, keep it exciting!
Sing a popular song- Everyone will tell you how sick they are of hearing "Don't Stop Believin'" or " Total Eclipse of the Heart" at karaoke venues, but get a few drinks in them and they'll be the first people at the edge of the stage dancing and singing along, screaming, "I LOVE THIS F'ING SONG!" Whenever I sang my faves, Talking Heads, Frank Zappa or Elvis Costello, everyone except for the few other nerds who like those bands/singers would take a collective snore. Selling out udring karaoke is ok.
Be ironic- Irony is not lost amongst the drunk- don't give them such little credit, jeez. Hipsters singing Creed in their best man-growl or geeks rapping to Kanye surprisingly goes over well with the crowd.
Give the crowd a boner- If you're a girl and you sing anything by Metallica, Guns n' Roses or AC/DC, and sing it well, you will have instantly given the entire bar a boner. On the same token, if you're a dude and sing anything well you will have also given the bar one giant boner.
Don't try so hard- If you don't look like, sound like, or dance like Prince or Michael Jackson, don't even try it. No amount of alcohol will save you from the devastation you'll create. You will fail epically and live with that failure for the rest of your life. Every time you attempt to shame either man, MJ sheds a tear from heaven that collects in Prince's tub of purple rain where he drowns puppies. Do you want to be the cause of the genocide of Prince's puppies?