Saturday was my birthday. It was also Groundhog Day, but somehow I am a huge failure and have yet to find out whether or not he saw his shadow. Not that it matters, since it was 71 here today-- wtf, mate? Really, whether Phil said so or not, spring has sprung, even it's taking a kind-of hiatus this weekend.
But back to birthday. It was a great night. Why? Because it included a trip to Café Japone in Dupont for some sweet, sweet karaoke. Having gone on several karaoke excursions in the recent past, I hereby offer some musings on the rules of the road-- as I see them-- for a successful night of karaoke.
1. Bigger is not better. For example, Café Japone is a pretty small restaurant, which means there are fewer [presumably drunk] people to mock or attack you. It's also set up like a restuarant, so not everyone is watching the performer. Places that are bigger or more presentational can get a little terrifying, especially under hostile conditions.
2. Don't go to Peyote in Adams Morgan ever. It's in Adams Morgan so everyone is a belligerent, wasted 20-year-old (I am McSurly?). Also, the DJ makes you tip if you ever want to hear your song and one of his microphones--the one he hands to you, conveniently-- doesn't work. No lie. It was the best "Hey Jealousy" I've ever done, and only I heard the first half of it because I was singing into a dead mike.
1. Get to a mental and emotional place in which you can enjoy making a spectacle of yourself or watching others make spectacles of themselves. If this preparatory process requires alcohol, so be it. Performers be warned-- this does not give you license to be in the bathroom when your song comes up on the queue.
2. Strike a balance between respectful and judgy. Once, a guy yelled at my extremely talented, classically trained friend that he was bad. Like, to my friend's face, while my friend was singing. That was cruel and inappropriate. On the other hand, some terrible girls once stole the mike from us when they forfeited their song by being too drunk to realize it was their turn. We sat calmly at our table and commented to each other about how awful they were. And how vaguely anorexic. The suggestion, "Eat a powerbar" might or might not have been uttered at some point. But the moral of the story is that we let those pathetic diva-wannabes finish their destruction of a perfectly good song. Even though it was "Sweet Caroline" and it hurt us.
2a. If you are better than someone, you are allowed to judge.
2b. If it is your birthday, you have free range to judge everyone else, including other people with the same birthday.
2c. If on your birthday, some guys who are really awful get up and try to sing your song, you are within your rights to tell them to stop and then reclaim the mike by force if they persist. Seriously, I don't think they had ever even heard "Wild Night" before.
This is obviously the most important choice you will make. More important than Sapporo or Sapporo Light. More important than sake bomb or don't sake bomb. This is huge and it will make or break you. With that in mind, a little guidance for the misguided:
1. Pick a song you know. Please. It's funny to watch people who can't sing but love a song and go balls-out. It's painful to watch people trying desperately to keep up with the words or blatantly guess at the melody. Helpful example: unless you are a complete and utter badass, never pick
"End of the World as We Know It," by R.E.M.
"One Week," by Bare Naked Ladies
Anything by Busta Rhymes
2. It doesn't matter how good a song is; if it isn't at least kind of up-tempo, it won't work. There are obvious exceptions to this rule ("Total Eclipse of the Heart," much?), but by and large it is an effective weeding tool. I am not giving examples. Figure it out.
3. Don't pick songs that are more than five minutes long. Really, it's just rude.
4. Don't pick songs with melancholy lyrics unless they are vastly outweighed by a kickass tempo and over half the people in the bar knowing the chorus. Mostly, this rule is dedicated to the guys Saturday night who tried to sing "Talking About a Revolution," by Tracy Chapman. Great song. I really like that song. But it was a bad decision. I'm sorry, but if it's 11:30 on a Saturday night and I am being peer pressured into another sake bomb-- I've lost count; don't ask--and you have been hogging the mike all night, i really do not want you to sing at me about people standing in the welfare lines. And singing badly, I might add. It was kind of funny, and every girl at my table was singing to try to drown you out, but mostly we were all silently asking wtf.
5. I know you're young and drunk and you only really know the words to about four good songs, but try to save the standards for later in the night. No one is ready for "Don't Stop Believin" at 9:30. Not even you. We use that to close down bars.
And with that, a brief sampling of successful karaoke tunes. I recommend the 80's, the 90's, boy bands, and the so-bad-they're-good:
Don't Stop Believin, Journey (please wait until the end of the night, at least after 11.)
Sweet Caroline, Neil Diamond (so good, so good, so good)
Livin on a Prayer, Bon Jovi (again, patience please)
Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Pat Benatar (BIG winner)
Hey Jealousy, Gin Blossoms (brilliant)
Follow You Down, Gin Blossoms (you will be pleasantly surprised how many people know the chorus; obviously they should know it because it's amazing, but you'll still be surprised.)
Candy, Mandy Moore (awful, and therefore perfect)
That's the Way It Is, Celine Dion (the Vegas show might be closed, but the music lives on; a very popular selection at the gay bar)
Red Neck Woman, Gretchen Wilson (a well-timed country song can be very effective, by which I mean hilarious)