Articles & Opinions, Music

Blast from the Past: A Lesson in the Ancient Art of Karaoke

March, 2010

I’m going to periodically add posts from blogs I’ve previously written for. Here’s a favorite of mine.

Despite the nasty rumor that’s been circulating around for years, ‘Karaoke’ does not mean “tone deaf.” It actually translates to “empty orchestra,” which, unfortunately, doesn’t describe the phenomenon as well as the rumor.
Recently I’ve volunteered my time to a local non-profit that holds a Karaoke contest every year. There are many qualifiers at local establishments, a semi-finals where they whittle down to the final 12 contestants, and a finals where they’ll pick two honorable mentions and a grand prize winner. It’s actually not a bad gig to win – cash prize contests never are. But I’ve noticed a trend, having been involved in the event the last few years. Once as a judge, once as a guest judge and now as the photographer. Hear me out.
I’m a bit of a self-taught music nerd. I’ve taken a class or two on general music history, but I don’t have extensive training in the subject by any means. I am able to pick at a couple instruments and play a recognizable song or two, and Iam very good at ‘Name That Tune.’ And being a little obsessed with all things music doesn’t hurt either. What I mean to say is, I’m no authority, but I still think you should read my do’s and don’ts of Karaoke.
(Keep in mind, these are suggestions for competition Karaoke only. I’m not trying to step on the toes of drunken-bar-for-funsies-’oke.)

Do’s & Don’ts of Karaoke.

DO sing a song you’re passionate about. Something you can put a little feeling into.

DO pick an artist you respect, identify with, or even idolize.

DO practice your song at least once before going on stage. In the car or the shower counts.

DO dress the part. I’m not saying you need glitter & stilettos or a fedora and a bolo tie, I’m just saying don’t wear your friggin’ pajamas.

DO make eye contact, and if at all possible, memorize the lyrics so you’re not staring at the teleprompter the whole time.

DO perform your song in front of HONEST friends before hopping on stage, if you can get them to listen. It’s hard when your friends lie to you and tell you you’re great, only to get on stage and realize they were being way too kind. But at the same time, DON’T ask for an opinion you’re not ready to hear.

DON’T pick a song just because you love it. Loving it does not mean it’s in your vocal range, it does not mean it will go over well with the crowd and it definitely does not mean you can do it any justice.

DON’T pick a diva song unless you’ve got the balls to carry it out. This means no Mariah, no Whitney, no Celine, no Adele and no Aretha.

DON’T stand there like a fence post while you sing. This is your moment, dude.

DON’T pick something too obscure, too heavy, too vulgar or too long. The point is to get people to enjoy and remember your performance.

DON’T pick the same damn song every time. If I have to see you in a qualifier, the semi finals and the finals doing the same song the same way every single time, it makes me want to punch you in your hoo-hoo.

Lastly folks, I want to point out that it takes a TON of courage to get up there and do a number. More courage than I’ve managed to muster. Especially all by yourself, and especially in front of judges. I just want you to do your absolute best, so I give you these tips, lovingly and free of charge.

Seacrest out.


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