Adventures in…Being Put on the Spot, Karaoke Edition

Being put on the spot scares me, particularly if I’m unprepared. Whether it’s being asked questions in class, having to say a small speech in front of people, giving an impromptu presentation, or just asked questions in general, I hate being unprepared in the spotlight. When this happens, my entire body and brain shut down. I literally freeze, my eyes get kind of wide, and my brain feels like it’s running around in circles inside my head waving its little arms in terror. This is mainly why karaoke has terrified ever since I became aware that it’s a thing. As a consumate preparer, you’d think that I would have prepared for the eventual time when I would face karaoke, but I didn’t.

There are plenty of social situations that you can usually avoid if you don’t like them and it’s not big deal. That’s how I treated karaoke for most of my adult life until I couldn’t avoid it anymore. Unfortunately, we may find ourselves in a position one day when we really, really should just do it. I should know myself better and know that I need to be prepared for situations before they happen. I should have known that I needed a prepared karaoke song. But, for whatever reason, I only just came up with my go-to karaoke songs. Hopefully, you can learn from me and be more prepared than I was when I found myself in just that situation. And while I haven’t discussed this with many people, I have to believe that there are others out there like me who need preparation and become petrified at the thought of choosing a song, then voluntarily getting up there to sing it in front of people. So, for all my fellow karaoke-averse people out there, here is how I came around to believing that everyone needs a karaoke song.

My Issues With Karaoke

Most of my friends are surprised that I avoid karaoke because I love music and singing. With karaoke, there are 2 main issues:

  1. you have to choose a good song – people should know it, it should match the mood in the room, preferably be somewhat upbeat, can’t be too long, and no repeat songs allowed
  2. you have to sing the whole song – not just the chorus.

You have anywhere between 5 minutes to an hour to come up with a good song to sing in front of people. I never know what to sing. You can’t just choose a song that you love because you don’t want to choose something too slow, it should ideally be a crowd-favorite, and it’s best if it isn’t very hard (this means no Queen). Plus, I really only know the chorus of most songs, but no verses. It doesn’t matter that most people probably only know that choruses too. I’m still terrified of getting up there and making a complete fool of myself (no, it doesn’t matter that making a fool of yourself might just be the entire point of karaoke). As a result, I have avoided every. single. opportunity to do karaoke for my entire adult life up to age 30. Y’all, that’s about 12 years between when I first went off to college and when I first did karaoke.

My Attempts at Karaoke

My First Time

I first did karaoke towards the end of a night at a very relaxed work function. A group of people were having fun singing in front of a smallish crowd, and I had even participated in a few group karaoke songs. Eventually, I screwed up my (partially liquid) courage to sing one of my all-time favorite songs – Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”. I chose this song because I love running to it, had been listening to it A LOT, and it’s a great song! I totally ignored the fact that it’s a hard song. Amazingly and thankfully, it went really well! People paid attention, cheered, and spontaneously told me that I did a good job afterward! YAY! I totally thought I had this down.

My Second Time

Fast forward a couple of months and there was another random opportunity to do karaoke. Based on my previous success, I felt so confident. I got up to the front of the room, the music came on…and I was terrible! I couldn’t find the melody, I started shaking, I mumbled, and it went downhill from there. Somehow I made it all the way through the song, but my confidence was gone.

My (Almost) Third Time

A full year passed before another karaoke situation came up during a party at a friend’s house. This time, I should have been prepared. I knew it was coming, but I didn’t pay attention and was really busy and yadda yadda yadda. Unfortunately, I was tired, cranky, and generally not in a good mood. A few friends tried to pressure me (and I pressured myself) to think of something, anything to singe but my brain completely froze…for about 2 hours! I couldn’t think of a single song to sing and there was NO WAY that I would try to sing “Don’t Stop Me Now” after how badly the previous time went. So, I sat there watching other people get up and sing. I desperately tried to think of a song, but my brain just wouldn’t agree to one. At one point, someone said to me in front of the whole room, “You’ve been trained to sing! You should definitely sing something!” I was mortified. Yes, I have been trained to sing, but that does not mean I am a particularly good singer OR that I have something to sing. I ended up watching other people sing all night and not getting into it, all while wishing I could think of a single good song to sing and cursing my brain for not being able to think of something on the spot. It was rough and I became more and more self-conscious as the night went on in a vicious cycle.

Ready For The Next Time

The day after the disastrous party, I spent a couple of hours looking up karaoke songs online. In particular, I searched for good karaoke songs to sing, but you’d be surprised at how few posts there are about choosing a karaoke song given how popular it is. To me, this means that people are either 1) pretty good at picking a song, 2) nobody is willing to talk about how hard it is to pick a song, or 3) nobody cares about picking a song.  I eventually ended up on YouTube, listening to a bunch of different songs and figuring out which ones I liked. YouTube has SO MANY KARAOKE SONGS! Literally, all I did was go to the YouTube website and search for “karaoke”. A bunch of options came up, and down the rabbit hole I went. I listened to some while watching the lyrics, and added a few to my “watch later list” so I could come back to them. One thing in particular that caught my attention is that many of the songs I listened to did not have the melody in the instrumental version, which makes singing along SO. MUCH. HARDER.

After selecting a few of my favorites, I practiced them for real. Usually, I sing along in my car, but I wanted to look at the lyrics on the screen too. So, I went home and belted them out. I had strict criteria that my new go-to karaoke song had to fit:

  • Proper range – couldn’t go too high or too low
  • Proper tempo – couldn’t be too fast or too slow
  • Enough melody to follow along in the instrumentation
  • Few (to no) background lyrics popping up as primary lyrics
  • Not too long – don’t want to stand up there for more than 3 ½ minutes
  • Good crowd song – ideally, a song that people would sing along with me
  • Not an incredibly common song – no repeat songs allowed (Garth Brooks’ Friends in Low Places was automatically out because it is way too popular)
  • A personal favorite – I have to like this song

Turns out, most of the songs I had flagged didn’t fit most of my criteria and were not considered. Thankfully, I found a couple songs that fit, and I now have a fall-back karaoke song that I can crush. I actually found 6 songs I could possibly sing if I had to!

In case you’re curious, they are (in no particular order):

Killing Me Softly – a la Roberta Flack

All I Do Is Win – a la DJ Khaled

Bang Bang – a la Jessi J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj

Hit Me With Your Best Shot – a la Pat Benatar

Cups – a la Anna Kendrick

Fight Song – a la Rachel Platten

That’s not all though. Because I freeze like a deer in headlights when I’m put on the spot, I know I wouldn’t remember the songs off the top of my head. So, I made a list on my phone of potential karaoke songs. Next time, all I have to remember is that I have a list! I can refer to the list, pick a song based on the mood in the room and what I think I can do, and have fun!

The real moral of this story is that you should know your weaknesses. Also, always be prepared. I know myself well enough to know that I’m terrible in the moment. I should have prepared for the bad party, but I didn’t. So, I suffered through. Thankfully, I don’t think anybody else remembers what I wreck I was! Next time though…I’ll be ready for karaoke spotlight because I’m prepared.

Your Turn

If you’re looking for a good karaoke song, check out this Buzzfeed page.

Your turn! What are your go-to karaoke songs? And/or, is there something in your life that you’ve been avoiding, even though you should probably prepare yourself for it anyways?

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