How To Slay At Karaoke


At some point, whether you plan on it or not, you’re going to be drunk to the verge of oblivion on stage at a karaoke bar. Let’s say that moment is now.

If the number of shots you’ve taken tonight were bullets fired in a 21-gun salute, they would have buried you twice by now. You’re leaning against the microphone stand about to either pass out or vomit on Brent’s shoes or both. You don’t remember agreeing to do this; why did you let Brent talk you into singing that song from Mulan?

But then you look over and see that bachelorette party in the big pink booth. That brunette bridesmaid leans over to the bride and points at you. They whisper. In your drunkenness, you vaguely remember one of the other guys mentioning they overheard her say she would “totally do you” and she wanted to “make a mistake tonight.” That’s all you needed to hear, even if it was completely made up.

You can be that mistake, but you’re going to have to perform.

Here’s how to slay at karaoke:

1. Song Choice

Song choice is critical to success at karaoke. You do not want to be the guy who tackles that beloved masterpiece only to shriek through it in an ordeal that sounds like Bernie Sanders banging a billy goat.

Pick a song that’s squarely in your range and to which you know all the lyrics really well. By that, I mean something that sounds good yelled or slurred through, because you’re a terrible singer. You want to go with a song that’s not too overdone, but is still recognizable. You also want it to reveal something about yourself to make you seem vulnerable and likable to those lovelorn bachelorettes.

Pick a guilty pleasure song. Carly Rae used to be perfect for this, but Britney and T Swizz are the golden geese now. Personally, I think you can’t go wrong with “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood or anything Miranda, because the angry vocals are easy to show passion through.

And if you have the balls, Disney or Frozen closes every time.

2. Wingman Choice

Who you choose to man that second mic can make or break your performance. The backup is your wingman, the guy who props you up and carries you when you forget the lyrics.

This should be about you, so be careful you don’t pick the dude who used to do theater in high school and won’t shut up about it. Your perfect backup is:

1. Uglier than you, but not so ugly that girls vomit up their vodka water when looking at the stage.

2. A worse singer than you, but not so much worse to where girls stick vodka water vomit in their ears to muffle the sound.

Anyone you have chemistry with is a good wingman, though. It’s like seeing two girls dancing together in a bar. Women are attracted to friendship, and if you look like you’re having fun, they will want to have fun with you too.

3. Position Choice

This is the tough one; that third and final element that’s nearly impossible to nail. It’s like the school talent show — nobody remembers the guy who goes first, but if you go last, you have to bring the house down.

You don’t want to sign up to sing too early, but if you hold off, you risk being caught in karaoke limbo. I’ve seen song lists explode from five ahead to an hour wait in about fifteen minutes.

Even if you’re not at a crowded bar, the later you go, the higher the risk of a better looking guy going first and taking that empty seat at the bachelorette party’s booth before you ever get the chance to shine. You’re also dealing with the unpredictable doomsday clock of AGMSSS. That’s “A Gay Man Singing Sam Smith.” If you get hit with that one, it doesn’t matter what song you sing. Everything after “Stay With Me” from a good singer is going to make you look like dog vomit.

Try for the bottom of the top third of the list. That’s the sweet spot. Nobody’s too drunk yet, and all the options are open.

Good luck, Sinatra. You should have all the tools you need to destroy the karaoke bar, and make some sweet music of your own with that bridesmaid tonight as well. Maybe two of them, even.

Just because I still have you here, “Don’t Stop Believin'” is off limits before 2 a.m. Bottom line. Got it? Good.

Go have fun.