The twelve rules of karaoke
This handy ready-reckoner is offered in the spirit of the silly season for those of you with a song in your heart at the tail end of a night out. I have now been to karaoke a couple of times and quite enjoy it - I think you’ll enjoy it too.
Rule one: Full action.
This is a term coined by a karaoke-obsessed Indonesian journalist called Donny Dahono, the first bloke to ever drag me along to karaoke, who would explode with rage if the singer remaining seated, turned away from the crowd, or offered anything less than what he defined as “full action”. Donny makes a crucial point. None of us can really sing anyway so why not over-compensate with stage presence? Also, to use a radio term, there should never be any “dead air”. When you get in make sure everyone has a song lined up and wait your turn for the first hour, before taking on all-comers in a shameless bid to sing everything.
Rule two: Respect the song.
As a wise karaoke-loving friend puts it: “Karaoke’s not there to be taken seriously, but it’s not about showing off or taking the mickey.” Karaoke should not be approached with a sense of slacker irony. Air Supply, Barry Manilow, The Carpenters…these are great artists. And if you find yourself singing All Out of Love, Mandy or Superstar, remember you are privileged you are to have custody of such a classic song and should try to do it justice over the ensuing three minutes.
Rule three: Respect the singer.
Anyone who is up there having a go should be supported. They should not be laughed at, heckled, howled down. Singing along is fine, but they should not be drowned out. And unless the song is a duet, do not join the singer on stage unless invited. Also – despite those marketing opportunists at Idol turning William “She Bangs” Hung into a minor star, there is nothing innately funny about people singing in an Asian accent, even if they are doing Crocodile Rock.
Rule four: Duets are fine but no group songs.
Unless it becomes a group by accident because everyone in the room is singing along.
Rule five: No-one is allowed to do Khe Sanh.
Except Chisel. And no-one’s allowed to do My Way either.
Rule six: Karaoke must be mixed.
That is, mixed in terms of ballads and up-tempo numbers, and mixed in terms of gender. While I’m sure it’s fine for women to go to karaoke in a group, there’s something a bit effete about doing it with all men, which no amount of Black Sabbath can erase.
Rule seven: No songs that go for more than five minutes.
This means no Bohemian Rhapsody (5.52), no American Pie (8.36), no Stairway to Heaven (8.02) - Sweet Child of Mine (5.56) is the exception to the rule, for the simple reason that everyone loves singing along to the “where do we go” bit.
Rule eight: If you’re almost out of time, order a really long song.
The qualifier to rule seven. And Bohemian Rhapsody is a pretty awesome song.
Rule nine: Please, try the alcopops.
Aside from making a political statement in defence of a noble industry, you will also be complimenting the karaoke aesthetic. You can’t sing I’ve Never Been to Me by Charlene while holding a VB. Think the Raspberry Breezer or Guava Cruiser.
Rule ten: Don’t go on your own.
I know someone who did once and apparently it was just embarrassing.
Rule eleven: Try one new song every time you go.
Not a rule but a suggestion. If you’re new to karaoke, you should only try songs you know like the back of your hand. But after a few visits it’s worth scouring the byways of the song book, where Til Tuesday’s Voices Carry, Night Ranger’s Sister Christian or We’re All Alone by Boz Scaggs may just be waiting to become your new signature tune.
Rule twelve: No champagne or fireworks.
Just because I saw that on a sign at a karaoke bar once.
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