Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Code Of Karaoke Etiquette

Karaoke... When we Asians are not busy shopping, eating and sitting through painful wedding ceremonies of people we've not met for years, this is what we love doing. Gather into a room, dim down the lights, press the track number, and belt our hearts out without a care in the world.

I love karaoke. I love it for the music. But I love it even more for the joy and energy it brings out of people. Karaoke unites us all, whether we're fly or shy, whether we got talent or haven't.

Karaoke is meant to be fun for everyone. Yet sometimes, karaoke can be a bore, because of inconsiderate participants killing the fun. Free-flowing as karaoke ought to be, we still need to observe some ground rules to ensure the fun keeps flowing. And so, as a seasoned karaoke enthusiasts, I hereby present the Ten Commandments of the Code Of Karaoke Etiquette (aka 'COKE')...

Is it a club? Is it a spaceship? No, it's a karaoke box!

Copyright of Neway Karaoke Box

1. Don't Hog The Mic

Yeah, yeah - we know you are blessed with a good voice, regularly compete in local singing competitions, and vying to impress some dude or chick in the crowd. But this ain't the right stage for that, okay? No one paid good money just to watch and hear you sing all night long. Share the mic around, please.

2. Don't Spam The Playlist

Be considerate. Just because you love Taylor Swift, doesn't mean you're entitled to spam her entire album on the playlist. And don't be over-ambitious trying to read people's minds. Take a step back, and let everyone have an equal shot to choose their own songs.

3. Don't Skip Songs

Fine, some idiot has been spamming the playlist with a shitload of songs. Fine, you came late. Still, it's not cool to skip to the song you've been dying to sing whole night. It's like the equivalent of, you know, cutting queue. It's hurtful to those patiently waiting in line. And once you start, it might encourage others to do the same, and trigger a chaotic race to the top. 

4. Don't Scream And Shout

When we're caught up in the moment, it's easy to get over-exuberant. Unsurprisingly, it's guys who usually fall into this error. The intentions are noble - lead the chorus, lend some backup vocals or turn up the party-meter a notch. But shouting and screaming too loud ruins a good song - especially if it's meant to be mellow and soulful - and drowns out the poor ladies. WOULD YOU LIKE IT IF I KEEP TYPING LIKE THIS? LIKE ALL THE FREAKING TIME? NO? 'NUFF SAID!

Give your all to me, I'll give my all to you, soft and smooth

5. Mind Your Language 

It's sentimental and endearing, returning to one's cultural roots. After all, there's a fair amount of good native music, classical and contemporary, crafted by talented Eastern artistes. But please don't do overdo it, in a mixed crowd. The usual culprits here are the Chinese - crooning emo ballads with music videos that take a good minute for the song proper to get started, and then drag on and on showing couples fighting, dying, crying, flashbacking, wishing they hadn't be fighting... Take a brief multicultural interlude if you wish, but be sure to quickly get back to the banks of English mainstream.

6. Avoid Songs Others Can't Appreciate

Karaoke is different from singing in the shower. You're not singing for yourself or some imaginary crowd, but for people in the karaoke box. Go easy on niche genres that a large segment of society equates to listening to chalk being scratched on the board (hip hop, metal, K-pop, etc.). Stop singing obscure B-track songs that leave people scratching their heads and nodding politely in awkward disquiet.

7. Stick To Singalong Songs

For retro, try ABBA, Beatles and Bee Gees. For the 90s kids, try Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls and Cranberries' 'Zombie' (a universally accepted exception to Commandment No. 4 above). Such classic hits never fail to lift up the mood and foster togetherness. That's not to say we can't choose contemporary songs. The idea, as always, is to stick to songs that people can sing along to. For instance, as much as I adore Maroon 5's 'Sunday Morning', I'll usually pick 'Payphone' or 'She Will Be Loved' instead, for the familiarity factor.

Sing Like You're Winning

8. Don't Keep Singing The Same Songs

Each of us have our trademark tunes. Those songs we've memorised every word, note, pause and change of tempo. Those songs we must sing at every karaoke session (at least twice). But where's the fun in that, really? Would you tune in to 'American Idol' or 'The Voice' if the contestants kept singing the same song over and over, week in week out? I like trying out new songs, anything that randomly catches my eye. Sometimes, I nail it. Sometimes, I fail horribly - but that's alright, because I...

9. Don't Let Pride Get In The Way

I have - in the words of the legendary William Hung - no professional training. I'm not a great singer, nor do I have a deep baritone voice that swoons the ladies. But that doesn't stop me from experimenting songs that I've never sung before, even if I run the risk not hitting the high notes, going horribly off-key and embarrassing myself. The idea of karaoke is having fun - and nothing's ever fun, when pride gets in the way.

10. Stand Up, Shake And Dance

Try it. Don't spend all the time seated down. Let the music take control. Let your spirit soar. Move to the groove. 

Sing Like You're Winning

Robbie Williams tells us to 'sing when you're winning'. Sounds legit, but it begs the question of what do we do when we're not winning. Which is why I far prefer the mantra: 'sing like you're winning'. Meaning to say, we're always winning, as long as we're singing.

That's how karaoke rocks and rolls. Everyone sings, everyone wins.


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