If you spend any time at all in the military after passing basic training, chances are good that you’re going to end up in a bar with members of your unit. Chances are very good that one of those evenings will involve karaoke.
Karaoke doesn’t care if you’re a good singer or a bad singer (although the people subjected to your voice might have an opinion). Karaoke just needs your active and (hopefully) positive participation. Remember, even if you suck, you still had the intestinal fortitude to get up on a stage before a crowd full of drunken strangers — and that’s a victory of its own.
What that crowd is most likely to judge you on is your choice of song. If you get up in front of your coworkers and sing “I Touch Myself” at the top of your lungs, you will never, ever live it down. In fact, you might as well change your name and go into hiding.
Your audience will forgive a lot, especially your coworkers and battle buddies, as long as you don’t make it too difficult to forgive. So, make sure you get up on that stage with energy and good humor. Have a good time and the audience will have one with you.
Before we begin, let’s go over a few ground rules. First, if you’re with your unit, remember that you’ll likely have to see these same people every day for the next four-to-six years — but never forget to read your audience. If you’re in a bar where everyone keeps rapping Dr. Dre and they’re really good at it, maybe save your rendition of “Friends In Low Places” for a more receptive crowd.
Nor should you just pick the obvious go-to karaoke songs. Yeah, everyone likes “Don’t Stop Believin’,” but you can do better than that at 10 p.m. Songs like “Wrecking Ball,” “Sweet Caroline,” and just about anything else by Journey that isn’t “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin'” should probably be forgotten at this point.
“I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers
You can seriously just yell this song at the top of your lungs and the crowd will still sing along with you.
You’ll know just how into this song your crowd is by the time the “dah dah dah” part of the chorus comes. Use the following barometer to judge your success.
- Level 1: The audience sings with you.
- Level 2: The audience sings louder than you.
- Level 3: You sing the call “Dah Dah Dah” and they sing “Dah Dah Dah” in response.
- Level 4: They sing in Scottish accents.
- Level 5: The crowd pretends to walk while singing.
“Love Shack” by the B-52s
Everybody knows the words to “Love Shack” but, for some reason, it’s not a karaoke song that’s so overplayed anymore. Also, it’s really fun to sing and opens you up to duet possibilities.
“The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World
I bet it could be proven that 85 percent of white males can sing just like the guy from Jimmy Eat World. Plus, this is another one of those songs that you don’t have to be a good singer to sing — if you are a good singer though, it’s more fun than mumbling Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”
“Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations
This is another one of those songs that you can get away with singing like the tone-def airman we all know I am. But if you sing this right, you’ll not only get a huge reception, but you could also end up with a crowd of screaming fans singing along with you, back-up dancers, and (potentially) a few phone numbers.
“It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy
Everyone secretly loves this song. It’s old but fun and will keep everyone in a decent mood. I labeled this as moderate difficulty because while everyone knows the pace and cadence with which Shaggy sings this song, I still can’t tell you what the actual words are.
“I’m The Only One” by Melissa Etheridge
Someone at the bar is going to be angry enough to thank you for singing this song. And while you may not draw a crowd of drunken revelers singing along with you, nailing this song will ensure everyone the crowd will love you all night.
“Purple Rain” by Prince
You have been warned. Attempting this song and failing will only do you more harm than good. No one will ever forget that time you murdered “Purple Rain.” Your nickname (and maybe even callsign) will become Purple Rain and you will be laughed at for making doves cry.
On the other hand, watching someone perfectly sing “Purple Rain” at karaoke is as unforgettable as the first time I had sex.