“Karaoke?” you ask.
And with a gale-like sigh, my head facing the ground and hands parked on my thighs, I respond “yeah, go on then”.
What do we fear most about karaoke? The performance? The prophecy of how wrecked you’ll be in 4 hours time? The crowd you’re going to encounter in the dive bar?
I’ve thought about this long and hard (I haven’t), I scoured countless articles and papers (definitely didn’t) and took a wild introspective tour of the 1,000,000 times I’ve partaken in karaoke in the past (I tried, but felt too much guilt and withdrew, like Harry Potter in the Pensieve when he sees Voldemort).
The thing is, I’ve never had a bad night at karaoke, yet there IS something about them that makes me shudder. And I think I’ve boiled it down to the crowd it attracts.
Now, we’re talking pub room karaoke here. Y’know the proper kind. Not these private booths that irradicate the things I dislike, who on Earth would want that?!
I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that karaoke brings a specific crowd. A jumble of wild personalities and varying levels of intoxication, ranging from steaming to chatting up the urinal.
It brings a sort of shame that young bands write about when they first experience their hometown nightlife and how atrociously bleak it is.
Two places come to mind when I think of karaoke. Neither are nice. But this article is based primarily on my experience in these two local pubs of mine.
Anyway, before I slate it anymore, remember, I am actually a fan of it, but it takes a certain level of motivation and alcohol to get me there.
So, let’s explore the nine types of people at every single karaoke that simultaneously ruin it and make it. And if you think you haven’t seen one of them, I’ve got some bad news for you…
1. The duets
Ah, the duet. Famously the pivotal point in a new relationship- according to American rom coms.
In reality, it’s the 60 year old couple that have been coming to the same pub every weekend, to sing the same Islands in the fuckin Stream, in the same clothes (usually a Black Sabbath vest, weirdly).
They’re okay, but they were okay when they sang it last week… and the week before.
In fact, maybe karaoke was their defining moment… let that be a warning for you.
2. The hoggers that are shit
They’re steaming before you even arrive; in fact, it was undoubtedly their fault that you’re here in the first place.
Before they even get a drink they’re at the plastic coated karaoke dictionary and have already nicked all the miscut application sheets for your table.
They won’t tell anyone what they’ve picked, mainly because they can’t remember for the sheer number that they’ve submitted.
“Surely it’s a different Clare this time? Nope” as they jokingly laugh their way onto stage dragging the most sober one of the group with them to cheer them up.
There’s one massive problem.
They’re fuckin shite.
You look at your half drunk pint and consider whether it’s worth launching at them. You refrain. This time.
The DJ is whacking up the reverb to max and the volume down to zero, but there’s no saving this one, hopefully everyone’s pissed enough to not leave.
After two attempts, the DJ promises they’re in the queue and will get another go once he gets to their request.
It’s in the bin.
3. The hoggers that are good (but shit)
The good hogger. Once upon a time an attractive person came up to them after their version of Toploader’s Dancing in the Moonlight and told them they were incredible.
Or it was their mum that once said how great they were at singing and they want the world to know.
They’ve been chasing that moment ever since.
Or maybe an A&R scout is here tonight, in this little town miles away from any city, in a pub stinking of ham and cigs with sticky carpets, maybe this is their big break.
4. The serious one
This man has been stood at the bar nursing the same pint since you arrived a good 3 hours ago. He looks a little lonely so you pluck up the courage to say hi to him when you were ordering your 7th pint of the night.
He doesn’t really talk back, you make a quick joke that he doesn’t laugh at and you cautiously carry 4 pints back to the table spilling them all over the place.
God he’s stange you think.
God he’s strange he thinks.
Shortly after, you hear a name called and cheer whilst looking around to see who it is. It’s your mate from the bar.
A silence falls on the room, he parts the crowd like Moses and does a lovely rendition of Can’t Help Falling in Love and leaves the stage in the same silence he entered.
This time the silence is mixed with joy. He stands guard in his usual position and orders another pint.
The night continues.
5. The one who doesn’t know any of the words or the rhythm and is too drunk to read the screen
They’ve been framed. It’s clear they’ve been framed when they hear their name and instantly look at their best mate with eyes that say I’ll kill you.
Now, let’s stop here. In any other situation like this, you’d go up to the person, state it was a mistake and ask them to call another name.
But not at karaoke.
For some reason, there’s an unwritten rule that states you must give it your best shot, even at the expense of all your dignity. It’s like someone making a cake out of mud for your birthday. You blow out the candles and then give your mate that knowing point and head tilt that says ‘youu got me’ and then proceed to eat a slice.
Anyway, the problem with being framed, is that it’s never a nice easy song. No, your mate knows full well about this unwritten rule and exploits it. I’m talking Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell or Guns N’ Roses – Paradise City which is just short of seven minutes.
The crowd hates the one that’s been framed, gets booed off stage and is shaking his head for the rest of the night silently mouthing ‘you bastard’ to their mate that they’re no longer speaking to.
6. The mumbler
Look, karaoke microphones have the EQ settings of a lawnmower as it is, and listening to the mumbler is like listening to a police helicopter circling overhead to the smooth polyphonic rendition of Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’.
Sometimes it’s even difficult to decipher what language they’re singing in.
7. The animal
It’s this guy’s time to shine. The toilet block that smells of piss from five years is this bloke’s private dressing room.
As his name is called from over the speakers, he emerges from his cubicle with his entourage all rubbing their noses thinking that he looks like elvis entering stage, but actually looks like Keith the local coke head about to hit someone at any given point, barging his soon-to-be number one fans out the way as they mutter ‘fucks sake’ under their breath.
His mates are now at the back cheering him on.
He does his rendition of Arctic Monkeys and now won’t stop asking the ladies how his set was.
8. The obscure one
This one clearly rehearses this in the shower and is eternally grateful that she was graced with the privilege of being exposed to this song.
However, there’s one small problem, no one else in the whole pub has heard it. Even the DJ scratches their head, mispronounces it a few times back to them until they find it on youtube and asks ‘are you sure this is it?’.
She performs it beautifully, or so you imagine since you have no idea how it actually goes.
She gets a standard round of applause while groups around the building make eye contact with each other, shrugging their shoulders and making the face of a bulldog.
Oh well, she feels accomplished.
9. The DJ
Finally, the DJ.
You’ve been waiting all fuckin night to smash out Livin la Vida Loca when the DJ suddenly announces it’s his turn.
I had a sort of agreement with this at first, but then I sat and thought about it (I didn’t do this either) and it’s a joke.
It’s like a referee deciding to take a penalty.
Not only this, but there’s always an intermission filled with stories about how they’re not going to be here for the next two weeks because they’re off to Benidorm – and if it’s not that, it’s stories about their time in Benidorm.
Yet, they still always seem to be there every week…
There you have it folks, the performers at the karaoke party. I actually felt a bit warm inside reciting all this back so I’ve completely changed my mind. I love karaoke and the chaotic crowd it brings with it.