3 rules of karaoke etiquette

We have been known to partake in the dark art of karaoke, living out secret dreams of music stardom, revealing pop culture song savvy, wondering if we sound as good on a microphone as we do with the shower water running or our car idling at a stop light.  For a while there in our late 20s and early 30s, every few months or so featured some house party involving the rental of a 1000-song karaoke hard drive from a mom-and-pop party outfit east of downtown Los Angeles.  Our return to Texas has sent us to a Little Korea bar with private karaoke rooms.  Five visits so far and counting.

But there are rules, people.

1. If you can't sing it, don't request it.  Before you punch in the song number, think it over.  Sing the song in your head.  Can you do it?  Really do it?  Plenty of memorable choruses also feature impossibly obscure verses (Exhibit A: Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life").  Avoid the "gong" - that sad moment when the group collectively overrides your choice and moves onto the next song.  Yeah, it's all in good fun but a little part of you will die a slow death inside.  Bottom line: develop a group of "go to" songs that you can nail.

2. Choose only popular songs everyone can enjoy.  Karaoke isn't the time to display your affinity for Garth Brooks B-sides or British heavy metal (exception: Def Leppard).  No one cares about those songs because no one's heard of those songs.  (That these karaoke catalogs have those ridiculous choices available, but don't have half of the top-40 hits you're seeking, remains an enduring unsolved mystery.) Karaoke should be a communal experience of inclusion.  If more than half of the room isn't singing along with you, you chose poorly.

3. Give everyone a turn.  This doesn't just mean refrain from hogging the song book, which you should never ever do.  It also means not turning into guy who stacks the queue with a string of songs.  This isn't a classic rock station and you're not Johnny Fever.  Pick your song, plug it in, then wait until you perform that song before selecting the next one.  Like the crowded on-ramp merge, everyone gets a turn.

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