Karaoke Don'ts and Don'ts

Take our advice and we'll all be singing from the same hymn sheet

By Hugh Upsher

Up until now, you’ve viewed karaoke as something you do when you’re drunk and feel like momentarily living out your fantasy of being the next Heinz Winkler. It’s the kind of end-of-the-night activity that you’re more likely to try and forget rather than treasure. It doesn’t have to be that way though, doing karaoke right can be a rewarding experience regardless of your vocal chops. Based on years of personal experience, these are my unwritten rules of karaoke.

Pick songs you actually know some of the words to

Knowing the name of the song Hello by Lionel Richie is not the same as actually knowing the words of the song. Pick wrong and you’ll be caught out almost immediately and be dead in the water for the next three minutes. You’ll be praying for the song to finally finish while the Lionel Richie lovers in the audience are dancing on the ceiling in disgust.

Don’t pick songs with awkwardly long instrumental sections

Being the centre of attention in front of a crowd of strangers is cringeworthy enough for most, don’t add to that by having to stand silently for two minutes while Slash noodles out out the guitar solo to Paradise City.

Don’t pick a song with any rapping

Unless you can nail the verses of the song and are able to rap it backwards while blindfolded, avoid doing it at all costs. I learned the hard way by thinking I could cruise through Crazy Town’s Butterfly. Logistically speaking, it is basically impossible to rely on the words on the screen to guide you when they’re coming at pace. Rather practice at home and give it a go next time around if you still feel a strong need.

Don’t overstay your welcome

No one should, under any circumstance ever, sing two karaoke songs in a row. Making the decision to stay on after your track to sing the next cued up song that someone else was patiently waiting for will immediately make you the Robert Mugabe of the Karaoke bar. Be graceful and know when to step down before you turn the night into an ugly turf war.

Don’t share songs with strangers

There may be two microphones, but that is no indication that both need to be clutched at all times. The second microphone is there for the purpose of duets and for friends who are too shy to step up and go at it alone. No one wants you to cramp the stage and ruin their selection just because your crippling desire for more attention forces you to steal their limelight away. This crime is made even worse when the offender insists on encroaching on a song they don’t even know.

Don’t use it as rehearsal

To all the people who sing professionally, please piss right off. If we wanted to see you nail a perfect rendition of Elvis’s Suspicious Minds we would pay money to see you do it at the Baxter Theatre. No one wants to be reminded of how terrible they are in comparison to your polished act.

Don’t drop the mic

As cool and dramatic as it seems, karaoke microphones go through enough punishment as it is. Not only will you undoubtedly piss off the manager or MC, you run the very real risk of putting everyone’s fun night to an abrupt end by breaking the microphone. 

Don’t stop believing

This is the most selected karaoke song worldwide, so therefore it’s the most butchered song in human history. That being said, it can be one of the most fun to attempt, just as long as you’re not the fourth person to select it on the night.