Why earplugs and long island iced tea were invented

Those of you who know me (and that number is legion, I tell you, legion), know that I love to sing. I've never let the fact that I have limited vocal talent stop me (I share the same two musical gifts as Liza...loud and vibrato...unfortunately I did not receive pitch and tone from my fairy godmothers). The way I see it is, if other people have to suffer for me to enjoy myself, so be it. That's why karaoke and many pianos are in bars...so others can drink to ease the pain. That said, I was talking to my sister the other day, and realizing that my many hours of karaoke have given me wisdom to share with others. If any of you out there one day find yourself in a situation were you are forced by circumstances, friends, or too much Jack Daniels to sing karaoke, some tips follow. And remember, just like winning American Idol, it's all about song selection (as well as keeping Paula Abdul medicated)d.

1. Know your song. It seems obvious, but I have had to suffer through many singers who stand squinting into the screen, clearly reading lyrics for the first time, or singing clearly out of sequence. Only pick songs from albums you purchased, songs you sing in the shower, or songs that you belt out along with the radio, oblvious the stares of strangers on the freeway. Beware songs to which you only know the chorus, such as Viva Las Vegas and Let's Talk About Sex.

2. Know your limitations. Unless you are truly gifted, avoid ballads and the songs of divas known for their range. Unless you have been told by strangers about your beautiful voice and soaring range, stay away from songs recorded by Mariah, Whitney, Christina, Donna Summer. Instead, think of those singers whose voices, while distinctive, are not known for range. Think: Cher, Diana Ross, Elvis

3. Sing-a-longs are your friends. If the whole bar sings along to your selection, your level of suckiness is much less evident. Think: Build Me Up Buttercup, We Are Family, Burnin' Love, Son of a Preacher Man, Midnight Train to Georgia. If an entire carload of your friends would sing along if it came on the radio, that's your song.

4. Short and snappy is the way to go. Keep 'em wanting more. Think 3 minutes or less...Baby Love, Half Breed, Suspicious Minds. Avoid looooooooooooong songs like The City of New Orleans, Stairway to Heaven, American Pie. No matter how good your performance, by the end, the entire bar will be burning themselves with lit cigarettes to stay concious. As a side not, beware songs with loooooong instrumental solos unless you are prepared to play an air guitar during Slash's 3 minute solo in the middle of Sweet Child of Mine.

5. NO BALLADS. People come to bars to look for love and forget their pain, not to wallow in it. If they wanted to do that, they'd be at home with a Sex and the City dvd and Ben and Jerry's.

6. Have fun. There are only two kinds of karaoke audience members. The serious, who are only there to sing themselves and, thus, are only interested in their own performance. The rest are there to drink and have fun, and as long as your song is fun, it's all good.

Now go, and use your karaoke knowledge for good, not evil.

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