O Me of Little Faith

One of the things we enjoyed most on our cruise a few weeks ago were the late-night karaoke sessions. I semi-rocked a version of “Man of Constant Sorrows” (from the film O Brother, Where Art Thou) on the first night and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” (Def Leppard) the next night.

It occurred to me during these sessions that not everyone understands the rules of karaoke, i.e. what makes it so fun. For these people, and anyone thinking of working some karaoke into your holiday party planning, I offer these five rules:

1. Upbeat songs are always better than slow songs. Regardless of how well you sing, the crowd will always prefer “Bust a Move” to “I Will Always Love You.” Always. This is because they prefer to sing along to loud, boisterous songs. And also because you are not Whitney Houston.

2. If you must perform a slow song, you must perform it ironically. Unfortunately, someone forgot to explain this to the woman on our ship who performed “My Heart Will Go On” with so much off-key passion that it made us all uncomfortable. (It didn’t help that she was Chinese and mispronounced a lot of the words.) If you can’t sing, embrace your tunelessness. If you can sing, make it as campy as possible. And for the record, what kind of crazy person sings the Titanic theme song on a cruise ship, for the love of Kate Winslett?

3. If you intend to dedicate a song to your spouse, you need to have a working knowledge of the theme and lyrics of that song. One guy on our trip sang Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” to his wife, and said he’d dedicated that song to his beloved nine different times on nine different cruises. Apparently it was a tradition for those two lovebirds. And apparently he wasn’t aware that the titular “Greatest Love of All” refers not to a romantic partner, but to the person singing the song. (Sample lyric: “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”) If you’re gonna dedicate that song to someone, it needs to be to yourself.

4. It’s better to perform later in the evening than earlier. Regardless of what you sing or how you sing it, the crowd will appreciate you more when they’re drunk.

5. Under no circumstances should you ever perform “Piano Man” by Billy Joel, “Imagine” by John Lennon, or anything in the Elton John canon except for “Circle of Life” (and then only if you add the original African singing from The Lion King)…unless, of course, you are performing them according to Rule #2. By no means should you perform them with sincerity and/or impressive musicianship, because then you have become a cliche. Everyone will think you’re trying to show the rest of the performers up. Everyone will also think you’re a total karaoke nerd.


Below: “Red light, yellow light, green-a-light go…”

What karaoke tips have I missed? Submit your own in the comments.

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