I’ve mentioned in an earlier post that I do a heck of a lot of karaoke these days. Over the course of the year, I’ve grown into one of those table-hopping guys who knows the karaoke bars inside out and has no qualms about going up on stage and completely embarrassing themselves singing Alanis Morissette just to see if I can. It’s pretty fun. Plus, it’s a great way to collect high-fives if your song selection is just right.
But there are some unwritten rules for karaoke that non-regulars have to figure out for themselves. One in particular involves knowing which songs not to sing, no matter how much you want to. So I picked out five particular songs which always seem like a good idea at first until they happen. Avoid these and both the host and regulars will not secretly plan your demise for the next several minutes.
1. Frank Sinatra – My Way
Nothing against Sinatra; the song itself is great. But because this is a front-runner for his greatest hits, it’s also the go-to song for any guy who wants to show off his pipes. The problem is, much like Semisonic’s “Closing Time”, it’s a show-stopper. It only delivers the impact you want if it’s the last song of the night. Otherwise, you’re just screwing with everybody’s biological clocks. Sing Instead: Anything else by Sinatra. Heck, try Tony Bennett. Maybe even Michael Buble. You’ve got options here.
2. Elton John – Don’t Let Your Sun Go Down On Me
This is the #1 most frequent Elton John song I hear at these venues. Usually, the people singing it are coming out of bad relationships, but no one should ever bring this baggage to karaoke. Your sadness is poisoning the venue and driving away business. The host doesn’t need your attitude. Either perk up or get out. Sing Instead: Crocodile Rock. Philadelphia Freedom. Benny and the Jets. Hakuna Matata. Damn it, just pull yourself together! And stop creeping on young girls! You’re the reason they stop coming to these things!
3. Eminem – Stan
You remember how awesome this song was in high school? I bet you also remember that it’s seven minutes long, right? And that for karaoke, you HAVE to sing the rap part? You can’t just go up, sing the Dido part, and wait for the rap part to be over. And if you’re actually rapping, this is once again a buzz-kill of a song since it’s about a guy who descends into insanity and kills himself and his pregnant girlfriend. Also, it’s completely unsing-alongable. Sing Instead: “Without Me”, “Just Lose It”, or “The Real Slim Shady”. People love singing along with these ones and they will thank you.
4. Pussycat Dolls – Hush Hush Hush Hush
No. Stop. Just stop. No more. Ever again. I will strangle something. Sing Instead: No. If Pussycat Dolls is your first go-to song, you’re not allowed to sing.
5. Gotye – Somebody That I Used To Know
This is a cursed song. Every instance I’ve seen of two people going up to sing it has ended badly, either on-stage or on the floor. Arguments break out, the song rotation gets out of whack, cats and dogs sleep together – total anarchy. Something about it brings out the worst in people. Not to mention it always features a guy singing while a girl awkwardly stands there for three minutes waiting for her part and pretending to be naked. This song in particular always boasts the most uncomfortable four minutes of stage time and will ruin your night somehow. Sing Instead: Love Shack.
Hope that helps!
UPDATE: New songs will be added here as they start re-surfacing.
6. The Beatles – Hey Jude: This is three minutes of singing followed by four minutes of “Na na na na na”. You have been warned.
I’ve been going to karaoke a lot since March. And no, it’s not just because it’s a good opportunity to network with people and have drinks with many beautiful women every week. Those parts are perks. No, I’m actually a singer at heart.
I’ve been attending about six different karaoke bars since I moved to Vancouver. At first, it was myself and my friend Tegan as we cruised the city scoping out locales. Once we met more people, our karaoke crew grew and grew until it actually performed mitosis and separated into two different crews (well, three, but one of them turned into a D&D crew instead). Eventually I had to cut back on places just to keep track of everyone. But the funny thing is, in my travels, I’ve discovered that essentially each karaoke bar is host to the exact same crowds (some rowdier than others, of course). There are ongoing patterns with the people who come and their song choices. It’s almost predictable in an eerily welcome kind of way.
I’ve managed to break these personality-types down to a list of twelve. This isn’t a straight-up list of the ONLY kinds of karaoke people, but rather a list of the most frequent types I’ve seen perform thus far. See if you can spot yourself in here.
The New Guys
The first thing new guys will do is look for the book and then read the WHOLE THING. This takes them about twenty minutes. Then they find one of their favorite songs, go up on stage and discover first-hand that just because you know the chorus to a song doesn’t mean you know the rest. We’re cheer them on anyway because the new guys are entitled to some slack. That is, providing they don’t attempt singing both the guy and girl parts of “Love Shack” by themselves.
The Happy Camper
He is a regular. He is the worst singer you’ve ever heard. He will somehow be up on stage at least five times a night. He will always sing the same songs. He’s completely unaware of how terrible he sounds. Yet his passion for getting up there and raping our eardrums is infectious. Do not allow this guy anywhere near Pink Floyd. Especially “Comfortably Numb”; he is not aware that this is a seven minute song. He might also attempt to sing both the guy and girl parts to “Love Shack” as well. I cannot stress enough that this is never a good idea.
Not always necessarily married, but they might as well be. They insist on singing duets. The girl is usually the talented one. The guy’s just really, really drunk and laughing his ass off though most of the song. They will always pick songs from “Grease” or they’ll jump right on “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” and apologize in advance for the next eight minutes. “Love Shack” is not recommended in this case either, but they WILL sing it.
They sing Madonna. They sing Lady Gaga. They sing ABBA. They might be good. They might be awful. They always travel in packs. The crowd can easily sing along with them, or just as easily tune them out. They are always the first ones to start dancing, even if there’s no room for it. The party-girls are the background noise at every karaoke night. For guys, they are also the eye candy, and we will cheer on their singing regardless of talent. Except for “Love Shack”.
Some guys are usually mediocre singers at best, so they only sing songs with novelty value where the crazier they perform, the better the song becomes. They always put on memorable performances as they insist on jumping around on-stage, over-doing lyrics, and singing Spice Girls songs with their bros for laughs. They can sometimes do “Love Shack”, but more often than not, they can’t.
These girls can SING. Much like the attention-deprived males, they’re also entertainers at heart, but they tend to replace comedy with sheer talent and heart-stopping sexiness. They dominate at Beyonce, Carrie Underwood, Christina Aquilera, Mariah Cariey, and even nail “Lady Marmalade” every time. Any time one of these girls is on stage singing Adele’s “Someone Like You”, most guys will forget they hate that song long enough to throw out some whistles and cat calls. They never sing “Love Shack” because they know better.
The Guy Who’s Stealing All The Girls!
Seriously! This guy is up on stage every twenty minutes doing a duet with another girl. And when he’s not up on stage, he’s on the dance floor teaching them to salsa. I’d hate this guy if I wasn’t so desperately trying to be him. Or if he sang “Love Shack”!
Do you remember the 90′s? Because the hipsters do. Alanis Morrisette, Garbage, Nirvana, Marcy Playground, No Doubt, Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Weezer, and Stone Temple Pilots are just the beginning for their song selection. They’re also Amy Winehouse fans and like to dress the part. They’re normally very good singers and have never heard of “Love Shack”.
I love how the bartender, chefs and waitresses always have a few songs ready to go. And they’re always awesome at it. And none of those songs are ever “Love Shack”.
Not just Sinatra, but these guys sing anything slow and old school that’ll get the ladies swooning. Elton John, Billy Joel, Bing Crosby, Marvin Gaye, Elvis Presley – and it always sounds authentic. They even look the part. Always wearing fancy suits with just the right amount of musk. I’d hate these guys if I didn’t want to be them so much. Also, blah blah blah “Love Shack”.
The Stealth Bomber
Nobody knows where she came from, but she blows us all away. She out-performs the original song. She hits notes we’ve never heard. She makes the room go quiet. She is always a she. Why doesn’t she have a record contract yet? Nobody knows. And then she’s gone. She could probably nail “Love Shack” too if she tried.
Me & Bobby
So one time, me and my cousin Bobby went up and sang “Love Shack” at my bro’s wedding. We kicked ass.
It’s not often I review music CDs, but Weird Al has always held a special place in my heart as one of my ongoing inspirations. In this day and age where parody and satire have gone so downhill, Al has somehow gotten better with age. Just today, I took a small hike up to HMV to grab the new album and put it on as soon as I got home. Here’s my impressions of it:
First off, I am a little disappointed that more than half the album is made up of songs he’s been releasing as “Internet Leaks.” In fact, out of the 12 songs listed, I heard 7 of them long before the album was even finished (including “Polka Face” which he’d been singing at concerts.) But even aside from that, the one thing that often bugs me about Weird Al albums is that the best ones always end too soon – this one included – and I’m always left wanting more.
What I do like about the album is that the song selection meshes together nicely without falling back on any of Al’s usual cliches. There’s no songs about food or television this time around – it seems his new feeding ground for parody/satire is the internet, the economy, and our obsession with celebrity news.
But one of my favorite things about these albums (and often the most over-looked by people) is how the band just makes any parody sound better than the original song. Have I ever sat down and grooved to Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA” before? Nope, but Al’s “Party in the CIA” is definitely something I can chill to. They even make Bruno Mars sounds listenable. All these subtle changes in the original music improve it tenfold.
Most of the songs follow that same “chill out and groove” rhythm, so even without the funny lyrics, it’s a very consistent and easy-going (yet diverse in style) album to just listen to. There’s no songs worth skipping, and all the humor is kept tasteful (no songs about leper colonies or burp noises this time.) I’d rank it right up there with “Bad Hair Day” and “Off the Deep End” as one of his better-produced albums.
Some of my personal picks off this album are his parodies “Perform this Way” (Lady Gaga) and “TMZ” (Taylor Swift,) and his originals “Skipper Dan” and “If That Isn’t Love.” All well-performed and well-written with clever lyrics. If I had to nitpick on any of the songs, it would be the final track “Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me.” It’s written in the style of Jim Steinman (of “Bat out of Hell” fame,) and as a huge Meat Loaf fan, I felt that if you’re going to do a style-parody of his songs, you’ve got to crank out an epic choir of angels singing, electric guitars, and piano solos at some point (instead of keeping it in the soft “Objects in the Rear-View Mirror” territory.) This could have been Al’s personal “Bat out of Hell,” or even a “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Knights of Cydonia” if he’d gone a little further with it (I think I’m taking a comedy album a little too seriously here, but I still demand awesomeness where there’s potential for it.)
And I think I might need therapy because some of his songs are affecting me on a personal level now. Here I am with ten months of film school left to go, the pressure’s on to make a career of this, and I’ve got the songs “Skipper Dan” and “Whatever You Like” still haunting me.
And just for the heck of it, I’ve had this list of some my personal favorite songs of his kicking around (I have a lot of lists kicking around.) A lot of these have inspired my work in one way or another. I’m leaving a lot of personal and fan-favorites off for shortness’ sake, but songs like “I Remember Larry” and “Eat It” are still honorable mentions.
20. Perform This Way (he parodies a Gaga parody of a Madonna song!)
19. Stop Draggin’ My Car Around (an under-rated Stevie Nicks parody)
18. White & Nerdy (a more modern fan-favorite)
17. Melanie (because the idea of stalking my friend Melanie always amuses me)
16. Jurassic Park (I remember the video for this song being my introduction to Al)
15. The Night Santa Went Crazy (I used this song for a class assignment back in high school)
14. Why Does This Always Happen to Me? (I’m a sucker for piano intros and solos)
13. Buy Me a Condo (I have fond memories of me and Brit singing along with this one in the car)
12. Your Horoscope for Today (I like how I always forget what horrible fate befalls Scorpios)
11. Hardware Store (that fast lyrical run-down near the end always impresses me)
10. The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota (great to listen to in the car!)
9. Skipper Dan (as much as this song haunts me, it’s really quite nice to listen to)
8. Everything You Know Is Wrong (this song perfectly defines Al’s original style)
7. Airline Amy (Heavily under-rated piece of work. Methinks this one could go mainstream, actually)
6. Bedrock Anthem (Mixes two Chili Peppers songs with the Flintstones. Nice.)
5. Dare to be Stupid (This needs to be featured in another Transformers movie one of these days.)
4. Yoda (Live)(a prime example of how a live concert can make one song so much better)
3. Amish Paradise (this is his best parody, and always fun to sing at karaoke)
2. Albuquerque (his longest song, but entertaining as hell and a definite show-stopper)
1. Frank’s 2000″ TV (I can never put my finger on why this is my favorite of his songs. But it is, and we’ll leave it at that.)
Supposedly, Lady Gaga has now approved of this parody, so it will end up going on Al’s new album. I’m still convinced that Gaga became petrified when her own fan-base turned against her, so she fell back on the old “my manager did it” excuse. It warms my heart to know that Weird Al has a backing big enough to scare even Lady Gaga.
I’m sorry, internet, but you can’t throw a video like this at me and expect me to stay quiet about it. It’s just not feasible. I have to say something.
The video in question is Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” Chances are, you’re sick of hearing about it already. If this is your first time hearing about it, I have posted her video right here. Watching it is completely optional because the song has been known to make some people’s ears bleed.
Me on the other hand… I love this song to death. For reasons explained later.
Now the major dealie going on is that people are unanimously calling this “the worst song ever written.” I refuse to agree with that statment because this song doesn’t contain any instances of the word “slizzered,” and I refuse to acknowledge that Katy Perry’s “Firework” or Bruno Mars’ “Grenade” are acceptable alternatives.
What I like about this song is that Rebecca Black has unwittingly written what could otherwise be considered the perfect satirical take on modern pop music. All the worst of cliches are in here – the auto-tuned voice, the pointless rap sequence, the “party all the time” mentality, and best of all, the lack of lyrical symbolism, where she’s literally singing about eating cereal and wondering where in the car she’ll sit. I can’t listen to this song with a straight face. I just have a big dumb grin through the whole thing. I want to live in her world and follow her around and watch what she says about everyday things, like “Look, there’s a mailbox. The mailman puts the mail in the mailbox. That’s how we get our mail.” Awesome.
Now granted, she’s 13, and I blame both her parents and the record company for any pain she’s suffered at the hands of this song. I mean, come on – putting your 13 year old daughter in the position of becoming the laughing stock of the internet should be considered child abuse. They had every chance to stop this before it started – all they had to do was tell Rebecca “we’ll get you some singing lessons and find you a better writer” before deciding she needed her own label.
But the interesting thing about seeing someone so young write a song like this is seeing what kind of musical influence is going into children these days. Everything about this song seems like a parody of Justin Bieber, Ke$ha, and The Black-Eyed Peas – only it’s meant to be an homage. She has picked up on the worst of everything and turned it into inspiration. Much like how The Black-Eyed Peas used to rhyme the days of the week with the other days of the week, Rebecca Black has taken it one step further: she explains that Sunday comes after Saturday, which comes after Friday. Something about that makes me clap my hands like a seal, and yet dread what kind of music we’ll be hearing throughout the next decade.
So, yes, it’s a terrible song, but it’s just so bad that it’s good. For a song that has no poetic craft, it’s open to so many interpretations. It’s a statement about music, about society, about children, about fame – you can turn it into a statement about everything in life except… ironically… parties. We learn nothing new about parties from this song.
Interesting things happen in life. This was one of them.
It’s funny how all my science news has been coming to me lately in the form of Japanese pop stars. First there was that robot, and now we have a singing, dancing 3D hologram performing on stage. Hatsune Miku is a character featured in a piece of voice synthesizing software called “Vocaloid,” and her singing voice is also produced by this same piece of software. It took me a few videos to notice that she was only projected onto a flat piece of glass (and not being projected into mid-air as Star Trek once promised) but it’s still a pretty neat trick, and she’s far more entertaining than that scary robot girl.
I’ve been listening to a lot of music lately. It’s normal when the only two things I do these days are game development and home renovation, but somewhere in the middle of painting my walls pink (or “rouge-beige,” as if that makes it sound any better,) it occurred to me that I should shut off my iTunes, shut off the radio, and expand my horizons by revisiting some of the classics through the magic of YouTube’s flexible music laws, and the even better magic of grooveshark.com. I already knew a fair bit of the REALLY popular songs from some of history’s greatest composers, but with all my free time, now was as good a time as ever to actually listen to every single thing they ever wrote and develop a real opinion on their works – as an experiment, of course.
So that’s what I’ve been up to. Queuing up music playlists, studying the classics by year, exploring the artists’ history, and otherwise becoming a scholar in the fine arts. Granted, my experience of listening to every composition back-to-back couldn’t compare to experiencing the music firsthand at the height of it’s popularity. Times were different and society has changed since then, so the meaning of the music itself is somewhat of a novelty to me. Still, I thought I’d share my experiences with you, my friends, as well as give my impression of ten famous artists of old.
This experiment was already off to a good start. I was only familiar with songs of theirs like “Paranoid,” “Iron Man,” and whatever popped up on the “Brutal Legend” soundtrack, and it was nice to find out that quite a lot of their other songs were just as awesome to listen to. What I really liked is that with every album, there was a sudden leap in the band’s style, as if they were always trying to invent new kinds of music. I ultimately prefer the Ozzy years (’70-’78), but the band had their moments throughout the 80′s. Favorite Album(s): Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Master of Reality, Never Say Die, Mob Rules, Headless Cross
Okay, so holy crap. Apparently I’ve been listening to Led Zeppelin for years – I just didn’t recognize most of their music on the radio because nothing else they write sounds like “Stairway to Heaven.” Good to know! Much like Sabbath, they liked to experiment with music for the first few years. They also had this crazy thing for making every other song 10 minutes long. That got a little annoying whenever they started up an extended jam session of some generic blues-inspired rock later in their career. As it turns out, I’m not a big fan of blues rock, and this was just a taste of things to come. Favorite Album(s): Led Zepplin IV, Houses of the Holy, Physical Graffiti
Okay, I get that these guys are supposed to be really, really popular and are considered pioneers of heavy metal, buuuuutttt… they really only have about three or four great songs, a few good ones, and a whole lifetime of them just backing down from the metal scene and playing bar music. Rock, blues, rock blues… lots of blues rock. Kind of disappointing, really. They were inventing heavy metal for a while, and then stopped and did the other kind of music for the next thirty years. I could have stopped listening to their music anytime, but that would defeat the purpose of this experiment. Favorite Album(s): Machine Head
This is one of the bands I was COMPLETELY unfamiliar with, as none of their songs ever hit radio around here. I couldn’t even identify a hit from them, unless it was a cover of another popular song. Still, there’s something appealing about their balls-to-the-wall approach to music. In the early years, all their recordings sounded like they were piss-drunk on stage, and they’d just jam incoherently about women, booze, and cars. Then, in the course of 30 years, they almost never changed their style. In fact, about 95% of their songs all sound the same (like a motorcycle engine trying to learn our language, making it the manliest form of music in existence.) Still, as awesome are they are, listening to their entire discography from beginning to end over three days of renovation can be very mind-numbing. And they have A LOT OF SONGS. Favorite Album(s): Motörhead, Ace of Spades, Orgasmatron
If you would excuse me, I need to kick myself 666 times in the head for not listening to every single one of Iron Maiden’s songs before. This is the kind of music I’m always cycling through the radio stations listening for, and apparently, it’s all comes from one band. I could fall asleep to any of these albums and wake up feeling like a million bucks. And I did. They were awesome then, and their new music is awesome now. Much like Motorhead, they rarely changed their style, but who’s complaining? Favorite Album(s): Iron Maiden, The Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind, Powerslave, Seventh Son of the Seventh Son, Brave New World
I just realized these last six bands are all British. Between Monty Python, Doctor Who, and all this music, that’s one hell of a country! Their chief export? AWESOMENESS. “Judas Priest” rocked too. Not as much as Iron Maiden, but they still made me want to tear down the establishment. They had a great run with albums too, up until Rob Halford left the group and they re-invented themselves as a generic death metal band. Then for the first time, I actually skipped over an album (every song was about blood and pain or something like that, with nothing catchy. At this point, my experiment had failed.) Then Rob came back and everything was awesome again. Favorite Album(s): Sin After Sin, British Steel, Turbo, Nostradamus
So… just a heads-up, it turns out I really, really don’t like thrash metal. Nothing against Metallica, of course – I think they’re awesome now – but when I started listening to them, the first four albums were nothing but thrash metal songs. After the first hour, I couldn’t take it anymore and I found myself skimming through the songs, listening for anything that didn’t damage my ears. Then the “Black Album” finally came along and I fell to my knees and cried. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard. Well, maybe beautiful compared to having my eardrums ground into mulch, but their leap in quality was nothing short of a miracle. Favorite Album(s): The Black Album, Load, ReLoad
Remember when I said I didn’t like blues-rock? AC/DC is the exception. They’ve ALWAYS been the exception. All they ever play is blues-rock, and every song still turns into the best thing ever. I’d already been a big fan of theirs for years, so listening to all of their albums was a nice musical reprieve. It also made me sit down and watch “Maximum Overdrive” again, for good time’s sake. Favorite Album(s): T.N.T, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Let There Be Rock, Highway to Hell, Back in Black, For Those About To Rock We Salute You Best Album Cover Ever?This one.
I didn’t even know who Pantera was, or that they were considered to be a classic band. Yet they end up on just about every top ten list of great heavy metal bands – so I had to check them out. And guess what? Thrash metal. Practically nothing but thrash metal (if you skimmed ahead to this part, I don’t like thrash metal.) I honestly liked Pantera’s earlier work a lot better, back when they did *dramatic sting* GLAM metal. Hey, it had better energy, catchier riffs, and didn’t sound like an angry homeless guy stuck in the dryer. I’m entitled to my opinion, even if it does get me crucified by metal fans worldwide. Favorite Album(s): Projects in the Jungle, Power Metal A Side Note: I’m aware of the hypocrisy between me liking Motorhead and not liking thrash metal. The only explanation I can come up for this inconsistency is that Lemmy Kilmister’s awesome mustache has healing powers.
Don’t ask why it took me so long to get back to Ozzy. The important thing is, I did. After noticing a certain lack of all my favorite songs while listening to Sabbath, I’d made a mental note to catch up on Ozzy’s solo career to find where they had gotten off to. And as it turns out, Ozzy is an even bigger musical genius than I expected. Fans aren’t exaggerating when they use terms like “Godfather” or “Prince” to describe his role in heavy metal – he is what they say he is. The Beatles, Elton John, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Queen, Weird Al – all geniuses in their respective styles as Ozzy is in his. While his signature voice stayed the same, he was always trying to re-invent his music and make every song sound unique. His winning awesomeness almost makes me feel half-bad for never watching his reality show, but at least I can appreciate movies like “Little Nicky” on a whole new level now. Favorite Album(s): Blizzard of Ozz, Diary of a Madman, No More Tears
So there’s the big ten I’ve been listening to for the last while. I’ll probably look into more later on – and any good recommendations are welcome since I want to hear all the essential artists eventually.
A fun note: for just about EVERY song I listened to on YouTube, you could always scroll down and see people complaining about Justin Bieber in the comments. I have nothing against complaining about Justin Bieber, and I’m certain I will hate him too if someone makes me listen to his music – but isn’t it a little nuts that I can listen to almost a thousand songs on YouTube from over a hundred different albums by ten different artists, and the one name that appears in almost every comment section is “Justin Bieber?” I don’t know why all these metal-heads feel so threatened by this little kid. I’m pretty sure I could take him in a fight.
Today’s video is the latest from Neil Ciciergera (no, I can’t pronounce that.) Neil is the mastermind behind such creations as the Potter Puppet Pals and got his big breakthrough years ago on Newgrounds with his cult classic “Hyakugojyuuichi!!” A lot of his work just doesn’t make sense, and as someone who can make disembodied Kermit heads sing REM songs, I respect him for that. But this new one kind of breaks borders on how epically awesome 4 minutes of nonsense can get as we follow Adrian Brody’s journey from waking up to evolving into the new god of the universe. Also, the music is very catchy and it’s been stuck in my head all morning.
This fellow by the name of Doctor Octoroc has just finished putting together a 8-Bit recreation of Act 1 of “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.” I find this to be on a whole new level of awesome, but you’d be better off watching the actual show first before jumping in on this. I’ll see about posting the next acts as they come along.