It’s Friday night, and you’re going out with some friends. You just got done covering six Adoration slots (because you’re Catholic), and now you want to go be the token Catholic friend and witness to the fact that you can love Jesus and still enjoy yourself at a bar. You’re the image of temperance… obviously.
But the minute you and your friends walk in the bar, you notice something’s up. Why are people staring in the same direction, and how could the music be sooo off-key? Then it hits you. There’s karaoke at this bar.
The stakes have just gone up, and one of two things happens:
- Option 1: I hate karaoke, and we need to leave this bar – stat.
- Option 2: Your palms start to get sweaty (don’t lie, it happens) and flashes of you belting out some Nelly on a table and Confession the next day all mingle in your mind – calm down Captain Scrupulous!
Stop hating on karaoke or thinking you have to channel your pre-conversion self. I’m here to tell you it’s possible to both enjoy yourself at karaoke AND avoid setting a poor Christian example for your secular friends. You can, in fact, karaoke and keep your soul. And it doesn’t involve having to testify and sing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” at the local pub. There’s a third way:
- Option 3: This is my chance to win the trust, admiration, respect, and possibly affection of my friends and avoid coming across as a Catholic mouth-breather. Next stop – Bible study invitation.
So with our goal of option 3 in mind, let’s address the karaoke performing essentials and some common karaoke mishaps to avoid.
Contrary to what you may think, you don’t have to be an awesome singer to rock a karaoke bar. Now that doesn’t mean you can just get up there and belt out some Adele in the key of tone-deaf. It just means you gotta get whimsical in your song choice and work on your stage presence. Which brings me to a formula:
Singing ability +Song Choice + Stage Presence = Karaoke Star Power
Now I flushed out a lot of my math skills from my brain after college (to make room for the Catechism), but if I could add weight to each of those, I would honestly give more weight to Song Choice and Stage Presence. I don’t add much weight to whether you can sing when you karaoke. If people wanted to see a professional singer, they would pay and go see a professional singer. Now even though your friends didn’t come out to see a professional singer, they did come to a show. Your show. So here’s how you’re going to entertain them and represent like the scapular-wearing Catholic you are.
- Have a go-to song. This way when you walk in the door you can get your name in quick. And it will prevent you from being a chicken and just flipping through some karaoke books for an hour.
- Own the stage. You can make up for a lack of singing ability by running the stage like you’re Katy Perry with sharks on either side. In fact, if you can procure some sharks – do it.
- Hold the mic close to your mouth. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone (usually a little scared) unconsciously hold the mic a foot or two below their mouth. Let the people hear the voice God gave you. Just don’t put your mouth on the mic. That’s cold sore city.
- Cheer for the other performers. This is just common courtesy. People love when you get pumped for them. A nice, “Wooo!” can lift any spirit. And if we want to get biblical, you should probably cheer unto others as you would want to be cheered.
Here are some things you don’t want to do:
- Don’t pick explicative songs. This sounds simple enough, but there’s been a time or two when I forgot some songs I used to jam to had some uhh, unsaintly lyrics. Even if you don’t sing that part of the song, you can be sure the crowd will remember to shout that part. Trust me.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re out to have fun. The more you worry, the more you can’t own the stage.
- Don’t pick slow, sad songs. This is the quickest way to kill the mood at the bar. Sarah McLaughlin songs belong in sad commercials, not karaoke bars.
- Don’t pick songs with long instrumental breaks.1 Essentially, this will leave you in that awkward position where you’re not singing but everyone’s looking at you. This is usually followed by someone yelling, “Dance!” And as we all know, dancing is a sin. (JK, Catholics, JK).
- Don’t pick overly long songs. I know, “Freebird” and “Piano Man” seem like an amusing choice, but after 8 minutes, no one will be amused.
Hopefully, this has given you enough guidelines to show up and come across like a seasoned pro. And really, it isn’t hard to avoid losing your soul during karaoke. If you feel uncomfortable singing a certain song, don’t sing it. If someone in the bar decides to sing a dirty song, take a restroom break or step outside. But my hope is that you can enjoy karaoke with your friends, Catholic or not. As it says in 1 Thessalonians 2:8, we should share not just the Gospel of God but “our very selves.” I can’t think of many better ways to let loose and share yourself with friends then to karaoke your face off. Now, go win over that friend or (hopeful) significant other, so that you gain the opportunity to share the true reason for your joy: Jesus Christ.
- Joe DeMartino’s article, “How not to suck at karaoke”