It's strangely queer that you could sample a hundred random people, and not one of them would immediately volunteer for singing in front of a bunch of drunk idiots. But Jesus Christ, if you give them booze and Soundgarden it's like Disneyland for embarrassing musical moments, except fewer pictures and more bathroom visits. I went out to dinner last week, and as an after-food proposition we ended up at Karaoke. I noticed that, like all bonding activities (such as flag football or toilet-papering someone's house) most people who participate in them fit into one of a few timeless archetypes. These aren't all of them, so don’t panic if you can’t immediately identify. You probably have more important crap to worry about.
Sexually Active Stage Geeks
These types are the most obvious candidates for canonization. Not professionals per se, though often active in the theatre community, they usually put on an unnecessarily grandiose, hand gesture-filled production they like to pretend they’ve never rehearsed in their bedroom in their underwear. It makes for great karaoke, but as I learned, singing throaty renditions of Rogers and Hammerstein melodies tends to leave the crowd unfulfilled and reaffirmed in their opinions of the theatre community. She was also well versed in Barbara Streisand's catalogue, so it picked up when she volunteered herself for the 4th time, and somehow that's within the rules.1
Grunge Rockers Who (Still) Stalk Krist Novoselic
Not even going to lie about it, this dude got a little in my face. I bet he still thinks flat screen televisions are too expensive, that Alice in Chains is still badass, and that the (now syndicated) TV show Frasier is an acceptable pop culture reference. I'd put money on it that he owns a black t-shirt with a llama on it, or a torn hoodie with "lamestein" drawn on the back.2 People like this guy swoon for Nirvana-esque grunge top 40 hits that no one wants to hear covered, and often times hold their Miller Lights while thrashing around stage, like their 47 year-old chain-smoking girlfriends are going to be impressed.3 If you're really badass and want to make a well-timed joke, follow this dude's act with a song by Hole, and you'll avoid looking like a total Niles Crane.
Sorority Girls Who Wear Keds and Have Tattoos Behind Their Ears
I don't want to over generalize4, but we all know these girls. This one's Dad was probably really into OMD5 and Kajagoogoo, and I bet he drives a Saab. That's a really ill-placed and borderline ridiculous assertion but I'm sticking with it. Karaoke turns this girl into an outspoken Smiths fan, which means we all have to listen to her pretend she's Zooey Deschanel on stage while she covers Cindi Lauper. And guess which song she chooses.6 It's certainly a crowd pleaser, but I had fatter fish to fry because three of her sisters were around me tossing around whatever whiskey cocktail they had seen on Mad Men, and in these situations ‘Girls Who Just Wanna Have Fun' are most often 'Girls About To Get a Beer in the Face'.
**Occasionally, you'll see a nervous older lady who actually grew up in Sherman Oaks when New Wave was like, so cool, and has the balls to go up and sing Devo for her husband or girlfriends or whomever. She can't quite tongue Adam Ant's accent, but we should applaud enthusiastically because it's out of her comfort zone and it's definitely a school night.
Old Dudes Who Still Think Double Breasted Power Suits Impress Women
This is sort of a catch-all observation, but it's totally true. He's wearing faded denim. Probably running shoes. A collared shirt that he thinks is casual but really is just an awkward floral print. And he's always a strange mix of Canadian, French, and Nordic. But dammit if he won't choose Kool and the Gang like he's at the Front Nine Clubhouse in 1981. How awkward is it when two old white guys do a duet of The Commodores' 'Brick House'? 7 It doesn't matter anyway because everyone is playing the studio version in their heads and thinking they can dance, even though they're terrible and it's just the Mad Men cocktails talking. These dudes look and sound pretty dumb, but where else am I going to find a serious interpretation of Carl Douglas’ ‘Kung Fu Fighting’?
Anyone Who Immediately Regrets Choosing 'Hotel California'
It's such a train wreck but you can't look away. This poor sucker thinks to himself, "Oh, dude. This is going to be awesome. Chicks love it and I'll get high fives all around. I'll go with 'Hey Jude' and everyone will love me and buy me drinks and I'll be the dandiest boy at the ball." 8 Except it's not awesome at all. Halfway through some respectable Radiohead song, the instrumental section begins, and bam. We're all forced to stare at a helpless human flounder about the stage like a lost child in the Galleria Mall. I sort of wish the building would catch fire so that their misery would end, but it never happens. Ever. All anyone can do is just cringe and pray for it to end, like when you watch a movie with a sex scene while sitting next to your parents. 9
1 And I waited 55 minutes to do one song.
2 This is bullshit. If you get those references you're totally one of these dudes.
3 They usually are.
4 Yes I do. God, I really do.
5 Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, a late ‘70's New Wave Brit band that found moderate popularity for their contribution to the movie Pretty in Pink.
6 Hint: It's not ‘She Bop’.
7 It’s really awkward.
8 People talk totally like this in their heads.
9 Ever sat through the space-sex scene from ‘Watchmen’ with your Grandma? It's not for me.
Young rocker wannabe image courtesy of Shutterstock