Reining in the singing.

Karaoke. Noun. A word grounded in the Japanese tongue. “Empty orchestra”, apparently. They obviously haven’t seen me karaoke.

I’ve had a long time fascination with the.. activity? Hobby? Art? It’s a pleasing pastime well served by alcoholic imbibing. In lieu of talent, enthusiasm is an acceptable elixir, fueling an impassioned performance that’s entertaining for everyone present. I’ve always been a bit of a karaoke hedge knight. I enjoy the process and don’t take too much stock in the end result. Once I’m in a state to karaoke I’m on board in every way as long as I have fun participating. For some reason in Toronto I’ve gravitated towards a number of musical theatre or otherwise theatrical folk. Nothing more than coincidence, but it’s harshing my karaoke mellow something fierce. Thing is, if you’re surrounded by people who can actually hold a legit note it dissuades you from competing. Like being challenged to a dance off by a superior dancer, you resort to ironic or comedic pursuits instead of actually trying. The less you make it seem like you’re invested, the less face you serve to lose. Hence, here’s my list of definitive karaoke classics for the tonally challenged (garnered through empirical evidence):

Will Smith – Fresh Prince of Bel Air

Got a room full of twentysomethings? This is the 800 pound gorilla of western karaoke. It should be expected every single time, but occasionally it’ll be that little bit of spice everyone was missing. If you’re good, you’ll inspire cheers and hoots. If you’re something special you’ll lead the bar in a sing-a-long. If you’re next level you’ll be packing the lyrical stylings of the full song, just in case. That’s some extra curricular activity that’ll pay dividends.

Seal – Kiss from a Rose

Boosted by the impeccable Community season 3 episode. Off key is perfectly fine. Preferred almost. Because we can’t all be Seal. Most of us don’t even have the lupus required. This is a song you can really “give’er” to and feel the love radiate back towards you in waves. It’s a Grammy winning song from back when that kind of meant something.

Wheels on the Bus

Looking to sideswipe your crowd entirely? Less expected than the Spanish Inquisition, a nursery rhyme done with proper energy has the capacity to bring down the house. None of this excessive trilling and authentic musical ability, a death metal scream or two here will accentuate the nostalgia perfectly. Make it you own and you’ll own the room.


Of course, not everything will land the way you expect. Some things seem like a good idea at a time, but are actually mental excrement that find their way from your brain into your fingers, programming themselves into those karaoke remotes with ubiquitously bad reception. These songs shouldn’t be performed (also garnered through empirical evidence):

Radiohead – Paranoid Android

You are not Thom Yorke. You will never be Thom Yorke. Whatever delusions you hold, for the sake of good taste and decency, hold them back. If your friends think this 6.5 minute track is a good idea, they’re either terrible people who secretly despise you or 14 years old. In either case, you shouldn’t be hanging out with them. Even if you’re 14 years old yourself. 14 year olds are the worst. Alternatively you can use this track as a litmus-test of whether or not you should be surrounded by those people. Or never key in that code, for your own sake.

U Can’t Touch This – MC Hammer

I know it sounds hilarious, but don’t do it. This song is 4.15 of content, about 2 minutes of which you actually know. 1.40 of which is just the chorus repeating. You might know the intro, but you’re just setting yourself up for embarrassment by standing on a stage incapable of keeping up. If you can dance like MC Hammer, then fine. Do that. If you can do The Charleston, that’s probably also acceptable. If only because Alison Brie can and it’s adorable. Chances are, you’re not Alison Brie, so just don’t do it. If you are Alison Brie then, well. Maybe U Can Touch This. In karaoke.


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