I used to love singing. Absolutely adore it. In primary school I joined the choir and cherished it to bits. At the time it didn’t get a lot cooler than “In the Middle of the Night” by Billy Joel or that Friends theme by The Rembrandts. Harmonies seemed on another level. I couldn’t conceive how different melodies could blend together to create something fuller and more robust. It blew my six year old mind to pieces. I’d proudly sing in the shower or in talent contests. We had school choir concerts that I coerced my parents into attending. I was one of the few nerds that enjoyed singing assemblies, where we stood in the hall and read lyrics projected by the OHP machine. Those were the days.
Here’s the thing. Much as I loved it, I knew I was no prodigy. Don’t get me wrong, I wished I were one. I so wanted to be an amazing singer, but knew that I didn’t have the X factor. This was before the show too. I envied anyone who took to it naturally. I could carry a tune, but I couldn’t lift a crowd off their feet. I dipped my toes into choirs in intermediate and college, but lacked the commitment and drive to make the uphill climb. I still loved singing, but illusions of grandeur were far from my vision. To this day an audition for a college talent quest stands as one of my most cringeworthy experiences. My meagre range missed so many notes and I saw just how the crowd saw me. If I’d had an ego, that would’ve killed it and stabbed the corpse for good measure.
Still, I had karaoke on my side. A couple (read: not blackout, but not a safe distance off) of drinks with mates and we’d rent a karaoke room for an hour or two. I’d belt them out with impunity. We all sucked, so who cared? Fun was the goal and we were scoring big. When I came to Canada, all of my friends seemed to be musical theatre geeks. Karaoke evolved into this big public spectacle in a bar. People getting up with pre-selected songs. No longer was it about having fun goofing off, it was performative in a big way. There were crowds, for fuck’s sake. You can only see disappointment in so many faces before you walk the other way. I can safely say, it felt like being back at that talent show. It was evident that I didn’t have enough. I’ve pretty much steered clear of karaoke for the past few years, it felt that bitter and personal.
Last night I went out for karaoke with friends. We hired a room for two hours. Most people were all manner of loaded (day drinking does that). You know what? I had a fucking blast. There were no egos, just a celebration of giving it what you had. No matter who sang, no matter how it went, the fact that they’d done it was a cause for celebration. I was unsure at first. There were a few songs where I seriously contented with whether or not I’d be able to commit. Then I thought back to improv class. The instructor telling us that standing back and not participating makes everyone lose. You’re not supporting your team mates, but you’re also putting a wall between you and the activity, as if you’re too cool. Half-assing is like being worried a ship will sink and leaving pre-emptively. If you stayed behind, you would’ve been able to help with the bail out. Maybe it wouldn’t have sunk. No, I didn’t think my friends would’ve crashed and burned behind the mic without me, but why wouldn’t I yes, and… to the notion of letting my lungs loose? Make no mistake, I shredded my throat something chronic. Those muscles haven’t been stretched in some time. I did, however, remember just how much I loved singing. If I don’t do well, but have a great time, have I really lost anything?
Dignity was never high on my list of values.