I love karaoke. My journey with karaoke began when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old and Santa brought me an E-Kara, which was a microphone you could plug into your television to transform it into a very early-2000s, low-tech, at-home karaoke system. There weren’t many songs you could choose from, which came on pre-loaded cartridges you inserted into the mic. I usually stuck to “Aaron’s Party (Come Get It)” by Aaron Carter, “Independent Women Part 2” by Destiny’s Child, or “Oops!…I Did It Again” by Britney Spears — all incredibly good karaoke songs.
In the past year, I started going to karaoke every week, a great life choice that I wrote about right here* on Autostraddle dot com as part of For Your Consideration, my series that is about a lot of things but really about my breakup and the affair that incited it. My love of karaoke is deeply entwined with the way I process emotions during difficult times. Sometimes, you really do just have to sing it out.
(*Please note that I recently confirmed that the two regulars who I speculated were Ex-Girlfriends Who Karaoke Together in that essay are indeed Ex-Girlfriends Who Karaoke Together.)
While a bar in Brooklyn is now my homebase for karaoke, my heart will always truly belong to the first consistent karaoke place I frequented, a dive bar in Chicago called Hidden Cove. My friend and roommate at the time Melanie walked right into Hidden Cove and tried to order a dark and stormy and, friends, this is not the kind of place where you order a dark and stormy. They practically laughed her right on out. Hidden Cove is the kind of place where you maybe order a round of fireball shots and a Miller High Life. Melanie and I started calling Hidden Cove “the Crusty Clam,” and I can’t remember why, but it fits. It was there that I really, truly fell in love with scream-singing through my feelings with my dear friends.
A random collection of karaoke friendship memories through the years:
- I brought my E-Kara in to school in fourth grade and used it on one of the TVs on wheels so that I could perform the song I had written about different types of rocks set to the tune of “Oops! I Did It Again” in front of my entire class. This was my science project. We were simply asked to write a report on rocks…and I wrote a song parody.
- Two friends visited me one summer in Los Angeles, and I made them come to a karaoke bar with a bunch of UCLA students who I did not know and it was so bro-y and we performed “Everywhere” by Michelle Branch. The next time I tried to go to this karaoke bar…it didn’t exist? WAS IT ALL A DREAM?
- When I moved out of Chicago, I threw a going away party at Hidden Cove, and everyone sang “Come To My Window” at the end.
- Stonewall Inn does 90s karaoke every week, and it’s always a delight, and my friend Becca and I did “Just A Girl” together and then someone paid for all our drinks?
- My friend Caroline and I tried to do “Yeah” by Usher and uncomfortably realized how awkward it is to just say “yeah” over and over again about five seconds into the first chorus.
- One time at a private room karaoke party, a girl announced that had not actually sang at karaoke in five years and that she would never sing at karaoke ever again. Meanwhile, no one would sing “Take Me Or Leave Me” with me, so I attempted to sing both Maureen and Joanne’s parts, but halfway through the song, the Karaoke Grinch JOINED IN and broke her five-year hiatus?! A magical moment.
My go-to karaoke artists are the Dixie Chicks, Kelly Clarkson, ABBA, Alanis Morissette, and Michelle Branch. I love to bring the mood down in a karaoke room with a rendition of “Goodbye To You” or “Not Ready To Make Nice.” I literally sang “Potential Breakup Song” mere days after breaking up with my ex. This summer, “Before He Cheats”—sung as “Before She Cheats”—became my staple. Showtunes from Grease, Wicked, and Rent are old standbys. There are songs I haven’t sung yet but have a strong urge to, like “Grigio Girls” by Lady Gaga, “Treacherous” by Taylor Swift, “Youngblood” by 5 Seconds Of Summer, and “Simply The Best” by Tina Turner.
So tell me, what are your favorite songs to sing at karaoke? Does it depend on your mood? The vibe of the room? What’s a karaoke song you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t yet? Tell me about your favorite places to do karaoke, your favorite karaoke memories, your messiest karaoke memories. Do you hate karaoke? FINE. I’m willing to hear you out, but after converting that one Karaoke Grinch, I feel that I have the POWER TO PERSUADE.
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