Sunday, January 23, 2011

Karaoke as bravery

A few weeks back, I watched several people that I follow on Twitter tweet about being at a karaoke event in Des Moines. I remember trying to figure out if this was a big thing or if it was just a bar that was having karaoke that several people happened to be at. I have never done karaoke - not even one time, but it's one of those things that I wouldn't mind doing some day.

For me, karaoke is one of those things that would require me to be extremely brave to do it. It's not that I've never sung in public before, it's just that the last time I did that I was in 6th grade and playing Santa in the school Christmas play. My voice hadn't changed yet so it sounded like Santa was a eunuch. I remember having to sing a song about a Super TV Set that would broadcast Santa's travels to the entirety of the North Pole. There was also a part that required me to pretend that I was on the phone and I put the microphone up to my ear instead of my mouth before I started talking. I was mortified because, naturally, that was the performance that was recorded and that we had to watch in music class after the program was over.

I sing in the shower, in the car and around the house doing chores. Anna and I take turns singing on Guitar Hero. Heidi always says that she can tell I'm doing well and feeling good by the amount of singing in falsetto that I do. It's true. I don't know that I sing particularly well, but it's fun. I don't really remember my dad singing around the house when I was a kid. He famously didn't like to sing hymns in church or anything like that. I want my daughter to have as one of her childhood memories a dad that sang in the car with her or around the house or whatever.

I've toyed with the idea of going out to do karaoke many times. In 2003, I went to visit a friend in Cincinnati and that was totally on the agenda. Well, I got sick with a cold toward the end of the trip and for a million other reasons, it didn't work out. My friend Jess, whose bravery I admire on a nearly daily basis, does karaoke quite a bit. She's a really good singer though and even does it in places outside the confines of her own home. She has even invited me out with her several times when she has gone but for whatever reason, it just has never worked out.

I always used to say that I would need to consume a considerable amount of alcohol to do karaoke. The trouble with that is that alcohol may be liquid courage but it's also liquid brain mush. It also causes me to talk non-stop and for those of you that know me, I know that's hard to believe, but it's true. How can you be expected to do a decent job singing a song when you're sloshed? You can't. It's just impossible. Some people would say that performing a song badly is the point of bar karaoke. I would disagree. If you're going to do something, why deliberately do it badly? Even the people that made Mommie Dearest thought they were making a classic - that it turned out to be a camp classic is beside the point. And if I ever do karaoke, I would hope to God that it sounds something like the episode of House where Chase, Foreman and House all sing Gladys Knight & The Pips' "Midnight Train To Georgia" at a karaoke bar. The actual video from the show is fucking embedding disabled, but watch it here (really, do it. It's worth it and essential viewing.) Here's the audio of it that is embeddable. Chase is Gladys and Foreman & House are the Pips.

I suffer from no delusion that I would sound as good (or look as good) as Chase does in that clip. But I'll admit it - there's a Chase in me dying to get out. I push him to the side or squash him down with relative frequency, because it doesn't fit in with the image I've cultivated over the years. But you know what? Fuck that. Heidi and I have been talking a lot about bravery lately and really, to be brave means you really have to take the chance. I may be pushing 40, but I'm not dead yet.

The thing I've learned over the last year is that, like it or not, I am the sum of all my parts, even those parts I would rather bury in a tub of cement a la True Blood. The trouble with that is that even when you do that, it's still a part of you. Better to just embrace it all and be a whole person. I would love to not have to deal with anxiety issues. I would love to be more outgoing and less tentative. The fact of the matter is that those things are who I am. Period. That doesn't mean I can't change them, but at this point in my life, those things are pretty hard wired. And if there's something like a songbird version of Chase ramming around in me, I'd best pay attention to it as well as the parts of me that I'm accustomed to dealing with.

So who's with me? Who among you are ready to be the Pips to my Gladys Knight? I know that if my brother Ryan were here, he'd totally do it. But he's been singing the Pips' part of "Midnight Train To Georgia" for the better part of a decade now. Now that I've done shots, maybe I need to cross karaoke off my list as well. And who knows? I might just like it. And then again I might not. Regardless, it's called living and I intend to be doing more of that.


Dwayne said...

In front of a lively (drunk) audience I have done karaoke 6 times. Each time I was physically grabbed by the hand and dragged to the stage by a person who knows I love to sing but am quite uncomfortable (terrified) of being the center of attention. Each time it turned out fine and I got some nice encouragement from the crowd.
Also after each time I secretly wished that the friend would force me up there again because it really was fun.
Now knowing that I will be dragged to the stage I have tried out hundreds of karaoke videos in my home to find the 20 or so songs that I can sing well enough to not be laughed at.
I recommend you doing it because it feels great breaking out of your comfort zone even if only for a few minutes.
It will help your nerves if you spend some time finding the songs you are capable of singing, and getting comfortable with them first. Try a duet or group song 1st so you don't have to be alone up there.
Do it! Do It! Do It!
And put it on Youtube. :)

Dan said...

Thanks for the support. I'm sure it'll happen eventually. I have plenty of people around here who have stepped up to the plate saying that they would be more than happy to go with me. We'll see how it goes, but I doubt it'll be on YouTube! ;)

mary35 said...

I had to chuckle at the Santa eunuch, and I really related to your post. I was actually in several high school musicals and was even the lead in The Sound of Music, but the thought of doing karaoke makes the bile rise. I was actually so scared during TSOM that I barfed backstage, so I have real fear of that happening again. Thus, I have never done karaoke, either. I really miss singing, and I sing when I'm alone often. I always wonder if my neighbors can hear me singing in the shower, but I really don't care. Like you, I have also been pondering karaoke for quite some time.

Anonymous said...

Jeff and I have talked in the past about having a karaoke party - "Loud and Proud". I think it would be tons of fun without the stress of going to a bar and performing in front of strangers. :)

Dan said...

Mary, I'm with you - I am actually more nervous about it than I let on, but I think I could do it (and so could you!!) with practice.

Carlye - where and when? Name the time and place and I say we gather people and do it! (Mary, you're coming)