Here is article #3 for Lit Monthly (November, 2009 issue)...
Go Ahead and Sing Your #%@& Off - Karaoke in Dallas
Do you have the testicular fortitude to stand up in front of a crowd of complete strangers, family, and friends and belt out a version of “Close to You” by the Carpenters? No? Well then have another drink or two and you soon will. Ah, karaoke; it allows us to accrue a few of our fifteen minutes of fame (or shame) and get that adrenaline rush of a live performance. In the comfort of our favorite bar, we’re able to sing and join in on the cheers and jeers of our contemporaries, who usually feel that they could’ve done a better job on that last tune, which was so deftly sent through the abattoir.
Karaoke (amateurs singing along to recorded music through a PA system, with the assistance of scrolling lyrics that are being displayed on a video screen) has been around since the early 1970s. The true origin of this phenom is speculative, but most agree that it can be traced back to Japanese musician Daisuke Inoue, who created a karaoke-type machine back in 1971. Totally embraced by the Japanese, the popularity of the “Big K” quickly spread to East and Southeast Asia during the 1980s, and by the 1990s it was in full swing in the US and remains a popular form of entertainment today. In fact, the movie Duets, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis, centers on the life of a U.S. karaoke hustler.
Karaoke is really all about having a good time, whether you sing well or not. The medium has become so popular that even famous recording artists often use it as a crutch, on stage, relying on a video monitor of scrolling lyrics to keep from looking like a jackass, should they forget a line. Heck, even Elvis “the pelvis” used to use cue cards during live performances. And speaking of live performances, there is a form of karaoke called “Rock Star” karaoke, where a real band, with a list of up to several hundred songs, actually backs you up. You really get to be a rock star for a night!
As the majority of us have a hard enough time just mustering enough courage to vocalize to any crowd, there are a few rules of etiquette that should be followed when performing (or watching) karaoke. Here are a couple of lists that will help make the evening more enjoyable (or at least less painful) for everyone involved.
Some Karaoke Rules of Etiquette
1. Always applaud for every singer, no matter how bad they are. It’s always possible that you’ll suck even worse than them, when your time comes.
2. Conversely, making fun of someone on stage is a big NO-NO. No hissing, booing or derogatory comments from the peanut gallery, please. Unless of course it’s one of your siblings or best friends, and they are actually better than you.
3. Do not, under any circumstances, get up and sing backup or a duet with anyone unless you are specifically asked to! It’s hard enough sounding like crap on my own.
4. While there are tons of songs to choose from, there’s always a chance that someone will request the same song as you, before you. Don’t whine about it. They turned their slip in first and get to sing the song first. Just pick another tune and move on.
5. Always be respectful of the microphone. Don’t swing it around by the cord like Roger Daltry, and certainly don’t lick it, suck it, stick it in your mouth, or in any other bodily orifice. It’s a highly specialized, expensive piece of equipment, and when I sing on that mic, I’m singing with everyone else that that mic has been with.
Follow these simple rules and you’ll feel all warm and fuzzy inside and will probably be invited back to regale the adoring throngs with your smooth vocal stylings. Fail to heed them and the karaoke police may come knocking on your door in the wee hours of the morning, and force you to listen to 37 different renditions of “Feelings.” That being said, here is a short list of “don’t be that guy” songs that you should never inflict upon any karaoke crowd…
1. Songs that are too lengthy – i.e. “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “American Pie,” “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights,” “Freebird,” and “Stairway to Heaven.” Why? Life’s just too damn short!
2. Songs that are overly weak, wimpy, or watered down – such as “I Got You Babe,” “The Rose,” or “The Wind Beneath My Wings” (Both by Bette Midler, sorry Bette!), “Delta Dawn,” “Copacabana,” anything by Air Supply, the Carpenters, Neil Diamond, or the like. – No explanation needed here, is there?
3. Tunes by musicians that are not in your vocal range – Journey, Rush, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, and Minnie Ripperton to name just a few. - Is there a freakin’ Screech Owl in here?
4. Songs that have just been way too overdone – like most anything from the Grease soundtrack, “Ice, Ice, Baby,” “New York, New York,” “My Way,” “Freebird” (again), “Brown-Eyed Girl,” “Strokin’,” “Friends in Low Places,” “Baby Got Back,” “Margaritaville,” “Hotel California” etc. – No, Not Again!! Please!!!
5. Songs that nobody else knows. – You’re going to sing that? Really!?
6. And last but certainly not least… sad, depressing, or breakup songs. – You may have just been through a tough breakup, but my life already sucks and I don’t need to be reminded. Keep your personal issues to yourself!
Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are a few of my favorite places in the Metroplex to stretch my vocal chords:
1. The Maple Point – 5415 Maple Ave. Dallas, TX (214) 688-5515 (Thurs.)
2. Lone Star Café – 11277 E. NW Highway Suite #124 Dallas, TX (214) 341-3538 (Tues. and Thurs.)
3. Tradewinds – 2843 W. Davis St. Dallas, TX (214) 337-9075 (Sat.)
4. The Stone Elephant – 6750 Abrams Rd. Dallas, TX (214) 342-9200 (Thurs.)
5. Ernie’s of North Dallas – 5100 Belt Line Rd. Suite #502 Dallas, TX (972) 233-8855 (Mon.)
6. The Goat (aka Lota’s Goat) – 7248 Gaston Ave. Dallas, TX (214) 327-8119 (Wed. and Sun.)
7. Knox Street Pub – 4447 McKinney Ave. Dallas, TX (214) 528-5100 (Thurs.)
8. Winedale Tavern – 2110 Greenville Ave. Dallas, TX (214) 823-5018 (Thurs.)
You can find Rock Star Karaoke at:
1. Scooter’s – 3427 Trinity Mills Rd. Suite #700 Carrollton, TX (972) 662-9170 (Thurs.)
2. Sherlock’s Pub – 9100 N. Central Expressway Dallas, TX (214)692-1111 (Tues.)
There are tons of places to sing karaoke in Dallas, from little hole-in-the-wall dives to places like Family Karaoke, where you can rent your own private room with a karaoke machine, sing as horribly as you want, and order food and drinks, away from the judging eyes and ears of others. For more DFW karaoke hot spots, check out the website http://www.dfwkaraoke.com/. It’s a phenomenal resource for finding places to sing, on any night of the week. They were also very helpful in writing this article. Now get out there and sing your #%@& off! “Feelings, wo-o-o feelings…”