Taking the Weekend Off: An Open Thread

You know what, this is the last weekend that I’m actually going to be spending at home between now and mid-May, thanks to various speaking and touring commitments. I think I might actually spend it with my family instead of here. No offense. See you all on Monday with a wrap-up of Reader Request Week and other news.

In the meantime, here, have an open thread. To get you started: Share your favorite song to karaoke to. I have a distinct preference for “Melt With You” by Modern English, myself. If you don’t karaoke, or choose to plead the fifth, then recount the worst karaoke rendition of a song you’ve ever heard.

Enjoy the weekend. See you later.

59 thoughts on “Taking the Weekend Off: An Open Thread

  1. I worked a Japanese New Year party a while ago, and karaoke just isn’t the same if it’s not performed by drunken Japanese businessmen. The best possible song? “My Way”, either Frank or Sid Vicious….

  2. “Like a Virgin”… performed by a drunken male kiwi tech support professional, at the company Christmas party. Ewwwwwww.

  3. For the three-odd years and counting that I’ve spent grad school, my favorite karaoke song has been “I will survive.” It’s rather pathetic (and telling) how many times I’ve seen (and been involved in) grad students doing group kareoke to that song.

  4. I am simply the bestest in the world at singing – badly. If you want a song to be totally and unrepairably scared scorched and destoryed then call me. Favs include but not limited to, “Pretty Woman”, The whole elvis collection (that way I can hip swing as well), “Meatloaf” cause then I can show my ability to NOT hit that high note, anything on PS2’s Singstar – esp the girl songs then I can sing falsetto! Oh and to put you all at ease I play drums in my band and they wont give me a microphone – even though I think it would be a great gimic….
    R.Stover

  5. At my friend’s stag night, we took him karaokeing. We also made him wear a lovely ensemble in pink: tight stripey tshirt, sparkly miniskirt over pink trousers, and pink rhinestone sandals. He’s also somewhat over 6 feet tall.

    The song we made him sing? “Dont cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me”, by the Pussycat Dolls.

    Truly. Hideous.

  6. I’ll karaoke to anything.

    My favorite was DIXIE, because I am not a Southerner and I butchered it. Nothing like the sight of a big man straining fro the high notes. I am also partial to Johnny Cash. Folsom Prison or Walk the Line.

    In a karaoke bar in Ogunquit, Maine, I heard a woman do an astounding version of Constant Craving by KD Lang. She was a rather plain woman, who looked like she’d lived a very hard life. And the tone of the song, the lyrics made the performance all the more heart-wrenching.

  7. The worst karaoke I’ve heard has got to be a guy seriously trying to sing Sinatra’s “My Way”. The problem? He was consistently a half-tone flat and a half-beat late. Fingernails-on-blackboard painful.

  8. When I lived in Toronto I used to manage a natural food store that happened to be above a Vietnamese cafe. I think it was Thursday and Friday nights that they would have open karaoke nights, which meant that as I was sweeping up for the evening I would hear the dulcet tones through the paper-thin floor.

    One of those nights a gentleman decided to choose an American classic, and I was treated to a heartfelt rendition of “House of the Rising Sun”.

    Imagine the most politically incorrect bad English-Asian accent you have ever heard in a movie (e.g., “I love you long time”). Now imagine that voice wailing along with special emphasis on the line “do what I have done”.

  9. Since I lack any and all musical ability, I choose not inflict too much pain on the people in the audience at whatever karoke bar I go to. So I always go with Johnny Cash’s ‘Boy Named Sue.’ Its funny and it involves next to no singing. Everyone wins!

  10. I remember being in Quebec and hearing a group of five teens, boys, geeky-looking, singing ‘Good Vibrations.’ A capella. The entire bar was silent for about five minutes, they stood there nervously, and then everybody tried to buy them a drink at the same time. It was mind-blowing.

    Then there was that time at camp we practiced for WEEKS to do the overture to William Tell a capella, and that was hilarious.

    My favorite karaoke song is ‘Juliet’ by LMNT. It’s almost impossible for me to screw up too badly, and it’s my first name, which means even if I do get a visit from the Cock-Up fairy, nobody comes screaming at me trying to claw out my eyeballs. It’s foolproof!

    Having had to take years of piano as a child, I will usually opt for that instead of karaoke (if possible), because I can play something briefly and easily (like, Tuxedo Junction or Georgia On My Mind, because I know those pieces) and then I can capitulate to the showy vocalist who will be in the bar and take over. Win-win-win situation.

  11. Matt McIrvin
    Once I heard someone do “(You’ve Got) Personality” in an absolute monotone. One note. It didn’t sound as if it was intentional.

    Was it Leonard Cohen? (Ha ha only serious.)

    It wasn’t karaoke, since it was a band covering the song, but on the Smalls’ “Goodbye Forever” tour, they did a cover of “Natural Woman”. It was rather soulful, and true to the original, except maybe for the fact that the band was made up of four guys from Alberta.

  12. I used to live in Big Bear, where karaoke was one of the few things to do that didn’t involve snow. The locals’ bar had lively singalong nights, and this one woman used to do George Thorogood’s “One Bourbon, One Shot, One Beer” with her own monologue in the middle. It was excellent.

    On the other end of the quality scale was a duet at a bar in K-Town, doing a song that had one singing falsetto while the other just yelled “Yeah, yeah” into his mic. Sometimes, there ought to be limits on karaoke.

    BTW, any Angelino Whateverians planning on hitting the LA Times Festival of Books?

  13. If it was shorter, I’d plug for Meatloaf’s I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)….but Jim Steinman does NOT know when to quit. So while it is fun to sing dramatically, it gets very exhausting. Because like the Energizer bunny, it goes on and on and on and on….

    Cyndi Lauper Girl’s Just Wanna Have Fun is a favourite of mine.

    Worst rendition of a song ever: I was at a bowling alley and heard some caterwauling coming from the far end of the lanes. Two teenage girls were wailing on Martina McBride’s This One’s For The Girls. It sounded like the time my ex-boyfriend dumped his sister’s cat in the shower.

  14. “Spinning Wheel” by Blood, Sweat, & Tears is my go-to song for karaoke. It’s fairly short, in my range, and doesn’t have any long instrumental breaks- great attributes since I get stage fright.

    I miss The Mint in San Francisco-best karaoke bar and friendliest crowd I’ve encountered.

  15. Paradise by the Dashboard Light, by Meatloaf.

    The perfect duet song, you can camp it up something crazy, and you can do your own sexual monologue in the middle. Plus, it doesn’t go on for ever and ever like some other Meatloaf songs (as mentioned above). It’s long, but not crazy repetitive.

    Some of the best karaoke I’ve heard done was a friend of mine with a crazy set of pipes get up and sing The Darkness. Holy crap is that hard and did he ever nail that. I could never do that.

    Worst. Wow, I’ve heard lots of terrible karaoke. The worst I’ve ever participated was when four of us guys, completely trashed, got up and tried to sing a Spice Girls song we didn’t know. God was that awesomely bad.

  16. A few friends took me out to dinner on my 30th birthday. There was a female entertainer singing various songs for the crowd, who out of the blue called my name. I glared at my companions, who are now laughing hysterically, then bravely squared my shoulders and went onstage.

    I have an OK voice, but it’s nothing to write home about. I had no idea what song they’d picked out for me, which was a little terrifying. But apparently the Gods of Fate smiled upon me, because the song was A: One that I actually knew and liked, and B: In my vocal range. Having a deep voice, I can’t hit those high notes without strangling myself.

    The song was “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf, and I pulled it off without embarrassing myself too badly (much to the chagrin of my now former-friends. LOL) The few times since then I’ve been drunk enough to be cajoled into singing I stick to it. Why mess with success?

  17. The Best Karaoke Song Ever Ever Ever is “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” This has been empirically demonstrated.

    Pat Benatar and Cyndi Lauper come in at a close second.

  18. Aw. You mean, nobody else has attempted my favorite double-feature … “These Boots Were Made for Walkin'” (I mean, it’s already slightly offkey) and “Material Girl”?

  19. I enjoy crooning to the tasteful and heart-touching lyrics of the master of real class, Clarence Carter. Strokin’ is always the closing number in my songlist…

  20. John,

    I really liked Old Man’s War. I picked it up at Larry Smith’s table at I-Con on Long Island last weekend. It’s signed by you. Instead of doing my project for school I read your book! Thank you for writing it!

    -Jacob, third year student at Hampshire College, Amherst, MA

  21. I have the good fortune to possess an extremely selective memory. I’ve sat through any number of horrendous karaoke sessions and I’m not haunted by a single one.

  22. Karaoke is a strange phenomena. I’ve never participated. I think since I’m a musician, I sorta feel if I karaoke, I’ll be consorting with the competition or something. Probably the real reason is I’m mostly a blues singer and I don’t know a lot of other songs, and I’m secretly afraid I’d fail miserably at Karaoke and be exposed as the fraud I am. Thirty years ago, when I first starting playing music for a living, I had a recurring nightmare where I’d be performing and the music would stop, an audience member would jump up, point their finger at me and yell, “You can’t sing–who do you think you are?”

    Anyway, I have a friend who does sing Karaoke a lot, and I didn’t realize there’s a whole group of people who take this stuff very seriously, practice and dress up for the show. My friend sees this as real performance and hopes to someday sing in a band. I found her sincere attitude very touching and went to hear her recently and she can really sing. I didn’t understand how important Karaoke was to some people, and my whole attitude about it has changed.

    I was a full-time road musician til around the year 2000 and was fairly jaded about the experience, but I stayed in the business not for the money (the money sucks), but for the self-expression I craved, (well…I wanted to meet girls too), but after hearing my friend, I realized everyone has that need to hear some applause, to get up in front of a crowd and do good. I still don’t Karaoke, but I sure have a different take on it these days.

  23. I used to work for a Fortune 500 company that shall remain unnamed. For thier 150th anniversary,they held a large party in my city and invited local employees to compete in a karaoke contest to win the chance to enteratin their fellow employees at the party.
    The tryouts produced some awful stuff. The New York employees’ party featured Sheryl Crow.

  24. This is an absurd question. One can never have just *one* favorite song to karaoke to! But in a pinch, it would be The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Under the Bridge” or Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees”. Cyndi Lauper’s “Time after Time” if it’s eighties night. Maybe The Cars’ “Just What I Needed”. Like I said, far too limiting a question!

  25. “It’s the end of the World as We Know it.” You don’t need to be able to sing at all. If you know all the words people give you lots of respect.

    And the worst Karaoke song ever is “Take on Me” by A-Ha. No one, and I mean no one that has ever done this song in Karaoke has the range to pull it off. It’s truly painful.

  26. “Dane | March 31, 2007 03:38 PM

    I enjoy crooning to the tasteful and heart-touching lyrics of the master of real class, Clarence Carter. Strokin’ is always the closing number in my songlist…”

    Dane, I want to go on liberty with you (she said “Oh Clarence Carter, Oh Clarence Carter..)

    My personal favorite is “Pride and Joy” by Stevie Ray Vaughn.

  27. …trust me on this one: Karaoke == absolute, total torture for someone with perfect pitch.Can’t even stay in the room, almost become physically ill.Ick to the nth…Now run screaming from anyone who even MENTIONS the possibility of going to a Karaoke bar.

  28. We used to go to a friend’s cabin in the northern Wisconsin woods every summer. In a small town bar that shall remain nameless, they had Karaoke every Friday and Saturday night. My wife and her friends routinely would get up there and desecrate their favorite songs. Women should never ever try to sing Neil Diamond. It would be like me trying to cover Annie Lennox. But they still weren’t as bad as the two drunk men that dueted on George Stait’s “Cross My Heart” and were so blitzed it came out “Cross my hawwwww”.

    In all the years we went there, I tried it twice and brought the house down both times, by cleverly picking songs that did not require me to sing so much as screech and whip up the crowd: Georgia Satellites “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” and BTO’s “Taking Care of Business”. Cliched three-chord rock but when I screamed for everyone to get their hands in the air it actually worked.

  29. I used to get favorable responses for “Runaround Sue.” Before I quit karaoke because I realized that “love shack” was a fun song once a year done by the B-52’s but not once a week by people who can’t sing.

    Not the worst, but my favorite rendition came from a teenage boy with issues who did a crowd-pleasing rendition of “Play that funky music” every weekend before his parents picked him up. I think they owned the bar.

    It wasn’t singing as much as shouting, especially the chorus: “Lay down the boogie and play that funky music ’till you die!!! TILL YOU DIE!!!!!”

  30. Completely by accident (while in Tennessee for business), I found out I do a kick-ass karaoke version of “Harper Valley, PTA”. Even on the nights I’m a little off-key, I always manage to sell it. I keep trying to sing “If I Could Turn Back Time” by Cher, thinking that I can manage it, since we both have low voices. Unfortunately, despite the low voice, I cannot hit Cher’s key. Very dispiriting.

    Once upon a time I was in Vegas with a bunch of online journaling folks. We were in a hole in the wall bar with karaoke (it has since burned down – poor Tong’s). Early in the evening a group of Korean folks were going to town on the English karaoke. Simultaneously wonderful and surreal – painfully fabulous at times.

  31. Old Man River

    A fellow employee once killed the company post-Christmas party by throwing down a dead-serious karaoke performance of Old-Man River. The old “closing-time” spotlights could not have cleared out the place any faster.

  32. I was nearly a high school freshman, and my church put on its annual summer-festival. One day they had karaoke on the main stage. I thought I was a pretty good singer, so I should give it a try. I picked the Beatles’ “Hey Jude”, ’cause McCartney had just performed it on Saturday Night Live, and it sounded fun. Unfortunately, I never knew the full version was approximately a kajillion years long. It was awful, and never-ending. Hey Jude. Hey Jude. Eee.

    Last January (fifteen or so years later) I finally got back on the horse. Now, it’s fun again. I loved the crowd singing along with me to the Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes”. I loved the way the karaoke dude winced when I told him I wanted to sing “Hell” by the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Screw him, I was awesome. And best of all, my rendition of Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” pushed a pretty good date into what appears to be a serious relationship. Hooray for karaoke!

  33. Since this is an open thread, has anyone heard any news about the possibility of Pluto merging with some of its nearest neighbors in order to regain planetary status? Rumor has it that makers of educational materials and some science book publishers are behind this move. They would rather contribute to a fund that would restore its status than be forced to junk so much inventory. Financing has been lined up and underwriting consultants have been hired to make the merger happen as soon as possible.

  34. Not much karaoke up here in the frozen north (of England) although it seems to be escaping from the bright lights, big city to the land of pub singers. The only difference is proper backing. The singing remains… well, my singing ability is a negative quantity and I’m better than these guys. The absolute worst is ‘My Way’. Its a crime against humanity. Its godawful sung by Sinatra and scarcely tolerable sung by Sid – and that covers the entire spectrum of singing ability.

    The best I ever saw was a work colleague so out of it that he sang Cliff Bennett’s ‘Got to get you into my life’ to the wife of his immediate boss. Wine had flowed, blood did spill. Nobody else remembered in the morning.

    As far as I’m concerned, karaoke was invented by Japanese salarymen for Japanese salarymen and should remain the sole possession of Japanese salarymen.

  35. John Cage’s infamous “4’33”

    I support legislation that this be included in every jukebox. I’d gladly pop quarters in for peace and quiet at certain restaurants…

    Related subject: Open Mic Night at comedy clubs and coffeehouses. On the plus side, that’s something I’ve done, and was the first Hollywood onstage performances by my son, when he was 14. On the minus side, there are many people who think that comedians are people who tell jokes. Their families tell these people how funny they are, and eventually they take the stage on Open Mic Night. It’s like the Slush Pile of Comedy.

    My first cousin — mother’s brother’s son — is the extremely funny and famous comedian Rich Vos. See:

    http://richvos.com/

    For explcit Nerd Comedy, try:

    http://comedy.letfriedmanring.com/index.html

    “THE ONLY DYSLEXIC M.I.T. GRADUATE SOFTWARE ENGINEER MARRIED TO A U.S. WOMEN’S CHESS CHAMPION
    PERFORMING STAND-UP COMEDY TODAY”

    Great comedy in Science Fiction is rare. Often tried, rarely achieved. R. A. Lafferty confided in me that his deep dark secret was that he’d had a happy childhood.

  36. No karaoke for me thanks….
    But since it is an open thread I will say that I am back in the Bay Area from Vienna and like you Mr John I am spending with my wife and daughter. Life can be good sometimes.
    Rock on!

  37. The worst experience? It wasn’t quite karaoke, but it was to a taped accompaniment, but not one from a professional musician. It was at a funeral, by a tenor who cracked on the top notes, a rendition of “How Great Thou Art” where every refrain was sung as “Then sing my soul, my Saviors God to Thee.” Four verses with the refrain repeated twice after each verse. I cried for the butchery of both melody and the english language.

  38. On a completely unrelated matter… could you email me with your current mailing address, that I might better send you the Paper Golem manuscript for your blurbing pleasure?

    lawrence AT papergolem DOT com?

    and then please delete this comment to spare me spammage. Thanks.

  39. When I lived in Tokyo in the early 90s, the most popular karaoke was Country Roads by John Denver. “CAHHNtree RAHHHHHHHHDDDS take me HAAAHHHHMMM…”

    And true, the proper way to do karaoke is accompanied with peanuts and Suntory whiskey. Good times.

  40. This is a true story and I swear that no one can make it up in their wildest dreams. My friends and I were having dinner at a Cambodian restaurant around Christmas time and there was a group just starting their party. Imagine an Asian Elvis-impersonator singing “Feliz Navidad” accompanied by electronic organ and non-standard guitar. You get a picture that is so hilarious that the soup was coming out of our nose and I can’t even remember if we finished dinner or not.

    In fact, I can’t even remember if we were kicked out of the restaurant or what happened for the next couple of hours as we were just snorting and laughing so hard.

  41. “Lump” By The Presidents of the United States of America. It’s fun bouncing around on stage.

    A friend of mine does “I Touch Myself” (or whatever that song is called) and usually gets a good response from the guys in the crowd because she’s a cute little redhead.

  42. Daniel Skroka – an ex-boss of mine came back to our office with a bottle of Suntory whisky he’d been given at a lunchtime presentation by a firm of Japanese stockbrokers. When he picked it up off his desk that evening there was a circle burned in the varnish right through to the wood of his desk where the bottle had been standing….

    Suntory whisky. Tells you a lot about karaoke.

  43. I love singing ‘most everything. I fancy I’m rather good at “One” by U2 and “Someday” by Sugar Ray. As mentioned above, “Barbie Girl” by Aqua is super-great with people who ham it up. As is “Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard. And if you’re going for that special “we’re a bunch of cats dying in a washing machine” greatness, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen…

    I’m super happy that I’ve turned my friends on to karaoke. At a housewarming party of a coworker, a Filipino guy from work brought his karaoke machine: a single mike that hooks to the AV ports on the TV, with thousands of pirated midis and guessed-at lyrics. Apparently his family does karaoke together at home, and his cute little girls of about 5 and 7 were showing off and owning us all on “L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole. It was awesome, so I took the next party I threw as an excuse to drop $300 on one… Seriously, best $300 I’ve spent in the last few years. All my friends were mesmerized by the home-group-singing-terrible-no-pressure karaoke, and a couple of them got another machine, and now I have a gaming group and a karaoke group… And a group of friends who will randomly sing with me even without midi backing, in public. Woo!

  44. R.E.M., It’s The End Of The World As We Know It.
    Singing that is almost like holding onto live
    wires, in a good way. If I mangle the lyrics,
    it’s time to stop drinking for the evening.

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