Bad things happen to me when I sing in public. This is no longer a randomized sample, it is a well-correlated, concrete fact. Case in point: my most recent experience of karaoke involved a well-meaning accomplice (I love you, Susan!) and a sadly put-upon Balinese guitarist who unwittingly invited disaster when he suggested that the two drunk Americanos currently funding the entire bar might want to accompany him onstage. By “stage” I mean the small corner area in which he was (badly) attempting to cover (bad) American rock songs. His “songbook” consisted of a collection of painstakingly hand-written transcriptions of his “favorite” songs, with some minimal musical notation, clearly culled from intensive radio-listening time. His vocal ability notwithstanding, these “translations” were a bit, shall we say, loose, and mainly consisted of a number of choruses without verse. After filling the request / tip jar repeatedly and heckling loudly when the only other patrons in this open-air cantina dared to suggest a different song, I think he just figured it’d be easier to get our drunk asses up there with him. We complied. And we sang. We both, in entirely novel and incompatible ways, forgot nearly every lyric to American Pie. Then we sang our favorite Stones song, which was not in fact the Stones song that he was playing. And then the bar emptied…
In my younger, wiser days, I loathed performing karaoke. I loathed people who loved performing karaoke. I loathed, in fact, the entire existence of fucking karaoke. There was no joy to be found in a bunch of drunk-ass, tone-deaf, slut-suited sorostitutes screeching bad southern rock loudly at their even-more-highly-intoxicated frat brethren (for all y’all foreigners in the audience, that’s about what karaoke consists of Stateside). Add to this the incontrovertible fact that I, though quite musically talented if given an actual instrument, cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered “able to sing”. Seriously, like, I make dogs weep. A combined sense of acute shame over this fact and acute pity for anyone inadvertently forced to listen to me hence caused me to avoid karaoke bars like the French Quarter at Mardi Gras. But then one day, somewhere in the back end of Bulgaria, I was enlightened. My insecurity now entirely obliterated, I will “sing” at any time, for no good reason. I’m sure it’s something to do with leaving my 20’s behind and no longer giving a shit what anybody thinks of my fabulousness. Perhaps I’ve just turned into a drunk-ass tone-deaf so-and-so. But mainly I blame this occurrence on the persistence of one dear friend (I heart you, Weezie!) and the sustained cruelty of a nation of card-carrying, psychotic karaoke-freaks often known internationally as “Bulgaria”.
Highlights of my karaoke career:
- I once got so drunk on blue margaritas that I allowed myself to dance on a table at a Mexican restaurant, while singing along with the Mariachi band. I then proceeded to regurgitate my not-quite-digested crawfish enchiladas all over said table. Thinking myself terribly innocuous and brilliant, I covered my pile of vomit with exactly 4 cocktail napkins. The boy dancing next to me, also on the table, claro, in fact did not notice. Side note- crawfish enchiladas at Club No Minor are SO FUCKING YUM.
- My brother and I (I love you, Jballs!) once duetted the entirety of Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You (yes, the one from The Bodyguard) to the horrified inhabitants of a packed-to-capacity gay bar in Akron, Ohio. In our defense, they deserved it for being stupid enough to live in Akron, Ohio.
- After repeating, this time solo, my beauuuuutiful Whitney debacle with the aid of a home-karaoke-machine on a birthday toobing weekend (I love you, Christie!), I suffered attempted molestation by drunken neighbors we’d never met while attempting to sleep outside in a hammock. As I put it then, seriously who the fuck hits on a drunk chick in a hammock at 4am?? No, they had not heard me sing, just more proof that bad things happen when I open my mouth…
- Back when I hated karaoke, I was forcibly dragged onstage at some shithole bar in Austin (Smile Bar? Who can say, I’ve blocked it out) to help sing along to Bon Jovi on a girls’ night out. It went poorly. Upon leaving, I was then invited for a ride, some drugs and, presumably, some hanky panky in Ed Norton’s limo (I still don’t know how this happened. But I did get halfway into the limo and can confirm it was indeed Ed Norton. Also this was back when he was cool). I was then dragged forcibly out of Ed Norton’s limo by my bitch friends who thought it was a pretty sketch idea. Fuck all y’all, I am still mad about that.
- I once, in Boston, duetted the Black Eyed Peas in a carpeted ass-monkey of a bar and, again, forgot every single word. This is a theme, and is not helped by really craptastic karaoke venues that are too fucking cheap to get the machine that puts the lyrics up for you. Fyi.
- When performing karaoke, I have a problem. Ok, many problems, but the most shining of these is my fetish for the greatest of all karaoke songs. Journey and Neil Diamond can go suck it (top karaoke choices), I take Bryan Adams every time. Not any ole Bryan Adams, mind you, there’s only one song that does it for me. I’ve actually been known to belt it out twice in one evening, in a single venue. It is the mighty, indomitable, (Everything I Do) I Do It For You. Yes, the one from Robin Hood. I once sang this (again, I love you, Jballs!) along to the live in-concert YouTube version streaming from my iPhone at the very top of our voices, while speeding through Boston in a convertible. Strangers threw things at us, and I can’t really blame them.
- I’ve had a couple forays into the great underworld of Australian karaoke at this point. They’ve been ok. I will not say that Asian-style karaoke sucks ass, ’cause it’s totally alright, but it’s really not as good as American-style (see the great Karaoke Box vs Karaoke Bar debate…). This isn’t an opinion, it’s a fact. I mean, the whole point of karaoke is to embarrass oneself (or not, depending on skill and ability to be embarrassed) in front of a crowd, preferably a crowd of perfect strangers. So while it’s kinda entertaining to get a room for just you and your friends, and it’s totally awesome not waiting four hours for your song to come up, only to miss it ’cause you’ve had 12 beers and can’t stop running to the loo, I really don’t give a shit if the Japanese invented karaoke, ’cause the Americans perfected it. In Perth, where I live and which, as a city, sucks monkey-balls in many ways, there is clearly only karaoke box 😦 Perth Karaoke But that’s cool, at least I can inflict the admirable Mr. Adams on my friends (I love you, Sarah! Especially since you’ve been angling for a blog-shout-out for so long!)
But finally! The reason you’re all here. The Scene: Bulgaria. Specifically, the town of Bourgas. A town without paved roads, may I add. A friend’s something-th-or-other-th birthday. What to do? Damn straight, we will be spending it shooting unbearably flammable shots of the local rakia (the national drink of Bulgaria), which is just mind-numbing at the best of times, at the karaoke bar. So we troop on over, find the place and…
Shit, is this the right bar? I think, ’cause it looks a lot like the old communist center…
In fact the ex-Communist Center of Bourgas is now a karaoke bar, just as God surely intended. So we creep by the 300-pound bouncer wielding what I believe was an AK-47 to guard the door, and enter. Oh, there will definitely be shots had up in here now…
Shots, shots, shots, shots-shots…
And now The Birthday Girl is asking me to sing with her. I’ve tried to explain to her the futility of asking me to sing, but she’s having none of it.
TBG: Just listen to this shite! The bitches can’t even read English! In her defense, TBG has a point. If you don’t speak English, you should really not try to sing it. Surely there’s at least one Bulgarian pop idol in existence they could cover?? Or not.
Me: Yah, yeah, biyatches. You sing good, and I speak the Engwish! Shot number 10??
TBG: Ok, pick a song, we’re going!
Me: Madonna? At this early stage in my singing career, Madonna was my favorite default. Actually, Madonna is still my favorite default. You know, once Bryan’s been done.
So we climb onto the stage and are handed the mics, the song starts up, and… nothing. Not a peep out of TgoddammotherfuckingBG. ??? But I can’t sing!! Then I realize, she’s singing her entire body out, but is sadly so fucked-in-the-head on rakia that she literally can’t get the mic to her mouth. And the crowd? Ooo, the crowd is getting restless. English-speakers they may not be, but karaoke-lovers they are indeed. It’s now dawning on me that they mighta been dicking with the words, but every single person in this bar can sing. Well. Very well, indeed. Well, except me. But shit, I can’t let TBG down, it’s her birthday after all, and also I am ridiculously drunk. So I do the unthinkable and… I bring the mike up. After about two solid notes of Like A Prayer, TBG copies my arm motions better’n a monkey with an ant-stick, and her hauntingly beautiful voice connects with her microphone. And I realize we are more fucked than ever I’d thought, as she whips out the lyrics to… Like A Virgin. Omg fml.
So it went waaaay downhill from there. We were committed now, so oh, did we sing. We sang different song at differing speeds, with drastically differing degrees of ability. The boos increased in volume to a dull roar. I’m sure people were swearing at us in Bulgarian, although I judge solely from their enraged faces, not any comprehension of the language (I can still say “thanks” though! Bogodaria!). And then apparently they had had quite enough of us, as the hostess / DJ shut the song off, pulled the plugs on our mics (literally), and joined in boo-ing us offstage just a second too late for me to avoid getting pelted with a lit cigarette or four. I guess I made out better than TBG though, who tripped on the quickly retracting microphone cord while exiting, slipped right off the front of the stage, and landed, swan-dive-style sans the black-swan grace, on a drunken Bulgarian. It’s ok though, he felt bad and bought us more rakia shots 🙂
I’m not sure what the moral of these assorted tales was except…. Oh that’s right! That is why I maintain that bad shit happens when I sing in public.