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10 Cardinal Karaoke Sins

Does anything beat the feeling of screeching out your favorite nostalgic hit and becoming your own rock star?

Ok…well , besides cheese.

I’ve loved to sing for a long time. Along with choirs and musicals in school, as an adult I’ve always enjoyed karaoke. When I lived in China in 2007, I discovered KTV–the delightful private room karaoke where you can drink, eat snacks and sing until 4 in the morning. In the states, I’ve more commonly heard it referred to as Noraebang and it is sort of my go-to fun thing to do whenever I get together with a big group of friends.  Now that I’ve had the exclusive treatment it is so so hard to go back to “plebian” karaoke. However, every once in a while, if the occasion calls for it, I’ll brave the crowds and have throw down some tunes in public.

With my experiences with these different types of karaoke, I’ve encountered all sorts of things. And, the more experiences I have with it, whether they be public or in private, there are definitely a few cringe-worthy actions that will always send me (and any other karaoke veteran) reeling.



1. Picking song that you only know the chorus of

Does this sound familiar to anyone else?

Omg!!! Say My Name by Destiny’s Child?! I TOTALLY know that song!

Say my name, say my name.

When no one is around you say baby I love you… 

….something…. something GAMES. 

Every other day uhhh….CALL…. today aint the same. OK.

Girl this is not cute. Think a little bit about the song you choose. Don’t just blurt out the most popular part and feel like you know it. Take like 5 seconds and think if you can come up with any of the other words. If you can’t, move on. There is nothing more annoying then being in the audience watching this train wreck occur. I have a friend who usually pulls up the song on her phone to double check on the lyrics before she goes up. Most of us have similar technology at our fingertips. Use it.

2. Picking songs that have a musical break

So you actually know all the words. You sing the first verse and the chorus. So far so good. Then comes the ever dreaded.

Musical Break 20 measures.

Immediately the energy goes down. To keep the energy up you maybe drunkenly yell “woo!” or clap your hand or start twerking or doing some other white girl dance moves.

Just stop. Unless you have a fucking choreographed dance routine to this musical break I don’t wanna see it. Do yourself a favor and listen to some of your favorite hits. If you find yourself going “do do dooo diddle do,” you’re probably singing along with the instrument instead of the lyrics and that’s probably not a good karaoke pick.

3. Picking songs that are a  downer

I get it. You love to croon out break up ballads in the shower. This is not the time and place for that. If you want to sing something sad make it an upbeat number like “You Oughta Know.”

4. Singing a song someone else did on the same night

Pay fucking attention. If someone sings your song go up to that KJ and pull yours. One time I was at the karaoke bar, I heard “Total Eclipse of the Heart” not once, not twice, but THREE times. For goodness sake!

I don’t care if you think you’re Adele. I don’t care if you ARE Adele singing your own Adele song. If someone sang the song already, don’t sing it again.

5. Being a mic hog

I know I can be guilty of this. Because I know this can be a weakness for me, I really do try hard to give lots of people a chance to shine. This is both in terms of not loading the KJ (or the Noraebang machine) with 50 of your songs and mega-long songs AND also in term of group songs where you are singing with friends.

During a song it’s harder to do especially if  you’re the one who gets elected to hold the mic. It’s loud. You can’t hear yourself. And the mic slowly creeps closer and closer to your mouth until it’s just you singing with your friends in the background. This is why I tend to prefer solos or duets. If you’re a mic hog, just keep yourself in check!

6. Not knowing your audience

One time I was in Chicago and we were in a semi-divey gay bar on a Saturday. My friends and I are going up there singing requisite 90s-oos pop having a grand old time. Suddenly, some dickhead decides he’s going to go up there and sing “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.”

Bitch please. This shit isn’t Broadway. Another time I was at a more country-themed bar so decided for forgo my typical 90s-00’s choices for a Dixie Chicks number. Before you run to the KJ or Noraebang machine with your absolute favorite song, take a minute to see what other people are singing. Don’t be the guy who sings something that doesn’t speak to your audience at all.

7. Not actually singing at all

Ok, I know I’m gonna sound like a total snob. But fucking sing when it’s your turn. Don’t just go up there and yell shout outs and giggle with your friends on stage while the mic hangs limply at your side and you’re not even paying attention. There are other people who are looking forward to singing and while we wait we can at least be entertained. I don’t care that your friend is getting married–sing your damn song.

8. Booing anyone

You’re allowed to make private snarky comments to your friends. Maybe even cringe a little (see any of my gifs). But try as hard as you can to keep it to yourself.

9.  Singing the lyrics without listening to the music

This may seem obvious but sometimes it’s not. The lyrics don’t always line up with the background music. If you picked a song you actually know (see items 1 and 2) you should kind of know how the lyrics fit. Don’t just plow through the words because they are highlighted at a certain time. Common sense.

10. Singing “Don’t Stop Believing” anytime before 1:30 a.m. (or 30 minutes prior to bar close)

This song is the universal signal for the end of the night. Don’t sing this at 10:30 p.m. It’s just wrong. 

Bonus 11th sin:

Singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” at any point.

You saw the clip of Wayne’s World. You think it’ll be so cool

But, but…

Can you sing falsetto?

Can you manage the changes in mood/tempo?

Did you remember the guitar solo?

If you’re 4 Miller Lights and 3 Fireball shots in I’m guessing not. I PROMISE you, it will not be as cool as you think and it will be the longest 5 minutes and 55 seconds of your life.


Anyone else have karaoke pet peeves?