What She Sings at Karaoke (And What It Means For Your Chances)

July 15, 2009

You can learn a lot about what a girl’s looking for from what she sings at karaoke.  Of course, whether it’s what you’re looking for is another question entirely.

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By Dan Seitz

1. The “I’m Looking For Sex” Song


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Some people communicate through subtlety and nuance, and some people communicate by yodeling what they want off-key into a microphone to a crowd of strangers.  If somebody gets up there to sing, say, “Work It” or “Easy Like Sunday Morning,” that’s about as blunt as you can get short of walking up to a random guy, grabbing his junk and saying “I swallow and have my own cab fare.”

Of course, never forget that there might be reasons for this.  Namely, she might be blasted out of her skull, or have a personality so frightening and stalker-prone that the only place she can pick up guys is a karaoke joint.  Respond by choosing a song that gets across that you’re looking for the same thing, but subtly.  If you actually go up to the mic and sing “F*** Her Gently”, the only one taking you home is the cab driver.

2. The “I’m Looking for Sex With Girls” Song


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Look, let’s face it, odds are pretty good your judgment is a wee bit impaired if you’re at a bar and you’re willing to sing “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” just to get laid.  Odds are pretty good if that girl you’re eying goes up and sings a certain type of song, she’s visiting the taco truck that night, not the hot dog stand, if you catch our drift.

What kind of song?  Well, you’ve got your obvious, like the Indigo Girls, and your really obvious, like the “I Kissed a Girl” song Katy Perry didn't sing. Probably the death knell is if she actually sings the one hit Ani DiFranco had out of the twelve thousand tracks she’s released.  Even if she doesn’t get a charge from direct current, you probably want to avoid the girl singing that anyway.

3. The “I’m Pining for Somebody In This Bar, And They Just Don’t Notice!” Song


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Every now and then, you’ll look up from your beer and realize somebody’s singing Evanescence.  Your first question is, of course, why the DJ even has that goddamn “Bring Me To Life” song on his computer when we all agreed it violated all laws of humane treatment and good taste.  The second question is why the hell anybody would sing it.

Your answer?  They really want to get into someone’s pants.  A very specific someone, a someone who is really, really not interested, and possibly gay.  And since that’s not happening, they’re going to share how they feel with the entire bar and see just how many nights they can ruin by singing crap metal or possibly dropping the Sarah McLachlan bomb on everybody.

This one begs, begs, to be followed up with some Weird Al.  You’ve got no chance, so you might as well mock her desire to ruin everyone’s night with whining.  We recommend “Spam” or “Dare To Be Stupid.”

4. The “My Relationship Just Ended, and Probably Badly” Song


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There are songs not a single human being wants to sing in public unless they just got dumped or dumped somebody.

There’s only one song the dumpees sing: “I Will Survive.”  You want to spot the woman who just got dumped so hard her teeth rattled?  She’s the one in a huge group of girls done up taking up their own table, behind the mic singing Gloria Gaynor (or the Cake cover if she’s a disenfranchised hipster) at the top of her lungs.  The one exception is if the guy dumped her over her looks, then you can probably expect “Beautiful” to be rolled out.

The girl who dumped the loser is probably also with her girlfriends, done up to go out, but she’s going to sing something more assertive by a female singer, like, say, “Bitch” or possibly a little Paramore, “That’s What You Get.”  You know, the whole “I’m-totes-strong-but-totes-vulnerable” thing.  There’s nothing people like in a pop song better than a contradiction.

5. The “I’m Really Just Here to Sing” Song


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Some people are professional singers who just want to have fun at karaoke, and some people really are there just to sing.  The former, they’re going to choose something they can imitate perfectly and bulldoze the entire bar.  The latter are going to sing something completely goofy to amuse their friends.  The girl singing “The Rye or the Kaiser” isn’t looking to impress anybody, and the girl unloading “Ave Maria” and hitting all the high notes is looking to impress everybody.  Or is a nun, in which case, just don’t go there.

Your only hope is to either have the same awesome pipes or make her laugh without humiliating yourself completely.  Either they’re out to impress, or they don’t care if they impress people.  Either way, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

6. The “I Lost a Bet” Song


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This one you can spot a mile away.  The person cringes away from the microphone, as if they were holding a rabid weasel.  They quietly whisper the track to the KJ as if they were asking for a depraved sex act.  You wonder just what’s happening, and all becomes clear when the first strains of “My Heart Will Go On” fall over the crowd like nerve gas.

Maybe they said the Marlins were going to totally pull this game off, maybe they had a disagreement over whether Short Round was also in The Goonies, but whatever happened, a bet was made, and their dignity is now lost.  Just cringe along with her, and consider that this’ll put down a floor for undignified behavior with her as well.  We’re pretty sure Celine Dion has gotten people laid because after yowling through that, sleeping with Andy Dick is an ego boost.

7. The “I’m Really F***ing Drunk” Song


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We all know alcohol lowers inhibitions.  We think we dance better, look better, and, naturally, sing better.  Of course, we are wrong.  Painfully, desperately, setting-ourselves-up-for-crushing-shame-we-will-never-live-down wrong.

The point you know somebody’s had too much to drink is when the three-pack-a-day smoker gets up and starts trying to sing “Who Wants To Live Forever?”.  Of course, maybe they’re self-aware enough to realize they can’t sing, and should really try something in their range.  This sounds great, until you realize that means Nickleback.

8. The “I’m Looking For a Serious Relationship” Song


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Dating is hard, especially if you’re looking for “the one” and you’re not Morpheus.  Really, the only way to meet people is to get out and meet people.  But how do you tell an entire bar of strangers that you’re not looking for sex, but rather a true, meaningful lasting relationship?

Queen to the rescue!  There’s no song more obvious than “Somebody To Love.”  Oh, sure, there are reams of other sensitive love ballads, but nothing gets the point across like leading the entire bar in a sing-along of the chorus.

But, if she can actually pull off Freddy Mercury’s range, she might be worth a long-term commitment anyway.  Just stick around and listen for her second track.  Her taste in Queen might be her only good taste in music.

9. The “Look At How Edgy I Am” Song


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Karaoke is inherently an exercise in self-mockery.  You’re comparing your raw singing versus carefully recorded and tweaked vocals tracks, some of which were recorded dozens of times and put through hours of computer processing to sound perfect.  There’s pretty much no way you can sing a well-known track, blasted over a crappy PA to an entire bar of strangers, and escape with your dignity intact.  That’s why karaoke is located almost exclusively in bars and video game consoles in the basements of their owners’ parents -- you either have to not care or have no dignity anyway.

Of course, to mock yourself, first you must be self-aware, and it’s pretty safe to assume the skinny hipster with the Arabian scarf and the perv ‘stache (and yes, we’re still talking about the girls here) pretty much lacks that entirely.  

If you’re really lucky, you’ll get away with some early ‘90s grunge because that’s when music was great, dude.  But almost inevitably, they’ll choose some Internet viral hit that was stale before it cracked a million views on YouTube.  And, if they’re really drunk, you can expect The Song.  The song you knew was coming.  The song that everybody now dreads.  Sing it with us: “We’re no strangers to looooooooove…”

Before you ask, not only is it legal to punch out somebody for a karaoke Rickroll, it is, in fact, required by law in several states.