The Karaoke Underground’s guide to song selection
Picking the right karaoke song is a delicate art. Do it wrong, and you’ll end up drunkenly slurring Toto’s “Africa” and spilling your drink all over that sexy stranger you’ve been hitting on all night. Ideally, you want to bring the house down with something out of left field, avoiding the boring or obvious. (Though there is always something to be said for “Don’t Stop Believin’.”)
But what if the karaoke night in question is lacking in Journey, but well-stocked with Fugazi, Black Flag, and Bikini Kill? We asked Kaleb Asplund and Hannah Ford, the brain trust behind Austin, Texas’s Karaoke Underground indie/punk sing-along series, for some suggestions for specific kinds of singers in advance of their visit to the Cactus Club on Jan. 29.
For the drunk alpha male looking to hit on anything that moves: “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” by The Stooges. Usually includes grinding on the mic stand and ends bare-chested.
For the drunk girl on the rebound: “Song Against Sex,” by Neutral Milk Hotel. This is a bouncy song that’s a real challenge to get through; a girl in this exact situation e-mailed us a line-by-line breakdown of how Jeff Mangum had foreseen the rise and demise of her just-ended breakup, with photos and way too much information.
For sober men/women who take karaoke way too seriously and want to actually sing: For women, “Letter From An Occupant,” by The New Pornographers, since Neko Case is the premier belter of our generation, and karaoke is for letting loose. For men, Morrissey’s “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” is a good one to showcase those alleged crooning skills.
Random person who wanders in, lured by karaoke, only to discover it’s all punk rock, and random person knows nothing about punk rock: The Ramones are good for this; usually “I Wanna Be Sedated.” If they get up there with the right attitude, the crowd will help them along, and even if they’ve never heard it, they’ll know it by the third verse (same as the first). Also good: “Ring Of Fire,” by Social Distortion.
For the spoilsport who wants to sing a bad song ironically and is upset that Snow’s “Informer” is nowhere to be found: Irony is strictly forbidden at KU. Although, for those hopelessly dedicated to not having fun, we did get Rickrolled by a National Karaoke League champion who didn’t know any of our songs and instead sang Rick Astley over Blur’s “She’s So High” and then left. We just turned the music up in that case.