Karaoke While Crying – Practical tips to get you started
We all know that karaoke, whilst being an activity that has brought joy to more than 20 people, is a time-passing occupation that is fraught with a roller coaster of emotions. Although these consist mainly of drink-induced confidence, a feeling of empowerment that you have the skills and talent to be the next Michael Bublé, Mick Jagger, Susan Boyle, Dolly Parton or Justin Bieber (Delete as appropriate) and a disproportionate sense of superiority that as long as you have a microphone in your hand, you have something to say worth listening to, one feeling that seems to be lacking is sorrow, and as such, one performer that is sadly rarely found parading their stuff on stages and bar floors across the world, is the tearful warbler.
These pity-soaked songbirds of the bar scene, these wretched and angst filled melody crafters whose once (debatably) melodious voices soared on the evening air but are now choked with sobs whilst tears trickle down their cheeks, like the condensation on their latest attempt to drown their sorrows, are also oddly under represented in the ‘blogosphere’.
So now, without any further ado, here are some practical tips on how to join these ranks of overly wrought performers sharing their pain through song:
To really become one with the noble art of Karaoke while Crying, there are several factors that need to be considered. The most important thing to be aware of is the fact that this is about a performance as a whole. It’s not about how well you sing the song but absolute state of despair and hopelessness that you project to anyone witnessing your act.
A little preparation and advance reconnaissance can pay huge dividends. Scout out where you are going to perform and make notes. What is the dress code? What are the clientele like? What is the decor of the performance area? and When is ‘Happy Hour’? are good places to start. The key is then to clash with these as much as possible.
If at all possible, dress to the level above that of your chosen venue. If you are going to somewhere that is rowdy or populated with hipsters, your best bet is to dress for ‘an evening at the theatre’. I.e. wear something that is far too dressy for where you are playing. Evening and ball gowns work especially well in this situation, a Tuxedo can work well for men. Note the clientele and any people who look like regulars, try and calculate the song that is most likely to tug on their heartstrings and perhaps look for something in that genre for you to perform.
Look at the performance area. As shown in the photo below, the veteran karaoke crier has chosen a dress an outfit that works well with the velvet drapes but has offset it with some gambling themed tattoos. Striking a contrast definitely helps with reaching the more advanced levels.
Whilst ‘Happy Hour’ is not something that will factor in the raw emotions of the singer, it can affect greatly the mood of the bar and the reception and empathy the artist may receive. Try to make sure any performances come post cheap drink promotions and if preferable as one of the last performances of the night, when people are expecting a rousing rendition of their favourite hits.
Here we can see a perfect example of the upset singer; note the streaked make-up, the expression of desperation, and a complete failure to maintain dignity by getting off the stage.
This is what the novice Karaoke Crier should be aiming for as an end result, to look uncomfortable and out of place whilst at the same time letting your emotions service in a complete breakdown of heart-rending sobs and you desperately try and make it though your chosen ballad.
Rehearsal is as vital to the art as any other part. Whilst it’s a given that you will have to be able to attempt to sing the song, the real rehearsal technique for this art form it to master the anguish and raw flow of emotions.
Note in the above picture how this practitioner is not afraid to let the emotions out in practise. Her eyes are closed as she focuses the pain and her mouth is open wide as she lets the sobs wrack her melodies. Part of this may well be brought on by the realisation that she has chosen a medley of ‘Everytime’ by Britney Spears and ‘Beautiful’ By Christina Aguilera to be her song of choice.
The key to this is to pick an emotive song, something of a power or pop ballad that has plenty of long notes and a strong sense of feeling motivating the original singer. If you, as a practitioner of the noble art can find a song that associates with a feeling of loss, desperation and/or rage within you then you are halfway there.
Practise bottling up these emotions and releasing them at inopportune moments. As can be seen from the picture above, the car is an excellent place to practice this. To all intents and purposes, the car is a vocal booth. Plug in those ipods, turn up the radio and slot in those old cassettes, it’s ballad time and you shouldn’t be afraid. Don’t worry that you’re at traffic lights or stuck in a traffic jam, it’s time to put an end to those wasted minutes and use journey times to master an art form. Suggestions for possible songs include, but are no limited to ‘Nothing compares 2 U’ by Sinead O’Connor, ‘Drive’ by the Cars or anything by Celine Dion. (Note: no responsibility is taken for any harmful side effects from listening to Celine Dion, I’m not sure why anybody would listen, but apparently she’s popular and her songs are emotive)
Once you’re well rehearsed and have a plentiful supply of emotions bottled up and ready to be unleashed in a spectacular public breakdown, it’s time for your performance. Pick a suitable night when you will have a good crowd – one full of strangers is better than one full of supportive friends and family. Make your song selection and step boldly onto the stage. Remember, don’t just launch into a river of tears, take your time, build up your performance and it’s only when you get to a climactic point in the song should you begin to cry. Especially with less experienced criers, it can take some time to work up to the full effect so structure that into your song choice. Excellent choices are points such as a key change for the final chorus, an overly emotive middle eight, or if you are rally in the zone it is possible to break conventions and go for it in the first chorus. This leaves those experienced in the art ample time to manipulate their audience into fellow versions of misery riddled depressives.
Whilst not strictly karaoke in its purest sense, as there is no recorded music, there are times, certainly for beginners when singing with a backing band or ‘live karaoke’ is a good option.
As shown in the picture above, this practitioner is working his way up to a good cry. Note both hands clasping the microphone as though it is the only thing left of any substance left in his life, his body hunched like an empty shell that has been punched in the heart and his eyes closed as he builds a fountain of tears to rain down upon his unsuspecting audience in a flood of overly wrought and soul destroying desperation. As fine an example of a build up as this is, note also that this man has a band from which he can borrow emotion to add weight to his performance.
Throughout the last 70 years, there have been some fine examples of bands which have also used this technique. The Smiths, Joy Division and more recently The XX have all had members of a dour and depressive disposition that has fed live performances culminating in angst filled explosions of grief that have dominated the memories of those there to witness the event for many years to come.
So, here we are, on the stage, at the climactic point. There is a packed room of drunk and rapturous witnesses, the music is building and you release all those pent up emotions in one cathartic tsunami.
It sounds simple, but there are subtleties to the performance that the amateur practitioner must adhere to if they are to become an advanced exponent of the art. Eye contact is once such example. As you can see from the picture above, a successful way to go is with the glassy unflinching stare off into the distance. This creates a sense that you are really in the midst of a heart-rending breakdown about some past love or pain but at the same time have the determination to get through this in a staccato mess of choking sobs. Hair is also a good tool to use. Again, as shown in the picture above, straggly damp hair and slightly smeared makeup are your friends. If it’s raining outside, so much the better, pop out and sample the downpour just before you take to the stage. Make sure, if that’s the way you’re going, that any mascara and other makeup is non-water resistant so that is will smear, smudge and run with each and every tear and overly dramatic gesture that you make.
For those of you who are having trouble picturing what to aim for, imagine the high-school prom girl who has been dumped at the dance during a thunderstorm and left to walk home. Dressed especially for the occasion, she finds a local bar (I’m aware American laws make this an impossibility/illegality, but bear with me, we’re imagining this) and in front of the drunken perverted audience of check shirted blue-collar workers, she proceeds to attempt Rick Astley’s ‘Never gonna give you up’ whilst disintegrating into tortured sobs at the chorus, with extra wailing at ‘Never gonna say goodbye, Never gonna tell a lie about you’.
It’s heart-rending, mildly inappropriate scene, which I think nicely sums up the philosophy of Karaoke while Crying.
I’m not saying these are the definitive rules for the aspiring practitioner, merely a guide to help anyone so emotionally broken that this sort of performance appeals to them. Use what works for you, don’t be afraid to experiment with different genres, emotional triggers and stages of drunkenness. Own your angst and make it work for you to define your karaoke performance as something that will often be a terrible, uncomfortable endurance test for anybody to bear witness to.
(Note: The Author bears no responsibility for anything that comes as a consequence of you reading or attempting anything mentioned or suggested in this blog. I mean, who really wants to be a point of derision for their whole social community. It’s the sort of thing Church Groups and Gossips dream of. Don’t give them the satisfaction.)
(All photos are (c) their respective owners, I probably shouldn’t be using them)