First, some background. When I was around 8 my mom gave me a box of her old 45s and a record player. I spent countless hours alone in my room with the probably the most eclectic selection of music that ever existed. Monster Mash, Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, Yellow Submarine, Half Breed, The Battle of New Orleans, Downtown, Twist and Shout, etc. I was crushed when the albums were destroyed by being put too close to a space heater.
A couple of years later I started dancing all over my room singing into a hairbrush. You know you did too, you can admit it! In the 80’s we had Prince, Michael Jackson, Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, John Cougar (before the name change) and Queen. Power Rock at it’s best! Later as a teenager we had the BEST hair bands…Bon Jovi, Poison, Def Leppard, White Snake. I may not have used a hairbrush as a mic at that point, but I sang along to every song on every cassette. I sat at my radio for hours at a time creating mixed tapes to play in my walkman. And I took that walkman everywhere!
I also lived within 30 minutes of Detroit until I was 28 years old. I grew up loving Motown and knew most of the songs better than my parents and their friends. Motown songs tell simple stories that were easy to understand. You can’t help but turn the music up and sing along when one of the classics comes on. This is an obsession I still have to this day.
I was in choir class all through middle school and high school. I moved around a lot as a kid but no matter how many times I changed schools, choir class was my constant. I stumbled my way through sight reading and didn’t exactly enjoy the choir music selections. I liked singing with the group but I was NOT a solo kind of person. The smallest group I ever performed with on stage was 6, and I was a nervous wreck. I met my husband in 9th grade choir class and he was definitely a soloist and I was his biggest fan. From the safety of backstage!
All of the background history was to show you that I have a very diverse appreciation for music. All genres and eras. I like it all and I always have. We’ve raised our kids to feel the same. Our daughters took piano lessons, 2 of our kids were in band all through middle school and high school and the other in choir. We’ve always been a musical family. We did community theater while they were growing up and our favorites were the musicals. Other than one small part on stage, I was happy to be behind the scenes as a stage manager, making sure things ran smoothly and letting others be in the spotlight. That was my comfort zone.
About 3 years ago we discovered karaoke. Now I know this has been around for a long time. We even had a little karaoke machine we broke out for parties. However, I had only been to a public karaoke place once and I did not sing. We were staying at a hotel here in what would later be our new home town, when we walked into a bar that was doing karaoke. We sat down and watched and had a few drinks. I begged my hubby to get up and sing but he declined. I wore him down though and the next time we went he reluctantly sang one song. It took me right back to high school! For the rest of that year that was our routine when we visited. I would ask him to sing and he would, eventually working his way up a few songs a night.
By the end of the year, after many shots, I got up the courage to try it. I asked Mac (the best DJ and now a dear friend) if he would please put me towards the end, hoping there wouldn’t be as big of a crowd. But it was December and everyone was having a great time and not leaving. I was shaking as I got up there and sang Santa Baby. I remember staring at the screen and not making eye contact with anyone. It felt like the longest song EVER. But I did it, and just like that I was hooked. For the next year I still needed some liquid courage to stop the nervous feeling. After 3 years though I finally feel comfortable up there. I appreciate my karaoke family and have made some great friends. It doesn’t matter if I didn’t hit the high note or was slightly off key. It’s just karaoke and no one is getting a recording deal out of this!
One of my FAVORITE parts of these nights is watching the crowds. You’ve got the Girl’s Night groups that comes in and sing Shania Twain songs as a group and have a great time doing it. They don’t care what anyone thinks, they are in it for the fun of being together. You get the quiet ones you can barely hear, the ones so loud they have to be turned down. The ones that think no one can do it better than them, the ones who shake because they are nervous. The people who sit at the bar judging everyone but never try it themselves. The couples that sing duets while gazing into each others eyes. The reluctant ones encouraged by their friends. The people who sing from the table and have a great time without leaving their seat and sometimes someone who is amazing without even trying.
We go almost every week now. Sometimes my hubby and I like to sit at the bar, just the two of us, and focus all of our attention on each other. Sometimes we have friends or family join us. Most of my out of town friends have gone with me by now, though most of them don’t want to sing. We’ve made lists of songs we can sing and add new ones occasionally. Mac has the lists now so he can pick songs he things a particular crowd will enjoy. Sometimes we play karaoke kamikaze and blindly choose random songs for each other, though that game DOES still take a little liquid courage!
For me, karaoke isn’t about wanting to be a star or needing attention. It’s about facing your fears. Being nervous about doing something but doing it anyway. Trying out a new song knowing that someone may be judging you but still being brave enough to try. Encouraging each other to take a chance and give it a shot. It’s about having fun, letting go and seeing where the night takes you.
If you are ever up in my neck of the woods and want to experience it for yourself just let me know. I’ll save you a seat and bring you the song book.