Karaoke has always simply been a spectator sport for me; I’ll go out to the bar on karaoke night and watch my friends look silly and it’s a pretty good time. I can sing along from my seat, but to grab the mic is a big step. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to do things that I don’t do well & I’m a pretty terrible singer – not an OK singer being modest, but actually bad. In the past I’ve only been convinced to participate a few times & more recently I’ve been able to let go and I do some duets here and there… But last night, I decided to change all that. Karaoke is not American Idol, nothing is on the line… Nobody at the bar I work at is going to judge or heckle me & I’ve seen some pretty awful people get up there and belt out massacres – so it was my turn. I don’t want to sit on the sidelines anymore, I want to become a karaoke-er.
For my first solo karaoke song ever, I decided I would sing If I Aint Got You by Alicia Keys. It’s a car/shower favorite of mine, but in the real singing world, I would say it’s a moderately difficult song. I knew I would not sing it well, but that wasn’t the point. I took a deep breath and put my name on the list.
The bar was fairly lively, so after serving the last bottle of Corona in the beer fridge it was time to run to the basement to restock. The other bartender working with me had the “on-deck” microphone, so I said, “You’re up next? Then I’m gonna run down for Coronas,” and jetted to the stock room. On the first step of my ascent up the rickety restaurant basement stairs with arm-fulls of beer bottles, I heard the piano chords to my song. Panic. I raced up the stairs, around the bar (which felt like a 5k run), and threw down the Coronas. The other bartender handed me the mic just as the lyrics began.
I blurted out the first few lines in a single breath, without even taking time to absorb the gravity of the situation. Then, just as the first chorus was about to begin, my need for oxygen caught up with me. The words intended to flow melodiously came out in a shrill, crackled screech. More panic. I was a bad singer, but this was beyond comical, it was subhuman. Behind the bar, there was nowhere to run; even if I ran, I work there, it’s not like I could never come back. Breathe. It was only one line. Finish the song. By the next verse, my heart was racing too fast to squeeze any more words out – due in part to my unwarranted nervousness, and also as proof that I’ve become quite physically out of shape (I mean 1 flight of stairs and a 50ft sprint, I really can’t do that??). Finish the song. I tried to regain my breath and calm myself with internal words of encouragement, but what happened next was the cherry on top of making myself look like a moron. I said nothing – although just for a moment, it was one of those moments that seems to last for 3 hours. Then, when I ceased to say nothing, I did not say, “Some people need three dozen ro-o-o-o-o-oses, and that’s the only way to prove you lo-ove them,” as I should have, but instead I said aloud, “I just ran up the stairs, I can’t do this.” Doh! Who does that?? I blame the lack of oxygen to my brain, because at that point it had been over a full minute since I actually took in air properly. Extreme embarrassment. As everyone stared at me, I wondered to myself if I was going to just simply melt into a puddle on the floor.
Then a thought occurred to me: not finishing the song is far worse than finishing the song. After a small eternity of feeling like a deer in headlights, somehow, I was able to regain composure… Finish the song. I did finish the song. And it was awful. And it would have been awful without the added bonus of having just gone on a beer run. But when it was over, the people at the bar unenthusiastically applauded, my co-workers high-fived me and lied, “good job girl!” And everything went back to normal. The next person butchered his own song. Nobody threw stones at me. I did not spontaneously burst into flames. The world did not end. In fact, I was serving drinks again just a few seconds later like nothing had ever happened.
I learned an important lesson: people don’t really care about me and what I do. And that’s a beautiful thing, because now I will be able to sing karaoke, uninhibited, forever.