By Linnie Rawlinson for CNN
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The invitation to your annual work party has fluttered into your e-mail inbox -- and your stomach contracts as you read it's an evening of karaoke. But don't spend the night "washing your hair" -- our guide will help turn you from nul points nobody to karaoke king or queen!
Uncool is the new cool: There's music you like, and music to sing at karaoke. Don't confuse the two. Drop your street cred and unleash your guilty pleasures -- it's time for singalong classics from "Bohemian Rhapsody" to "I Will Survive," not the latest alt.rock wonders that no one else has heard of.
Pick your spot: Beginners might prefer to book a room at a private karaoke club rather than diving straight onto the stage at a big bar's karaoke night. And there is no shame whatsoever in having a trial run in your bedroom -- mirror and hairbrush optional...
Throw your heart into it: Remember: no one expects you to be any good. If you're shambling around the stage trying to hide behind the microphone, it won't matter that you're in tune -- people will be too busy wincing to notice. The key is to be entertaining -- it's a lot more fun for your audience if you're singing your heart and soul out badly.
Start with the basics: A fun, failsafe starting point is the Beatles' "Twist and Shout." Ladies can't go wrong with ABBA, Gloria Gaynor and Madonna; guys will hit the spot with Sinatra, Queen and Tom Jones.
Move onto the masters: Once you're comfortable with the classics, move onto songs that fulfil the karaoke requirements (well known, slightly cheesy, high lung-stretching potential.) Keep it upbeat -- think the Bangles not the Carpenters. Ladies can be heartbreakers with Dionne Warwick; guys can serenade their brown-eyed girl with Van Morrison. Less obvious choices include Starship, Toto, Pat Benetar and nearly every Bond theme. (And guys, if you're wanting to impress someone, there isn't a woman I know who doesn't go weak at the knees for a half-decent Elvis or a passionate Springsteen.)
Don't panic, pick a partner: If you're a wallflower and the idea of karaoke fills you with horror, fret not -- there are some great duets out there. Find a friend and sing in harmony to Dirty Dancing theme "I've had the time of my life", Sonny and Cher's "I've got you babe" or Aqua's "Barbie Girl." Great group numbers include the Weather Girls' "It's Raining Men" and anything by the Rolling Stones or the Jackson Five. (And if you really can't face taking center stage, backing vocals were good enough for Mick Jagger on Carly Simon's karaoke classic "You're so vain" so they're good enough for you, too.)
Possible pitfalls: Ladies, watch out for the high notes -- a lot of disco divas sing far higher than you'd think. Chaps, unless you're a master of the air guitar, avoid songs with long solos or you'll be stuck on stage looking like a lost Muppet. (Sadly, guys, this rules out Dire Straits and nearly all Led Zeppelin -- Aerosmith's "I don't want to miss a thing" and Guns 'n' Roses are better bets.)
Lubricate your vocal chords: A bit of Dutch courage might tip you from playing safe into a storming rendition -- and perhaps inject some attractive shapes into your dance routine -- but if you suddenly think it'd be a great idea to sing Rage Against The Machine's "Killing in the Name Of" and dedicate it to your boss, you might have had one margarita too many...
Don't hog the microphone: So your Mariah-style warbling went down a treat, but that's no sign you should put on an all-night performance. Be gracious and let Dave from Accounts have his Michael Bolton moment.
And finally: Don't EVER do Celine Dion. There's simply no excuse for that kind of behavior.
Are you ready to be a karaoke king?
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