(I am so obviously wide awake in the wee hours of morning, it's not even funny).
I recently met this awesome American friend of a cousin-in-law (I'll wait while you catch up to the reference), first visit to the Philippines and about to spend a guaranteed amazing time skipping around the beautiful islands of the Philippines (this ad paid for by the Department of Tourism). He immediately impressed us by commuting everywhere within the first 10 hours of being here in the Philippines and by commuting, I mean this dude took jeepneys and LRTs from Makati to Intramuros and Quiapo. Even I, a born and bred Filipino, would highly recommend a taxi. But nooo, he wanted the authentic experience + the additional excitement of saying "para po" to stop the jeepneys.
While weeding through the many tips to traveling to the Philippines (and if you ever visit this awesome country of mine, hit me. Happy to help!), we got to the caveat that 1) Filipinos love karaoke. Like insane love. 2) be prepared that a LOT of bars would have karaoke. 3) be prepared to be in a rural province with a karaoke singer wailing off in the background (and with all the space of fields and barrios, sound carries. That singer is far, far away from you) at 2am in the morning. 4) the very cute quirky PHP 5/song karaoke machine relic will be around. 5) you will sing. You will say no. But you will sing. Against your better judgment, the advice of your wise old grandmother and the bitterness of your soul.
There's only 2 ways to go around it! Number one is super easy = drink. Liquid courage. I love me some karaoke (hello, I am a proud Pinoy) but I cannot do this sober. I would rather walk hard into a wall then do this without a drink in me.
And the other way, know your go-to karaoke song. And because I'm aiming for the Nobel Peace Prize at the ripe old age of 26 (I was feeling threatened by Malala), here's the white boy's guide to surviving the Asian love of karaoke. Any of these songs will guarantee you audience participation and a free pass not to sing again for the rest of the night. You are golden after any of these ones
1. Total Eclipse of the Heart
Total Eclipse of the Heart is the ultimate cheat. It is incredibly short, like, less than 2 minutes. And if you are a smart white boy, you will get the parts of "turn around..." while someone else will jump in to bellow the melody.
2. Alone by Heart
Okay, this song takes singing chops or, if you lack that, then a ton of balls, or dare I say it, heart. Because you need to commit to this song when you get to the chorus "til now!!! I always got by on my owwwwnnnn" coz you are going to have to sing your lungs out, my friend. It is high and the only way to do this is screaming. But that's okay because the secret is still your own and your love for him is still unknown and how do you get him alone?
3. What's Going On by 4 Non-Blondes
You don't know this song? What? What? Of course you do. The minute the opening lines of "25 years in my life and still...", the patented squeak kicks in and you will drunk marvel at how much you sound exactly like the singer. You're welcome.
4. Mr. Brightside by the Killers
This isn't a typical song but one that bears the best memories I could have of the best karaoke night of my life (actually one of the best nights of my life!). If you are a mid-twenty something year old, you will know the lyrics of this song. This is an anthem. It is angry and awesome and the soundtrack of every bitter heartbreak of your life.
5. Super Bass by Nicki Minaj
You have to throw in a rap song in there. If you're going to shame yourself, you might as well go all the way! Besides, once you get over the hump of the first verse, you can just boom badoom boom boom badoom boom bass your way to safety.
6. Skyfall by Adele
This is honestly the karaoke era where it will be impossible to go without at least one Adele song. But Adele is a legend and she sings like a broken-hearted angel. Enter Skyfall, possibly the only Adele song that you could maybe sound decent singing. The trick is not to sing, but to bellow. Bellow like a cow looking for its mate. Because let's face it, you will never sound like Adele! You are only a fourth-rate impression of Adele, so at least try to aim for something approachable.
7. I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing by Aerosmith
This is a classic! This song naturally comes by the emotions that every singing contest from American Idol to the Voice tries to evoke in its singers. Because while singing these incredibly easy lyrics, you will also remember that Bruce Willis, the gruff driller father, just shoved Ben Affleck out the elevator door so he could manually explode the meteor heading straight for the Earth guaranteeing the end of the world as we know it but the world doesn't because he is a hero and also he kills two birds with one stone because now Ben can marry Liv Tyler even if he was a crappy date (who girl falls for skipping animal crackers over your naked belly? Any crumbs fall into my belly button and I would be pissed off as heck) and we can all cry AGAIN at the end when they wistfully look at Bruce's heroes photo during their wedding. Every one feels the same things for the movie. If you don't evoke world peace in your karaoke haven of a room because of this song, I don't know what will.
8. Livin' on a Prayer by Bon Jovi
Bon Jovi has cemented themselves as karaoke classics. You can't go wrong with their other songs (It's My Life, Bed of Roses, I'll Be There For You) but this is my absolute favorite. Not only does it tell the story of Tommy and Gina, but if you can hit that high note in the chorus, you deserve a beer and a 92 (Excellent!) score. You will also feel like you can do anything, like maybe crack some bottles over your head but whoa there, don't get that far.
9. Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls
This movie was the only good thing to come out of City of Angels. Controversial stand, I know, but this song made the movie. And you can do this singing contemplatively on a stool right in front of the TV and sing about how you'd "give up forever to touch you." Secretly, if you can manage a solid tenor in this song, panties will fall. Maybe not necessarily for you, if there are better-looking guys in the same room but you set the mood. Good job, dude (clap on the back).
10. Stop by Spice Girls
There are many, many songs that deserve to be sung (Zombie by the Cranberries for the authentic mournful monotone, Britney deserves to be sung, you deserve awards if you attempt Beyonce, any boy band song will promote good will especially if you are the perfect 4-5 person number and sung in alignment). But I think this song deserves to be here for the sole reason that there is a dance routine to this song that is mega-easy and everyone remembers. If you are gay, then you will know this and yes, you are fabulous! If you are a dude, you get bonus points for your sensitive side. And if you are a girl, well that movie was the best one of your life.
The only other tip I can give you is timing. Don't sing so early into the night. Wait for a beer and a half and maybe a good 6-10 songs in. When other people have gotten sufficiently flushed with alcohol and the exertion of singing and the ice is broken, you can have your time to shine. Hit the sweet spot of the middle of the karaoke night or after.
And as for performance value, don't do so well singing solo. Unless you gotten the high of karaoke and started loving it, you don't want to be so good, they ask for an encore.
(I am still so wide awake. Insomnia, you are not fun).
Abbi is a petite human, blogger, amateur photographer, permanent humanitarian, avid traveller, culture addict, giant bookworm and impossible foodie.