Monday, April 18, 2011

How to Impress your Friends at Karaoke, 90s style

Hello, fellow children of the 90s! Here, in this slightly abashed small font, I will make undue excuses for my long absence. These excuses include: moving across the state, getting a new job, getting engaged, planning a wedding, and taking on some paid writing gigs. Thanks to the frequent badgering from my loyal fans, however, those excuses have now been deemed paltry and unacceptable.

So without further ado, I would like to announce that Children of the 90s is officially off hiatus! Daily posting has become nearly impossible, but check back frequently for fairly regular updates. I’ve missed all the readers. I’m glad to be back!

Karaoke is one of those love-it or hate-it kind of enterprises. When a friend suggests it as an evening activity, there is usually a split opinion between those who relish the spotlight and others who prefer to bask in the shadows of anonymity. With the power of liquid courage, though, it seems nearly everyone likes karaoke. There’s just something about the situation that can prompt usually shy people to belt their hearts out in front of a rowdy crowd.

To infuse a little personal story, my then-boyfriend (now fiance) planned a big karaoke bar birthday for me during which he proposed to me in front of all of our friends. Romantic, of course, but that’s only if you skip past all of the embarrassing karaoke moments that preceded it. By that point in the night, I had thoroughly mildly humiliated myself performing Mariah Carey’s “Always be my Baby” and “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid. Because I did not know of the momentous occasion to come, I did not realize that all of my friends came armed with video equipment. This meant that in addition to the documentation of the proposal, we now also own endless video footage of me belting it out like Ariel, minus the shell bra.

If only I’d had the foresight to select one of these songs instead, perhaps our future children would be impressed when we broke out the home movies. Instead of thinking their mom a nerd, I could gain some valuable street (living room?) cred for breaking it down to Busta Rhymes or making it all the way through “It’s the End of the World as we Know (and I Feel Fine)” with no mistakes. Alas, what’s done is done, but I’m hoping by sharing my experience, I can save you from similar karaoke humiliation.

While many of these songs are by no mean cool, they are incredibly fast and difficult to sing accurately. If you can make it through one of these sans slip-ups, there’s a near guarantee someone at the next table will buy you a drink to applaud your valiant effort. Here are just a few suggestions to impress your friends with your flawless renditions of super-fast 90s songs:

One Week (Barenaked Ladies)

If you are not a rapper but still want to impress people with some fast rhymes, consider this white-bread alternative. Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week” features a very quick pace, numerous pop culture references, and some obviously improvised rhymes.

As with most of these songs, there seem to be certain lines that everyone knows, regardless of their overall familiarity with the song. In this case, you can count on the whole room to join in on “Chickity China, the Chinese chicken/Have a drumstick and your brain stops tickin’.” It’s all I can do to not just launch into the whole song from memory. It’s just so darn catchy.

90s Karaoke Level of Difficulty: 6. If you can get on a roll, you can probably make it through the song. Trip up on a word or two, though, and you’re probably going to get booed by the guys in the back.

Summer Girls (LFO)

I used to dream that someday I would be in a contest-like scenario that required me to accurately spout off all of the lyrics from LFO’s hit song “Summer Girls.” Unfortunately, such a life situation has yet to arise, yet I am confident that if faced with this conundrum, I would pass the arbitrary test with flying colors.

“Summer Girls” was a hit at the height of popularity boy-band and teenybopper music fare. The song relies heavily on unrelated content to make up for laziness in rhyming. In retrospect, someone probably should have just gotten these guys a rhyming dictionary and we all could have been spared a few minutes worth of random pop culture callouts and references to historical figures like Paul Revere.

90s Karaoke Level of Difficulty: 7. Those non-sequitors make it incredibly difficult to remember what comes next. Without the aid of handy context to guide your lyric memory, you’re stuck remembering each individual line word-for-word.

It’s the End of the World as we Know it (REM)

“It’s the End of the World as we Know it” came out in 1987, but it gets a free pass for maintaining popularity long after its release. With its signature stream-of-consciousness style, “It’s the End of the World as we Know it” has the perfect combination of factors to create the ideal impressive karaoke song: upbeat, catchy tune paired with impossible-to-remember to references and name-dropping.

90s Karaoke Level of Difficulty: 8. While we can all run in from other rooms to shout out the requisite “Leonard Bernstein!” it’s tough to get through the rest without flubbing on at least a few lyrics.

Semi-Charmed Life (Third Eye Blind)

Semi-Charmed Life was a very popular mainstream song, and we loved it as children for its upbeat tempo and great energy. Little did we know, of course, that the song detailed a descent into the dark world of crystal meth addiction. To be fair, perhaps the fast pace of the lyrics should have clued us into the content. I mean, it’s called speed. You can’t get much more literal than that.

90s Karaoke Level of Difficulty: 5. The lyrics themselves aren’t too difficult, but you better time your breathing right. Otherwise, you’ll pass out before you get past all those initial drug references you never knew about.

We Didn’t Start the Fire (Billy Joel)

“We Didn’t Start the Fire” is a clear knockoff of the REM song above, but somehow both managed to achieve relative popularity. Apparently people love to rhythmically chant a century’s worth of events so much that one song isn’t sufficient to achieve the lyrical equivalent of cramming for that US History final exam.

Joel wrote 1989’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” lyrics before working them into a melody, which is why “melody” is such a generous description for the music that drives this song. On the plus side, this song gave lazy high school history teachers an easy research project: assign a group of students a chorus and make them learn about it. I may or may not have enacted this allegedly hypothetical lesson in my own teaching endeavors, so I can vouch that it was equal parts planning-free and lazy. Thanks, Billy Joel!

90s Karaoke Level of Difficulty: 7. On the other hand, if you ever learned anything using this song in high school history, you may have an unfair advantage over those of us who learned the old fashioned book learnin’ way.

Give it Away (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

Bonus points on this one if you agree to perform shirtless splattered with silver body paint waving a wide aluminum ribbon like the Chili Peppers do in the music video. While devoted fans can breeze through this one, alternative poseurs will probably belt out the repetitive “Give it away, give it away, give it away now,” and mumble through the rest.

Level of 90s Karaoke Difficulty: 6. See above.

I Want You (Savage Garden)

Known to many children of the 90s simply as the “chica cherry cola” song, “I Want You” is one of those songs to which it’s probably best to just hum along. One glance at the words may catapult you into an endless sea of confusion. With lyrics like “Where your crystal minds and magenta feelings/Take up shelter in the base of my spine,” it’s probably best we all refrain from all singing and simply chime in at “chica cherry cola”.

If you’ve even vaguely familiar with any Savage Garden songs (“Truly, Madly, Deeply” or, lord help us, “The Animal Song”) you probably realize “I Want You” still represents

Level of 90s Karaoke Difficulty: 5. If you are not embarrassed to admit you owned this CD and listened to it more than once, you probably still have those lyrics floating around in your head somewhere.

Anything by Busta Rhymes

To transition seamlessly from cheesy soda reference laden Australian Pop to some pretty hardcore rap can be difficult, so we’re just going to take that leap quietly and pretend these songs could peacefully coexist at the same 90s karaoke showdown.
This particular single (the incredibly NSFW Break Ya Neck) is actually from 2001, but it’s a great example of Busta Rhyme’s rapid-fire rap style. If your karaoke attempt at this song could manage to get in even every other word with some semblance of accuracy, the guys at the next table would probably spring for the next run just out of pure respect.

Level of 90s Karaoke Difficulty: 9. If you can make it through “Break Ya Neck” without stumbling over a single word, let me know, and I’ll bake you some cookies.


Lil' Woman said...

Welcome back girl, missed you!

Love this post because I am an attention whore and love to karaoke. I'm def. going to try this.

Kristen said...

I too once had the fantasy that a situation would arise where I was required to accurately sing/rap all the lyrics to songs that I felt were impressive to know. I could definitely still do One Week and Semi-Charmed life. I think this was released in 2001, but if a gun was held to my head, I'm sure my brain could still produce all the lyrics to every single song on Eminem's The Eminem Show album.

Vani B. said...

No Spice Girls?

Amber Blue Bird said...

yay you're back! I havent heard that savage garden tune in years. Its such a funny weird song but its darn catchy

Tahleen said...

Thank God you're back. I missed you and your posts!!

Lucy said...

One Week has an interesting phenomenon associated with it, which I discovered while doing it on Singstar: if you can remember more of the words, or just do it better, than anyone else, people still think you own it even if you do trip over the odd line. True story. I LOVE that song. I could still do Semi-Charmed Life and I Want You if I needed to as well.

Welcome back! This is my absolute favourite blog and makes me smile with every new post.

Carol {Everyday Delights} said...

Yay! Welcome back! Congrats on the engagement and all the other exciting things!

Nickster said...

WELCOME BACK! I missed your posts a lot! And congrats on all of your achievements during the blog's hiatus!

Lauralee said...

yay glad ur back!

Megan Angela said...

So many great songs! I got the chance to do 'One Week' in class in high school. A teacher was trying to do it, and the whole time I was shaking my head. He got so frustrated that he said, "You think you can do it any better?". So I got up and did the whole thing from memory! Sorry, Mr. Blackman! That whole album is still one of my favorites!

Crystal said...

I still own that Savage Garden CD and listen it to often. And I listened to it so much in the 90s I know every word to every song on that album.

buttercup said...

A Canadian band called Great Big Sea did a cover of "It's The End of the World" speeded up a few degrees and making it even harder to keep up!

So glad you're back, I love this blog!

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