Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) - Mindy Kaling (2011)
I Love New York and It Likes Me Okay
WITH THE EXCEPTION of Japanese businessmen, no one likes karaoke more than I do. When I graduated from college, my aunt Sreela and uncle Keith gave me the single best present I’ve ever received: a professional-level karaoke machine. I don’t know if they were aiming to become my favorite aunt and uncle for all eternity, but that was the result. When I arrived in Brooklyn with Bren and Jocelyn, we set that machine up to our TV before we had a bed or couch. We’d just take turns belting Whitney Houston in an empty room, while the others sat Indian-style, impatiently waiting their turn.
Because we were unemployed for so much of those first months, and also because we are cheesy crooning hambones, we did a lot of karaoke. Now, in L.A., all the best birthday parties I go to take place in a karaoke bar or, for the true karaoke experience, a dark windowless box in Koreatown that smells faintly of Korean-style chicken wings. What follows are some things I think really maximize the karaoke experience.
When I pick songs for karaoke, I have three concerns: (1) What will this song say about me? (2) How will I sound singing it? and (3) How will it make people feel?
The key is that the third one matters the most, by a factor of a hundred. When most people sing karaoke, they think of themselves as contestants on American Idol, and they sing and perform their hearts out. But I really think people should be thinking of themselves more as temporary DJs for the party. It’s kind of a responsibility. It’s up to you to sing a kick-ass upbeat song that sets the mood for your friends to have fun, drink, and pick up girls and guys.
And it kind of behooves you to pick a short song. I don’t care if Don freakin’ McLean shows up in a red-white-and-blue tuxedo, no one is allowed to sing “American Pie.” It’s actually kind of hostile to a group of partiers to pick a song longer than three minutes.
Stray observations I would like to add: I like when small people sing big brassy songs, like, say, if my friend Ellie Kemper sings “Big Spender” in a booming voice. I also like when guys sing girls’ songs, but not in a campy way. Like a guy earnestly singing “Something to Talk About” is wonderful. Guys sometimes do this thing where they sing a Britney or Rihanna song and do a campy impression of the singer, to be funny, and it’s painful. An amazing thing to do is to pick a song that has lyrics in another language. That’s why I tend to always sing Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita” for karaoke. I would die if a guy sang a Gipsy Kings song. Die in a good way, obviously.