Karaoke has long been something that simultaneously excites and terrifies me. My natural talents include overthinking and not singing, although, it’s not like the quality of my voice stops me when a bop is playing. With this in mind, I couldn’t figure out why I was still reluctant. I tried to get over this during my freshman year at Northeastern, before I transferred to Barnard. I was all set to sing a crowd-pleaser, “Ice Ice Baby” by the infamous Vanilla Ice, and I was actually kind of looking forward to it. In the end, I didn’t sing. I had tickets to see Trevor Noah that night, and I had to leave for the show before my song was called; I wasn’t super sad about it.Sure, I wasn’t devastated, but on some level I wish I sang. It felt like I was ready, like it would be some test of how far I’d come!
Flash forward to one week ago, when one of my suite-mates was trying to figure out what she wanted to do for her birthday. After googling something like, “birthday NYC fun,” the idea of going downtown to a Korean karaoke bar was born. I was hyped. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that I thought it was my moment of redemption, but I couldn’t quite forget that last time when – though unintentionally – I had backed out. So, I put on my velvet jumpsuit and focused on what song I would sing: “Stronger” by Kanye West.
We arrived at Gagopa Karaoke, where we had made a reservation, only to find out they had sent us an email hours earlier saying the time we requested was not available. Their next available booking was at 3 a.m., so we decided to try another place. We were in search of a private room, which is a hot commodity in the NYC karaoke community. If I had truly been on a quest for redemption, the absence of a large crowd would have been disappointing, but I decided that a private room was a good place to start. I also realized how many Korean karaoke bars are on 32nd street – it’s a lot! We went to another place, but it proved too pricey for us. In a classic “third time’s the charm” scenario, the next karaoke bar we stumbled across had a private room available in a couple of minutes.
The inside was reminiscent of an American Horror Story set, but, after a few jokes were made, we stopped noticing. The first lesson I learned is you will inevitably mess up the system of choosing a song. We didn’t mean to start off with “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but somehow we did. Not that I’m going to complain, but if anything, the second lesson learned is beginning with “Bohemian Rhapsody” is always a good idea. Or you could accidentally start playing a Korean ballad that nobody knows the lyrics to, which is also something that happened. The third lesson: make sure you pick songs that most, if not everybody, knows.
My own song choice provided another lesson; “Stronger” by Kanye West is a jam, but it’s a jam that goes on for a while and gets sort of repetitive towards the end. While it may be a good song, it’s not a great karaoke song. After a half hour of scream-singing, most people are going to need a break or a drink. This time is prime for the best vocalist of the group to pick a ballad and really commit to it. Leyla, I’m looking at you and your rendition of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” which got a standing O and my eternal respect. My last lesson: the time will fly, and you will wish you had more of it.
Honestly, karaoke with a bunch of my friends was some of the most fun I’ve had while at college. I didn’t sing in front of a huge crowd, but I’d like to think that I really sang. I had a great time riding on my karaoke training wheels; a private room proved to be the better option for our group. Maybe next time I’ll finally sing in front of a larger audience; maybe I won’t, but I’m definitely going to do my throat a favor and drink some tea before the night is over.