Five Minutes of Fame

I wasn’t a fool. I went into this whole thing fully informed: you do not sing out of your range. Don’t even try. It’s not funny to sound bad, it’s just awkward — for everyone involved. Awkwardness and other people sounding bad had, in fact, been my main reasons behind avoiding karaoke for all these years in the first place.

“You should come with us to karaoke tonight!” Nick said. He had since quit working to become a full-time partier, but occasionally stopped by to use the wireless. “Every person you think is totally cool will be there. Also, Sharlene and I will be singing Meatloaf’s “I Would Do Anything For Love, But I Won’t Do That” as a duet. And we might choreograph a dance to go with it.”

“Uhh . . .”

“Oh, and it will be in a private room.”

“A private room? Like in Lost in Translation?”

My eyes clouded over with charming scenes of midnight sparkling Tokyo, sparse dialogue, strong drinks and Bill Murray crooning into a microphone as a group of beautiful blonde and black-haired twenty-somethings giggled.

“Yeah, like in Lost in Translation.”

I thought about this. I thought about this long and hard. And then I realized, you know, if you sing “Crazy” by Patsy Cline you can’t go wrong. You could sing any song by Patsy Cline and basically be all right — I mean, you sing along with her in the car all the time and sound amazing — aaaaaaaand you know all the lyrics! Convenient. Years of research had shown, Patsy Cline was totally in my range.

“Do you think they have anything by Patsy Cline?” I asked.

“Dude,” he said, “they have, like, every freaking song.”

* * *
And so it happened that I was lost in Allston at eleven at night, going the wrong way down one-way streets, singing warm-up exercises I remembered from chorus and cursing at drunken pedestrians. A twenty-minute ride turned to nearly an hour and a half as I traversed the streets for parking spots.

“You’re here!” Nick said.

“When I return to that car in a few hours, I’m either going to find that it was towed, or I’m going to get raped. This neighborhood is sketchy.”

“Just wait until you see inside,” he said.

* * *
Inside our private booth was a stereo system and two microphones, a large television, a long brown leather couch that somewhat resembled a massive turd, and a blacklight-responsive painting of a waterfall. Oh, and a table full of alcohol. That was apparently the upside to sketchy places: they didn’t care if you brought in your own beverages. A public radio hero of mine started things off nicely with a touching rendition of some ’80s song I’d never heard of, but whose music video involved lots of ocean shots.

“Damn,” we all said afterwards, “you’ve got some pipes, Public Radio Hero Of Adrianne’s.”

He’d clearly done this before and was going varsity. Meanwhile, I was getting totally trashed.

* * *
There were eight of us in that private room, and I was shy at first: I didn’t program my song in for an hour or so, hoping to “warm up” with other songs, but of course by then there were approximately one billion songs lined up before mine. So we could blame the whole thing on timing, along with the tragically degradative factors of the night — which included but were not limited to:

1.) Screaming. We’d turned the volume way up on that stereo system, and we were all “singing” along to almost every song, which translated, for those of us unaccustomed to use of the diaphragm, to screaming.

2.) Red red wine. Stay close to me. Don’t let me be alone, it’s tearin’ apart my blue blue heart.

Around one in the morning, my song came up, to everyone’s initial delight. There was applause and encouragement, cries of “wooo.” It was time to blow these people away, I thought. Patsy Cline was in my range, mothafuckas. I stumbled to the front of the room with the microphone, flashed a hammy smile, and opened my mouth.

Craaaazy! I’m crazy for feelin’ so lonellyyyyyyy . . .

It occurred to me immediately that I was in completely the wrong key, in completely the wrong octave, in completely the wrong everything. They say that the acoustics in your head are such that your voice always sounds better to you than it does to other people. This was especially worrisome.

I’m craaaazy! Crazy for feeeeelin’ so bluuuuuuuuuuuuue . . .

“Stop, stop,” my brain said to my voice. “Psst! You’re doing it wrong, start over!”

I couldn’t very well start over, and so I did what any other drunken person would do: I sang louder, and with more hand gestures.

Worry! . . . Why do I let myself worry?
Wonderin’ . . . What in the world did I dooooooooo?

I would give myself this: I could hold a note. The wrong note, but at least it was consistent.

I’m crazy for tryin’, and crazy for cryin’ . . .
And I’m crazy for lovin’ youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.

I finished with a wavering flourish, bending back and singing into the ceiling, louder and louder and louder until I couldn’t hear the background music at all any more and it was just my voice, filling the room with its horrendous sound — so that for days afterward it would hurt to even speak and I would think back on this evening as though it were a scene in a movie, someone else’s dream.

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  1. i know exactly how you feel. i karaoke’d for the first time a couple weeks ago and utterly butchered “midnight train to georgia”. and i didn’t even have a private room :(

  2. Dude, Allston? It’s been voted one of the worst cities in the US and one of two from Mass. Also how did you get home after all that drinking? There isn’t many buses that run that way.

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