Oct 28, 2016 Music
“You are my fire. The one desire.” Nothing unites a karaoke room quite like when the opening lines of one of the most brilliant and nonsensical pop songs of all time blast through the speakers. “Believe when I say, I want it that way.” It’s the equaliser, the icebreaker, even for the shyest of participants.
Look around as the chorus builds and you’ll see fists clenched, knees bent in unison as everyone belts out, “Tell me WHY-EEE!” Heads shaking, fingers slowly wagging to the beat, “Ain’t nothin’ but a heartache”, you pause and double over dramatically, “Teeeellll me WHY!”
At this point, you get distracted trying to copy the band’s dance moves, missing the lines in between, but coming back just in time for, “Tell me why, I never wanna hear you say”. A couple of friends will come in with an off-key ad-lib, “Don’t wanna hear you sayyyy-ayyyyy”, and altogether, as some raise their arms above their shoulders, others their hands to their hearts, in blissful Backstreet Boys unison you’ll sing, “I-want-it-that-way”, and laugh and ask for the hundredth time, “What does that even mean?”
The start of a karaoke night may be tentative for some, but I have a group of friends who have no time for shame or vanity. The lights are dimmed, the songs selected — weeks beforehand, my friend Shirl creates Spotify playlists of the songs she plans to sing — and it’s all on.
It may begin with a few newer songs; DJ Khaled’s “I’m On One” is perfect to warm the vocal chords and get the drinks flowing, plus everyone loves an excuse to shout, “DJ KHALED!” multiple times. Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” will get all the girls jumping off their seats, the singing quickly becoming secondary to grinding.
You’ll feel like you’ve just sprinted the 100 metres after The Killers’ “Mr Brightside” and someone always discovers a new lyric during Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know”. “Does she really say, ‘Would she go down on you in a theatre?’ I never knew that!”
Feel the girl power as you watch the Spice Girls shadow-box in PVC and throw futuristic nunchucks in the desert.
There’s the songs that are entered in as jokes, and embraced by the end, such as Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open”.
But really, it’s all just the warm-up for the main event — 90s boy- and girl-group bangers.
They make for the perfect karaoke songs. Beyoncé, for example, has songs that are nuanced, always about two octaves out of range and difficult to sing.
But 90s boy and girl groups? Their songs are brilliantly simple, their vocal ranges conveniently average enough for everyone to sing along. And they make you feel good.
Just try to get through 5ive’s “Keep On Movin’” without feeling uplifted, or not feel the girl power after singing along to “Say You’ll Be There” as you watch the Spice Girls shadow-box in PVC and throw futuristic nunchucks in the desert.
The only difficulty is agreeing on the final song. Something slower to wind the night down, like Take That’s “Back for Good” or All Saints’ “Never Ever” or something to keep the party going, like Blue’s “Fly By”? If a decision can’t be made, it’s important to remember the song specifically written for the ending of all things ever, Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road”.
You’ll be crouched over, pumping your fists, pointing to the heavens, pointing to each other, as your notes linger longer than the music: “It’s unnatural. You. Be-long. To. Me. I belong to youuuuuuu!”