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Songs in the Key of Ugh

The karaoke scene built around Idol-esque crooners performing gleefully-inspired ‘80s power ballads, campy oldies and hip-hop songbooks isn’t always pitch perfect, but is rarely forgettable.

Michele Chiappetta
March 29, 2017

Ever seen “Carpool Karaoke?” This popular recurring segment
 on The Late Late Show with James Corden features the show’s host in a car with everyone from Metallica singing a Rihanna tune to Adele rapping to the stylings of Nicki Minaj. People love “Carpool Karaoke” because it reminds them of their own joys of singing loud along to the radio as they cruise to work, school and church. We’ve all done it, right?

But if you’ve ever thought about getting out of your car and in front of a mic, then it’s time to do some real karaoke. And as it turns out, Tulsa has a lot of options for you.

Lisa Taylor of Tulsa has been singing karaoke for three years and is loving it. “I go regularly with my daughter, enough that I know the regulars,” says Taylor. “I love the stage, I love to sing, and it gives me the opportunity to sing lots of different kinds of music.”

Cynthia Jesseen, owner of Tulsa Karaoke DJ Nights, a local business that provides karaoke and DJ services for local venues as well as private parties, weddings and other events, echoes the sentiment. In her experience since starting up her business in 2009, Tulsans love to let their inner Bieber and Gomez loose.

“People love to sing,” says Jesseen. “It makes them feel good. Karaoke has been popular in Tulsa for a long time.”

If you’ve never tried karaoke before, or even if you have, a lot of connoisseurs of the practice like some liquid courage before they step up to the mic. But it’s certainly not required. Some venues, like the Silver Skillet Family Diner, are family friendly. And even bar hoppers may opt to stay light on the booze so they can be sure to sing in tune.

Picking the right song may also seem to be a challenge, but the pros have some suggestions to help you out.

“I have a page of favorites that are go-tos,” says Taylor. “I don’t like to try new ones without practicing at home, because I don’t want to be embarrassed. Since I don’t drink, I’m a little more uptight than most of my karaoke companions.” Some of Taylor’s favorites are “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5, “(I’m Not Gonna Write You A) Love Song” by Sara Bareilles, “Ain’t It Fun” by Paramore, “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green, “Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations, and “Where You Lead” by Carole King.

Jesseen suggests classics. “Classics always get a big applause from the crowd,” she says. Recent go-tos, she says, include “Valerie”
 by Amy Winehouse, “Your Man” and “Long Black Train” by Josh Turner, “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “At Last” by Etta James, “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra, “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars, “Colder Weather” by Zac Brown Band, and “Dirt Road Anthem” by Jason Aldean. The hottest new hits and Disney songs also make the list of frequently requested tracks.

If you’re worried about getting stage fright, rehearse and get comfortable with some songs ahead of time. “There are a lot of fun karaoke apps for your phone and tablets now,” says Jesseen. This makes it easy to practice at home or on the go.

Taylor has her own set of tips. “Go to YouTube and look up the karaoke versions of your favorite songs,” she says. “That way, you can check to see if it’s in your vocal range, if it has a section you forgot about [like the rap in the middle of TLC’s “Waterfalls”], or an embarrassingly long instrumental section that will leave you looking stupid while you wait for it. And remember, most people will be either less skilled and/or a bit tipsy, so it’s a pretty easy crowd. Mid- to fast-tempo songs are better, but beware that songs always seem faster when you are nervous.”

For those who have no fear of getting onstage and are looking to beef up their karaoke game, Jesseen says to look for songs that make you feel something. “Sing what you are passionate about,” she says. “If it triggers your emotions, you will trigger our emotions.”

Above all, have fun and don’t stress about getting every note perfect. “The karaoke community is like a tight family,” Jesseen says. “We love to sing, and we love others who love to sing, even if they aren’t that great. It’s not American Idol; it’s karaoke. Relax and have fun.”