Note: It’s my goal to karaoke in all 50 states. I’ve done 20 so far, and although Oregon was the 5th state in which I ever sang, I am reflecting on a time that happened just last weekend. Because, you know, I karaoke all the time here.
The Facebook notification intrigued me: “Julie posted a video on your time line.” Since I was on my phone, I didn’t look right away, waiting until I got to a computer to see what it was. I saw the video was of me, singing “It’s Raining Men” at her birthday party. I clicked “play.” The first thing I heard was me singing off key, and I cringed. I actually couldn’t listen to the whole thing the first time around. I debated on taking it down; I didn’t need anyone else hearing that. Only three people “liked” it, so I placated myself to the idea that not many were seeing it and, if they were, not many were actually playing it all the way through.
I felt embarrassed. I thought I was a better singer than that. I had other data in the form of compliments from both friends and random strangers that leads me to believe I have a decent singing voice. The voice in my head sounds pretty darn good, too. But listening to this video made me think differently: reassess how I feel about singing. It didn’t feel right, but at the same time, how can one argue with evidence?
After a while, I got up enough courage and played it again. I swore I would let it go the whole way through. Again I felt uncomfortable – why is it that we tend to sound so much better in our heads than in reality? – but powered through, fighting all desires to stop it.
And during that time, I took a deep breath and really listened.
I heard people having fun.
There’s dancing, singing, laughing, shouting, cheering.
Those are the important sounds – not my flat belting of the strong notes, or throat-dominant chorus. I still gritted my teeth and winced a little (OK, a lot) as I listened to the whole thing, but try to see through the imperfections and focus on what really mattered. That night, a bunch of people gathered together to celebrate a birthday. We crammed into a room and sang, and laughed, and had a great time. There were Jello shots and cupcakes. People had a good time when I sang, and they didn’t just sit back but they participated in the joy. And, while I was up there, I was having a great time too.
I am still not happy with what I hear, and I probably will never listen to the video again. But I am doing my best to look beyond it and refocus my energies on what karaoke is about. I am not at all critical when others sing – I enjoy lovely off-key renditions of so many songs sung from the heart. Yet, here I am, feeling embarrassed by what others heard from me. I recognize the hypocrisy here, and I will try to be more forgiving of myself. Karaoke is entertainment, not because of the quality of the vocals, but because it brings people together. One giant sing-a-long.
Someday, I’ll be able to apply the message I give to others to myself as well.