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Back Tracks: The perfect mix of karaoke songs

Beyonce performs at the BET Awards on June 26. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Back Tracks is a weekly music column that studies the past, revisiting tunes that may be old but still resonate today.

As a music writer, I find it difficult to promote karaoke, a mostly drunken take at ruining hit songs. Some people lift weights at the gym, others do yoga — but I believe karaoke is just as valid of a stress reliever as the first two physically demanding activities.

Karaoke is a chance to, at the end of a day filled with mundane work, lift one’s spirits by acting like a fool to an all-time favorite track. In my opinion, the only two ways to mess this up is to not get up on the stage or to choose an OutKast song without having the dexterity to rap along.  

With that in mind, there is a pattern that can help one nail down the perfect karaoke song at the most opportune time. Below are three songs that serve as a structure for what type of song to choose and when.

“Mr. Brightside” by The Killers (2003)

The first thing I look for at a karaoke pre-kickoff is the name of the artist or song that will get the night started. While it might seem like a safe bet start with slower bangers like Destiny Child’s “Say My Name,” it is best to light the fuse right away.

There are certain songs that, when they are played in large gatherings, almost guarantee most the audience will be belting it out. “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers is one of those songs.

“Mr. Brightside” is a song that has both stood the test of time and is highly regarded in the 21st century. The opening guitar riff is as catchy and recognizable as the song’s first and second verses, and easily captivates the crowd. For karaoke, it is the perfect song to set the night off right.

“Hot in Herre” by Nelly (2002)

A major key to selecting a karaoke tune is to scan the average age of the audience. With that information, karaoke performers can then tap into the emotions of spectators by selecting a hit song from the formative middle and high school years.

“Hot in Herre” by Nelly is one of those songs for my age group. The 10 seconds leading up to the beat drop is never enough preparation for the funky Neptunes-produced beat. Twenty seconds later, Nelly jumps on the song with an impeccable invigorating flow.

At this point, most people are settled in and the requests are piling up. A song like “Hot in Herre,” one of Nelly’s two No. 1 Billboard hits, can also invite audience participation. The beat is perfect for losing your limbs, so do not be afraid to summon some stage dancers from the audience.

Also, a tip for rap songs: Know all the lyrics by memory so you do not fall behind on the teleprompter.

“Halo” by Beyonce (2009)

A karaoke night is not complete without Beyonce, and there might not be a better way to cap off a night than the epic “Halo.” The peak of the song, leading up to the final pre-chorus, can make one feel like he or she possesses Beyoncé-like powers.

The crowd will truly see the performer’s halo if he or she can also attempt to mimic some of Queen Bey’s dance moves. Justice will never be done to her choreography, but adding some flavor to a performance with some stage presence gets people going. Watching her music videos can help with picking up some jaw-dropping moves.

Winner of the Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, “Halo” is a perfect nightcap for karaoke. If a karaoke night starts off with a banger from the start followed by a song with a lighter side with a dash of nostalgia, then make sure the third act of the night ends with a climactic show-stopper. Once your set list is secure, there is only one last thing to do: embarrass yourself by just having fun.

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