Karaoke can be a dangerous endeavor. What can you sing that won't make friends shun you? How can you go balls-out during your next performance? Each week in "Ask a Karaoke Host," RFT Music writer and professional karaoke host Allison Babka answers your burning questions about maximizing your melodious mutterings and minimizing your friends' pain. Ask her stuff by emailing email@example.com or hashtagging #rftkaraoke on Twitter.
Valentine's Day is coming up, and I want to woo my lady with a little karaoke action. What are a few songs I could do to put her in the mood for sexytime afterwards? -- I Wanna Sex You Up
Like I've said before, karaoke makes for a fun date between two people who love silly attention. As long as you know your lovah will dig your songbird efforts and won't be embarrassed by them, you've got a real shot at some bump-and-grind action later.
Science has proven that listening to and performing music creates a dopamine high that raises your heart rate and gives you chills. Sounds rather similar to orgasm, no? It's no coincidence that one often leads to the other. But what should you perform at 9 p.m. to get to the real singing at midnight?
I think that using music as an aphrodisiac works best when it's personalized. Just like not every girl is swayed by heart-shaped boxes of candy and generic teddy bears, your fair maiden might not fall for Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" (though how anyone could ignore the Lloyd Dobbler effect is beyond me). Think about your experiences together and choose songs that mean something to your relationship instead of going for commonplace tunes.
But since I don't know anything about you or your relationship, I'll offer up a few songs that would give me goosebumps and make me want to purr in private (Potential suitors, take note!):
* "Everlong," Foo Fighters.
* "All Shook Up," Elvis Presley
* "Hawkmoon 269," U2
* "If I Ever Leave This World Alive," Flogging Molly
* "Wishlist," Pearl Jam
* "Can't Get Enough," Bad Company
* "I Want to Hold Your Hand," The Beatles
* "Need You Tonight," INXS
* "At My Most Beautiful," R.E.M.
* "I Think I Love You," The Partridge Family
* "Sea of Love," Phil Phillips and the Twilights
Obviously, not all of those are traditional love songs. My personal love for certain music trumps generic ditties about l'amour any day, and a guy who understands that might as well start unbuttoning my pants now. But that's why it's important to consider your own relationship and meaningful songs; what works for one person might not work for another.
If your date responds favorably to your crooning, you may want to commemorate the occasion with a few photos. That's where the next question comes in...
I love taking photos of my friends at karaoke, but my phone pics always end up blurry or dark. What am I doing wrong? -- Freeze Frame
In theory, karaoke produces some of the best photo opportunities because people let down their guards when they're drunkenly performing for a captive audience that expects hamminess. Making family memories? Snap a shot of your brother bringing the rawk on "Here I Go Again." Need blackmail material? A pic of your frenemy and her "just a friend" man toy staring at each other while crooning "Secret Lovers" should do the trick.
Theory doesn't always equal reality in the photo world, though. Crazy lighting and unexpected dance moves can muck up your best photo intentions -- and that's before considering any beer buzz you, the photographer, might have. Personally, any photos that I take suck donkey balls, so I'm not the best person to turn to for advice about this. Instead, I'll let award-winning veteran concert photographer, blogger and RFT contributor Jason Stoff do the talking:
The unavoidable fact is that cellphone cameras -- even the best ones -- aren't great in low-light situations like bars. They're just not the best gear to capture karaoke magic. Still, if that's all you've got handy, here are a few tips for better smartphone photos of your karaoke-ing buddies:
* Control your exposure. Lighting varies from bar to bar and stage to stage, and wildly uneven lighting will drive a phone's camera software crazy. Lots of phones have a "tap-to-focus" feature that also tells the phone what part of the image should be exposed properly. Fiddle with your camera app and see what it's capable of.
* Keep the phone steady. One of the biggest factors that leads to blurry photos is camera shake, so try to brace yourself against a wall or table. If that's not possible, try to hold the phone with both hands.
* Vary your angle. Nobody looks great from every angle, especially with a microphone in front of his or her face. Give friends the benefit of the doubt and shoot them from a few different spots in the bar.
* Don't be a flasher. Unless you're really close to your singing friends, turn off the phone's flash. It isn't bright enough to light up the entire room.
* Shoot and loot. Shoot lots of photos, then throw out the ones you aren't happy with. That's the not-so-secret secret of professional photographers.
* Cheat. If all else fails, try Instagram. Professional photographers debate the merits of the Instagram app, but after a karaoke session, you could use the filters to lighten or tweak an image to match the mood of the performance.
Combine the tips from this question with the previous one, and you've got yourself one steamy Valentine's affair!
As an in-demand karaoke host at multiple bars and events, Allison Babka receives her share of drunken song dedications, occasionally makes people cry and even has been glorified by a singing psychic. She's considering adding "Call Me Maybe" to her personal karaoke repertoire, and she hates herself for it. Bug her with karaoke nonsense on Twitter at @ambabka, and use #rftkaraoke.