I recently was guilted into accompanying my wife and a few friends to a bar for Karaoke night, and the short version is that before the night was over I sang Behind Blue Eyes, by The Who. I’m a shy person by nature, and this was a really big deal for me.
It was very snowy out, and so a lot of people stayed home that Saturday night: there were probably a grand total of 15 patrons there. We got some drinks, some chicken strips, and my wife sang a few songs (well, as she always does).
What really caused it all to happen was that while I was hemming and hawing, looking over the book of songs, she exclaimed “You should sing Behind Blue Eyes! It’s totally in your range!” It was one of those things that upon hearing it, I immediately knew it was true. I was kind of terrified, but couldn’t deny that song really does match my nasal voice. More important was the fact that I really can sing that song with passion.
I realized in that moment the simple fact that passion is the only important thing in Karaoke. It doesn’t matter how badly a person sings: if that person laid their heart out on that stage, then by damn you applaud!
I immediately remembered a moment when I was riding in a van with four or five friends, and every single person in that van was singing along to Behind Blue Eyes on the radio at the top of their lungs. It was a great moment, when you really let go, and really develop a bond with people.
I now know why people go to Karaoke: it’s not about singing well, it’s about expression. Not the expression of writing a song for others to hear or painting a landscape, or any other types of art that exist to teach or convey emotion: the important thing about Karaoke is the act of expressing that emotion. When you sing in the shower, it’s not because someone will hear you, or even that you’re practicing to improve your singing: it’s because you must.
Allowing yourself to feel emotions is a great thing. It’s a skill that you need to develop. In my experience as a man in America, we are taught to repress and deny our feelings: taught that they are a hindrance, an inefficiency: something that will only interrupt progress. As I’ve grown older I have realized that the only things that really have value are things that make us feel emotions.
Art? Emotions. Kids? Emotions. Improving or saving the world? Emotions. Everything we strive for we do because it makes us feel great either to achieve it, or even just to strive for it. So go out and feel things. If a sad song comes on, sit down and really feel it. Wallow in it. Dive into that feeling and really marinate in it. You will come out the other side feeling oddly not weighed down by that emotion, but enriched by the experience: renewed.
Catharsis is a great thing.