“You better call Tyrone / And tell him c’mon help you get your stuff.” Replace ‘stuff’ with an expletive that is similar to ‘ship,’ and you have the opening line to the chorus of Erykah Badu’s “Tyrone,” a scathing yet hilarious breakup anthem that would make the crowd look up from their pitchers of Bud Lite.
I pulled up to the University Hangout fashionably late, of course, and immediately saw my table of co-workers.
Candace was nervously flipping through the book of songs, while Robert anxiously looked on.
I must have taken a mental shot of Robert’s liquid courage and volunteered to be the third one at the mic. I’ve sung the song at least a million times driving down the highway with accompanying hand motions and seated dance moves, so I figured standing on a makeshift stage with the words moving on the screen would be a breeze.
I was ready to walk off the stage without incident after three and a half minutes – the point at which I thought the song was over – but for some odd reason the beat kept going, and to my surprise, lyrics I’d never seen were highlighted on the screen. Yes, an extended version of the song exists, and I discovered it the night I had to sing in front of a hundred people. It was embarrassing, but I was determined to finish. I stared at the screen, looked around and performed a rap/sung version of the last two minutes. I think Badu would be proud.
I have flown across the world, spoken in front of hundreds of people and have even rode SheiKra. However, none of those nerve-racking experiences have compared to performing karaoke.
When I was looking through the huge book of songs, I knew I wanted one that was classic karaoke, but not to the point that every person had sung it before. I ended up choosing Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” though “One Way or Another” was a close second.
My fellow writers and I were prolonging the embarrassment – none of us wanted to be the first to sign up. After a while, I knew I just wanted the jitters to end, and the only way for that to happen was to face my fear. I also noticed that the later it got, the more people began to show up.
When I had the microphone in hand, and the words started flashing on screen, my jitters escalated to panic. I continued trying to sing and occasionally glanced at my fellow Oraclers. They all, thankfully, had encouraging looks, but that did not stop the only thought in my head: “let this be over quickly.”
I tried to keep the microphone as far away from my lips as possible, so no one could hear my off-key attempt at singing.
After it was done came the sweet relief that I was only familiar with occurring after a roller-coaster ride or public speaking. Upon victory of conquering one of my fears, I then drank a watered-down Shirley Temple and watched the rest of my fellow writers sing their hearts out.
Robert Yaniz Jr.COMMENTARY
As soon as we decided to pursue this story, my anxiety began to set in. I knew that I could carry a tune, but singing in public was an experience completely foreign to me. Yet, while the nervous side of my mind dreaded my moment in a metaphorical spotlight, another part of me remained excited about the opportunity to overcome my fears and perhaps have some fun along the way.
Upon arriving, I briefly entered a premature state of panic. However, once I was situated at our table and started chit-chatting with my fellow Oraclers, I began to relax. As we passed the massive book of songs around, I tried my hardest to prolong the inevitable and refused to commit to any particular song. But after a couple of my companions took the stage, I knew that my turn was coming, and so I steadfastly marched over to make my selection.
I was pretty adamant about performing a song by R&B singer Musiq Soulchild since I felt I could handle his vocal style, and after his more upbeat hits “Forthenight” and “Just Friends (Sunny)” were nowhere to be found in the DJ’s database, I surrendered to the slow jam balladry of “Halfcrazy” for my first foray into karaoke.
As the DJ announced my name, I felt my shoulders tense up, and with the supportive applause of my friends, I headed to the mic. From that point on, my performance felt somewhat surreal. I can recall staring at the screen for much of the time – although I already knew the lyrics – and I remember the calmness that enveloped me once it was over. For those four-plus minutes, I disappeared into the music.
Now that it’s over, I’m relieved that I’ve conquered my fear. I never even considered performing in public before that night. After this memorable experience, I remain open to doing karaoke again in the future.