(Yes, I’ll be multiposting some days to try to catch up. Hooray!)
Singing in public, you say? WELP, time for an instrumental.
I like to sing, honestly. When everyone else leaves the house, Item One on my usual agenda is to turn up the speakers and shamelessly belt out an unholy travesty to all melody, such that Euterpe Herself would stab a golf pencil through her eardrums.
Why no, I’m not particularly good.
I did go to all of two vocal lessons some years back. I ran out of disposable income soon thereafter, but I got a fair bit of information first: I can hit the D below Middle C, I have very good pitch, but my rhythm is usually a bit off and I’m too ‘breathy.’ I can no more figure out how to sing from the diaphragm than I can figure out how to do anything coordinated with any other muscle, though, so my attempts at self-education hit a wall rather promptly.
Plus, I was living in a studio apartment the size of some walk-in closets, and I didn’t want to subject my neighbors to my horrible caterwauling. Chiefly because they’d call animal control on me, saying I was clearly strangling an elk.
Yet I still really enjoy singing. I hate hearing myself, I hate the idea of anyone else hearing me, but I still like producing the sounds, the sheer -feel- of belting along with whatever song has caught my lyrical fancy. I recognize that it doesn’t make much sense to enjoy something you’re bad at, and simultaneously to be so awkward about others hearing how awful you are that you’ll actually avoid practicing. There’s no way you can improve without doing it, but if you have the slightest respect for others, or even a glimmer of dignity, you’re simply not allowed to do it unless you’re already good.
That’s much the same with any artistic endeavor, though. It happens even with my writing. It’s the only thing I’ve ever been remotely good at, but it’s still horribly awkward to put anything in the public eye, and everything could — and should — always be so much better. I could live without ever singing again, though. I don’t think I’d make it a week without writing. Even if every English-speaking person on Earth lined up to tell me, face to face, how horrible I was at it… I’d still probably write tiny little notes on scraps of paper every night. I’d probably burn them as soon as I had finished them, but I still don’t think I could keep myself from writing entirely.
However, that kind of… well, “commitment” and “devotion” are too proud of words for it; “unthinking zombie-like neural programming” is probably more accurate. Whatever that sort of drive is, it is also, in some way, an excuse. If I don’t write, my brain will probably liquefy and ooze down the back of my neck, so no matter how horrible it is when I do, maybe I’d better keep on writing. It’s not a justification, mind you — but an excuse.
Since singing is optional, though, I should probably exercise the option to avoid it.
Especially among strangers.
Unless, of course, something were to happen to override my better judgment. Some chemical solution, for example, that is known to lower inhibitions, increase feelings of camaraderie, and artificially enhance feelings of competence.
I still don’t think I could sing at a karaoke bar. For one, knowing that alcohol lowers inhibitions, I don’t think I could let myself drink enough around strangers to actually get to that point. For another, I don’t think it’s LEGAL to drink the amount I’d need to let down my guard. And for a third… well, again, it’s one of those ridiculous artistic Catch-22s: Obviously, there’s no point in doing it if nobody else can hear it. But to thrust yourself forward, perhaps into a literal spotlight, and impose yourself on others’ attention? Awful! I can imagine getting drunk and stupid enough to start — but the adrenaline-rush of panic when I actually got up there would surely keep me from going through with it. And might also make me pass out.
One of the local joints circumvented this by having karaoke rooms: you reserve a room just for you and your friends, so nobody is there except the people you’re comfortable with.
If I were actually in the presence of more trustworthy humans… well, I still couldn’t go up and sing out of nowhere. Maaaaybe if other people started it. Though I’m far better than in years past, it still takes quite the herculean effort to put my guard down.
But let’s assume ideal circumstances. There aren’t any strangers around, it’s a soundproof room full of me and my friends. They’ve already been singing. Nobody’s been a judgmental jerkwad to anybody else. People aren’t ignoring others when they sing, making it feel pointless and awkward — but nobody’s being stared at and scrutinized like the Breaking Bad finale, either. And there’s a little booze in me for good measure — not enough to make me outright stupid, but just enough to make me care about looking stupid a little less. Oh, and we assume they’ve actually got an absurd variety of songs far surpassing any normal selection. Whatever the syzygy of circumstances takes, I actually step up and sing. But sing what?
If just for the self-acknowledgment of it all — nevermind the fact that I do indeed love to sing it — Lucky Soul’s “I Ain’t Never Been Cool” might fit the bill:
Still, just as much as any instrumental, that’s a bit of a weasely choice. It hangs a lampshade on my awkwardness. Even if we assumed I somehow sang it well, belting it out with perfect pitch and timing, it might still prime everyone to see it as lame attempt.
If I were still compelled to, essentially, sing my own excuse, one could hardly do better than the Dresden Dolls’ “Sing: ”
But maybe there’s a No Meta sign on the wall, and we have to sing a song we like without being self-referential. Despite how absurd it would be to go from instrumentals and low-balls to Mike Freaking Patton… well, sometimes I wonder if it’s not better to do ambitious things poorly than it is to do mediocre things competently. Regardless of that, I just like the song, I can hit the notes, and it’s awesome. So I’d sing Mr. Bungle’s “Retrovertigo.”