I can’t sing – which doesn’t stop me from belting into song in the shower or while driving or, sometimes, when I’m really distracted, on the subway – but I generally try to spare people the pain of my weak harmonizing. Most of the time, even midsong, I know that I am not a beautiful princess with a honey soaked voice, but for one semester during my junior year in college I decided that despite my low lung capacity and general tone deafedness I would probably make an awesome songstress if only I had the right instructor. So, I signed up for the free voice lessons offered by the school (actually, the lessons probably cost extra tuition so mom and dad likely paid for this little dalliance…god I miss college). My instructor was not used to teaching people who sucked at singing and it was clear from day one that the 30 minutes I spent in the studio twice a week were costing Ms Melody hundreds of dollars in cotton balls and mercurochrome for her bleeding ears. All of her other students were members (or at least aspiring members) of the college’s much esteemed choral singing group, none of them ever considered using the excuse that they only signed up for voice lessons in hopes of helping their asthma.
The first (and only) song that I was assigned was a sticky sweet number from some musical about love and rainbows and cute little birdies. Just now I tried very hard to remember the name of this masterpiece, I even turned off my whiney indie pop background music and concentrated with my eyes closed but once again my subconscious has seen fit to protect me by blocking a painful memory. Thank you evolution. Even at my least cynical my unique version of this song was tainted with the jagged edge of restrained eye rolling, this coupled with my general lack of musical talent made for a very strained biweekly class. Out of embarrassment, my instructor allowed me to skip the midterm concert but she was less kind when it came to finals. I assume that forcing me to perform my off key version of a love serenade in front of a large group of semi professional singers was my instructor’s way of seeking vengeance for her damaged ear drums and, lucky for her, it also served as all the reason I needed to drop out of voice lessons.
These days my only public singing opportunity (mumbling morning subway performances excepted) is the occasional booze fueled karaoke party. Luckily, in addition to the low standards usually offered by a drunk audience karaoke is more about selling a song than singing it well – if the performer picks the right song and performs with enough bravado singing can almost be entirely avoided. After much anguished flipping through karaoke bar song binders I have determined that karaoke for the nonsinger is best represented by country songs from the 1970s. I sometimes choose “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” because it’s about a bad ass young lady murdering the guy who wronged her brother (though, as is too often the case with murder, things do not go as planned) or if a duet is possible, “You’re the Reason our Kids are Ugly” because drunks don’t have a very sophisticated sense of humor. But the best karaoke song in the world is “Fancy” by Reba Mcintyre.
The song is ostensibly about a girl whose mother turns her out as a prostitute when the family becomes too poor to support themselves. That description makes the song sound depressing but it’s surprisingly upbeat – I know that prostitution has a lot of critics but project management has yet to make me a lady or supply me with a
SEE?!?! Mom dresses him up as a drag queen, sends out to turn tricks with closeted rich gay men, life is hard at first but soon the eyes and the ass start doing their job and BAM mansion and fancy apartment! Take that capitalist homophobic sex hating world!
That mountain drive I mentioned above is 8 hours of lonely road with very little distracting and no cell phone reception so I had little choice but to listen to “Fancy” roughly 35 times while choreographing the best drag act ever. Picture it… Spot on effeminate man standing Center Right wearing a short red silk robe loosely tied in the front, a dressing table and full length mirror can just be made out to his left. As he starts to sing he sits at the dressing table and with make up and falsies and a luscious red wig slowly transforms himself into a slightly trashy but still smoking hot piece of woman. The song and the outfit build until he’s decked in a red sequined mini dress, gold stilettos and vampy red lipstick, “I might have been born just plain white trash but Fancy was my name!”
If only I had a penis.