Are you the kind of person who finds catharsis through singing poorly in front of friends and strangers? Do you bottle up all of the emotions of your stressful days, unleashing them in an over-the-top and off-tune performance? Do you really wish you could sing right now, shouting into a microphone as the world around you spins wildly out of control? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, chances are the lack of karaoke in your life these days is leaving you sad and empty. But you don’t have to feel that way. There can be karaoke—even in the middle of a lockdown.
Sure, karaoke bars are closed; they’re not considered essential businesses. But this is 2020; the lack of watering holes with open mics and Sunfly on their screens can be rectified with a few friends, a couple laptops, and a lot of moxie. Karaoke during the coronavirus quarantine—Quaraoke? yeah, let’s go with that—is possible. In fact, it’ll probably be just as weird, messy, and fun as its pre-pandemic counterpart.
Actually, considering that karaoke nights often end in minor tragedies—ill-advised make-outs, lost iPhones, cuts and bruises from overzealous air-guitar windmills—doing it at home might be slightly safer, provided you’ve disaster-proofed your place. (Also, pro tip: Your phone is in the bathroom, next to the toilet. We promise.)
That said, much of the chaos of the karaoke room will remain, so before you begin any of this, make sure there’s one responsible adult who can be trusted to run the show. There will likely be drinking; there may be other substances depending on which state you call home (we trust you), so having a dedicated karaoke jockey for the night is key. They don’t have to stay sober, but they do have to keep it relatively together. The KJ doesn’t have to be you, but for the purposes of this how-to, we’ll assume you’re the one in charge.
When you’re sending out your invite, you’re going to need to include two key links. The first, obviously, is a Zoom link. Actually, it doesn’t have to be Zoom—any videoconferencing service will do—but for the purposes of this exercise, we used Zoom. (Our apologies to Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts.) The videofeed, of course, is where the magic will happen.
You’ll also need a Watch2Gether link, which is where you’ll be assembling your queue of karaoke tracks. But before we get to how you put your song list together, you’re going to need some songs. In private-room karaoke, you can add songs on the fly; with at-home karaoke, it helps to know people’s songs in advance, solely to streamline the process up front. How you gather the track list is up to you—Google Form? email thread?—but having them ready really streamlines what comes next.
YouTube has a plethora of karaoke videos, many like what you’d find in a bar or private room. But a lot of those karaoke tracks are mislabeled, often just fan-made lyric videos with the actual song rather than an instrumental. And some YouTube karaoke videos are, unfortunately, not available to play on Watch2Gether because of licensing snags. So part of the KJ’s job will be to test these out ahead of time, just to make sure the tracks work and no extra hiccups occur during Quaraoke. (Being a KJ is really a thankless job. Tip your KJs—even if they’re just your drunk friends on a Zoom call. This is why Venmo was invented, people.)
Now, a few quick housekeeping tips for Watch2Gether. Via the settings menu in the upper left corner of your page, you’ll want to enable moderation—make sure the boxes for Selected Video, Player, and Playlists are all checked, which will limit any of your wild and crazy singers from screwing up the queue or pausing the video. (Do you want to mess up your friend’s barn-burning rendition of Aerosmith’s “Cryin’”? We didn’t think so.) Beyond that, the KJ’s only other job is to alert singers when their time is approaching and keep the songs coming. The chat room feature is the best place for this, which is where everyone should be hanging out and “talking” while a singer is going at it. Everyone’s mic should be muted, naturally—and the KJ should feel emboldened to mute anyone who doesn’t do it first.