In this month’s roundup of notable new books, we called Emily Gould’s Friendship “honest, moving, and important.” That’s certainly reason enough to pick up Gould’s debut novel, but her appreciation for the art of karaoke should also serve as a big selling point.
To celebrate the release of her book, as well as her love of singing songs other people wrote, guided by a beat and lyrics projected over a video that usually has nothing to do with the song itself, we asked Gould to put together a list of the best songs to perform at karaoke with a friend.
Here’s what she told us:
Karaoke is either a great activity to do with your very closest friend, or a terrible one; it depends on a lot of variables. Is one of you a big attention-hog? No problem. Are both of you big attention-hogs? Hmm. It’s sort of like “living with each other” or “having sex” or “co-experiencing the death of another mutual close friend” in that it can either make or at least temporarily break a friendship. However, choosing the right songs to sing together will go a long way towards preserving your bond, and might even give you an opportunity to work out some issues in a safe, supportive environment where there are plenty of very inexpensive pitchers of Kirin Light available.
1. “The Rose” by Bette Midler
This song allows you to express your undying platonic love for each other as melodramatically as possible. I suggest trading off verses, then singing the final verse together in harmony. Or “harmony,” whatever you can muster. Harmony is hard, and sometimes if you (I) am (are) drunk it’s easy to imagine you are singing a harmony part when in fact you are just warbling off-key. You can do the “I’m up here,” “I’m down here” thing that teens do in movies about a cappella groups before going onstage for added drama-nerdness if you like.
Scared to do such a cornball song? Remember, it’s the soul afraid of dying that nevahhhhhhhh learns to live.
2. “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac
This is only for if you and your BFF are a woman and a gay man. If you do this with someone you in any conceivable world could potentially have actually loved and lost it’ll be weird. Both of you will want to be both Stevie and Lindsay. Resist.
3. “I Know Him So Well” (from the musical Chess)
This is a great girl-girl duet about loving the same man, acknowledging that you love him despite his faults and his infidelities, and begrudgingly still liking each other, because of what you have in common. It’s over the top (it is from a musical), but it’s very structurally sound in the way of most Björn Ulvaeus/Benny Andersson compositions, and thus hard to screw up. Just make sure you don’t pick the Whitney Houston/Cissy Houston version, which is the same song but harder to sing and somehow, improbably, about Jesus.
4. “Space Oddity” by David Bowie
OK, you have to practice this one first, and if the place you’re karaoke-ing has a version with the harmonies on the backing track, don’t bother, but if you and your friend can figure out how to a) do the harmony and b) consistently have one person be Major Tom and the other person be Ground Control (this is confusing in the lyrics, so just make some arbitrary choices and stick to them), you will impress the shit out of everyone and love each other and feel like an awesome team.
5. “Like a Prayer” by Madonna
I used to never karaoke Madonna songs because they make everyone sing along and get crazy, and I wanted to have my diva moment alone in the spotlight. Then at a certain point I just gave up and decided it was more fun to share the spotlight! For this one song. JUST THIS ONCE. Put this on, turn off the lights in your private karaoke room, and encourage ALL your friends to get up and sing and dance and fall to their knees worshiping this glorious, ridiculous, beautiful song. When you’re sweating beer all over your besties in a dark little room in a basement somewhere in east Midtown at 3 AM on a Tuesday, that feels… like… home.