Sunday, March 12, 2006


If you asked me last week, "What are you worst at in the world?", I would answer singing. Singing is a skill that everyone else seems to magically possess since birth, and yet I just can't do it. My singing gives William Hung a run for his money.

The last time I sang in public was 5 years ago, when Szechuan Chinese Restaurant held a karaoke night. I was a regular there, so I happened to be around when they began the event. "Go on and sing," the restaurant staff urged me.

"No, I'm terrible," I said, truthfully.

"Stop being modest and just go! We're all amateurs."

When I finished slaughtering Yesterday by the Beatles, no one would meet my gaze. I had to leave the restaurant shortly after, out of discomfort.

It all changed tonight! X.M. invited a group of us out to karaoke, and I agreed to go. The first song, Eternal Flame, was as bad as I expected. I didn't even realize for the first 30 seconds that my microphone was off. It didn't make much difference, because I could barely get my voice to come out. Other people picked up the second microphone and sang with me, to help take me out of my misery.

When I sat down, Feng's wife tried to comfort me by saying, "That song is really strange."

"No, just my rendition of it," I said.

"You can still continue to pick songs," she said, and I laughed.

"Don't worry, this is about what I expected."

I've tried to fix this incurable problem before. I sang in the Caltech Women's Glee Club for a year. I sang in Microtones (Microsoft's glee club) for 2 years. I took a singing class in the evening at a nearby community college. I've played the piano and sung along to it one note at a time.

None of it made any difference.

Tom told me recently that he took a singing class at Stanford. "You must stand up to sing," he said. "That way your lungs can expand fully. Don't think about fixing your notes. Just sing, and it'll sound like the way it does in your head."

So tonight, I stood up for my next karaoke song, I Do It For You, even though everyone else was sitting. I had to bump their knees aside in order to stand, towering over them. I opened my mouth and ... a clear singing voice filled the room.

"They forgot to turn off the guiding audio track," I thought, and looked around for the remote control in order to shut it off. I found it, picked it up, and then realized ... that was my voice. I almost went slack-jawed at the realization that from my throat was somehow emerging the beautiful singing voice that I've always wanted.

But my jaw had taken on a life of its own. No slack-jawedness for it! It went on to hit the high notes, the low notes, belt out the chorus, soften up for the tender refrain. When I paused during the instrumental section, my friends gave me a rousing ovation.

"And you said you were bad!" X.M. said, and I hugged her out of sheer delight.

When we left two hours later, I took a map of the karaoke place. It's all I can do right now not to get back in the car and drive over to sing some more. It's open until 3am!

I am going to turn into one of those freaks that sings at all sorts of inappropriate moments, to show off their singing voices. People at work will ask me "Where do I find the code for X?" and I'll loudly perform I Can Show You the World in response. Why? Because now I can.

1 comment:

dchen said...

don't worry, i can't sing either, and am always soooo jealous of those who can... i'm going to get a piano keyboard and learn the piano though. from years of typing, i know i have strong fingers. one problem - i can't hold a beat!