Whitney Houston, We Have a Problem

The diva's death creates a karaoke conundrum.

I was enjoying an easygoing Saturday afternoon with friends in a plush town house at the Eagle Harbor Inn on Bainbridge Island when the texts started flooding in about Whitney Houston's death. The first thing we did after receiving this tragic news was brainstorm what numbers to sing for an all-Whitney tribute at The 122 Bar that night.

It was a fun but silly idea, as I stopped to consider the songs we called out: "Greatest Love of All," "I Will Always Love You," "I Wanna Dance With Somebody." Every one sounded more absurd to attempt than the last. When it comes to mimicking Whitney, they're all suicidal (oops), especially if you're a guy. But since everyone seemed into it and had no problem wasting their precious turn to make a fool of themselves, I had to suck it up and do my best.

After four hours of drinking to prepare ourselves, we arrived at The 122 just before 9. It's a big venue with high ceilings. The place is dark and has a dance-club atmosphere. The DJ/KJ is set up at the entrance. We took over a couple of tables in the middle of the room. I scored a couple of books and handed one to my buddies Mochie and Cary. As I sat down to check out the selection, Mochie told me they were kidding and never planned on singing Whitney that night. On one hand, it made sense because it was completely ridiculous. But I had already mentally prepared myself for the challenge.

The night opened with a tight, beautifully harmonized rendition of The Human League's "Don't You Want Me" delivered by Mochie and Cary. I was called next, and decided to go with "How Will I Know?" I figured if I was going to bomb, I might as well sing the song of Whitney's that I loved the most.

The KJ was a jokester. He gave me a big intro, saying I had just come back from auditioning for The Voice. I asked him to take me down a key, and it ended up being a mistake. Tuning the key down made the song sound noticeably slower, and it took me a few verses to sing in tune. The performance was as embarrassing as I expected it to be; singing a love song from a female perspective about pining over a man isn't where my strengths lie (a lesson I learned years ago when I tried to sing Madonna).

Cary and Mochie got in some solos, and killed. There were only a couple other singers, but the KJ mixed in a lot of music between songs (this night is advertised as both a DJ and a karaoke night; karaoke-only is Thursdays). Finally called back up, I sang the manliest song I could find, "Lido Shuffle" by Boz Scaggs, and got a big ovation. That's what I love best about karaoke: You're always just a song away from redemption.


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