Have you ever started singing “Witchy Woman” at the top of your lungs in a crowded place, only to be greeted by angry requests to “shut up” and a security guard’s baton to the back of the head when you don’t? Sure, we’ve all been there. And yet, despite this hostile response, we keep entering random restaurants, retail outlets and funeral eulogies again and again in the hopes of starting an impromptu sing-along.
And why wouldn’t we? A spontaneous sing-along with a bunch of strangers is the quickest way to make new friends in a crowded environment. And unlike actually talking to people (blech!), you needn’t have anything in common with these people to feel an immediate bond of solidarity. You simply need to know the lyrics to the song everyone is singing (Witchy Woman).
From Edelweiss in Sound of Music and Bohemian Rhapsody in Wayne’s World to my personal favorite, I Say a Little Prayer for You in My Best Friend’s Wedding, the movies all make it look so easy! Of course, nothing’s ever as easy as the movies make it look (Drag Me to Hell), but by stacking the odds in your favor, you can turn that impromptu sing-along into a reality.
1. Pick a good singing location
Unfortunately, some places just don’t lend themselves too well to a spontaneous sing-along. Laundromats, the line at the DMV, a murder scene – I’ve tried them all to no avail. To increase your odds of people joining in with your song, they need to be in an environment that allows them to overcome their innate shyness and fear of singing in public. There are two ways to accomplish this – pick a place where people have come together to confront some kind of adversity (a union strike, gay pride parade, etc.) or pick a place that serves alcohol (bar, restaurant, sporting event, church, etc.).
2. Find a Natural Segue Into a Song
In my experience, you can’t just start singing in a crowded place and expect everyone to join in (unless you’re at a gay pride parade). Why? Because if the song isn’t relevant to the particular moment in time, no one will want to sing it. So, for example, if you’re at a political rally, you’ll want to wait for a speech-giver to either say something incredibly poignant, or incredibly derogatory. Because as we all know, when we’re particularly inspired or especially angry, our natural inclination is to break into song.
A bar or restaurant is a little more difficult, since the patrons are all having their own conversations. But so long as you can get a handful of people to jump into the song, it should be enough to get the ball rolling. As such, an off-hand statement made during a conversation can be all the inspiration required. To move things in the right direction, try interjecting one of the following statements into your conversation:
“This drink needs more ice, ice baby”
“Play that funky music white boy”
“Damn, who let the dogs out?”
“Theme to Ghostbusters”
3. Pick the right song
Above all else, the song needs to be one that everyone knows how to sing. Beyond that, different locations typically require different song choices. For example, “We Shall Overcome” would probably go over better at a political rally than, say something like Sir Mixalot’s “Baby Got Back.” At a bar, the song should either be about partying too hard or drinking too much. And if you want a surefire way to start a sing-along at a restaurant, simply walk up to a random patron and start singing Happy Birthday to them.
Note: if you are unsure which song to sing in a given situation, you can always fall back on the universal crowd pleaser – Witchy Woman.
4. “Connect” With the Crowd
Once the song gets going, then the only thing left to do is make sure everyone sticks with it until the end. To make sure your sing-along doesn’t peter out, you’ll want everyone who is singing to think they are part of something really special. So, as you sing, make eye contact with as many people as possible. When you do, smile and symbolically nod your head to the beat. This gesture will silently tell the person, “we’re singing. TOGETHER! Isn’t it great?” And they will smile and nod back, as if to say, “Yes it is. Yes. It. Is.”
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