Singing on the Spot

By Rachel White on October 2, 2014
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On the first day of my English Grammar course, my instructor threatened me and the rest of my classmates. Yes, threatened. Not with tear-inducing midterms or harm to our families if we miss too many sessions, but with something way worse: humiliation.

It went like this: “If I hear your phone at all during class,” she asserted, “you will have to stand at the front of the room and sing an entire song from start to finish.”

Maybe that’s not a big deal to some people, but I felt the blood rush out of my face when I heard her say that. Sing an entire song? In front of strangers? I’ll pass. Even the thought of talking in front of my classmates freaks me out. Singing in front of 20 of my peers is basically my worst nightmare.

Thankfully, I typically remember to put my phone on silent or turn it off completely before class starts, so I shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

But some day, an unlucky student is going to forget to silence his or her phone and it is going to beep when he or she receives a text message from mom, and my instructor is going to demand that said student stand before us and sing a rendition of some song.

Being forced to sing alone isn’t something that might only occur in my classroom. It could happen anywhere. For instance, an innocent game of Truth or Dare could take a turn for the worse when someone is dared to sing for everyone.

Or maybe you’re at pub quiz with your friends, laughing and talking crap about the team that is only ahead of you by 50 points, when the emcee announces that it’s time for a physical challenge. What’s the physical challenge? Singing. Dear readers, I don’t mean to frighten you, but this is very real. This could happen to you.

Sure, some people will channel their inner-American Idol season one and be wildly applauded and encouraged to audition for The Voice. But for others, like me, it would be a struggle.

Or would it? I dwelled on the possibility of having to sing in front of my classmates for too long before I realized singing solo doesn’t have to be humiliating. Yeah, if it happens, I’ll probably still shake and sweat profusely, but those physical side effects will be the worst of it. I could use my one-woman performance to my advantage, and so could anyone else.

Listed below are what I believe to be the perfect songs to sing if you’re ever put on the spot. I’ve written about them in the context of having to sing them in a classroom (just in case a classmate should happen to come across this – I’m looking out for you, guys.), but I believe they’d be excellent choices in just about any situation.

“We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel. Unless you’re a history buff or a huge Billy Joel fan, you probably don’t know all the words to this song. That’s okay because it’s pretty unlikely that anybody listening to you knows all the lyrics, either, so you could totally get away with making things up as you go.

You’ll most certainly impress your classmates as you rattle off eight whole verses of events and people of historical significance, even if they’re not really part of the song. I’ll even write the first line for you: “Kanye West, Breaking Bad, Chatroulette, Drake is sad, marijuana, Schwarzeneggar, Twilight should be banned.”

“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. This would be a great choice for a couple of reasons. First, your performance would be a six minute diversion from the lecture or discussion, which could be a good thing if the subject bores you and the period is droning on.

Second, all of your classmates will feel morally obligated to sing along (and if they don’t, they’re wrong), which rules because you won’t be singing alone. All it will take is “Is this the real life?” to pour off of your lips before you’ve got a nice sing-along on your hands. It will be like a musical. “University Musical.” Somebody call Disney.

“With Arms Wide Open” by Creed. You could also sing “Higher.” Any Creed song will work, really. Everybody loves a good Scott Stapp impression and everybody loves a bad Scott Stapp impression (is there really any difference?).

You’ll get some laughs, but even better, the probability is high that your instructor will ask you to stop because, well, you’re singing a Creed song. Maybe after you can digress from whatever topic you’re supposed to be learning about to discuss the astounding symbolism in Creed music videos.

“The Star Spangled Banner” by Jimi Hendrix. But you’re like, “Umm, Rachel? There aren’t any words in this song.” To which I say, “Exactly.” It’ll just be three minutes and 47 seconds of you imitating a guitar. Hilarious.

“Dedication To My Ex” by Lloyd. If this is the song you decide to sing, you have to sing the explicit version. Why? Because singing the dirty version will surely make your instructor regret this form of punishment.

Picture it: looking your instructor directly in the eye, a devious smirk permanently etched across your face, one eyebrow cocked, belting out “I miss that pu**y” over and over again. Imagine how satisfied you’ll feel after.

Pat yourself on the back once you’re finished, because I’m willing to bet that you’ve successfully made him or her feel the most uncomfortable they’ve ever felt in their life.

“My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion. This song is sure to hit home for anyone in your class with a heart. Look for the people with tears forming in the corner of their eyes. Remember them.

Why? Because those people are empathetic. They’re sensitive. They’re caring. They are the ones you can call the night before your midterm and admit through sobs that you don’t understand anything in chapter four.

They’ll wait for your blubbering to subside, and then they’ll say:

“You, my friend, are not the Titanic. This midterm is not an iceberg, and you are not going to sink. But listen. You see, I’m Rose. And you’re Jack, because, well, you’re a way better artist than I am. The difference here is that I’m gonna let you lie on that door with me. There’s room for both of us. I’m not going to let you freeze to death. I’m not going to let you bomb that test.”

“World’s Greatest” by R. Kelly. By singing this song, you’ll let the audience know that even though you have to endure this punishment, you remain unaffected. You remain strong. This performance is mortifying for you, but you will overcome.

After all, you’re that star up in the sky (Betelgeuse, probably). You’re also that mountain peak up high. Not to mention that you’re also a tall tree, a swift wind, a river, and a bunch of other beautiful things in nature.

While you sing, stand up tall, look your classmates in the face, and make them believe you when you say, “I’m the world’s greatest.”

“Give It To Me, Baby” by Rick James. It’ll confuse everybody.

There you have it. If you have to sing a song against your will, those songs will definitely send a message. Of course, there are tons of other songs that would be great choices as well, so if after reading this you’ve got one in the back of your mind, go for it.

The important thing to remember is that everyone gets embarrassed from time to time. Those humiliating moments just happen. You can either chastise yourself or you can laugh about it. If you’re able to find humor in all aspects of life, it becomes a little easier and a little more enjoyable.

Oh, and the other thing to take away from this: turn your phone off before class.

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I am a senior at the University of Iowa, pursuing an Theatre major, English minor, and Writing Certificate. I once auditioned for a children's workout video, but was cut after the final callback. From there, my self-esteem plummeted. I knew I had some redeeming abilities, like knowing all the words to Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" and being able to recite the alphabet backwards, but I didn't realize my true worth until I took typing test. It turns out that I can type around 80 words per minute. And that is why I like to write, because I can do it really fast.

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