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#1
Old 10-24-2011, 09:37 PM
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Pop/rock songs that are deceptively hard to sing

There have been a few times where I've been defeated at karaoke by songs that sounded like they'd be pretty straight-ahead but ended up being more difficult than I'd imagined. "The Tracks Of My Tears" (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles) and "You Make My Dreams" (Hall & Oates) are 2 that come immediately to mind. Actually, I bet since Smokey sings so smoothly and seemingly effortlessly, a lot of his songs are actually harder than they sound. Anybody else?
#2
Old 10-24-2011, 10:16 PM
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Black Sabbath's Paranoid.
#3
Old 10-24-2011, 10:32 PM
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Counting Crows' Mr. Jones. I've heard several people mangle it. I've mangled it.
#4
Old 10-24-2011, 10:59 PM
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"Mr. Jones" I can see, but "Paranoid" surprises me.
#5
Old 10-24-2011, 11:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Agent Foxtrot View Post
Counting Crows' Mr. Jones. I've heard several people mangle it. I've mangled it.
Me, too. Also "Drops of Jupiter" or "Meet Virginia" by Train. Not a huge fan of their music, but Pat Monohan is under-appreciated as a vocalist.
#6
Old 10-25-2011, 07:00 AM
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Todd Rundgren's "Want of a Nail."
#7
Old 10-25-2011, 08:23 AM
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About a year ago I went to a wedding pre party at a bar. I had the bride to be karoki "I Like Big Butts and I Cannot Lie". Its long, the words are said fast, and it not just repeating some simple phrase over and over. Its my contender for hardest Karioki song.
#8
Old 10-25-2011, 08:29 AM
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Michael Martin Murphy's Wildfire.
#9
Old 10-25-2011, 08:52 AM
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I recently took part in a tribute show to John Lennon, and my answer to this is, "A buttload of John Lennon songs." I thought Lennon mostly sang pretty comfortably within my (admittedly not great) range, but every song we picked was just exhausting to sing -- in his key and with the proper energy, anyway.

(If you're curious, the hard ones were "Happiness Is a Warm Gun," "(Just Like) Starting Over," "Isolation," "Gimme Some Truth," & "New York City.", along some much easier songs like "Dr. Robert" and "Love.")
#10
Old 10-25-2011, 09:46 AM
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Hey, Mr. Tamborine Man
#11
Old 10-25-2011, 10:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by billfish678 View Post
About a year ago I went to a wedding pre party at a bar. I had the bride to be karoki "I Like Big Butts and I Cannot Lie". Its long, the words are said fast, and it not just repeating some simple phrase over and over. Its my contender for hardest Karioki song.
Quite a few rap songs are like that. I tried the Beastie Boys, "What You Want" on Rock Band and that was much tougher than I thought.
#12
Old 10-25-2011, 10:10 AM
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I've sung Paradise By The Dashboard Lights enough times (karaoke) that I can do the male part, but my partner usually stumbles a bit.
#13
Old 10-25-2011, 10:18 AM
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I'm sure tons of people have tried to sing "Don't Stop Believing" only to find they couldn't hold the really long notes. Anytime I've heard it done on karaoke nights it gets butchered pretty badly.
#14
Old 10-25-2011, 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Annie-Xmas View Post
Hey, Mr. Tamborine Man
??????????

Much confusion here. That was the first song I learned to play on guitar and I found it easy to sing and even easier to harmonize when I could get someone else to lead.

In fact, all of the classic Dylan songs are pretty easy to sing, modify, adjust rhythm, etc.

I think that's why so much of his early catalog is covered by others. The songs are so pure and simple that you can take them and personalize them to your style or just fire them off like Dylan did.
#15
Old 10-25-2011, 10:31 AM
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Whoops - forgot to add mine.

Blue on Black - Written by Kenny Wayne Shepherd with Mark Selby, Tia Sillers and sung by Noah Hunt. There are a number of hard electric and soft acoustic versions floating around and I can sing along with them OK.

Acoustically the song is a simple repeating three chord rhythm but for the life of me I can't get my guitar and voice in sync to do it.

Another is Everlast's "Saving Grace" of which a portion of the song was used as an intro to the Holly Hunter TV series of the same name. Easy chord progression with a rhythm that I can't match and I even have trouble singing along with the music. A Capella style I have no problem hitting the notes.
#16
Old 10-25-2011, 11:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dung Beetle View Post
Michael Martin Murphy's Wildfire.
This is probably because the singer is too overcome by shame to sing properly.


A friend and I once tried to do Ike & Tina's Proud Mary. He went first and sounded fine but left me waaaay out of my range. I sounded terrible. Totally not my fault since friend was no where near Ike's baritone/bass.
#17
Old 10-25-2011, 11:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by billfish678 View Post
About a year ago I went to a wedding pre party at a bar. I had the bride to be karoki "I Like Big Butts and I Cannot Lie". Its long, the words are said fast, and it not just repeating some simple phrase over and over. Its my contender for hardest Karioki song.
[Nitpick]
The name of the song is "Baby Got Back."
[/Nitpick]

I would also add "It's the End of the World As We Know It" by REM.
#18
Old 10-25-2011, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Superdude View Post
[Nitpick]
The name of the song is "Baby Got Back."
[/Nitpick]

I would also add "It's the End of the World As We Know It" by REM.
And in this trend, One Week by Bare Naked Ladies.

Last edited by Biggirl; 10-25-2011 at 11:23 AM. Reason: Not a song about smoking dope.
#19
Old 10-25-2011, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by kayaker View Post
I've sung Paradise By The Dashboard Lights enough times (karaoke) that I can do the male part, but my partner usually stumbles a bit.
I could probably do that one pretty well. Back in my Rocky Horror days, they would play Paradise By The Dashboard Lights before the movie, and I'd frequently pull a woman up from an aisle seat to lip-sync it with me.
#20
Old 10-25-2011, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Becky2844 View Post
Todd Rundgren's "Want of a Nail."
Yeah, I just tried...the key change to the refrain is murder:

I've been wrong
I had plans so big
But the devil's in the details
I left out one thing
No one to love me
No one to love me
No one to love

Even more impressive when you realize that the album was recorded live in the studio with a huge band, and the vocal were a single take.
#21
Old 10-25-2011, 12:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ichbin Dubist View Post
I recently took part in a tribute show to John Lennon, and my answer to this is, "A buttload of John Lennon songs." I thought Lennon mostly sang pretty comfortably within my (admittedly not great) range, but every song we picked was just exhausting to sing -- in his key and with the proper energy, anyway.

(If you're curious, the hard ones were "Happiness Is a Warm Gun," "(Just Like) Starting Over," "Isolation," "Gimme Some Truth," & "New York City.", along some much easier songs like "Dr. Robert" and "Love.")
Yeah, Lennon's voice is the closest to mine, so I do him a lot at karaoke. I can pretty easily manage "Revolution", The Beatles' version of "You Really Got A Hold On Me", "Twist And Shout", etc. But "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" is murder, and I can imagine "(Just Like) Starting Over" would be hard - his voice is all over the place on that one.
#22
Old 10-25-2011, 12:15 PM
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The high-pitched screeching in "What's Up" by the 4 Non Blondes must be pretty difficult to execute. I've tried singing it when I was by myself but never in front of anyone else.
#23
Old 10-25-2011, 12:19 PM
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One of the most deceptive — although far worse for someone trying to pick the damn thing out on an instrument than for trying to sing it — is the annoying piece of 60s fluff called "Up Up and Away" (in my Beautiful Balloon). Some kid challenged me to pick it out on a piano and after the eighth or ninth keychange in the first few bars I said we could just drop the kitty cat on the keyboard and get a closer approximation.

Last edited by AHunter3; 10-25-2011 at 12:19 PM.
#24
Old 10-25-2011, 12:25 PM
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Natural Woman

Trying to stay on key for this one is almost impossible for me.
#25
Old 10-25-2011, 01:48 PM
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I once butchered "Roxanne" by the Police on karaoke night. That song was tough on my vocal chords, too.

Last edited by It's Not Rocket Surgery!; 10-25-2011 at 01:48 PM.
#26
Old 10-25-2011, 02:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ponch8 View Post
The high-pitched screeching in "What's Up" by the 4 Non Blondes must be pretty difficult to execute. I've tried singing it when I was by myself but never in front of anyone else.
I think that's an easy one. Just go on and squall, baby!

Of course, I also like to shriek along with The Lion Sleeps Tonight, and the background singerís part in Come Back and Stay, by Paul Young. I donít do this in public, of course!
#27
Old 10-25-2011, 02:44 PM
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For me, pretty much any song that's not undeceptively hard to sing is deceptively hard to sing. I particularly remember trying to do "Hotel California" at a karaoke place a few years back. Luckily about 45 seconds in, all power in the room went off. None of the neighboring rooms had any electricity problems, so I figured our room had simply committed suicide, and I for one couldn't blame it.
#28
Old 10-25-2011, 02:46 PM
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Many Creedence Clearwater songs. They seem like simply structured songs, but Fogerty puts lots of subtle soul inflections into everything that kick the vocals into extreme difficulty. The gap between 'meh' and 'this rocks!' is small but deep.
#29
Old 10-25-2011, 02:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GargoyleWB View Post
Many Creedence Clearwater songs. They seem like simply structured songs, but Fogerty puts lots of subtle soul inflections into everything that kick the vocals into extreme difficulty. The gap between 'meh' and 'this rocks!' is small but deep.
In that case I'd like to nominate Brown Eyed Girl. But in this case, Van Morrison's version is on the "meh" side of bad. But I've heard people give inflections and energy to it that turn it into sort of awesome.
#30
Old 10-25-2011, 03:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GargoyleWB View Post
Many Creedence Clearwater songs. They seem like simply structured songs, but Fogerty puts lots of subtle soul inflections into everything that kick the vocals into extreme difficulty. The gap between 'meh' and 'this rocks!' is small but deep.
Agreed. Fogerty also has a secure lower register with a killer high belt. Most folks I've heard attempt CCR can do one or the other well, but not both.
#31
Old 10-25-2011, 03:22 PM
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"Tonight" from West Side Story is deceptive; not difficult but it keeps going up and up. If you start in the middle of your range instead of at the bottom, you're going to be in big trouble about five or six bars in.
#32
Old 10-25-2011, 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by woodstockbirdybird View Post
"Mr. Jones" I can see, but "Paranoid" surprises me.
Well, I was surprised too, but that is the point isn't it? "Deceptively." Admittedly I can't sing for toffee anyway, but most things I can sing to myself so that they sound OK to me. If I am charitable with myself (which I am) I can quite enjoy most of my own singing, even though I don't suppose anybody else would. But, I tried Paranoid once, out loud, and it sounded appalling, to me. I tried a few more times and simply could not get it.

You try, and see if you can do it (unless you can actually sing, of course).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ludovic View Post
In that case I'd like to nominate Brown Eyed Girl. But in this case, Van Morrison's version is on the "meh" side of bad.
You are dead to me.
#33
Old 10-25-2011, 04:39 PM
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Originally Posted by njtt View Post
Well, I was surprised too, but that is the point isn't it? "Deceptively." Admittedly I can't sing for toffee anyway, but most things I can sing to myself so that they sound OK to me. If I am charitable with myself (which I am) I can quite enjoy most of my own singing, even though I don't suppose anybody else would. But, I tried Paranoid once, out loud, and it sounded appalling, to me. I tried a few more times and simply could not get it.
Oh, I believe it, it's just surprising (much as "You Make My Dreams" shocked me when I tried it). I'll give it a shot next time I do karaoke.
#34
Old 10-25-2011, 11:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Agent Foxtrot View Post
Counting Crows' Mr. Jones. I've heard several people mangle it. I've mangled it.
I find just about anything by Counting Crows or Matchbox Twenty really difficult. It's not so much the vocal range, but the way Messrs. Duritz and Thomas tend to add ornaments and change little bits of the tempo on every verse.

Some otherwise-easy standards can be problematic in that way too. If you practice Sinatra's version of a song, you can be in for big surprises if the KJ puts on the Tony Bennett or Michael Bublť one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Superdude
I would also add "It's the End of the World As We Know It" by REM.
I don't think it or "One Week" belong in this thread. They are ridiculously fast, and thus hard in a non-deceptive way. (If you really want a fun one, try "Life is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)". I find it helps to read the lyrics off my phone, since, annoyingly, many karaoke tracks don't go fast enough and make you guess at upcoming verses.)

Also, in case anyone is unaware, Audacity has a Change Pitch feature which mimics the one found in most karaoke software. It's a great way to work out what key change to request ahead of time.
#35
Old 10-26-2011, 12:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Number View Post
I don't think it or "One Week" belong in this thread. They are ridiculously fast, and thus hard in a non-deceptive way. (If you really want a fun one, try "Life is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)". I find it helps to read the lyrics off my phone, since, annoyingly, many karaoke tracks don't go fast enough and make you guess at upcoming verses.)
I disagree, but for only one reason: They're "challenge" songs, even to the completely sober. People know they're fast, but think they can do it, anyway. I don't drink, and know all the words to both the REM song and "One Week." I can do them both well in my car. In front of a microphone, however, I struggle to keep up. And it's not "stage fright," at least for me. I did stand-up professionally for about 6 years.
#36
Old 10-26-2011, 01:56 AM
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I'vw never tried karaoke. I am well aware that I can't "carry a tune in a bucket".

But. I know which songs I can howl along with in the car without blowing out my own eardrums. Amazingly, almost all those listed here sound fine to my own ears when I sing along. Others (Heart, Zeppelin, Rosemary Clooney) sound horrible, to my ears, even when it's only me, in the car, by myself, with no other cars close enough to see me singing.

Obviously, I, and you, are missing something by me not singing in a bar on Friday night.

However, I would be willing to put up with the pointing and laughing for a significant contribution.
#37
Old 10-26-2011, 02:04 AM
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Chop Suey - SOAD.

Also, I thought Metallica songs would be easy to sing...
#38
Old 10-26-2011, 07:06 AM
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Originally Posted by boomerwang View Post
Also, I thought Metallica songs would be easy to sing...
Ahhh yes. I've sung songs by Metallica on rock band that can deceptively go out of my range quite sneakily. Not that I have that big a range to begin with.

Last edited by Ludovic; 10-26-2011 at 07:06 AM.
#39
Old 10-26-2011, 12:01 PM
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I would venture to say that Silent Lucidity would be very difficult, as well.
#40
Old 10-26-2011, 12:29 PM
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I think a lot of 80's hair metal falls into this because you don't always realize how high those guys were singing. My nomination is Livin on a Prayer by Bon Jovi. Those "WHOA OHs" are awfully high.
#41
Old 10-26-2011, 01:29 PM
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I was at karaoke and I thought "one" by U2 might be a nice easy song to sing. Wrong. The words aren't the hard part, its trying to mimic the feeling in the song.
#42
Old 10-26-2011, 03:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stauderhorse View Post
I'm sure tons of people have tried to sing "Don't Stop Believing" only to find they couldn't hold the really long notes. Anytime I've heard it done on karaoke nights it gets butchered pretty badly.
I can sing the hell out of that song at karaoke -- but then, I'm a chick.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ponch8 View Post
The high-pitched screeching in "What's Up" by the 4 Non Blondes must be pretty difficult to execute. I've tried singing it when I was by myself but never in front of anyone else.
I've performed that song (with a band, not at karaoke): what's deceptive is that the part you're talking about is actually neither particularly high-pitched nor screechy, it's just loud. And, therefore, not very difficult.

Last edited by Misnomer; 10-26-2011 at 03:08 PM.
#43
Old 10-26-2011, 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by woodstockbirdybird View Post
"Mr. Jones" I can see, but "Paranoid" surprises me.
I will say that there's something "deceptive" about Ozzy's voice, in that he doesn't sound like he's singing as high as he actually is. So you think, "that sounds easy", and then you try it and suddenly find you can't hit the notes. Sammy Hagar, same thing.
#44
Old 10-26-2011, 08:55 PM
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If one is trying to faithfully reproduce the original, then "Johnny B. Goode" belongs on this list, since most people don't realize that the last chorus is rhythmically different than the preceding two, or if they do realize it they are incapable of reproducing it. In the first two choruses, the first, "Go!" falls on the downbeat, and the "Go, Johnny, go!" begins on the upbeat at the end of the measure. The last chorus has the first "Go!" of each phrase begin on the upbeat before three and leading directly into the rest of the phrase, except for the final, "Johnny B. Goode", which reverts to the original rhythm. (I probably screwed up the explanation a bit; if someone more musically inclined wants to explain it better, please feel free).

It's my go-to song for live band karaoke, and the first time I sang it I got a raised eyebrow and an appreciative nod from the lead guitarist when I sang the final chorus a la Chuck Berry. I'd like to think I didn't completely cock up the rest of the song either.
#45
Old 10-26-2011, 09:12 PM
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"All I want" by Toad the Wet Sprocket is deceptively hard to sing...in fact it was so hard to get right in the studio that the band almost left it off the album.
#46
Old 10-29-2011, 01:36 AM
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For me, most of Boz Scaggs' hits are deceptively difficult to nail. If you go to a karaoke bar that shows you automatic feedback of pitch you can see just how much you miss by. I'm always slightly over or slightly under the changes.
#47
Old 10-29-2011, 08:00 AM
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I used to sing the backup female vocals for Pink Floyd's The Great Gig in the Sky for my band, and got accused of lip synching more than once. That cover took us almost 3 months to perfect.

I find trying to sing along to Rammsteins Stirb Nicht Vor Mir hard, the make voice and the female voice are just different enough to switch between very much like Joan Baez and Jeff Shurtleff in Drug Store Truck Driving Man. [It doesn't help that she and I have different base keys to our voices.]
#48
Old 10-29-2011, 08:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by woodstockbirdybird View Post
Yeah, Lennon's voice is the closest to mine, so I do him a lot at karaoke. I can pretty easily manage "Revolution", The Beatles' version of "You Really Got A Hold On Me", "Twist And Shout", etc. But "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" is murder, and I can imagine "(Just Like) Starting Over" would be hard - his voice is all over the place on that one.
Oh, and the other one was "Oh Yoko." Easy to sing sitting on the couch (even in C-sharp), hard to sell the falsetto into a mike over a full band and (a) not sound goofy and (b) not pass out.

It's only marginally pop music, I guess, and probably doesn't get karaoke'd much, but I find it really hard to sing Nick Drake. I'm not sure why. He's a guy with a low voice who seems to hang at the top of his range a lot, but there's something about his melodies that just sound wrong when sung by somebody else.
#49
Old 10-29-2011, 12:24 PM
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I'd also add Jack White to the list of singers whose work is generally hard to reproduce. I don't know how many utterly dreadful renditions of "Seven Nation Army" I've had to endure. I heard one last night which was actually pretty decent. I was astonished.

Quote:
Originally Posted by woodstockbirdybird View Post
I can imagine "(Just Like) Starting Over" would be hard - his voice is all over the place on that one.
I don't find it too bad, when dropped by one half-step. It's just a little tricky to get the timing on the transitions between verses - "It's been too long since we took the time" et al.

I've also been using a somewhat unconventional trick for "Imagine" -- sing it to the tune of "Folsom Prison Blues". They fit together almost perfectly.

Fortunately it's a little too ironic for people to lynch me over a song about love and pacifism.
#50
Old 10-30-2011, 01:35 AM
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My downfall at karaoke was Toto's "Africa". It was that change in pitch for "Gonna take a lot to drag me away from you" that got me Every Single Time. I can do high, but that sudden shift is apparently beyond me.
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