Defending David Bowie

In a karaoke bar full of judgy drunks, someone had to do it

To the unknowing eye, this probably looks like a cool photo of me bringing down the house with my musical stylings. That’s exactly why I like it. But that’s not quite what was going on here.

It was my 26th birthday, and I was celebrating at a karaoke bar in the Times Square vicinity. If we’re being honest, it’s where I celebrated birthdays 23 through 27. (“One year older, but no more original,” you might say. “Thirty bucks for two hours of unlimited singing and adult beverages,” I might reply).

In the main room, there was one particular trio of girls monopolizing the mic. They seemed to be making their way through the entire Pussycat Dolls discography. I had already submitted my request of the Outkast song I always sing, (How about: “Another year older, another year of having great taste?”), but with the length of the sign-up list, it looked like I would be old and gray by the time it was my turn.

Then, it started playing. Not my song, but a song I do love. As the opening guitar riffs saturated the room, no one stepped up to claim their selection.

This wasn’t a song that I’d ever pick for karaoke. Especially not for this particular crowd. Every note was out of my vocal range. You can’t dance to it. Also, it wasn’t by the Pussycat Dolls, which I suspected would be an issue for some people.

I looked at the empty stage and then the surrounding faces, which all had a uniform expression that read as “Who picked this?” It provoked something strange within me — I felt protective over this song. I couldn’t let it be shamed and skipped. Also, I had a feeling it would be another hour before I’d get to unleash my abrasive rendition of “Hey Ya!” This was my chance. I marched up to the stage and grabbed the microphone with the greatest sense of purpose I’ve ever felt. I took a deep breath, filling my lungs to their limit. Then, I let it rip.

“ZIGGY PLAYED GUITAR! JAMMING GOOD WITH WEIRD AND GILLY! AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS!”

I caught the eye of my friend Tori, who scrunched up her face and mouthed to me: “What is this?”

“IT’S ZIGGY STARDUST!” I yelled into the mic and continued on.

The more the crowd disliked it, the more convicted I felt as I sang. During every painfully long musical interlude, I scream-sung into the microphone “I DIDN’T PICK THIS SONG! I’M JUST SINGING IT!” I wanted everyone to know I didn’t think this sounded good. Actually, it sounded pretty awful. It became clear that 26 would be the age in which I officially halted all efforts to impress.

But as you can tell by the photo, I gave it my all. I did it because it’s an awesome song, and it deserved to be sung. Even if it was by me. Even if no one else cared. Even if I have no idea what this song is actually about.

I got you, David Bowie.