Making karaoke backing tracks would seem a simple affair: find lyrics, obtain or create instrumental track, away you go. Get the instrumental right and the lyrics as right as you can and you would probably have a winner. But more subtle considerations should also apply, as a few FT writers’ trip to the karaoke last night proved. Track selection, mic volume and crowd enthusiasm were excellent, and after we had drunkenly hogged the mic early on it was probably sensible of the karaoke man to be sparing with later access. But two examples show how careless track programming can put the dampers on an evening:

What to leave out? A young lady got up to sing American Pie. The Don McLean version, not the Madonna one. But! Don recorded two versions of this song. A short one, rather cloying but not entirely without charm and boasting a big sing-a-long chorus, perfect for karaoke. And an enormous long one with 3000 verses, many of which have not been sung by anyone other than Don for 20 years now. The karaoke company had chosen this second for transcription, leading to a certain amount of fractiousness among the crowd as they sang chorus after chorus and the song still would not die.

What to leave in? We stepped up towards the end of the evening to sing No Good Advice by Girls Aloud, a marvellous record – which we treated shabbily, but that’s beside the point. Records by pop groups often split the vocal line in two – at the end of the GA song, 4 girls keep singing the chorus and one does a kind of half-rap which gives the tune a kick-ass ending and would be huge fun to finish a performance with. I say would because the karaoke people have programmed the singer to do the backing chorus not the talky bit, at which point our rendition fell apart in dismay. Such are the little choices that can make or break an night out.