If you’ve read the Way Back Wednesday columns before, you know that I frequently mention my affection for noraebangs and usually call out a song or two that are tried and true favorites for fellow norebang fans. I don’t know what it is about those little rooms with the flashing lights, over-reverbed amps, and spit-protector covered microphones, but as often as I’ve been, it’s always just as fun the next time I go. While many of you have probably frequented these establishments, there are some that have never been to one. So, with that thought, today’s article will be an ode to the noraebang; a few tips and proper etiquette guide for newbies, and a refresher course for the old pros. And then of course, we’ll take a look at some of our favorite songs from back in the day. Everyone has their own that I’m sure we’re missing, so grab some friends and go sing a song this weekend. You can be a K-pop star, even if only for a couple of hours.
Rules of the Norebang:
- Share the microphone. The #1 pet peeve of anyone who’s ever been to a noraebang has to be the Mic Hog. That one person who just grabs a hold of the mic and has like six songs lined up in a row. No matter how good of a singer you may be, no one goes to a noraebang to listen to a mini-concert of you singing. So, share the microphone. Let others have a chance to belt out their favorites and have their turn. The general rule of thumb is two songs in a row, you’re good to go. If you have three, let the mic go free.
- Don’t cut off people’s songs. The 2nd pet peeve of norebang enthusiasts: You know who I’m talking about; that one friend who’s decided that you’re singing just isn’t good enough so they cut you off and end the song. How rude! The chances of you or your friends becoming professional singers are slim, so relax. Maybe your friend can’t hold a tune, but it’s OK. Let them have fun.
- Singing is never required but it’s encouraged. Some people just don’t want to sing. Whether it’s because they’re just not into it, shy, or they are a little embarrassed by it, some just have an aversion to the microphone and that’s understandable. But try to sing at least one song. Norebangs are kind of a communal experience and you’ll have more fun if you participate. Who cares about the score (which can be removed!) or whether your intonation is correct. Cut loose, have fun, and sing. You’ll feel better if you do.
Now that we know the rules of the road, here are a few suggestions for anyone interested in some classics to enjoy at your local noraebang.
Seotaiji and Boys – “Come Back Home”
There’s really not much you can say about this song other than that it’s a classic. One of the biggest hits of the greatest group of all-time is always a staple, and should be high on anyone’s song list. Anyone who can do the dance gets extra credit.
Kim Jung Min – “Last Promise”
While known more today for his role as a commentator on the popular MBC show ‘We Got Married’, Kim Jung Min used to be one of the more popular rock balladeers of his day, and this song was one of his best. His growling style was very 90’s, but the song still holds up today.
Turbo – “Goodbye Yesterday”
Maybe the 2nd most popular song from their third album, “Goodbye Yesterday” was a reintroduction to the group following a few controversies and also welcomed new member Mikey to the mix. The song is a classic high-energy track with Kim Jong Gook’s octave shattering singing. The chorus will get the crowd singing along in no time.
Turbo – “Reminiscence”
If “Goodbye Yesterday” is the second most popular song, then this has to be the first. You haven’t really lived until you’ve crooned this classic with your friends. It’s got some ballad in it, some rapping, and is up there as one of the best songs to sing along to.
S.E.S – “I’m Your Girl”
As much as I love Fin.K.L, I was always an S.E.S fan at heart. It’s kind of like that first love versus the cute new girl at school. Ok, maybe not exactly like that but the trio and this song have a special place on my noraebang playlist and you can’t actually sing this song without doing the famous jumping jack/wave dance along with it. Fun fact, H.O.T member Moon Hee Jun actually choreographed this dance for the ladies and lucky for them, as it’s still one of the best down dances in K-pop.
Drunken Tiger – “Good Life”
Drunken Tiger songs are notoriously hard to sing… because they’re freaking hard. Keeping up with Tiger JK and DJ Shine‘s rapping is like trying to catch flies with chopsticks (well Mr. Miyagi did it so it is possible). Anyway, this song is one the group’s best and always a crowd pleaser if you can pull it off. Keep practicing!
Psy – “Champion”
Psy’s been in the news lately with the global popularity of his newest song “Gangnam Style“. But almost ten years ago, Psy unleashed his biggest hit to date with “Champion“. This song is still as good today as it was back then, and is one of the most fun songs you can sing with your friends.
Wax – “Oppa (Older Brother)”
While I’m sure everyone’s got their own personal anthems, I think many will agree that this song could be considered an unofficial anthem for the ladies in the audience. Wax’s 2000 debut album included this song that was made famous by Ha Ji Won and her cowboy hat and went on to be a huge hit for Wax and noraebang singers for years.
Lim Jae Bum – “Confession”
If Wax provided the unofficial anthem for all the girls, then Lim Jae Bum’s “Confession” from his 1998 third album is the anthem for all the boys. It is one of the most famous ballads in K-pop, and is also one of the hardest songs to sing. Lim Jae Bum’s voice was maybe the perfect vehicle to convey the pure surrender and emotion in the song. I guarantee that in some noraebang somewhere this weekend, a guy will try to impress a girl by taking on the challenge of “Confession” and more likely than not, he’ll come out on the losing end but so what; it’s always worth a try.
What are some of your favorite classic songs to sing at Noraebang?