With the country as open as it’s been since the first COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, you may be planning a return to an indoor group activity that was unthinkable before the vaccines: karaoke. You could get one of those little private rooms and belt out songs in each other’s faces for a couple hours without undue risk. But it’s been a while. You could be rusty. How to ease back in?
You can sing karaoke sober, of course — nothing illegal about that — but there’s a reason this pastime pairs so well with booze. It’s about shedding your inhibitions and giving yourself up to the music. Committing to the performance. Seeing your friend try a dramatic lunge during “Bennie and the Jets” and tearing a hole in the crotch of his jeans. (Scott, buddy, you’re a legend for that one.) All these joys derive, in part, from intoxication. Yet, as with any drinking, it’s all too easy to overdo it. Next thing you know, you’re getting 86’d from the bar for dropping the mic after an especially tone-deaf, low-effort rendition of Smash Mouth’s “All Star.” Not good.
Therefore, you have to know your window. The exact level of drunk for optimized showmanship.
Some of this will naturally depend on individual tolerance and effects. And you don’t always control the timing of when you take the stage. Still, we can game out the process of getting turnt to identify the most promising areas for unleashing your inner rock star. Let’s say you have one “standard drink” — a glass of wine, a well cocktail or a 12-ounce light beer. A 150-pound person will, on average, have a blood alcohol content of 0.03 percent, resulting in a “mild” intoxication that may leave you feeling “slightly warmer and more relaxed.” This drinker is what you’d casually refer as “buzzed,” and they’ll probably be less nervous about taking a crack at “Mr. Brightside.” Keep in mind, though, that weight and gender are a factor here: Someone heavier will be less drunk after one beverage, while someone lighter will be more buzzed. And because men metabolize alcohol faster than women, thanks to the activity of a particular enzyme, the effects of that one drink will wear off faster for them, and they could slip back down to 0.01 BAC.
One study found that a single drink can impair your decision-making. All the more reason to pick your song before ordering a first round, am I right? The upside, however, is that your lightheaded sense of euphoria doesn’t come with delayed reaction times or coordination problems. You should be able to read (or remember) the lyrics, strut your stuff and have fun without faceplanting. It’s after you’ve absorbed two drinks that a karaoke set can start going off the rails. At BAC of 0.04 to 0.06, you’re reaching the upper limits of “buzzed,” your ability to process the alcohol is diminished (so it’s staying in your bloodstream longer), and reasoning and memory are affected. Less than ideal, though the bigger problem is a gradual loss of control over small muscles, which makes your vision blurry. You don’t want to be squinting at a screen.
Once you’ve downed drink three, you might feel extremely confident, but it’s all downhill from here. Decent odds say you’ll cross 0.08 percent BAC, the legal limit for driving. Speech, eyesight, coordination and reaction times are all impaired. No more “buzz,” you’re plain old drunk, and hardly in peak condition for that Whitney Houston cover you recklessly decided on. Let someone else have the mic, because your moment — I’d pinpoint it at 1.5 drinks into the evening — has passed. On the other hand, if it’s just you and your friends getting extra sloppy and screaming along to every tune… then vaya con dios, and try not to trip on the cord.
Otherwise, prepare to become someone else’s amusing anecdote about “that time a guy tried to do Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ and puked when it got to the guitar solo.” Trust me, even if you’re too far gone to realize what’s happened, the audience won’t soon forget.