Most of us can’t sing, and shouldn’t sing. The percentage of the population that can sing with any degree of expertise is painfully small, something like .001. The rest are just pushing their luck if they open their mouths and something remotely musical comes out.
But that doesn’t stop people from trying. If you go to your nearby mall, you will undoubtedly encounter one deluded nimrod who sings along to the piped-in Musak while you’re waiting in line for a cappuccino. When you’re in a car with friends, there’s always one who can’t just listen to the classic song that just came on the radio, he has to sing along to it — and, of course, he’s always the worst singer of the bunch.
There is really only one sanctuary for the vocally challenged, and that is his or her own shower.
Researchers have determined through careful study that people who ordinarily can’t sing a lick in public somehow sound two to three levels better inside their own showers. It could be the acoustics of the tiled walls. It could be that the privacy of one’s own shower affords the would-be crooner the freedom to delve deep into his own creative reservoir and produce his best work.
Or it could simply be that because there is usually no one else around besides the shower singer, there are no other witnesses to testify as to his awfulness.
With the “singing in the shower” phenomenon sweeping the nation — pollsters estimate that four out of five people who bathe regularly sing, or at least hum, while doing so — here is a list of suggested songs that are a must for any bathroom performer. Please remember that these are to be sung in private showers only, not in places like gymnasiums where others might be subjected to it. The last thing we need here is litigation:
“BABY WORKOUT” by Jackie WilsonIdeally, this is a number you sing before you go to the gym, not afterward in the shower. But formality be damned, this is a lively, rousing, up-tempo anthem to dancing in particular and physical activity in general. Jackie became a boxer while serving time in a juvenile detention center, so he knew a thing or two about working out. While performing in a 1975 Dick Clark road show in Camden, New Jersey, Jackie hit his head, fell into a coma and died eight years later. “Now when you get out here, don’t you have no fear, put your hands on your hip and let your backbone slip, and work out.” You can shout this song toward that microphone-showerhead of yours and pay tribute to Jackie’s glory days.
“FLY ME TO THE MOON” by Frank SinatraAny self-respecting washing warbler must have this in his or her repertoire. The song was written by Bart Howard, a New York cabaret performer of the 1950s. It was first recorded by Kaye Ballard in 1954 and later by Tony Bennett, Mabel Mercer and Peggy Lee. Sinatra’s version never made the Top 40, although a cover by Joe Harnell, his conductor and arranger for many years, did make it to No. 14. “Fly me to the moon, let me play among those stars, let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.” If you want to snap your fingers along with the song, you should probably wait until after the shampoo and conditioner phases.
“MONA LISA” by Nat King ColeThe song itself is sublime, but this belongs on any shower list because everybody wishes they could sing like Nat King Cole, even though he once said this: “I’m a musician at heart. I know I’m not a real singer. I couldn’t compete with real singers. But I sing because the public buys it.” An accomplished jazz pianist, he broke out in the 1940s with the Nat King Cole Trio, but “Mona Lisa” became his first mainstream crossover hit in 1950. This requires a silky smooth delivery, so if your shower is especially noisy, you might want to wait until the toweling-off period.
“ROCK THE CASBAH” by The ClashSometimes, you just feel like a punk. I know how it is. You want to rebel. You want to defy the establishment. You want to scream, “I’m not washing my hair today! Anybody got a problem with that?!” Nothing satisfies those moments of rebelliousness in the shower quite like The Clash. Supposedly the Middle Eastern theme stemmed from the Clash’s protest over the suppression of Western music and influence by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini. “By order of the prophet, we ban that boogie sound, degenerate the faithful, with that crazy casbah sound.” But you’re free to rail against anything, from your stupid boss to your irate spouse who, in need of the facilities, is banging on the door.
“CAN'T TAKE MY EYES OFF OF YOU”
by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
I realize that a lot of couples like to shower together. With that in mind, a suggested romantic prelude to some mutual soaping is this sexy standard that has held up beautifully since its release in 1967 (remember the pre-war sing-along bar scene in “The Deer Hunter”?). By all means, sing a duet to this. But if you have a small shower and you start gyrating with passion on the words, “I love you baby, and if it’s quite already I need you baby, to warm the lonely night,” make sure you and your mate don’t bonk your heads on the tile. Also, don’t forget that Frankie recently appeared as a mobster on “The Sopranos.” So if you butcher his song, you might want to inquire about witness protection.
“SUSPICIOUS MINDS” by Elvis Presley
I would be remiss if I left out The King in any shower-singing scenario. His catalogue is extensive and there are many possibilities to choose from. But ‘Suspicious Minds” has the perfect mix of sultry voice and churning rhythm that great wet wannabe singers look for. This cut represented a comeback of sorts for Elvis, because it was his first chart-topper after going seven years without a No. 1 in the U.S., and as it turned out, it would be his last. “We’re caught in a trap, I can’t walk out, because I love you too much baby.” This song is about jealousy, so you’d be advised to sing this when your significant other is out of the house. Otherwise, he or she may think something’s up — unless, of course, that’s the message you want to convey.
“STACY’S MOM” by Fountains of Wayne“Stacy’s mom has got it going on.” This song should only be sung by young men. Because if you’re in your 40s or 50s and you’re still fantasizing about your buddy’s mom, you don’t need a shower, you need an emotional cleansing. Actually, bandmember Adam Schlesinger said it was partly inspired by a friend who had a crush on Schlesinger’s grandmother when they were both 12. But they felt a song about a grandmother would have been pushing it. Good idea. In the video, Rachel Hunter plays Stacy’s mom, an inspired choice indeed. For qualified shower vocalists, it would help to have a window that looks out onto a neighbor’s yard, and it would also be an immense plus if the lady next door is in her late 30s and piping hot.
“EIGHT DAYS A WEEK” by the BeatlesThis song has a curious pedigree. It was No. 1 on the U.S. charts in 1965, but was not released in the U.K. as a single. Also, the Fab Four never performed this in concert, although they did once before a live audience on a British TV show. Still, it is one of the band’s best and most underrated cuts. “Hold me, love me, hold me, love me, I ain’t got nothin’ but love, babe, eight days a week.” Everybody has their favorite Beatle — John? Paul? Ringo? George? — and you can make believe you’re holding up that particular vocal part. But sing this before your hair gets wet, so you can maintain the full mop-top effect.
“DAYDREAM BELIEVER” by the MonkeesSeriously, who really enjoys getting up early for work? This is the ideal accompaniment to your morning routine. “Oh, I could hide ‘neath the wings, of the bluebird as she sings, the six o’clock alarm would never ring, whoops its ringing and I rise, wipe the sleep out of my eyes, my shaving razor’s cold and it stings.” But you probably shouldn’t sing this while you’re actually shaving, or else when you finish the spirited chorus — “cheer up, Sleepy Jean, oh what can it mean to a daydream believer and a homecoming queen” — your face might look like a road map of a densely populated city. The Monkees were quasi-rivals of the Beatles, so if you sing “Eight Days a Week” before sudsing yourself and “Daydream Believer” after, you’ll represent two continents in one wash cycle.
“COLD, COLD HEART” by Hank WilliamsLet’s face it, sometimes love hurts. And no matter how bad a singer you may be, no one would ever begrudge you the chance to warble wistfully over that special someone while you loofah your armpits. This 1951 B-side of “Dear John” has become Hank’s most popular recording, covered by many including Tony Bennett, the Cowboy Junkies and Norah Jones. “In anger unkind words are said that make the teardrops start, why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart.” Hank was only 29 when he died, so while you sing this, take a close look at your body and make sure you’re not ruining it with too much hard living.
Michael Ventre is a Los Angeles-based writer who has been known to sing in beer lines. He is a regular contributor to MSNBC.com.