By Mandi Bierly
Updated March 02, 2007 at 11:16 PM EST
Credit: Paul Rider/Retna

Karaoke. It’s a polarizing word. But in the anonymity of the PopWatch Confessional, where no one knows it’s you they’re judging, can’t we all just admit that we love it and help each other choose a good song?

It’s been nearly two years since I last karaoked. During my 30th birthday weekend in the Poconos, which also included murder-mystery dinner theater, adventure mini-golf, and a mimosa-and-Dunkin’ Donuts tailgate at a NASCAR race. (Seriously, I hate me too.) I’m feeling the urge again, but I think it’s time to retire my signature song, Bon Jovi’s “Wanted: Dead or Alive.” Not everyone needs to give it up, mind you — let’s not talk crazy here — but I do. The amount of hostility I feel toward people who do the Richie “want-ed”/”want-ed-ed-ed” parts during the first chorus — when he doesn’t — isn’t healthy.
So, keeping in mind the time we’ll all need to master new material before National Karaoke Week (April 22 – 28), let’s retrieve those memories you’ve tried so hard to repress and talk about the songs that killed and the songs that should have killed but didn’t. General tips (like no one wants to sit through your 8 1/2-minute rendition of “American Pie,” I promise) are also welcome. I’ll start:

– Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”: It’s the only acceptable Celine song. And only if you’re willing to sell it like she does and make every note an event (kinda like a shouting match). “There were moments of gold/ And there were flashes of light/ There were things we’d never do again/ But then they’d always seemed right/ There were nights of endless pleasure/ It was more than any laws allow…” (Wait for it. Wait for it.) “Ba-by, ba-by, ba-by…”

addCredit(“Paul Rider/Retna”)

– The Cranberries’ “Zombie”:Accents are always good. As is imitating Dolores O’Riordan’s uniqueinflections, which I now realize won’t translate in print, but since Ijust spent like 20 minutes transcribing them… “What’s in your heee-ad/ In your he-e-e-ad/ Zom-om-bay, Zom-om-bay/Zom-om-bay(ah)-ay(ah)-ay(ah)-ay(ha)/ Oh(oh), Oh(oh), Oh(oh), Oh(oh),Oh(oh), Oh(oh), Oh(oh)/ Hey-ey-ahhhhh, yah, yah, yah.”

– Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two”: The second that beat drops, everyone bounces.

– Reba McEntire’s “Fancy”:Story songs can be dangerous, but not when they involve prostitution.And come with built-in background vocals. “Yes, she was!”

– Missy Elliott’s “Work It”: Works best if done by a male. Like my EW cubemate Gilbert Cruz, whose performance of it is legendary. [Editor’sNote: Trust her, it is STUNNING. He put his thang down, flipped it, ANDreversed it at my own 30th-birthday karaoke party back in June. –Dawnie Walton]

– Pat Benatar’s “We Belong” and “Love Is a Battlefied”: I’d like to say I’ll retire these, as well, but who am I kidding?

– Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”:A good judge of the crowd (do they do the “So good, So good, So good”part?), but if you’re a lady, be careful not to do this before yourvoice is warmed up. Neil goes deep.

– Any hair metal song: Know your range. This tip comes courtesy ofEW hair metal expert Dan Snierson, who originally tried to tell me thathe doesn’t really karaoke… but then rattled off all the songs thathave burned him: Ratt’s “Round-n-Round”, Van Halen’s “Panama”, Def Leppard’s “Photograph“, and Skid Row’s “I Remember You”to name a few. He suggests hair metal selections come with a pre-song”recommended range” vocal test, so we can avoid those mid-song “It’stoo late. I’m in it. I’m f—ed” moments.

Your turn.