Singing YouTube karaoke through the pandemic brought me and my boyfriend closer

Singing YouTube karaoke through the pandemic brought me and my boyfriend closer
The author and her boyfriend got to know each other better by singing their favorite songs to each other.Courtesy of Katharine Robertson
  • My boyfriend and I started dating during the pandemic, staying six feet apart at first.
  • We're both into music and started singing YouTube karaoke together.

I met my boyfriend, Alex, for the first time in a park halfway between our homes in Toronto in the summer of 2020. We had already bonded a little through Tinder messages and texts, particularly when it came to our jobs, because he's an editor and journalist, too.

But that day in the park, sitting six feet apart and sipping cans of cider, we really connected on music, gossiping about the local music scene, gently teasing each other about the bands we loved as teenagers, and commiserating over the shows we'd bought tickets for that had been canceled on account of the pandemic.

After that, we continued seeing each other under the constraints of lockdown. No movies, restaurants, or concerts for us.

Instead, we'd walk around, watch little-league baseball, or cook dinner for each other. At some point, I suggested we sing a few karaoke songs on YouTube to do something different. Alex, maybe because he also sings and plays music in bands, didn't hesitate.

Music became our way to get to know each other better

At first, we chose songs we'd each sung before at proper karaoke nights or felt comfortable enough doing. For me, it was Britney Spears and Tom Petty. He introduced me to Squeeze, a band started in the late 1970s that I'd never heard before, and of course, he belted out some Red Hot Chili Peppers — a band I don't think I fully understand, but he loves them so much, he even has a little pepper tattooed on his butt as a tribute.


As we became more comfortable singing to each other, we started choosing songs we hadn't heard in years but were part of our histories.

As I sang Pulp, Boyz II Men, the Fugees, Hole, and Pavement to him, and he sang the Tragically Hip, Kendrick Lamar, The Smiths, New Order, and Loretta Lynn to me, we'd talk in between about growing up, what we were embarrassed about liking, and what still surprisingly holds up.

We'd talk about the music our parents listened to and the first bands we saw live. My parents loved Neil Young, the Pretenders, Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, and Carole King, so I sang them. His parents loved Enya — tough for karaoke — along with The Who, the Beatles, Tears for Fears, and Billy Bragg, so he sang them to me.

We learned where our tastes converged — even though it's probably been years since either of us has heard "Mr. Jones" by Counting Crows, we both know every bit of vocal inflection and flair. And where they diverged — Nickelback's "Photograph" is a good song, and I will die on this hill.

But we're not just looking back, there's an element of discovery to it, too. Like the day we went through nearly every song off Green Day's "Dookie," an album we both know well, rediscovering how great the lyrics are. And there's the rush of putting a song on that you're not sure you know at all and trying to work it out in the moment. Or we help each other through the phrasing and melodies, sometimes even daring to take a stab at a harmony.


It's wildly uncool, and I understand if you're cringing. But it's not for anyone else, it's just us — and maybe my neighbors, who amazingly have not yet complained.

Alex moved in with me last year, and we're going to our first show together: one of my faves, Big Thief. But even though concert venues are open again and we can finally go on some dates, I suspect every once in a while we'll stay in, fire up YouTube, and sing the night away.