Monday, November 7, 2011

Karaoke Rule Number 1: If you can sing stay the hell out.

Saturday night I went out to a bar in Wrigleyville for some live band karaoke. A friend of mine knew some people in the band and was going to be singing Knowledge by Operation Ivy so I felt that it was something to be seen, especially since the same friend used to sing Knowledge with my crappy ska band back in the day. I'd never been to live band karaoke but I assumed it was similar to regular karaoke except that the band might mess up the songs a little bit, which to their credit they did not. The crowd seemed to be on the same wavelength as far as musical choice as well so there was a lot of alternative/punk songs along with a few oddities thrown in. The crowd went nuts when someone sang King of Wishful Thinking by Go West which sort of threw me for a loop, if you have the time I highly recommend watching the video from this song. I really miss the period of the 80's when singers in music videos felt the need to shake as if they were having a seizure as they sang, but I digress, back to the karaoke.

About halfway through the night a girl walks up to the stage and announces that she is going to be singing "Piece of my Heart" by Janis Joplin. Immediately I was terrified. One of the pitfalls of karaoke is that there are a few artists that people insist on imitating and rarely can they even come close to doing the song justice. This is why I stick to songs by people who aren't very good at singing in the first place, like Dylan or Danzig. Men always tend to pick Frank Sinatra songs and butcher them, women tend to gravitate toward destroying Janis Joplin songs. 9 times out of 10 it is atrocious due to a lack of singing talent or lack of Southern Comfort and sometimes a combination of the two. It's infuriating to hear great songs completely butchered but it's part of the risk you take by going out to see karaoke.

As I was prepared for some horrible warbling it turns out I was wrong, this girl could really sing. In fact I would go as far as to say that it was a dead on perfect rendition. She was so good that I almost didn't believe that it was karaoke at all. You would think that I would be ecstatic that I was hearing the first ever good version of a Joplin song sung at karaoke but you would be terribly mistaken. I was enraged. This broad had a fantastic voice and she should be in a band somewhere singing her heart out. Instead she decided to show up at karaoke and make everyone else who sang that night look like complete amateurs who are horrible at singing. Of course, everyone else who sang was a complete amateur but that's the whole point of karaoke. It's so those of us who aren't talented enough to sing in a band get to live out our rock and roll dreams and maybe, just maybe, get the Japanese businessman in the back to give us a nod affirming we did a decent job. A talented singer doing karaoke in a bar is the equivalent of Mike Tyson sparring with a 6 year old. There's no doubt that he'll knock the kid out but should he really be puffing out his chest and feeling good about it?

Even though I was awed by the talent of Janis Joplin Jr. I was furious about the way she showed up everyone by being talented. I'm sure part of the reason is that I was jealous since I have the kind of singing voice that makes Tom Waits sound like Dean Martin and I know that on stage I would freeze up and forget the words to Happy Birthday, but isn't that the point? There's no chance in hell that I'd be singing on stage in any other situation. When I go to karaoke my drunk ass gets to belt out tunes for a room just as drunk and tone deaf as myself and we all live under the delusion that we rocked. When someone talented shows up it puts us back in our place and kills those delusions.

Luckily a singer or two later my palette was cleansed by someone who understood that karaoke isn't about singing a perfect song, it's about being a drunken buffoon. And as he stripped his pants and climbed onto a chair while screaming incoherently I couldn't help but think that the situation had been fixed and that all was right with the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment