Sunday, July 11, 2010


Okay, I know people think karaoke is cheezy & all that. Perhaps that's true if you can't sing or live someplace where everyone who performs is terrible at it or the song selection stinks. Being forced to perform by "friends" also sucks if you hate being in front of crowds or can't sing.

But if you fit into one or more of these categories:

* A strict singer not a songwriter or musician
* Have a voice but no looks to make it in the business
* Not pursuing this stuff full time due to the need to pay bills, not living in a major city or having a steady career
* Are so talented people should be paying you to sing

then karaoke is one way in which you can hone your stage performance skills. I have a whole nuanced view on karaoke so here goes.

Karaoke for me is performing in front of strangers w/careful decision-making going into selecting the right song for yourself & your audience. One of the things I do is avoid picking something too overplayed, too well-known or too much like what other singers have been doing that evening. I'll be more likely to pick something older or lesser known. Some songs are also never in a book so if I see particular ones, I feel I have to sing them.

If you go to a karaoke place w/someone who is a performer, be prepared for the person to pour over the book for a long time. My husband comments on me doing this & noticed that a friend of mine we took to a karaoke night who was visiting from out of town did the same thing. She sang for my university's choral group & has real talent so I felt vindicated that it's not just me who considers this kind of thing. She, in fact, told me in college that I should try singing professionally b/c I'm that good at it. The most accurate category for me is semi-professional. I've had interest from professionals but I'm not in a position to spend the money to become famous or anything. I also can't get out of not singing if I ever go to karaoke w/someone who's heard me sing even once.

Karaoke is NOT singing in a private room, only in front of people who've heard you before or are your friends or singing at your home. That's hanging out w/your friends, who will say you're good even if you couldn't carry a tune in a bucket.

I think the true test of knowing whether you have real talent is when someone who can't stand you says you can sing. If people who hate your guts or don't really like you say you can do something, that means you're really good. Friends will be worried about your feelings & I think strangers who aren't in the business might also be concerned about that. I think to know you have real talent, you need feedback from strangers (especially talent scouts for your craft) & enemies.

So needless to say I'm the good singer in the group. When you go to karaoke in NYC, you will hear very good singers. Let me say that again w/feeling: VERY GOOD singers. I used to go to a karaoke place in Atlanta w/friends of mine & there were good singers there but anyplace I've been in NYC had some really talented people on stage. You'd better have balls of steel or be very good yourself if you want those crowds to give you applause. It's a true test of ability.

Because I'm a performer, I refuse to go to any karaoke place that has a food or drink minimum. First off, I don't drink & will get sick if I have anything but water. Second, I consider it paying to hear me sing & that's total BS since I'm talented enough that you should pay me. I would do singing contests if they weren't based on fees or popularity contests where people just cheer loudest for their untalented friends. I've only participated in such schemes where friends were around & wanted me to sing. Third, I don't patronize places that make one get something like they're trying to convert you to Jesus or something. If you don't force us, we might get something on our own.

These sorts of things aren't an issue in some places & the place I went to in Atlanta never harassed me about that. I even ended up dating a regular who introduced himself by buying me a bouquet of roses after I sang one night.

We used to go to this place in the city that didn't harass people on such things & had some very good singers. But after trying to go last night w/friends who were visiting, never again. To spare you New Yorkers, it's Keats Restaurant in Midtown.

We go in & first off, the singers we'd seen there before are gone. Now we hadn't been in a while but those singers had been regulars at one time. It's also much louder & filled w/more bad singing.

A waitress immediately approaches & flings menus in front of us. Now when we'd gone before, we weren't accosted by staff the instant we walked in. The menus also listed very pricey items. As I flipped through the song catalog, my husband & our friends were discussing leaving b/c of the waitress being absolutely insistent on getting orders. I figured someone might get bitchy about me getting water when I don't drink & will get sick if I have anything else. They don't sell bottled or sparkling water so it would be strictly tap.

My husband suggests telling people that you're Mormon if you don't drink so an establishment will get in trouble for trying to violate religious freedoms if they push non-drinkers to drink.

They wanted to go so I said "Fine with me." Though they are now doing it every night, it's a big disappointment w/minimums EVERY night that are apparently voraciously enforced. My husband wishes he knew where those regulars are singing now. I wish I could find a karaoke place that doesn't charge you to sing either in cover, per song or food/drink minimums. I only know of one place I'd go that has that & I'd have to be wanting to eat at that spot before going to meet their high minimum amounts (I believe it was $15 per person the last time I went). The food's pretty good but you have to be in the mood for it.

Generally, I consider minimums insulting since I am a performer & I put a lot into any stage performance that I do. That's just how I am. Whether I'm cheap or whatever, I do find it incredibly offensive to be told to pay you to hear me sing. Even subway musicians don't have to do that! You can be off-key & stupid in the subway without having to buy alcohol or pay someone to hear you. I've heard it.

So I'd love some suggestions on a karaoke place that meets my standards for any night other than a Tuesday (Friday or Saturday greatly preferred) & is located someplace reasonably safe + convenient to my home (as in, no driving).

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