Believe it or not, but Karaoke is cool. Unfortunately, us kiwis have preconceptions of it: we think it’s getting up on stage in front of strangers and singing along with words on a screen to complete strangers. Preconceptions become misconceptions.
Tonight, after a nice steak at the birthday party of my friend Matthew, he and his friends were gonna go and do some Karaoke. I was sceptical, as you can understand — I am the first to say “hell no” when it comes to karaoke. However, they mentioned that they were going to this place in Manners Mall — upstairs. There is only two bars on Manners, Hoops, a hip-hop bar on the ground floor, and the Pool Bar, which is a pool hall. Apparently, we weren’t going to either of those places. I was intrigued; I tagged along keeping an open mind.
Up the escalators in the Rock Shop Plaza and we reach the top floor just outside the Pool Bar. We don’t go in, but a couple of people from the group go up to “negotiate” our entry into “Oops! Karaoke”, a small complex of over 8 of what I could best describe as ‘karaoke booths’.
The seven of us are admitted and shown to a booth. The booth has 2 comfy couches, a table littered with vinyl covered books, a Korean remote control outclassing most label makers, two microphones connected by cables to a machine in the wall, which is also connected to 4 TVs in the wall.
Before I realise what is happening, a wig, a cowboy hat, and some tamborines are procured from the depths of the couches, and the lights dim and music begins. Two of the people have picked a song and are getting right into it, no waiting. I’m handed one of the vinyl books and told that the blue pages in this book are songs in English and advised to find a song I know and enter the code on the remote. I start flicking through the book, simultaneously listening to my new found Asian friends sing songs. (incidently, I’m the only non-asian in attendance) I’m sitting next to the birthday celebrant, who I know pretty well, and he’s singing a song I know REALLY well. He finishes a verse and hands me the mic. Everyone present encourages me to sing, so I do. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the songs we sang, but they were English pop songs that you’d probably know.
I get right into it, singing my best. When I’m done, a score comes up on the screen — 94. I guess it’s out of 100, because the birthday boy says that I did awesomely well. Well I’m not sure, but compared to one of the guys sitting across from me, I’m definitely doing okay 🙂
I proceed to find songs I know in the book, and sing along with the songs that others have picked that I know the tune to, singing into the microphone if it’s passed to me. I’m having a ball! But I hate karaoke!? This isn’t the same as in karaoke bars; This isn’t embarrassing; this is having fun with your friends! W00t! I pick a song, and when it comes up, my friends join in with me!
In the wall, the little karaoke machine is responding to the remote. You look up a song in the book and punch the number of the song into the remote, and press the big yellow “reserve” button. The number you punch appears on the TVs, with the title of the song in English and Korean next to it. The number and title of the next song up are along the screen. When one song ends, the next song begins.
Quickly I realise that the machine is quite simple: it is basically a library of MIDI files, with a loop of irrelevant video behind the lyrics. I spot a laminated sheet on the table that translates the Korean remote: not only does the remote program which songs we want to sing next, but the remote can change the speed of the music, change the key that the song is in, change the volume of the music, the volume of the microphones, the amount of echo in the microphones, and even a button to unleash canned applause, the latter of which I managed to activate after a rather good rendition of “My Heart will go On – Celine Dion”; a song easily hammed, but in this case, well deserved of an automated applause 🙂
The unit in the wall has a LED readout, one for the number of the song you’d punch in, but another for how many minutes we had left to sing. It started at ~70 minutes. At the end, we were having a really good time, and it let us sing our last song, then we left.
Would I do this kind of Karaoke again? You betcha. Making a fool of yourself in front of people you know, who are also making fools of themselves, is the best thing on earth. The fact that you’re doing your best to sing along to songs everyone already knows becomes hilarious and fun. Ask me 4 hours earlier if I’d have this much fun singing Karaoke and I’d have told you to get out of my face.
My name is Brett Taylor, and I like to sing karaoke with my friends.