Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Specs in the City: Notes from a Karaoke Novice

    There are many things in this world that perplex me. Filing taxes. The Krebs Cycle. Miley Cyrus. Spaghetti squash.

    But I recently witnessed a cultural phenomenon that I found quite incredible—rivaling even the puzzling things mentioned on that list.


    Karaoke is nothing new, necessarily—people have been participating in this entertainment for years—but I had never been privy to the inner workings and happenings of a karaoke bar until this week. It was fascinating.

    Here we have a really interesting juxtaposition of a few distinct groups of people. We have the first group that includes the friends who popped over to the bar after a long day in class or at the office. There to blow off steam, these people take their drinking more seriously than their singing; not that this prevents them from dancing to the stage for a rambunctious rendition of a Destiny’s Child hit.

    Then you have the regulars. This group consists of the loyal group of returners who have their set songs and cultivated confidence. They are the ones up there first, intent on singing Landslide before anyone else does. They chat it up with the deejay, strike up deals with the bartender, and leave before people start dancing to weirdly.

    And then we have the American Idol hopefuls. The one’s that fully acknowledge this as being their three and a half minutes of fame. This time, maybe, there could be someone important listening to them crooning John Legend. They don’t mind coming alone and singing alone—they just appreciate the cheers.

    So here we see them all in one place, the drunk, the devoted, the desperate—one activity binding us all together in what turns out to be one of the most fascinating cultural experiences I have ever seen.

    There is potential for humiliation. You are liable to fail. You are vulnerable.

    But though that is the danger of performance, that is not the culture of karaoke. Quite the contrary. You get up to sing in front of a crowd of people that will not let you fail. Any humiliation you might feel, someone else will share with you. Mistakes are forgotten instantaneously, if even noticed at all. You are cheered, encouraged and down right loved for even stepping foot on the stage.

    Karaoke has a reputation for being painful—at least that is the impression I get from films—but the reality is, I’ve never seen so much support in one room with so many different people. The drinks help, obviously, but I really got the impression that people just wanted a loud song to let them wave their arms and shake their booty.

    Somehow, between the off-pitch notes to Katy Perry songs and the air guitar to Bon Jovi hits, people found a community among strangers—as though they went there, not expecting good music, just expecting a good time.

    And, I guess, that really isn’t perplexing at all.

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    Colleen Fontana, Author

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