Jan 8, 2007

Empty Orchestra Fun Time!

Karaoke (which, in case you were wondering, means "empty orchestra") is a brilliant invention. I'm not just talking about singing to songs that have had the vocal track cut out, I mean the whole karaoke experience. In the states, one must sing in front of an entire bar of strangers. Here in Nihon, however, the setup is somewhat different. Instead of having to belt out Madonna in front of a bunch of total strangers, you and your friends get a room where you can belt stuff out to your heart's content by yourselves.
Because no one seems to hang out at people's residences here, karaoke places seem to serve as an important sort of "default" activity. "Where do you want to go?" "Let's go to karaoke," is quite the common interchange. So, you're all there in a room, singing, and can order drinks and snacks from the conveniently placed phone. It's how people just sort of hang out.
Sadly, most of the music that I'd like to try my hand at singing isn't available at karaoke places. The Magnetic Fields just haven't made it here yet. But, I've found plenty of songs that I enjoy singing, as well as a few that I crash and burn at. Here's a non-exhaustive rundown-

I Fought the Law by the Clash
For some reason, this is consistently the only Clash song that Karaoke places have (and it's not even a whole Clash song, as it's a cover of a Crickets song). While I'd quite like to try Rudy Can't Fail, Train In Vain, or This England, these (and everything else by the Clash) seem to be oddly absent. I Fought the Law is a fun one, though. It's basic and enthusiastic, and is a good evening-opener for getting people excited to belt stuff out.

Burning Down the House by the Talking Heads
I love the Talking Heads. Not just because they're all musically talented (they were) are had a lady bassist (sexy and nifty). I admire them because they were all weird and nerdy and quirky yet were still "cool" or something. This was a group composed of total weirdos, and yet they were able to milk their own geekyness for all it was worth and be considered all hip and interesting.
Do I like to contemplate such socio/musical feats when I sing Burning Down the House? Maybe a little.

Everything by U2

I am not Bono. No matter how much I may care about third world debt whilst wearing sunglasses, I will continue to not be Bono. As such, I fail miserably at singing any and all U2 songs.

Mack the Knife by Bobbie Darin
This is rapidly becoming my favorite karaoke song, as it's one of those respected standards, but I can actually sing it. Also, it's fun to sing about mobsters.

Bullet With Butterfly Wings by the Smashing Pumpkins
"Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage," is one of the most fun lines in modern music. It's got everything: It rhymes, for instance, and is about a strong emotion- rage. Also, it has a metaphore- a rat in a cage. On top of that, the line repeats over and over again, quite loudly, to better emphasize how rage-feeling and rat-in-cage-like Billy Corgan is.
So, it's tons of fun to loudly shout this over and over again while screwing up your face to look very angry. Though doing this might scare some people.

Anything by the Red Hot Chili Peppers
I know, I know. The Chili Peppers are easily dismissed by people with "cool" and "hip" musical taste as mindless "cock rock." I suppose the animosity comes from the fact that people with mainstream musical taste tend to think of the Chili Peppers as "all edgy and shit," when in fact they are "mainstream" and "surrounded by quotation marks."
But, they're great for karaoke. A lot of their songs (like Give It Away Now and Snow) are very fast, so they sound hard. But really, they actually flow quite easily and aren't too challenging. So, you can sound all rhyme-y without straining yourself. It's like rap with training wheels.

Creep by Radiohead
Don't sing this. It's a fine song, but it will kill any sense of fun that people around are experincing. Also, if you are not Thom Yorke you will sound whiny while declaring yourself a creep. I know these things.

I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That) (radio version) by Meatloaf
This song rocks.
Admit it. You love it. Bask in its warm, cheesy glow. Deep down in your rock-n-roll loving heart, you secretly want to bob your head back and forth close your eyes bite your lower lip, and proceed to rock out. The piano, the power chords, the powerful crescendos. It is a thing of eighties arena beauty, circa 1993.
I.W.D.A.F.L.(B.I.W.D.T.) is a some serious A list Karaoke. It's simple, it's easy to sing, and you can get the rest of the group singing along with you during the drum-heavy refrains. Pure rocking awesome. The last time I sang this song I shouted out "My name is Robert Paulson!" and towards the end and was the only one who found it funny. Still, the song rocks.

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