Goofs and Gadflies

Friday, April 08, 2005

Karaoke Sex Addicts and Reality Television

Everybody knows somebody who loves karaoke. I mean, really *LOVES* it. The same could be said about Reality TV. Seinfeld joked for years about having created a show about nothing, and now we have a plethora of programs all with the premise that: If you follow interesting people around long enough, something interesting will happen. As for karaoke, is there anyone who *hasn't* wanted to stick their head in a gas oven as someone truly awful gets up on stage to sing? Or have to sit through attempts to blast a touching ballad with the deft precision of a Parkinson's sufferer playing Operation? What then brings these two topics together today? Karaoke and Reality TV both tap into our human nature to observe and be observed on a basic level. We are a world consumed with knowing that we are all watching and being watched.

It bothers me that American Idol exists, but it bothers me more that millions of people drop a few coins each week to exercise their democratic rights to listen to bad music. At this point I am tempted to just call it American Karaoke and dismiss it entirely as the result of a nation suffering from artistic rejection. If creativity was an organ, like say the liver, the American public is Larry Hagman with a raised middle finger and a martini. But the hordes of fans voting and discussing the losers each week, makes me think perhaps I am the one who missed the boat. Granted, I don't watch TV. Which makes me hard pressed to compare American Karaoke, to another Reality TV show like the Apprentice or Super Queer Nanny for the Straight Guy who wants to marry a millionaire. I come from a more simple time. Law and Order was, well, Law and Order. There was nothing after the name, just solid drama every week. I hear next year they are coming out with Law and Order:CSI and Law and Order:OC This is the one where the force investigates crimes committed in Orange County.

On the other hand, it doesn't bother me that karaoke exists. It's the karaoke culture that has me mystified. Like Ultimate Frisbee, Amway, and Death Cab for Cutie, karaoke inspires an almost cultlike devotion from its followers. I can see why people could like any one of the above. I've seen Ultimate being played (Did you know there's no referee in Ultimate?) I've tried the dish detergent from Amway. And I have seen the Livejournals of many angst filled young women who claim that DCFC just gets them so emo they could cry me a rivers cuomo. I went to a karaoke bar on Sunday and had a drink and belted out a tune myself. It reaffirmed my suspicion that being good at karaoke can get you laid. The only caveat is that you are getting laid by a fellow karaoke enthusiast. Which means the validation must be constant and plentiful. (That was good, right?) Plus, if you hang out at the same bar for more than a year, chances are you will have slept with a few of your fellow patrons. Why else would you sing karaoke on a regular basis, if not to get with the fellow karaoke singers? Well, why do we do anything for that matter? If not just for the pleasure of curling up with a stranger in the back seat of a Volkswagen? The motivations of life amuse me. As my mom always told me: "Life's a bitch, and then you die."

We like to watch people struggle. The difference between life and American Karaoke is that people want to see failure. They want to be able to have conclusive opinions on the suckitude of others. They want to judge because that means they have power. It's an escape from the 9-5 where the boss is riding your ass for the monthly discrepancy reports to be completed in alphabetical triplicate. More than a water cooler chat topic, Reality TV allows us to feel better about ourselves. No longer is the idiot box the exclusive bastion of the photogenic and lithe. The new reality is that people like Ryan Seacrest and Ben Mulroney pretend to have affection for people they under normal circumstances would be telling how to prepare their capuccino. Just like Karaoke allows dental assistants and real teachers to be transformed into Instant Stars for three minutes and forty seconds, Reality TV is letting the aesthetically challenged have their Warholian moment. In essence, Reality TV is like the Special Olympics; Where EVERYONE is a winner.

It says here that Reality TV and karaoke are fads that will dance with the ebb and flow of the cultural shifts. Eventually art bars and coffee house poetry readings will flourish again like they did in the 1970s'. Right now we are in a time of cultural extroversion. We are so busy watching others and imitating people we have forgotten the importance of content. When we once again have a unifying issue to struggle against, we will resume the culture of introspection. This critical introspective thinking leads to more interpretation, which is released in the form of artistic impression. Or perhaps if my paranoid suspicions are correct and that we are suffering from a lack of thought, we could be in for a long spate of lethargic and untaxing media art displays. Either way, I'll be fine. I've got enough books to sit out 10 seasons of The Bachellorette, Making the Band, and Pimping Her Ride.


  • To me, karaoke is the most terrifying thing in the world. It is something I've always wanted to do, but haven't been brave enough to. It wouldn't be for fame, nor attention, judgement or glory; I would like to feel the kind of freedom I feel when completely alone, singing along with my favourite songs, alone, exposed on a stage. I've always thought it a metaphor for expressing who we are, authentically, rather than displaying what we think they want from us. But most people do the latter on stage (life) anyway, so... what do I know?

    By Blogger Comrade Chicken, At 9:21 AM  

  • You see, the song I chose was "Creep" by Radiohead. It is the story of my life. So when I sing it, I really mean it. I'm not only singing the words, I'm emoting what Thom Yorke felt when he put pen to paper.

    I only sing songs in Karaoke that I can relate to. Which explains why I consider "Yellow Submarine" to be a safe harbour for my karaoke talents. See, I am down with the man by the sea.

    By Blogger Rye, At 2:18 PM  

  • Only once have I dared to belt it out at a Karaoke bar...I think I sang "Brandy" by some 70's one-hit wonder. It was then, unfortunately, that I realized my vocal range sux. Regarding reality TV...well, all I know is that since giving my TV away a month ago, I am a much happier girl...there are many fewer problems in one's head when the Michael Jacksons, Terri Schiavos and Ryan Seacrests aren't even allowed to surface on the horizon. My microcosm is smaller and much cozier now... :)

    By Blogger Sandy, At 4:56 PM  

  • The only caveat is that you are getting laid by a fellow karaoke enthusiast.

    Oh, how that made me laugh. :)

    I tried karaoke once. Wasn't drunk enough to fully enjoy it, though.

    By Anonymous Davina, At 8:21 PM  

  • I used to enjoy karaoke on a regular basis, but after a while, it gets really old. You hit the nail on the head about sleeping with the patrons, but not necessarily fellow singers. It's amazing how sexy a woman becomes when she can sing White Rabbit & Somebody to Love just like Grace Slick. But, here's my bottom line observation of karaoke: the drunker you are, the better I sound!

    By Blogger M, At 9:35 PM  

  • Don't be slandering karaoke, now...
    Comrade Chicken is right, it's scary because it's so bare. I love to see people the way they see themselves, it's so much more interesting than seeing the face they show to others during the "work day."

    By Anonymous Esther, At 9:29 AM  

  • This is why I have a karaoke machine that I break out at parties when everyone is good and drunk.

    By Blogger Crazy Girl City, At 10:26 PM  

  • *grin* What is a better party lube than a karaoke machine?

    I am getting back to Tampa. I AM going to the Dali museum.

    Thanks for stopping by.


    By Blogger Rye, At 6:52 AM  

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