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I've watched enough American Idol to know my voice is not winning any singing contests, but karaoke is a completely different ballgame. I figured with the right song and enough bad contestants, anything could be possible last Thursday, when I met up at Wingmasters in Ballard with some friends for a karaoke competition. Five of us signed up, and I loved the odds; we were all seasoned karaoke pros, and out of ten contestants, I thought for sure at least one of us would place among the top two qualifiers for the next round in a citywide competition.
I got there early and caught some singers doing their warm-up songs. A guy that qualified at Kate's Pub the night before sang "Rehab" by Amy Winehouse--he was total garbage. Seriously, he could barely stay in tune. I felt really good about our chances after hearing him. Of all the trial runs, this lady that sang The Motels' "Only the Lonely" was by far the one to beat. She totally nailed that mysterious Martha Davis voice. I got up and did "Badlands" by Springsteen. It was okay, but my voice was a bit shaky due to nerves.
At 10, KJ Josh announced it was time to get things going. He introduced the two judges and explained what their scoring would be based upon. One of the judges kicked off the competition with a song, and after five seconds of hearing his godawful voice, I realized he had no business judging. I decided to observe him as he watched the contestants. There was something definitely not right about him.
I was selected to sing first, and chose to do another Boss cut, "Thunder Road." It's one of my staples, but I realize in retrospect I could have picked a better one for the contest - I just for the life of me couldn't think of any at the time. I hit most of the notes, but my performance was very stiff. I was pretty bummed afterwards, because I knew I could have done better.
The second performer was a guy that did REM's, "It's the End of the World As We Know It." He hung in with the lyrics but sucked worse than I did. His voice had no style and that song choice is as gimmicky as it gets.
The first female performer was called up next and she did "Santeria" by Sublime. She was cute, but sang most of the song off-tune. I was really bitter about being the first one called up at this point. It would have been so much easier to follow those two.
My buddy Tony was the next contestant, and he did a rip-roaring rendition of John Cougar Mellencamp's "Hurts So Good." His performance had attitude, was in key, and he engaged the crowd. I thought he was the first to lay a true claim on a qualifying spot, but it didn't look like the suspicious judge was all that into it.
A gal with a mediocre voice sang Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time." That song is one of the most over-requested karaoke songs ever, and she sang it with no emotion. I dismissed her as a possibility immediately.
Contestant six was my fiend Cary. She sang "Maneater" by Hall & Oates, and she was awesome. She totally woke up the crowd after the previous gal's yawner. It was the first time I really saw the judges paying attention.
My buddy Mike [Seely, SW's managing editor] sang next and got the whole place fired up with his rendition of "Purple Rain." All of the sudden my crew seemed to have taken this competition by the balls. As we cheered Mike on, the douche that did REM got up from his table to tell us we shouldn't have our beers on the pool table. We knew he was simply being bitter, so we just blew him off without a word.
The next singer did the worst song of the night: "All That Jazz" from the Chicago soundtrack. She walked around the tables as she sang, and it was just lame. Seeing it in the movie or onstage is one thing, but you can't take a song like that seriously in a karaoke contest.
Luckily, my friend Sara [Brickner, SW's clubs editor] raised the bar with her rendition of Aretha Franklin's "Do Right Woman." Hers was the first voice since the Motels gal did her warm-up that really sounded like it could compete in a legitimate singing contest, but the shifty judge was barely paying attention.
Next, some guy sang an Eminem song. It was forgettable. The last contestant--the 11th of the evening, despite the announced constraints of 10--was the lady that sang The Motels during warm-ups. But in a surprising move, she chose instead to sing the Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl." It was nowhere near as good as her warm-up. I understand not wanting to be predictable, but "Suddenly Last Summer" could have won it for her. In my mind she opened up both qualifying spots with that bad song choice.
Now it was left to the judges. I honestly felt one of my friends would place, but to our shock the two that were chosen to move on were the "Turn Back Time" and "All That Jazz" chicks. We couldn't believe it. I guess I could let the Cher gal slide, but to pick the "All That Jazz" lady made the competition look like a total sham. I knew my hunch about that one judge screwing this thing up was right. I'm not saying he was bribed, but there is no way he had his head that far up his ass to advance that nonsense to the next round without some sort of ulterior motive.
After the contest, I asked KJ Josh for a better explanation of the judging criteria. He explained scoring was weighed heavy on vocal quality, song difficulty, and originality. "All That Jazz" is not a hard song to sing. Since it's from a musical, it's composed in such a way the performer can literally talk their way through it. I think this contestant was either friends with the one of judges, or she was shot down at other qualifying locations around town and was finally placed out of sympathy.
This contest could be fun, but they seriously need to change they way they have things set up. They should have two rounds, let the judges whittle ten contestants down to four, and let the crowd decide who should advance. They also need to find judges that don't have shit for brains. That is the only way to avoid the debacle that happened last Thursday.