I participated in a karaoke contest last night at Wingmasters, as did the Karaoke Korrespondent, who will have more to say on this subject come Wednesday. I sang "Purple Rain," a song I've sung a hundred times, and butchered a verse or two, probably because I'd consumed about a hundred beers before my name was called. But still, I'll be damned if I didn't have a table full of woman's rugby players swooning when I belted out the words "weekend lover." To me, that's what's karaoke's all about: the sloppy, glorious, emotive mess of it all.
The rum-tum-tugger is a curious karaoke choice.
And that's precisely why karaoke contests have no place in karaoke.
Yeah, I've seen Duets, and Duets (in particular, Paul Giamatti) sucked--although I'll admit to rocking out with my Hawk out when the Gwyneth Paltrow-Huey Lewis rendition of "Cruisin'" comes on the car stereo every so often. The problem with karaoke contests is that they let each singer pick one song to sing, thus allowing singers who couldn't sing their way out of Five For Fighting's ball sack to dial in a ringer tune that they've sung in their bedroom since they were six.
Case in point: last night, when the declared winner won by singing "All That Jazz." If I'm going to be graced with "All That Jizz," I want a drunken gay man to be singing it, and I want to be seated at The Crescent while I'm hearing it. Under no other circumstances are show tunes an acceptable karaoke option; the gal who won is probably a regular at the Fifth Ave or something. (I'll admit my ascending to the mike afterwards and announcing that I was going to sing the entire soundtrack from Cats probably didn't help my chances, although I fucking killed the first few lines of "Bustopher Jones.")
But if karaoke contests are going to exist, here's what I'd put forth as a boilerplate. Let each contestant pick one song. It can be "All That Jizz," Four Non-Blondes--whatever. Next, each contestant should be required to sing the same song of the KJ's choosing, with "Rhythm of the Night" by DeBarge or anything by Terence Trent D'Arby being particular savvy choices. Thirdly, each contestant should be blindfolded with a catalog in front of them, forced to flip to a page at random, and then point his or her index finger at a song. Never sang Avril Lavigne's "Complicated"? Tough shit--now's your chance.
There's a reason why, in pro baseball and basketball, they hold best-of-seven series, and don't rely on the bullcrap Super Bowl/NCAA craphsoot format to determine a champion. The same logic should prevail in karaoke contests, if people are going to continue to defile the experience by American Idolizing it.