Chris Kornelis
A cover of Susan Tedeschi's "It Hurts So Bad," was a highlight of the week.
Monday, July 19, 2010

The Atlantic Crossing was


A Critical Overview of the Karaoke World Championships, Part Two

Chris Kornelis
A cover of Susan Tedeschi's "It Hurts So Bad," was a highlight of the week.
Monday, July 19, 2010

The Atlantic Crossing was packed as usual. Pat, the KJ, turned in a really good rendition of "Georgia" for the sound check. I continued my roll of good performances and sang "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues." The returning contestants were Steven B (3rd attempt), Freddie S (3rd attempt), and MYQUE P (2nd attempt). This guy in his mid-40s, Dave S, pulled out the Soft Rock classic "Love Is the Answer" by England Dan & John Ford Coley. He had a nice soft delivery and his voice really got good by the end. I was thinking he could be the "Dan W" of this week.

The first contestant was Jason S. He did a semi-decent "Soul Man" but clowned around through the whole thing and the antics took away from the fact he actually had a voice. Freddie S followed and this time he did Lou Rawls, "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine." He tried for a more popular song but this one just didn't fit him.

Dave S sang "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" and was disqualified because he broke the contest rule that you can't do a song over five minutes in length. Even if the song wasn't 6:42 it was a bad call. He sang it well but, unless you hit that dynamic part exactly like Robert Plant, that song's not getting anyone fired up. It's depressing and most of it is slow. If you're gonna go Zeppelin, go with something fun like, "Over the Hills and Far Away" or "Out on the Tiles."

Steven B went for "Born to Be Wild Again" and there wasn't any improvement from the last time he did it at Blue C Sushi. MYQUE P looked all business in a white button down shirt and black slacks. He sang "Use Somebody" with great command. He really stepped it up from last week and I knew it would be good enough for him to advance to Saturday.

There were ten contestants but the competition was light compared to the previous week. The best overall voice of the night was a cute black girl named Shondele L and she sang Beyonce's "If I Were a Boy." The most rockin' performance of the night was a black guy in his late-40s named Bruce H. He did a killer "Back In Black."

MYQUE P, Shondele and Bruce advanced. Last Monday all the winners here were females and this week they're all black. Shondele, unfortunately could not make it on Saturday because of a prior engagement.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Last week Fourno's had a small number of contestants and this week when I arrived at the bar there was only one: Steven B. I was happy to see his persistence finally paid off. Pat delayed the start of the contest so he could rustle up some contestants. As they waited I got up to do Thunder Road. It was the song I choked on when I was a contestant in the Battle in Seattle karaoke qualifier at Wingmasters last fall. Pat let me sing from the new mics they bought for Saturday. He said it cost them $500. I could definitely tell a difference in quality as I listened to my voice as I sang. It helped me keep control during the parts where I'd normally have to stretch for the lyrics. It was nice. I definitely would have qualified.

The two other contestants showed up. Steven B went first and sang "The Freshman" by the Verve Pipe. He started out okay but it all fell apart at the end. The song got really high and he lost all ability to stay in tune. The next singer was Michele B and she sang the Fugees version of "Killing Me Softly." It was worthy of a qualifying spot. The third guy's name was Casey and he sang "Folsom Prison Blues." I've heard better Cash, but on a night where there were only three contestants for three qualifying spots, they could have done a hell of a lot worse.

Pat kept the contest open after Casey sang and a fourth contestant entered. He was this big Polynesian looking guy named Philip. He acted as if he had no idea about the contest but as soon as he started singing, I knew he had to be a ringer. He sang "Russian Roulette" by Rihanna and it was just like watching the tryouts for American Idol where they show a few mediocre singers in a row and then hit you with a "Ruben Studdard." That Journey guy that qualified last week had nothing on this guy.

Phillip established himself to me as the best male voice I'd heard in the entire contest. For some reason the judges picked him second place after Michelle B. Casey finished third. Steven B was close, but got knocked out again. If he had just gone with "Born to Be Wild" one more time he probably would have made it in.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The contest started late at Kate's Pub because they had to wait on a judge. My Week 1 analysis posted that morning and I wondered if I'd end up dealing with anyone I may have insulted. I've learned that people get sensy when they read criticism about their singing. Luckily the only returning contestant there I wrote about was Nicodemus (the Teletubby shaped goober in a top hat from Fourno's last week) and I wasn't sweating him at all. He had the top hat on again, but this time he wore a shirt & tie with a button down vest. Now he looked like a magician. It was an improvement. Last week there were a lot of contestants and some great performances. This night was still a madhouse of college kids, and aside from one really good singer and a non-contestant that did a great "Safety Dance," the singers overall weren't doing it for me.

The guy that got first place was a guy with short blond hair and a matching beard named MF Rapson. He had good high range. Earlier Pat told me this guy placed in the Battle of Seattle so he had my attention. He performed "Man In the Mirror." Sure he had a great voice and could sing in the style of Michael Jackson, but it was the wrong song to sing. Just like that Dave S guy with the shitty Zeppelin pick from Monday night, this guy could probably hang with whatever MJ song he wants--and he goes and sings a fucking downer. Throw the crowd a bone and sing something catchy that triggers people to party like "Black or White" or "The Way You Make Me Feel."

Second place went to a guy named Tim K and he's a true karaoke man. Not only did he have a powerful voice, I was very impressed by his song choice, "Don't Stop Me Now." It's a lesser known Queen song, but it's vintage, super high energy Freddie Mercury. Most of the crowd didn't know what they were hearing but they loved it. Finally a guy that really puts thought in to the songs he chooses to perform.

I could hardly believe it but Nicodemus got the third qualifying spot for his performance of "Take On Me." He picked a great song. Pretty much everyone loves that one. He danced around the stage and, I have to admit, he really got the crowd behind him. Still, I couldn't understand how the judges got passed that grunting style of singing he does, but like I said, it was a down night for contestants.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Of all the bars this week I returned to, I was most excited to be back at Blue C Sushi in Bellevue. I didn't get there until after 8 last week and couldn't take advantage of the fact that karaoke starts at 7pm. That's like a dream come true for me, especially during the work week. I can get there when it starts, sing for a couple hours and be home by ten. It's perfect. What's also great is on Thursday nights they extend their happy hour all night. I was slugging down $2.50 Heinekens.

I met Steven B that night and found him to be a really nice guy. He wound up being more of a goof-ball than I pegged him for. For some reason when I saw him at the previous qualifiers he looked very serious. He told me he'd read last week's column, appreciated the notes I wrote about his singing, and said he had something special in store. He asked the bartender if he could clear something with the manager. I figured he was going to jump on the bar or something. He did a warm-up of "Great Balls of Fire" and it was the best song he's picked by far.

Two singers really stuck out during warm-ups. The first was a Latino guy named Eric H and he just had an awesome singing voice plain and simple. The second was a tall handsome dude named Matt D. Matt legitimately pulled off the standard "The Way You Look Tonight." I dumped on a singer last week that thought he had what it took to sing Bublé because it was so off, it was offensive, but this Matt, had the timing, phrasing and the style down.

Sam and Monty, two of the contestants that qualified here last week were back to watch the competition. Sam was really happy about the props I gave both of them. I told him they would be my favorites to watch come Saturday because they were the most fun.

Eric H kicked off the competition and sang the granddaddy of all singing contest songs, "I'll Be" by Edwin McCain. His voice was rock solid and he totally nailed it.

Steven B was singer two and his secret weapon was "Old Time Rock & Roll." Before the song began he ditched his pants and ran onto the stage in his boxers, white socks, and a white button down shirt, almost like Tom Cruise in Risky Business. Whitey tighties would have really made things authentic but the performance did cause a stir through the entire bar. I didn't judge that night but I did keep score. That stunt he pulled deserved at least a combined 18 for stage presence & entertainment value.

Matt followed Steven and showed his versatility by singing "Ordinary People" by John Legend. It's not a fun song to hear but he proved he deserved a qualifying spot.

The third best singer of the evening was a returning contestant from the week before. Her name was Lisa L and she sang "Romeo & Juliet." I don't know if because I'm such a sucker for anything Taylor Swift, but I loved everything about her performance. Her voice sounded great and she was beautiful up there. I looked at my notes from last week and I only gave her a 26. This week I had her at a solid 37.

When the results came in it was no surprise that Matt and Eric took first & second place, but Steven B finally earned his spot in the show.

Friday, July 23, 2010

There was only one contestant that tried out at Butler Bar in Des Moines and her name was Brie W (another guy sang but knew he wouldn't make it on Saturday). Izzy, the gal who qualified week 1 at Blue C Sushi (with a spot-on Memorex replica of Susan Tedeschi's "It Hurt So Bad"), was there doing a little recon Brie that night. She told me this girl was going to be her #1 competition and she had to see for herself. I stood with Izzy as Brie sang Alicia Key's "If I Ain't Got You." It was perfect. At the peak of the song Brie showed she had just as much, and maybe even more power than Izzy. All Izzy could say was that she wouldn't mind losing if it was someone who could sing like that. The showdown was less than 24 hours away.

Saturday, July 23, 2010

I arrived at the Columbia City Theater just after 7. I had butterflies and I wasn't even competing. One of the judges I met the night before saved me a seat with them up at the side balcony. The stage is beautiful. As I watched the singers do their warm-ups I kept thinking to myself how this place really gave that feel of a big-time event. The sound was awesome and the whole production was well organized.

The singers I was looking forward to seeing were, Madison G, the female contestant with the best combination of vocals & looks; Sam & Monty from Blue C, the Hip-hop specialists, and Phillip N, the big Polynesian dude who I considered the best male voice in the contest. I learned they were going to advance the top six males and top six females to the regionals in Arizona. From who I saw, my top six for males was Phillip, Brandon, Matt D, Tim K, Eric H, & Monty. And top females: Brie, Izzy, Madison G, Mackenzie G, Jillian L, and Konomi.

20 minutes before showtime Josh got a text from Monty telling him both he and Sam weren't going to make it. It was a huge letdown. There were a lot of great singers but these guys easily would have been the most entertaining. I looked around to see who else was missing, and the dude MYQUE P from the Atlantic Crossing pulled a no-show as well.

Settling in with the judges I decided to score along side them. Tim, the judge who sat to the right of me got to see all the Silverdale talent. They held qualifiers at Gandhi's lounge every night and sent over like six contestants. I was looking forward to seeing how the talent was on the other side of the Sound.

We wound up with 34 contestants. Here are the highlights and my scores:

5 categories ~ 10 pts each for: Vocal & Sound Quality / Rhythm & Tempo / Vocal Expression / Stage Presence / Entertainment Value

Contestant #2 Konomi - "Run to You" by Whitney Houston

She made me eat my words. She had complete control of her voice. It was beautiful, it was powerful and she was smokin' in those heels. 8/8/8/8/8 = 40

Contestant #3 Mackenzie G - "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" by Whitney Houston

This performance was a disaster. It sucked for her that she had to follow a singer that could really sing Whitney. I would have changed my song the moment I heard Konomi's voice. 6/6/7/7/7 = 33

Contestant #4 Steven B - "Old Time Rock & Roll" by Bob Seger

He dropped his pants again. The crowd enjoyed it but it did nothing for the judges this time. 6/5/6/8/8 = 33

Contestant #6 Anita - "Barracuda" by Heart

She qualified the night before at the Beacon Pub. She annihilated this song. Her voice was so strong I felt it in my bones. 9/10//10/8/9 = 46

Contestant #8 Matt D - "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World"

The song was no fun but it did showcase his smooth voice. He's solid. 8/8/8/6/7 = 37

Contestant #9 Eric H - "This Is How We Do It" by Montell Jordan

Since Sam & Monty didn't show up it was up to this guy to deliver the Bellevue Blue C Thursday night flavor. He brought the house down. 8/9/9/8/8 = 42

Contestant #9 Brie W - "If I Ain't Got You" by Alicia Keys

This is when the night started to roll. She was brilliant again. 10/10/10/10/9 = 49

Contestant # 12 Nicodemus - "La Bamba" as Ritche Valens

I have to admit this guy knows how to rally a crowd behind him and people always get fired up when they hear this song. Tim, the Silverdale judge got up and danced. He dropped the top hat for a cowboy hat tonight. 6/7/6/8/8 = 35

Contestant #13 Meka W - "Lady Marmalade"

Meka is a big blind black lady and the judges really liked her. I thought her voice was great by the song choice was just okay for me. 7/8/9/7/8 = 39

Contestant #17 Izzy - "It Hurt's So Bad" Susan Tedeschi.

She had nothing to be worried about last night. Her voice shook the room. 10/10/10/10/9 = 49

Contestant #18 Brent L - "So Cold" by Breaking Benjamin

I became a fan of this guy last week. He looked sharp and confident during his performance. He should be in a band. 8/8/8/8/7 = 39

Contestant #19 MF Rapson - "Man In The Mirror" by Michael Jackson

This guy really likes this song. In contests like this I guess you have to go with what you're most comfortable with. He can sing it well. 7/8/8/7/7 = 37

Contestant # 20 Madison G - "At Last" by Etta James

Just as beautiful as I remembered her. She's a shoe-in. 9/10/10/9/9 = 47

Contestant #24 Tim K - "My Sharona" by The Knack

He hit this song out of the park and danced like a wild man on stage. 10/10/10/10/8 = 48

Contestant #28 Phillip N - "Killing Me Softly" by The Fugees

Proved he still had the best voice in the contest. 10/10/10/8/9 = 47

Contestant #30 David D - "Unchained Melody" by The Righteous Brothers

This was a Silverdale finalist in his late 50s. Great voice but the song bored me. 8/9/9/9/4 = 39

Contestant #34 Brandon - "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey

Amazing performance to close out the night. His voice is as powerful as Steve Perry's ever was. He'd be a great karaoke hustler. 10/10/10/8/6 = 44

The judges allowed me to sit with them as they tallied the scores in the back room. I was very surprised by their results. Tim was not impressed with Brie at all and gave her a sub 30. The head-scratcher on the men's side was the lack of love for Phillip. The top 6 Men to advance were, Chase, Brandon, David, Tim, Eric, Cowboy Mike. The top 6 women were Izzy, Meka, Konomi, Anita, Madison, and Christina.

I was going to go into a big rant about how crazy the judges were for their choices but after taking a closer look at my picks--I, myself, scored a lot of singers higher just because they were my favorites. It's a real tough break for Brie and Phillip, though. They have every right to be bitter. To me, they were clearly the best.

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