Skip to main content

Book 1 of 52: Don't Stop Believin': How Karaoke Conquered the World and Changed My Life

Confession: I have never done karaoke. Never. I've had opportunities, sure. It's not like I've been to a karaoke bar. The closest I've come to participating was on a trip to Atlantic City two years ago when I said that I might be interested in karaoke-ing at Planet Rose with another writer, and then I bailed to go to bed early. At a round of Terry-Oke (karaoke that's run at the Jersey Shore by Terry O'Brien), I didn't sing but was reportedly the first person to ever get up and dance. The song was "That Thing you Do." How could I not? It's a great song, but I didn't want to sing it.

I don't think I'm a terrible singer, either. I had vocal parts in two high school musicals (no, not THAT High School Musical, but Grease (1997) and Bye Bye Birdie (1996) as performed by Haddonfield Memorial High School). I don't karaoke because I have little to no desire to get up in front of an audience and sing because of a mortal fear that I'll be terrible and some other 20-something writer will be out in the audience making fun of me like I make fun of other singers (though my comments are usually reserved for folks who treat karaoke like a record deal audition).

Brian Raftery, on the other hand, loves karaoke, and has written a very funny book on the topic: Don't Stop Believin': How Karaoke Conquered the World and Changed My Life (pub date January 1). It's the kind of book I like -- part memoir, part history, all wrapped into an entertaining ball that adds to all those random snippets of information I know that makes me a gas at cocktail parties and happy hours.

The best part? He takes such a serious, researched look at something that seems like a fun bar game. His three part explaination about why "Like a Rolling Stone" is the worst karaoke song ever by using Bobby Brown's "On Our Own" as a counter example is such a convincing argument that I want to teach it in my writing class as an excellent example of persuasion. My students read Oil on the Brain: Petroleum's Long, Strange Trip to Your Tank as an example of technical writing (I teach tech comm at Rutgers-Camden), and they liked it, but if I were to teach the course again, I'd consider subbing in this book (and in some student conferences showed it as an example of how writing and reading can be interesting when you really love the topic -- most of my students are not English or writing majors).

Why? Because it's about a technical topic but told in a way that just about anyone could pick up and read it and get it -- except Don Henley, of course (read the book and you'll get that one).

My favorite line? "I'd describe Jessica Simpson's voice as "robotic," but I imagine that would make most robots sad."

I liked the book, though I can imagine some readers will find Raftery so focused on zingers that the book becomes tedious. I don't mind it most of the time, and I marked two points in the book where I thought his stretched himself too far for a punchline. But you might think those points are funny, so I won't repeat them here.

Will I try karaoke now? Maybe. I don't know what I'd sing -- maybe something from Jimmy Eat World (it would be nice to bleet out "I'm the one who gets away / I'm a New Jersey success story" from "Big Casino"). I'm writing an article about companies that have alternative holiday parties, so I'll be visiting Planet Rose soon (and, yes, the inspiration for the article came from reading the book). We'll see if I get up enough liquid courage to give a song a try, or at least twist to "That Thing You Do."

A quick note about where I finished reading the book: I had dinner in Philly last night (Monk's, as usual, was spot on), and I paniced while I was reading the book waiting for the train in. I thought I'd finish it too early and I'd have nothing to read on the ride home. So I took reading breaks while waiting for the train. I hate not having anything to read while I wait for PATCO. I have the attention span of a gnat, so it occupies the time.

I finished the book between the Ferry Ave. and Collingswood stops. Perfect.

What's up next? Not sure yet. I picked this one out of the big pile of books left after the galley purge. Stay tuned.

For more on karaoke, check out the book's blog. The URL makes me think that the title changed somewhere along the production line...

Comments

I do karaoke from time to time. It's fun for me, but I wouldn't do it on a regular basis. I usually end up doing 'Alison' by Elvis Costello or an REM song.

BTW - Monk's is the awesome! Belgian beer, mussels and pommes frites...can't do much better than that. - John
This sounds a bit like "Pitch Perfect: The Search for Collegiate A Cappella Glory." A fun read, and I have a strong suspicion that the author was dating one of the singers he was profiling (he made some offhand comment about it, but he never elaborated).

I haven't done karaoke in ages, but the Boston Children's Museum had an exhibit about Japan that included a karaoke booth. Does it count if you're too young to drink? I've probably done it more recently after a few cocktails, too.

Popular posts from this blog

Book 12 of 52: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi is an author and graphic novelist who grew up in Iran and, as a tween and teen, lived in the country through  the Iranian Revolution before her parents sent her to Europe for school, and for her safety.  As an adult, she wrote Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood ,  a nonfiction graphic novel, originally in French. I read the English translation, which was published in 2003, three years after the original. It was a critical success, won a slew of awards, and became a movie . I haven't read the sequel, Persepolis 2 , but I hope to (you can also  buy them in a set . I found Persepolis  in a Little Free Library, or I'd have bought them combined).  In the tradition of Art Spiegelman's  Maus , which is about the author's father talking to him about the Holocaust,  Persepolis  is a memoir of trauma told through a mix of images and words that when combined, combust into powerful, beautiful and soul cracking art.  For example, Satrapi portrays the 1978 Cinema R

Book 23 of 52: Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

More romance? Of course! The world is on fire, and I can't ingest all the fires all the time. Sometimes I want to turn to genre fiction as an escape, even if an escape is into a patriarchal society where it's SCANDAL that a woman sometimes, when riding a horse, wears pants. Because of Miss Bridgerton is the first book in Julia Quinn's Rokesbys Series , which are prequels to her enormously popular  Bridgerton Series  (and now a  Netflix show ). These books are similar, of course, but instead being set in the Recency era of the 1810s, these books take place at the same time as the American Revolution (though still in England).  Here we meet Sybilla "Bille" Bridergton, who is stuck on the roof of a building because she chased a cat up there. She climbed up herself (scandalous woman!) but also twisted her ankle in the process, which is why she needs help to get down.  That help comes from George Rokesby. Their families are neighbors, and they've known each other

Book 26 of 52: The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil by Tina Brown

I'm not going to write a long review of Tina Brown's The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil  for two reasons. First, it's been hashed to death already, as anything about the royals is, by people who are far more invested in this whole thing than I am. And second, I'm in the frantic "do I really need a jean jacket AND a windbreaker" level of packing before a long trip. I can say that I didn't mind listening to this nearly 18 hour audiobook while the rest of the world is on fire, although of course they are not insulated. We can pretend that the Royal Family lives in a bubble, but they are enormously influential; touched by the same issues of race, class and gender; and Queen Elizabeth II is one of most influential politicians of modern times — and she is a politician, no matter what anyone says. Her death will be a global, cultural moment. Same thing with the Pope, on both fronts. I listened to Brown's  The Diana Chro