Don’t Stop Believin’: How Karaoke Conquered the World and Changed My Life
Entertainment journalist Brian Raftery examines the odd art of karaoke.
Every time I lock my Toyota by pushing the car door away as I pull the handle toward me, I think, ah, Japan, you are a culture of contradictions: of politesse and militarism, sweet plum wine and fiery wasabi, one whose national sport (sumo wrestling) turns one’s opponent’s strength against him.Skip to next paragraph
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Could karaoke have come from any other country?
In his tribute to the phenomenon, Don’t Stop Believin’: How Karaoke Conquered the World and Changed My Life, entertainment journalist Brian Raftery seems to have interviewed every living figure in the karaoke industry, and most of them agree with the entrepreneur who says the product is “cute, but kinda cheesy.”
And it’s the cheesy part that comes first to the mind of those who don’t practice the fine art of bellowing off-key lyrics to a prerecorded soundtrack as their friends cringe and strangers rush for the exit.
In a 1992 campaign speech, George H.W. Bush referred to Bill Clinton and Al Gore as “the karaoke kids” because “they’ll sing any tune that will get them elected.” It was as though the mere association of the candidates with karaoke was enough to demean them, suggests Raftery.
Yet aficionados will tell you that their passion is for a form of self-expression that is far from “cute.”
Philosopher Kendall Walton notes that a child pretending to build a fort will say, “I built this big fort today,” rather than, “I pulled some branches and boards together and pretended it was a fort.” Diehard karaoke singers approach the mike with something of the same attitude: They know they’re not Neil Diamond or Madonna, but for three minutes and change, they can believe that they are.
The problem is convincing others.
Karaoke nuts are really geeks in hipster guise, which means they communicate best with members of their own tribe. Indeed, the geekishness of this book cannot be overemphasized, and to read about one of Raftery’s performances after another is a little like being trapped in a British Rail car with an amateur lepidopterist as he rattles on about netting a particular species of butterfly.
Yet it’s precisely Raftery’s enthusiasm that lends a certain charm to his passion for his calling (none dare call it “hobby”).