I did karaoke on Thursday night!
You would think that the mere mention of such an event would mean that it was my first time ever doing karaoke, that I managed to work through some fears so I could face a crowd. Unfortunately, I have a long history with karaoke, which should probably make it one of my least favorite things if it didn’t tap into my childhood dreams of wanting to be a famous singer.
Many moons ago, I was at a wedding for my cousin. I’m not sure if it was her first wedding, but it wasn’t her last wedding. At the reception, they passed around a stapled pile of paper with songs listed on the pages, along with pieces of paper so you could write your name and what song you chose to have performed. I chose a Taylor Dayne song because I was young and obsessed with Taylor Dayne’s music. Of course, none of us knew what karaoke was, least of all my mom. So when my name was called and I had to come forward, I had already seen a few people singing so I knew what to expect. I was pumped and ready to sing me some Taylor Dayne! Some words came up on the screen, but since there wasn’t any music playing, I didn’t think much of it because it wasn’t Taylor Dayne, the words were “Mountain Music.” Surely it’s the company that made the karaoke stuff, right? Nope, it was a country song that I didn’t know at all. I was a young kid, standing in front of my extended family, apparently looking cute and precocious and stuff because I was confused about this song and how to sing it and why I was even performing it! Sometime later, I did finally sing my Taylor Dayne song. At least I think I sang it.
Sometime after that wedding reception, Mom bought me a karaoke cassette that had four Taylor Dayne songs and four Paula Abdul songs, with one side being instrumental and the other side having someone else doing the vocals. I did always enjoy singing along to the original Taylor Dayne albums, but I didn’t often play the karaoke cassette.
For my 21st birthday, my coworkers invited me out to do karaoke after work and to get my first ever alcoholic drink. To be honest, it was my first legal alcoholic drink, with my first ever alcoholic drink being consumed a few days prior. Anyway, I don’t remember what songs I performed, but I do remember an Asian guy singing She Will Be Loved with a moderate accent.
Since then, my karaoke experience has been Singers and SingStar. Singers is an awesome karaoke club in the area that’s open seven days a week. SingStar is a Playstation game. It all depends on whether or not I want to leave my dwelling, or rather it depends on whether or not I want to wear pants or pajamas, that determines if I’ll go out for karaoke or stay in. Singers has the most song choices, but Singers is convenient because I don’t have to go anywhere. Decisions, decisions.
When I lived in New Jersey, I missed Singers. Despite repeated promises to take me out for karaoke, my ex-fiance never followed through, but I doubt anyplace could ever compare to Singers. I did have SingStar, though, to satisfy any karaoke cravings I had.
When I moved back into the area, one thing led to another and I discovered this place called Palace Music Studio. I had to go, not because it was karaoke, but because it promised to have Japanese music to perform in private rooms like they have in Asian countries. Unfortunately their website didn’t even list examples of what artists’ songs you could expect to find, but it did say to make a reservation at least three days in advance.
I decided to try going without a reservation. So last Sunday, I went during business hours according to Google… and the place was closed. Depending on where you looked, whether you looked at Yelp or Google, there were different hours listed. While I was standing outside of a darkened storefront, I read the board that listed the hours and noted that the place was only open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Feeling bad for the reduced days of operation, I vowed to return on Thursday.
I figured if they had to reduce the days they were open, then Palace must not get a lot of business. So of course, I returned without a reservation on Thursday. I walked in and was greeted by a guy who was about my age and seemed to be about as Asian as I am, which is to say he wasn’t Asian at all. Mind you, Palace Music Studio is part of a group of four Asian businesses residing at one address, with each of the businesses having a strong Korean/Japanese influence. The restaurant in the plaza is Korean/Japanese, Han’s is Chinese/Korean/Japanese/Thai and what not, Tous les Jours is Korean/Japanese easily. So at Palace, I almost expected to be greeted by an Asian person. No big deal.
So I walked in, asked to do karaoke, was put in a room, and then the guy taught me how to use the controller before leaving me to my devices. The karaoke system is in Korean, with just enough English on the controller that I could navigate my way through the menus. I could choose which country’s music I wanted to perform, and I stayed in the Japan category. Now, I don’t know any Korean, so thankfully there was English on the controller and Japanese characters on the screen once I was in the Japan category. However, for what little Japanese I know, the alphabetical arrangement was a little off, assuming there was some semblance of alphabetical order. The printed book with all of the songs had some order to it, but it was still confusing to me. I found myself navigating on the controller and looking at all of the songs listed, until later on when I felt brave enough to flip through the book again.
I found… Hyde! Okay, we were off to a good start. I sang Hello, only to discover at the end that there was a scoring system. I got a 100, which I assume is the best I could do, but I don’t know what the basis was for the score. I found some L’arc en Ciel, I sang some L’arc en Ciel. I found Tetsu69, which is Tetsuya from L’arc en Ciel, and I sang Tightrope. I found Vamps! I sang Love Addict, which is completely in English! In fact, Love Addict was the only song where I didn’t use my phone. I actually pulled up song lyrics on my phone, because the karaoke visuals were in kanji. A few times I lost my place with the lyrics, and I actually had to use what little hiragana I knew to get myself back on track.
After a few songs, knowing I was nearing the one-hour mark, I decided to wrap things up by choosing one last song. That’s when I spotted Departures in the book. I punched in the number, queued it up, and sang it to the best of my knowledge and ability. Then I packed up, I grabbed the microphone and headed to the front desk to pay for my stay.
On the drive home, I was so giddy! It didn’t matter how well I did, because I was laughing at my mistakes as much as I was patting my back. It was just a great feeling to be able to do karaoke like that, to do Japanese songs that I liked and everything.
After I got back to my friend’s house, she asked me about how karaoke went. She thought I was meeting someone there, but I didn’t, I went alone and sang by myself. I honestly don’t think I have any friends around here who would be willing to do J-pop karaoke with me, at least not willingly. I know a few people who live closer to NYC and New Jersey who would be interested, but then I assume they’re too busy anyway. I’m not even bothered by going alone. Would awful Japanese karaoke performances be better with friends? Certainly. Do I need to bring friends along with me? Absolutely not. I’m quite comfortable doing my own thing, that I’m not hindered by the thought that I need to bring friends along with me when I go places.
When I finally get to Japan, I feel like I’ll survive somehow. I know I’ll post my experiences to Facebook for everyone to see, but I feel like I can otherwise manage without much socialization. And let’s not forget, there’s karaoke, there’s more Japanese karaoke for me to enjoy. The word is a contraction of “empty orchestra,” but I don’t mind the emptiness of the orchestra or the room as long as I’m filled with the happiness from just doing something I enjoy. Yeah, that was sappy. but it worked.