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.
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.”