“I can’t stand when people get up and do karaoke for real. In fact, it’s highly embarrassing. Let the dream go, it’s not going to happen! This is supposed to be fun. I love doing things people would not expect me to get up in sing. I look hella bad doing it, by the way. I look like completely ridiculous. There’s a reason I’m single.”
~ Kelly Clarkson (Entertainment Weekly ‘Music Mix’ interview; Aug 31, 2011).
I read this a few weeks ago, and something about her response to the question (“My karaoke jam” to which she answered Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” followed by the above quote) kept looping in my brain. I tried to justify it … yeah, she’s right, karaoke is embarrassing… people take it too seriously, blah blah blah.
Apparently, for my overactive brain, this wasn’t good enough, because I kept thinking about it. And I would like to say up front, my final, honest reaction is probably a little strong, but it’s how I feel.
Had she perhaps said, “I don’t take karaoke too seriously ~ it’s silly fun, and I like to do something completely unexpected, because that’s what it’s all about,” I might not have been nearly so offended. But last night, as I sat in the audience while a string of people – really good singers, actually – did karaoke at my local bar, that Kelly Clarkson quote that I just couldn’t shake came back to me with a vengeance.
Not to get too into the whole drama, but once upon a time I was a pretty good singer ~ good enough to be accepted into a college program based on my voice. I wasn’t the best singer (I’m no Audra McDonald) but I was one of nine people out of hundreds who got a ‘yes’ from my program (and one of the top programs at the time in the discipline in the country). I’m adding this because I feel as though my beef with Kelly would seem … less legit, maybe? … if you thought I was a tone deaf moron. So, it’s established. I kinda sorta know a little bit about what I’m talking about.
And here is what I have to say.
For a person who won a competition that is, in and of itself, a glorified version of karaoke, I think it’s highly irresponsible to say so nonchalantly that people should “let the dream go, it’s never gonna happen.” Not only irresponsible, but condescending and thoughtless. Each of the people who walked humbly and with some embarrassment up to the stage last night looked around sheepishly as the intro music played, but when they began to sing, you could see the joy it gave them. Anyone who has ever stood on stage and been applauded can attest to the fact that it leaves you giddy. It reinforces a person’s sense of acceptance ~ as Sally Field once famously said, “You like me! You really like me!”
Karaoke can be embarrassing, sure. Like, burning in your seat and wishing, for the sake of the person on stage, they could melt into the floor like the Wicked Witch of the West (it happened last night while I sang the lyrics to the current karaoke song at the bar while the guys on the stage fumbled, and mumbled and in general didn’t ever really sing, instead looking awkwardly at each other as the words lit up across the screen … I mean, who doesn’t want to belt out “Callin’ Baton Rouge”? -my favorite Garth Brooks song of all time- Seriously!). But for some people, it’s the ability to get up there and sing their hearts out ~ and from that derive joy. I’m not saying I’m a karaoke groupie ~ I don’t know where it is and which nights, but I do enjoy, on occasion, the opportunity to once again stand up there in the spot light and sing my heart out. It may not be Broadway, or even regional theatre (I can’t stay in good vocal health long enough to do that anyway), but it’s fun, and it reminds me that there are things I’m pretty darn good at, which is always helpful when life seems like an uphill battle.
So, in conclusion, Ms. Clarkson. While I think I understand what you’re getting at, don’t belittle the rest of us who didn’t win American Idol (or America’s Got Talent, or The X Factor … or any reality show); who have never auditioned, or never pursued music, or never had the support or financial stability to take a huge risk like that. Let the people sing karaoke. Let them sing karaoke like they’re on stage at Carnegie Hall. Understand that you are gifted, and privileged, and luckier than a lot of people. And try to keep in mind that some of us karaoke-goers can hold a tune, some of us did pursue music … and then we got ‘real’ jobs to pay the bills, and every once in awhile we relive our glory days on stage during karaoke night.
You shouldn’t really begrudge us that. Right?