Thursday, May 26, 2011


Karaoke in England is the preserve of drunk bank managers who think they're Frank Sinatra, drunk housewives who think they're Mariah Carey, drunk - basically, everyone's drunk.

Karaoke in Hong Kong isn't done at the back of a pub after they've pushed the pool table out of the way; it's done in special karaoke centres, tiny rooms tesselated into a maze of narrow corridors, with the loudest speakers known to man installed within.

By loudest speakers known to man, of course I mean people from Hong Kong, but the amplification equipment is pretty loud too.

Being utterly off your face isn't as much of a prerequisite as it is in England, and is a bit harder to achieve unless you really like drinking the turpentine that passes for whiskey in these joints. There's also an all-you-can-eat buffet dinner, which makes you feel as if you accidentally teleported back to a social event in the 1970s, and now you have to perform for an audience.

Shame there's no sausage rolls. I used to really like sausage rolls (and hedgehogs made out of bits of cheese on toothpicks stuck into a pineapple). But this is Hong Kong: you make the best of it.

For somebody who can't speak Cantonese, it sounds like everyone else is a really accomplished singer, until something in English comes on and it's revealed that half the people you thought were virtuosos couldn't hold a tune if it came with a handle on either side. Conversely, I can murder 'Delilah'1 and receive a round of applause, although whether that's my skill, politeness, or just two bottles of that "whiskey" is anyone's guess.

There are some very strange musical choices available. Some are songs not very suitable for karaoke (Thriller, including the three-minute long video before the music starts). Some songs are incredibly difficult (who chooses Eminem as a way to relax?). And some are ... Well, maybe a Korean all-girl group doing a song partly in Korean, partly in English and partly in bullshit is quite appropriate for karaoke.

After three or four hours of this, you start to go a bit crazy and wonder why Lady Gaga's songs all include the original video, whereas the Beatles and Rick Astley have lookalikes instead. And then you wonder what it was like to interview for the job of Rick Astley impersonator in films for cut-price karaoke. And then you wonder why when Bill Murray went to do karaoke in Tokyo, he met Scarlet Johansson and didn't end up listening to a pissed-up salaryman yelling his way through Buffalo Soldier.

Funny how these details don't get reproduced when they try to create an authentic karaoke booth experience in England...

1 The song! Honest, officer, I never touched her.


Post a Comment