Old times and new shocks at karaoke

On Friday, Oct. 23, my fellow postulant Jeremy and six of us seminarians celebrated his birthday by going to a Korean karaoke in Allston. I had done karaoke during my newspaper years. Many of my newspaper compatriots could dish out stories of me at karaoke.

Colin, Rafael, Jeremy and Paul hang out the karaoke lounge on Friday, Oct. 25, 2015.
Colin, Rafael, Jeremy and Paul hang out the karaoke lounge on Friday, Oct. 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Leland Thorpe)

I always opted for classics like Beatles, Beach Boys and Billy Joel. Sometimes, I would sing some recent hits. For example, I tried my hand at rapping to Jay-Z’s lyrics to “Empire State of Mind.”

I needed to rest my throat between the verses. I now appreciate all the rapping skills that my friends Christian and Jeremy in Texas, Jay-Z and other stars exhibit. Better leave rapping to the pros.

But as the night continued, I was in for some unpleasant surprises.

Some songs (pop and classic) don’t make good karaoke because of two things:

  1. They might be catchy, but the lyrics repeat several times. I ran into this twice with “With a Little Luck” by Paul McCartney and “Barbara Ann” by the Beach Boys. How many times can I sing the words “With a Little Luck” and “Bar Bar Bar Bara Ann”? Would these songs end already?
  1. Sometimes, the lyrics just cross the line. Even “Empire State” had verses that made me feel uncomfortable rapping to (“And Jesus can’t save you, life starts when the church end”). The biggest shock came with “My Sharona” by the Knacks. I liked the catchy melody so I picked it. Halfway through the song, I realized what the song was about. I started laughing. What was I doing singing to this stuff?

Maybe you’re thinking that I was overacting on this point.  But it had made me reflect. We all love and buy current pop songs because of the melody and sometimes the lyrics. What are the songs telling us? How are these influencing us without our notice? No wonder evangelizing the culture is difficult with this ginormous wall of music. It would be nice to listen to a few songs without putting my beliefs and values in danger. That wouldn’t be too hard to ask, would it?

Overall, I’ve changed.  Different priorities in my life have put things in perspective.  For example, when a person becomes health conscious, all those junk foods no longer look appetizing.  I’m more aware of the entertainment I’m consuming.  Does my music choices really reflect me?

When we left to pay for the karaoke room rental, the clerk was trying to cheat us out of an extra $10 because we were a few minutes late leaving the room. “Ten-minute rule,” she said. “But it’s not 10 minutes yet,” we replied. So we weren’t charged the extra $10.

It will be long time before I go to karaoke again. Yuck.

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