The tuneless wonder of Karaoke


A FEW nights ago I woke up with a start in bed singing ‘Ole Man River’.

How or where it came from I have no idea, but the awful sound I was making was enough to send my two dogs into a real panic as they took refuge in their air raid shelter under the bed! A nightmare? Well it certainly was for anyone unfortunate enough to hear me. I think I can say with hand on heart that I could never sing a song that was immediately recogniseable. Even when I was a kid at primary school my classmates and teachers alike called me a ‘Tuneless Wonder’, which was a little unkind don’t you think?

The point of my telling you all this is that I have never understood how anyone could possibly imagine that they were the new Frank Sinatra or Michael Jackson or Shirley Bassey. In other words one of my pet hates is – Karaoke.

This then is where I make enemies with those who live their lives entertaining in pubs or clubs hoping to be a new singing sensation. Now don’t get me wrong. I know very well that this is not the ambition of millions of people around the world who just want to have a fun night in their local pub or club. I love doing that myself. No. It’s what I call the professional karaokians who spoil everything.

Go to any pub or club on a Karaoke night and listen to the most terrible voices ruining some of the most beautiful songs that we all love so much. Of course there is always the chance that amongst the rough there could be the smooth, someone with real talent just waiting to be ‘discovered’.

Let’s face it, some of our leading young entertainers came from pubs and have gone on to be stars of the future. But it’s the over confident Elvis Presley impersonators in their expensive silk flares that make ‘The Tuneless Wonder’ seem like a superstar. So who is responsible for this extraordinary innovation known as Karaoke?

The Japanese! Yes they’re the culprits! It was back in the 1970’s when they first introduced those terrible machines that allows you to pre-record music as a background to you, the singer, providing the vocals.

The Japanese word Karaoke is roughly translated as ‘empty orchestra’. Pity they didn’t find a word for ‘empty singer’! Anyway, who am I to be so cynical about something that millions of people around the world enjoy?‘Perfect entertainment for all the family to singalong together, especially at Christmas’. That’s what I read on the side of the box on sale in a department store. All I can say is, if Christmas depends on Karaoke to keep the family together then thank God Christmas comes only once a year!

Yes I know what you Karaoke fans are saying: ‘Who is this miserable old g**? Sounds more like Ebenezer Scrooge.’ You’re quite right, but I still believe Karaoke introduces some terrible sounds to our pub and club life. Shouting out songs instead of singing them is no way to get ‘discovered’. Maybe what the world is waiting for is another ‘Tuneless Wonder.’ But I’m far too mean to buy the machine! ‘Bah humbug!’

By Victor Pemberton

• If you would care to discuss what benefits Karaoke has given to the world, why not contact me: [email protected]

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