Harriet Walker: Karaoke is always so harmonious – at first

 

Share
Related Topics

If you want to know more about the world you live in, go to a karaoke night. And I say that as someone who is tone-deaf but who, by the end of the proceedings, is convinced her register is both strong and varied enough to attempt "Wuthering Heights" and "Shaft" within minutes of each other.

At an East End pub last week, I saw humanity come together, and then rapidly divide, over the pleasures of a simple songbook. This was no "Little Brown Jug" round the old joanna; it was Bone Thugs-n-Harmony with a backing track of Woodbine coughs – Tina Turner as sung in octogenarian (male) falsetto. It was my friend Thom, who I never before realised sounds just like Bobby Brown.

As with many Eastern traditions, karaoke brings enlightenment and self-discovery. It helps you realise things about yourself: initially, that you're a self-conscious stick-in-the-mud with too much regard for your own credibility, and then quickly, that you're effin' Pavarotti so gerroff the stage if you're not even going to sing it properly, and let me have another go. Et cetera.

At the beginning of an evening, a karaoke night is the perfect vision of society, a utopia of inclusion and friendliness. Everyone is diffident, all a little anxious about their abilities, willing to defer to those who know what they're doing. Happy to appreciate talent and nurture the under-confident; to ignore the amateurish, smile politely at the caterwauling and not make one single judgement, in case the rules of karma come back to bite them on the arse and they swallow their false teeth during their own turn in the spotlight. Even the regulars – the ones who come prepared with their own headsets – are magnanimous towards the underdogs.

That's at the beginning.

By the end, what you have is the musical equivalent of austerity government – a regime so brutal, callous, inward-looking and self-obsessed as to perfectly reflect our current leaders and the mortified, recessional electorate who voted the buggers in. It's every man for himself when the "no more requests" sign flashes up on the screen, and twentysomething rudeboys start pretending their name is Glenda just to have a go, heedless of whether they're singing Karen Carpenter or Eminem, just desperate to stand on the stage and hold the microphone nonchalantly by its neck, à la Glenn Hoddle belting out "Diamond Lights".

By then, it was like a Hieronymus Bosch painting: all limbs and teeth. And the man who owned the equipment was forced to track down the microphones like a Witchfinder General after one beneficent performer circulated them round the crowd in order to better focus on his dance routine.

It was a great night, regardless. As far as I can tell, since the Olympics people (in London at least) have felt more disposed to celebrate for even the flimsiest reasons. That's the most interesting thing to have come out of the whole sporty affair: show a slightly drubbed and demotivated populace a valid excuse for a party and they'll start finding them everywhere. You finished your pint, you say? I'm so proud of you, that calls for three more. You've renewed your tax disc? Come here and give us a kiss. What are you up to tonight? Oh, my friend made a really good potato salad earlier so I'm going round to celebrate it.

Is this a bad thing? Are we too easily swayed from workaday to demob happy? Does it make you not-a-serious-person? More and more I feel my weekends are like so many school holidays, full of sparkle and fun, a big sociable group-hug of potentially giggling from the minute I leave work on a Friday until the exact moment I put the light out on Sunday night. It's infectious: we all caught it over the summer.

That's why I'm not too broken or bowed by the fact it has started to go dark at 2pm again. The blossoms and bulbs may have been all gaudy in the spring; the Easter lambs are practically adolescent now, not so much gambolling as gambling, and smoking fags over by the water-trough. The new beginnings that sprung back then are tired, but we're all still pepped – like hamsters on wheels – because the summer that followed was more wash-out than wicked.

I'm only too happy to continue enjoying my weekends like an amnesiac. Come Friday, I forget all my troubles and the fact I still haven't instigated a proper filing system in my house beyond putting everything on the bedroom floor under a pair of high heels. I'm like a 1970s labourer clocking off and looking forward to having a curry, having a fight and then passing out.

Likewise, karaoke is for fun-nesiacs: brilliant at the time, remembered with a warm glow but ruined by the sentient presence of cameraphones. And on that note, to the man whose musical turn I forced my friend to video because it was so hilariously awful, I'm sorry. I hope you enjoyed the rest of your weekend.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Critics of Fiona Woolf say she should step down amid accusations of an establishment cover-up  

Fiona Woolf resignation: As soon as she became the story, she had to leave

James Ashton
 

Letters: Electorate should be given choice on drugs policy

Independent Voices
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes