April 25, 2012

What Happens in the Karaoke Box...

I love those karaoke nights.
Oh man, you guys, I love karaoke. I spend my days anxiously wondering where the next karaoke invitation is going to come from. When I listen to my iPod, I do so with a critical ear, mentally organising songs into 'karaoke worthy' categories. My hands tremble in anticipation of when they will next get to clutch a tambourine. I daydream about song lyrics floating in the air, with jaunty little katakana characters bouncing above them.

I'm no singer. In any normal situation, the very thought of grabbing a microphone and belting out a tune in front of other people would fill my wee heart with horror. But there is something about the sanctity of the karaoke box that makes public humiliation natural, possibly even beautiful. You may be slightly nervous, as your turn approaches - you may even begin to have doubts about your song choice (I'm afraid these doubts are justified if you picked Celine Dion). But all fears are forgotten the minute the song begins, and your intoxicated friends begin to cheer you on, as if they are at a spectacular music festival extravaganza, instead of a slightly scummy, smoky little room. You realise this is the moment you have been waiting for all your life. And it is happening, here, right now. Only in Japan.

You learn things about people that you never knew before. One of your friends turns out to be a seriously brilliant singer. A female friend has a penchant for gangsta rap, a male friend enjoys Miley Cyrus. Then there's the one who can barely speak Japanese in everyday life, but becomes unexpectedly fluent when it comes to reading Japanese song lyrics. I personally have been told that I am very good at shaking my tambourine in time to the beat. Karaoke. It just brings people together.

The great bearer of tambourine
I strongly believe karaoke is a rite of passage for all gaijin in Japan. So to help you on your way, grasshoppers, I have compiled a list of my favourite karaoke songs.

Difficulty ratings:
Chopsticks = may be attempted by any gaijin
Origami = recommended for those with a certain level of skill
Wasabi = proceed with caution
Kamikaze = setting yourself up for failure

1. Don't Stop Believing - Journey
Ah, classic Journey, made all the more famous by the filth that is Glee. Sumo-sized, crowd-pleasing chorus. Difficulty rating: Wasabi. Mainly because of the 'NIGGGGGGHT' note.

2. Don't Stop Me Now - Queen
Flamboyant and jolly. Excellent tambourine beat. Comfortably repetitive. Difficulty rating: Chopsticks.

3. Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
Freddie Mercury wrote his songs with karaoke in mind, I'm sure of it. The changes in pitch and tempo keep things ever interesting, and by the guitar solo I guarantee you will have abandoned your microphone. Intense. Difficulty rating: Origami.

4. Wonderwall - Oasis
This British anthem is brilliant for karaoke because you don't even have to sing, just sound like you're really bored. The hard part is explaining to a curious Japanese person what 'wonderwall' actually means. Difficulty rating: Chopsticks.

5. I Love Rock 'n Roll - Britney Spears
Who has seen Crossroads? I love that movie. Bitch shows us how karaoke is done. Difficulty rating: Chopsticks.

6. Super Bass - Nicki Minaj
I like to think of this one as my specialty karaoke song. Impress your Japanese friends with your rapping skills! Difficulty rating: Wasabi. The chorus is surprisingly high. And the 'boom ba doom boom' bit becomes harder to articulate with each Chu-hi consumed.

7. Peach - Ai Otsuka
When in Japan, sing a Japanese song. You will earn serious karaoke cred. And even if you get lost during the verses, you can still make a flawless comeback with a triumphant 'PEACH' in the chorus. Difficulty rating: Kamikaze. But at least you tried.

8. Bad Romance - Lady Gaga
This song is simply universal. Best performed after numerous drinks - this is when the slutty dance moves come out, for all to enjoy. Walk walk, fashion baby. Difficulty rating: Origami.

9. Tiny Dancer - Elton John
Sometimes it's nice to put the tambourine down for a bit and just have a good old fashioned croon. Extra points if you replace the lyric 'tiny dancer in my hand' with 'tiny dancer in Japan'. LOL. Difficulty rating: Chopsticks.

10. Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana - SMAP
This is one of the most popular karaoke songs for Japanese people. Has the added bonus of being extremely catchy. Attempt this song, and your transition to karaoke superstar is complete. Difficulty rating: Kamikaze.


  1. Lol love the song recommendations!

  2. Was the comment 'seriously brilliant singer' a reference about Ryan?

  3. Wow that looks so cool and so much fun. I wish there was stuff like that where I lived.

  4. You won't happen to have a recording of you doing Super Bass or Bad Romance, would you? This could be your rise to stardom.

  5. The SMAP song sounds good but I doubt I could sing it with Japanese characters! The trouble is, by the time I've managed to work out the words they've gone! I need to learn them with English letters first really. Kamen Rider Agito I've got really good at. That's nice and easy.

    I think when I get to a karaoke bar I'll try and do some of each language.