20 August 2014


Talking to You about Karaoke!
(Part of my series on Rob Sheffield's Talking to Girls about Duran Duran)

Now that we're done with the Children's Programme "Fake" Band Smackdown and postponing the Oryx and Crake readalong indefinitely (I'm still so sorry), I guess it's the best time to resume blogging through Rob Sheffield's tribute to 80s music. And how can we do that without exploring some karaoke?

I never sang karaoke in the '80s, but I spend my karaoke time rehearsing those years, long after the audition ended. I go to karaoke to live those years out in ways that weren't possible at the time, technologically and emotionally. Now I can step into the stilettos of Sheena [Easton] or Chaka [Khan]. These are songs I used to sing alone in my room--now I have a microphone and a crowd.

Well, actually, we could have returned to the 80s with some Paul McCartney instead--but when I asked people to choose between Macca and karaoke, the only vote went to karaoke. LOL! And why not? If music is a universal language, then karaoke is Esperanto. But I do wonder what my provincial karaoke "accent" would reveal about me in an international gathering.

Not Quite the 80s . . .

So many of my company's European trainees have expressed curiosity about the Philippines that the Resources department finally created a short article about the country which covered the four essentials: the beaches, the jeepneys, the sisig, and of course, the national pastime of karaoke. Which has since evolved (as you can see from the embedded pizza commercial) into "videoke"--a fact left out of the article, since no one wants to waste precious training minutes explaining that to foreigners! =P But while many Filipinos gather around the videoke machine at any social gathering that lets them, it's not the classiest thing they we could be doing.

A few years ago, I had two very distinct groups of friends whom I could never seem to bring together. I'd tell Circle A that I'd be inviting people from Circle B to a group gathering, and everyone would seem okay with it, until everyone from Circle B would say they couldn't come or would cancel after saying yes. In the meantime, there wasn't a single Circle B gathering that I thought would also be fun for my Circle A friends, so I never tried to get them to tag along to one. Any time some people from both groups would make it, the outnumbered ones would end up leaving early and all at once. The only two times I ever got everyone in the same room were one of my rare birthday parties and my brother Cue-card Boy's wake. Beyond the extremes of birth and death, they just didn't feel comfortable around each other; and the concisest sociological explanation is that one group loved our cheesy videoke parties, while the other wouldn't allow something as plebeian as a videoke machine to cross their thresholds. I'm still not sure how I managed to straddle both worlds for so long--but yeah, I've chosen a side now. =S And boy, do I miss the videoke . . .

But the difference between Sheffield and me is that I didn't really enjoy karaoke/videoke for its own sake. In fact, most of the times my friends and I gathered for a musical evening, I found myself wishing that we could turn off the electronic music and use our guitars to work out proper covers of our favourite songs. (I brought Christine to every videoke party. No one ever cared. I'm so used to the indifference that I won't even be hurt if you don't remember who Christine is.) Long before videoke became the average Filipino's favourite form of musical expression, music lovers paid tribute to the pop charts using Jingle chord book magazines . . . which are another story.

Now THAT is the 80s!

To be completely accurate, the first Jingle came out in 1970 (which is technically the last year of the 1960s)--and if pop music was its warp, then the era's spirit of protest was its woof. Alongside the chords and lyrics for the latest American or British singles were the chords and lyrics of local "Makibaka" protest songs. And it didn't seem strange to have fawning articles on pop stars right next to critical editorials on the increasingly dictatorial administration. But in the end, Jingle was no more successful than I was in uniting the two worlds that it insisted on straddling. If it had, we wouldn't have half the country singing videoke and the other half not singing at all. Don't get me started on the politics.

Now I hope that decade hopping doesn't make you too dizzy because you have another choice coming up between two other pop musicians whose popularity lasted beyond the 80s. Shall our next discussion hinge on Madonna or on Morrisey?

Your Turn at the Jukebox Karaoke Machine: If we were at a karaoke club, what song would you be punching in right now?

Image Source: Jingle magazine, Chapter 90


Brandon said...

Ack, that's a reason for me never to accept a party invitation in the Philippines; I can't stand karaoke. And videoke seems to be karaoke squared!

If we were at a karaoke club, I would be running away, but assuming I were forced to punch something in, as I have on a rare occasion been forced to, I tend to prefer rather folsky seventies stuff (Don McLean-type stuff), just because it's easy to sing.

The Madonna vs. Morrissey choice is difficult; but I think I vote Madonna, not because she's better but because she also, in a sense, has become a more universal language.

Enbrethiliel said...


LOL! You just have to be careful about which invitations you accept. As I said, the circle of close friends I have now never sing karaoke at our parties. Or at all. =P

Incidentally, Madonna's 80s hits are my personal karaoke songbook! ;-)

Bob Wallace said...

You have no idea how amusing it is to me that you know who Chaka Khan is. BTW, you do know Prince wrote that song?

Enbrethiliel said...


I know who Chaka Khan is mostly because a cousin nearly the same age as I loved saying her name over and over again. LOL!

Now that you mention it, I can hear Prince's style in I Feel for You. =)

Banshee said...

And Toots Thielman on the harmonica....

Enbrethiliel said...


I'm pretty sure that was Stevie Wonder.

Bob Wallace said...

I saw Stevie Wonder in concert when I was 17.