Hitting the High Notes 

Karaoke may not sound good, but it feels so right

In the popular American imagination, karaoke isn’t exactly glamorous, or even respectable. It’s often thought of as kitsch at best and, at worst, just kind of sad.

In the popular American imagination, karaoke isn’t exactly glamorous, or even respectable. It’s often thought of as kitsch at best and, at worst, just kind of sad. Think Bill Murray in Lost in Translation, a maladroit outpouring of untrained melody. But karaoke is cathartic fun, and pulling out the stops to belt your favorite megahits serves an important bodily—as well as societal—function: making you feel awesome. And isn’t that why we work for the weekend?

Even though, sadly, there is no more karaoke night at Pla-More Lanes, with cosmic bowling and incongruous videos forming a surreal backdrop—I once saw a video by Canadian lesbian folk duo Tegan & Sara play over the lanes as a group of hammered housewives powered through “Redneck Woman”—there are plenty of other options around town. The Fieldhouse Bar & Grill offers karaoke five nights a week with Mama Becca, and there’s always Printer’s Alley. Many local Asian restaurants double as karaoke bars—large speakers flanking a television at one end of the dining room hint at a croon-friendly establishment. Prefer less of an audience? The Korean style of karaoke, norae-bang (literally, “song room”), offers a private space where you can call all angels, welcome your friends to the jungle or fall to pieces without having to face a bar full of people waiting for their turn. If you’re more prone to hikikomori (a hermetic life) than karaoke, you can pop CMT’s Karaoke Revolution game into your PlayStation.

But the only place in Nashville where you can really live out your lead singer fantasies (with the possible exception of the ones involving groupies) is Everyone’s a Rock Star live-band karaoke at Mercy Lounge. With a full band behind you instead of the cheesy, Nintendo-esque MIDI sound you often get from a karaoke machine, you can really let loose. Luckily, on top of having well over 100 songs in their repertoire, the band you’re fronting is quite good. From “Darling Nikki” to “Ace of Spades,” they’re ready to rock. (Fellas, you’d better squeeze yourself into your best pair of nut-huggers if you’re going to take on Iron Maiden’s “Flight of Icarus.”)

While everyone who takes the stage to sing may not be a rock star, per se, plenty of people take it plenty seriously—at least seriously enough to add a layer of intrigue to the proceedings. Hours before the able house band takes the stage, you can see EARS regulars bellying up to the bar, warming up their pipes—or at least lubricating them. There may not be a panel of judges, but there is certainly competition among performers. Sure, the only prize on the line is pride, but at the end of the day, that’s worth more than any record deal.

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