Tiffany Minton and Lauren Gilbert didn't think karaoke was fun the first few times they did it. In Music City, it was too much like an audition. "I'd been to a couple places in Nashville like Lonnie's and Donnie's, but it never appealed to me because people are so good there," says Minton. "It's like American Idol. And I can't sing. I can maybe carry a tune. But I thought it was intimidating."
That changed when they started attending Wednesday-night karaoke at Springwater, where cutting loose and goofing off to Journey songs was de rigueur. And when the regular hosts took off for six weeks to Canada, Minton and Gilbert—going under the names T-Bag and LG—took over. They realized they could make karaoke what they thought it should be. "It's pretty much being a professional jackass without feeling like anyone's judging you because you're really drunk and want to sing an awful song," Minton says.
Gilbert received a karaoke machine and about 60 songs from a friend as a gift, and the duo started their own night at FooBar. For Gilbert, their Monday-night New Kids on the Karaoke Block is about offering the same free-spirited approach they brought to Springwater, but on the East Side.
"I would do 'Fancy' by Reba McEntire at Lipstick Lounge's karaoke," Gilbert explains. "And if I had done that at Springwater it would have been stupidly hysterical. People would be like, 'Yeah! White trash!' But at Lipstick, you could tell people were looking at me like, 'Uh, yeah, you're not singing that correctly. And why are you making fun of Reba?' "
What Springwater and FooBar are to Music Row, New Kids on the Karaoke Block is to Nashville's relentless musical careerism. The 23-year-olds warm up with a paint-peeling take on the Elton John-Kiki Dee duet "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart," giving folks enough time to get loose (or hammered) enough to take the stage. From there, it's cut-ups, teasing and all-around hamming it up. Gilbert takes on Journey, while Minton does "Total Eclipse of the Heart"—both with a shameless and refreshing disregard for making fools of themselves. Mostly, they just make sure no one takes themselves too seriously.
"A lot of people are scared to do karaoke, because they go to places where everyone's so good and they don't want to be the jackasses that can't sing," says Minton. "But we're the jackasses that can't sing, so that way people don't feel so bad."
Photographed at FooBar by Eric England
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