The missus adores karaoke. Depending on the venue and who’s filling it on a particular night, I either sort of enjoy it — as I did in February at our hotel in Tenerife, where the audience lustily applauded my version of Conway Twitty’s "Only Make Believe," maybe because they thought (wrongly!) that doing so would shut me up for the night — or passionately hate it. The other evening at the Brass Monkey in LA’s Koreatown, I hated it as I have rarely hated any purportedly recreational activity before.
A succession of young singers with whom I felt I had very little in common swaggered up to the singer’s area and performed a succession of tuneless songs with what seemed to me must be the stupidest, most vulgar lyrics in the history of the English language. Ever hear Erykah Badu’s "Tyrone," in which the singer advises a lover who apparently hasn’t been spending enough money on her to send his friend over to collect his belongings from her house? “I think ya better call Tyrone and tell him come on/ Help you get your shit.” She notes disapprovingly, “Every time we go somewhere/ I gotta reach down in my purse/ to pay your way and your homeboys' way/ And sometimes your cousin's way/They don't never have to pay.” Compared to this, Bo Diddley’s “Bring It to Jerome” wasn’t Rodgers & Hammerstein, but Mozart.
Somebody got up and performed one of Adele’s signature hits. I have never enjoyed Adele’s music more. I will never enjoy it as much again.
The respite was brief, as a young man then treated us to the lovely and talented Chris Brown’s "Look At Me Now," in which the singer best known for beating up Rihanna asserts, “Lil nigga bigger than gorilla/ 'Cause I'm killing every nigga that try to be on my shit/ Better cuff your chick if I want her, I can get her/ And she accidentally slip and fall on my dick/ Oops I said on my dick/ I ain't really mean to say on my dick/ But since we talking about my dick/ All of you haters say hi to it/ I'm done.”
Yes, yes, I know. I’m a grumpy old man, and I’m doing in 2015 what the TV star Steve Allen did in 1957, or whenever it was, when he amused his studio audience of hopeless white, uh, squares with a dramatic reading of “Be Bop a Lula.” I should be ashamed of myself, but you know what? Not one little bit.
After what seemed around two months of this stuff, the DJ finally summoned the missus, whose version of The Hooters' "Satellite" must have sounded to the assembled Chris Brown and Erykah Badu fans like Martian music. The lyrics weren’t especially belligerent, and came pretty close to rhyming in many instances. There was a discernible tune.
She received approximately as much applause as the Adele guy, and the DJ turned the microphone over to a succession of small Korean women who seemed to believe that a note sung very out of tune isn’t objectionable if sung at the top of one’s lungs. I have not, to my knowledge, ever heard cats being tortured, and never want to, but I can’t imagine it sounding very much different.
I have been in this situation before, and know that the missus wlll eagerly endure the unendurable for another chance to sing. I was pretty sure that if I had to listen to one more young woman screaming in the key of H, I might kill someone, but then the missus uttered the words I most enjoy hearing at karaoke: We can go if you want to.