Karaoke: the worst Japanese import since Pearl Harbor

My brother-in-law’s brother (sorry, the name is being withheld to protect the guilty) is the worst singer I have ever heard. On a good day, he sounds like a suffering cow trying to harmonize with an air horn. You don’t even want to think about the bad days.

Not only is he incapable of hitting a note with a cricket bat, he’s also loud. Unlike some bad singers (hello me) he doesn’t sing softly so as not to be heard. Instead he tries to compensate for the godawful noises he’s producing by cranking the volume up to eleven.

Do I need to tell you that he loves karaoke? Of course he does. It’s a rule. Sound like a strangled pig when you’re telling us how you left your heart in San Francisco? Then you are going to love karaoke.

Karaoke means “empty orchestra” in Japanese. Apparently an orchestra had once gone on strike, so a machine was used instead. It would be more accurate to call it “empty head” or maybe “empty drunken head.” Get a bunch of empty drunken heads together, crank up the karaoke machine and the effect is like being stuck in the nursery with screaming quintuplets at three o’clock in the morning.

Who’s to blame? A fellow named Daisuke Inoue. Apparently he was a musician in Kobe, Japan, which is also famous for overpriced beef. Inoue can’t have been a very good musician, however, because no musician worthy of the name would have inflicted this noise on an unsuspecting world. 

According to a karaoke website, “grabbing a mic and singing in front of others might be daunting at first, but the whole point of karaoke revolves around the joy and erratic laughter that ensues when you are yodelling to your friends.”

Strange. Joy and erratic laughter but no mention of the profound desire to garrot the singer with a length of piano wire.

Seriously. All by herself, Céline Dion is ghastly. Imitation Céline Dion croaked to a karaoke machine? The sound could be used to extract tearful confessions from Chechen mobsters.

I know exactly one person who can consistently sound good with a karaoke machine – but you don’t even have to be a bad singer to sound bad at karaoke. I was once in a karaoke bar in Kuantan, Malaysia with the wife of the brother-in-law’s brother’s brother (figure it out) who happens to be a kickass singer with a very large voice. There weren’t many people in the place willing to take the mike, so she filled in admirably, to the delight of a big group of Chinese businessmen who kept buying us drinks as long as she kept singing, which I thought was a fair arrangement.

But then she chose a tune by the aforementioned Céline Dion which happened to have a number of high notes that were out of her range, and it sounded as though she had swallowed the mike and was trying to gargle it back up. No matter. The Chinese businessmen applauded wildly and sent more drinks.

Which, come to think of it, is the only logical response to karaoke. Send more drinks. Please. About halfway into the next bottle of Stoly, the experience might become bearable if  accompanied by a pair of industrial earplugs.

Why are we talking about karaoke on a lovely September morn, you ask? Because our premier is a boneheaded buffoon, that’s why. Maybe Francois Legault is an especially awful but devoted karaoke singer himself. Otherwise, why would he allow karaoke bars to remain open after a single karaoke night in Quebec City produced 40 positive tests for COVID-19?

Why, for that matter, do bars need to remain open at all when we are going through the touchy process of getting our kids back to school? Surely the children and their teachers take precedence over a drunk who feels an overwhelming need to wail an off-key version of “My Way” at two o’clock in the morning?

On the list of essential workers out there, you can tick off doctors, nurses and hospital staff, police and firefighters, teachers, grocery workers, sanitation workers and several dozen other occupations.

Karaoke singers? Not so much. Once upon a time, Daisuke Inoue created the Juke 8, a tape-recorder machine that “played songs following the insertion of money.” According to the karaoke website, after club owners in Osaka installed the machines, the karaoke trend skyrocketed and “demand for them spiked rapidly.”

Well, I know something else that is spiking again in this province – COVID-19. C’mon, M. Legault. Spare our ears. Shut down the karaoke bars, and the regular bars with them. We desperately need to get the children back in school, where teachers are busting their butts to make this work. We don’t need to hear “Love Me Tender” mangled for the billionth time.

As for my brother-in-law’s brother and the entire Bad Singer mob, they don’t  need masks. They need gags.

TWITTER: @jacktodd46