THE FIVE KARAOKE SINGERS YOU MEET IN HEAVEN

For thousands of years, humanity has classified the “Miracle of Life” incorrectly. Despite eons of common sense, medical logic, religious conviction and radio payola, the truth is only now become clear. The “Miracle of Life” is not birth. No, the true miracle of life is when drinking to excess collides with the desire to sing along to MIDI versions of your favorite songs. Search your feelings, you know it to be true. Also, if you see my keys in there, let me know. I’m locked out of my apartment.

Karaoke is a ritual for the bar flies and party hoppers of our fair city. But not every karaoke singer is created equal. There are a vast multitude of karaoke archetypes, almost too many to count. By which I mean five. There are only five. Could there be more? Maybe, but I wrote the title first, so there’s only five.

1. The Diva

The KJ introduces the next singer. A young woman slowly makes her way through the crowd. There’s a murmur amongst the rabble. “Is that the opening drum machine of ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody?’ Is she doing WHITNEY!?” The gasps of the audience hang in the air like so many Edison Bulbs the bar is regretting buying because goddammit, they are so fucking expensive to replace. The young woman opens her mouth. The sound is heavenly. The Diva provides. The plebes consume. All is right with the karaoke world.

The Diva knows no boundaries in karaoke. She WILL sing Mariah. She WILL sing Celine. Unfortunately, she WILL sing show tunes. Her classically trained vocal chops carry her through any song of any genre. She always garners applause and at least one drunk dude muttering to himself that he could do better. He couldn’t. Interestingly enough, The Diva is often shy and reserved, which makes her powerhouse style so impressive. Do not be impressed. She knows what she is doing.

2. The Ironist

A Golem made of backwards hats, distressed jeans and PBR tall boys stumbles to the mic. He points to his friends, fellow Douchebro automatons, and dedicates this song to them. Beautiful and heartfelt words. He sheds a single tear. The crowd, against their better judgement, embraces him. Despite his Wrigleyville exterior he is a sensitive soul. Then he goes and sings “Before He Cheats” in a cornpone falsetto because he thinks it’s hilarious when dudes sing lady songs. His shithead friends love it. Everyone else hates it. And they should. Because it is bad.

The Ironist is a master of delusion. He WILL sing Mariah. He WILL sing Celine. Unfortunately, he WILL NOT fucking stop. Because his friends think he is a comedic genius. Every time he gets off stage after another stumble through of “Call Me Maybe,” his mates surround him in a flurry of high fives and side hugs, demanding that he give profession comedy a try, because he’s like, so funny, bro. What The Ironist doesn’t tell them is he went to an open mic months ago and was shocked to find dudes singing lady songs is not a valid form of stand-up comedy. He only continues to please his friends, for he is now dead inside.

3. The Duetter

Hand in hand they take the stage. The KJ is upset. That guy was just up here on his own, now he’s singing with this girl? He’s throwing this whole rotation out of control! WHAT MANNER OF MADNESS IS THIS!? He checks the song file and shudders. Meanwhile, She and He sway awkwardly, chatting about something unrelated, missing the cue to start singing “Summer Lovin’.” Still, there is something undeniable about their chemistry. It is not necessarily sexual, but it is definitely sexual. They get lost in each other’s eyes, much to the chagrin of anyone who wanted to hear a well sung rendition of the rape-y song from Grease. Luckily, nobody wanted to hear ANY rendition of the rape-y song from Grease.

The Duetter may appear to be cheating for the purposes of this list. How can two people appear as one entry? Shouldn’t they take up two slots? If you look closely, you will notice they are not, in fact, two different humans. They are one and the same. They only appear separate due to a combination of in-camera trickery, mirrors and good old fashioned Wild Magick. Which makes their sexual attraction to one another reasonable. The Duettist is nothing if not a narcissist. And a serial masturbator.

4. The Drowned Man

Full of confidence, he approaches the KJ, who reluctantly hands him the mic. “You don’t have to do this,” the host says with his eyes. “You can still walk away.” But the smile on his face says it all. Not only CAN he do this, he MUST do this. It is his birthright. It is what he has fought for all his life. And when the opening riff of “Welcome to the Jungle” blasts forth from the speakers, the crowd goes wild. They are ready to rock, and he is ready to rock them. He does not, however, rock them. For the next four minutes and thirty-four seconds, the crowd watches a man self-destruct.

The Drowned Man is chronically in over his head. He consistently chooses songs light years beyond his limited vocal range. No matter how many times he butchers “Stayin’ Alive” or “Thunderstruck,” he keeps coming back. It would almost be admirable, if it weren’t also so incredibly sad. By the middle of most songs, The Drowned Man has recognized his mistake and checked out. For the remainder, he will alternate between warbling what few notes he knows and sobbing uncontrollably. The Drowned Man is the funniest thing you’ve ever seen.

5. The Genius

The KJ didn’t even know she had this song. But HE did. He scoured every page of every song book to find it. And now he bounds on stage, ready to educate everyone in the crowd as to what good music is. The crowd is puzzled as the music begins. It sounds kind of familiar, like maybe something that was briefly popular in the mid-90’s. Our hero never wavers, never even looks at the screen. He put you all in a bus and took you all to school. He is your Teacher. He is your God.

The Genius only sings deep cuts, B-sides and obscure arcana from decades past. Sure, occasionally he’ll throw in a freebie for the crowd, a little “Africa” by Toto to draw them in, but it is only bait for the switch. Nobody asked for “Echoes of Love” by the Doobie Brothers. Nobody asked for “Some Like It Hot” by Power Station. Nobody asked for “Any Major Dude Will Tell You” by Steely Dan. But that is only because they didn’t know they wanted it. In the end, the crowd leaves smarter, the Genius leaves satisfied, and Steely Dan gets a check for an eighth of a cent in royalties. FULL DISCLOSURE: I am the Genius. If you see me at karaoke, get ready for a lot of Elvis Costello songs you’ve never heard of. You’re welcome.

BONUS: The KJ

(If you got this far without realizing what a KJ is, I am sorry. I probably should have defined it earlier. In fact, I apologize for apologizing now, as I could have just gone back and rewritten the first entry for clarity. But I’ve come too far to turn back. Also, I follow the L. Ron Hubbard School of Writing: First Draft, Last Draft, Get it out the door!)

There is a lull in the night. Everyone who signed up to sing has sung. The Diva led off with a stirring rendition of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody.” The Ironist followed with a terrible rendition of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody.” The Duetter tackled “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” and only stopped to argue about who was Kiki Dee twice. The Drowned Man began “Stairway to Heaven” promisingly, but forgot it was, like, an eight minute song, and walked off before the high screaming part at the end. The Genius did what he does best: “Let Him Dangle,” an album cut from Elvis Costello’s 1989 album Spike, a song about the Derek Bentley/Christopher Craig murder case in 1952 England. He knows the people loved it.

But now there is nothing but silence. And so, it falls on one man to entertain the assembled masses. The KJ (Karaoke Jockey, I almost forgot that!) fiddles with his system and takes the mic for himself. His voice combines with the music in a perfectly serviceable manner. The song he sings is simple, yet popular. It’s “Undone (The Sweater Song)” or “Come on Eileen” or “All the Small Things” or “Sweet Caroline.” It’s a crowd pleaser. The KJ instigates a sing-along, because he knows, deep down in his heart of hearts, it will inspire people to sign up to sing again. And also they might tip him good.

Conclusion

So there you have it: the Five Karaoke Singers You Meet In Heaven. Sure, there were actually seven, and yeah, the entries were pretty biased, and I know, I never mentioned “Heaven” at any point besides the intro and now. What you have to understand is that I saw Mitch Albom’s book The Five People You Meet In Heaven in a bookstore the other day, and I thought it would be hilarious to parody that, but be about karaoke singers. I have not read said book. I do not know what it is about. Is there a real Heaven in the book? Don’t care. And neither should you. You should be getting ready. Hop in the shower, brush your teeth, eat dinner, curse yourself for brushing before dinner and brush again, and go to your local karaoke bar. I’ll see you there. I’ll be the one singing Foghat’s immortal “Fool for the City.” Again: You’re welcome.

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