Why you should care
Because Neil Diamond’s songbook will not be ignored.
The confusing klatch of would-be celebs congregating around karaoke bars to try their singular hands at a little bit of me-me-me-look-at-me fun have never really been able to explain the attraction. Sure, libations play a part, but fundamentally, karaoke seems to be about music and community.
Which is what drove Paweł and Jakub Kaczmarek to create iSing, an online karaoke social network, in the Polish city of Stargard back in 2009. Paweł was doing some freelance website jobs while going to high school, and Jakub was studying at a technical university and jamming on bass with friends in his free time. After Jakub got his master’s, Paweł, who was now done with high school, started studying IT. He lasted three weeks, having to decide between doing iSing or studying. You see, online karaoke has that much juice — Poles are apparently crazy for karaoke — and with the user momentum gathering around iSing? It just made sense to ride it.
“Not everyone has the courage to perform in front of the audience onstage, even on a karaoke night,” says Paweł about shifting the karaoke paradigm from an outside-the-house activity to an inside-the-house one. “And you pick songs from our catalog and practice them.” For free. Then when you’re ready, record and share it with the iSing community or the world at large. No names or photos even, if you prefer. Just you and your voice. Or if you’re really obsessed and just can’t let it go, “we have the iSing home karaoke party!” he says. The point’s made though: People are crazy enough about karaoke that being able to share performances, where you might really hit that note on Neil Diamond’s “I Am, I Said” just so? At 3 in the morning, no less? Love at first listen.
Which means no limits on how much you can drink, how long you can sing and, perhaps most importantly, how many people can see it. Without the immediate laughter loop when you don’t hit that note on “Sweet Caroline.” And absence of laughter, in the case of karaoke in some places — Google “karaoke violence” and you’ll see people are getting beaten, shot and stabbed to death globally, over songs like “My Way” — means you’ll live to sing another day.
You’re missing the point. Part of the joy IS the ritual humiliation.
Sal Russo, karaoke obsessive
“There are just many people who really love singing every day,” says Paweł. “Plus there are people in small towns where there are no karaoke bars, who use it to reach kindred spirits and even meet up.” So like one of these Got Talent TV shows, huge communities of wannabe singers are actually singing their asses off and having fun doing it.
Which is precisely why it made sense to try. With 1.5 million users in Poland alone, according to Paweł, and the brothers ramping up funding for a global, multilanguage push before the 2017 holiday season (right now actually), we wanted to try it. Aided and abetted by both their just-released iPhone and Android apps, and the fact that they both just currently feature playback but no recording, we’re all in.
So with an eye to testing if the proof of the pudding is in the tasting and a weird and deep-seated love for George Michael, it was a “Careless Whispers” marathon. The sax strains that open the pop potboiler kicking in before, in the privacy of a bathroom, in front of a mirror and using a hairbrush for a mic, I let fly. Do I sound like George Michael? Not especially. Do I sound enough like NOT George Michael to want to share with the world? Well, I’m a proud, man.
“You’re missing the point,” says karaoke obsessive Sal Russo. “Part of the joy IS the ritual humiliation.” For which I have, it should be noted, parenthood. But for those who dig karaoke on the regular? “I absolutely dig,” says Russo the Masochist. “Want to hear my version of ‘My Way’?”