Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

They just don't write lyrics like this anymore (from 1966!):

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch
You really are a heel.
You're as cuddly as a cactus,
And as charming as an eel,
Mr. Grinch!
You're a bad banana,
With a greasy black peel!

You're a monster, Mr. Grinch!
Your heart's an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders,
You've got garlic in your soul,
Mr. Grinch!
I wouldn't touch you
With a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole!

You're a vile one, Mr. Grinch!
You have termites in your smile.
You have all the tender sweetness
Of a seasick crocodile,
Mr. Grinch!
Given the choice between the two of you,
I'd take the seasick crocodile!

You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch!
You're a nasty, wasty skunk!
Your heart is full of unwashed socks,
Your soul is full of gunk,
Mr. Grinch!
The three words that best describe you
Are as follows, and I quote,
"Stink, stank, stunk!"

You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch!
You're the king of sinful sots!
Your heart's a dead tomato,
Splotched with moldy, purple spots,
Mr. Grinch!
Your soul is an apalling dump-heap,
Overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable,
Mangled-up in tangled-up knots!

You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch!
With a nauseous super naus!
You're a crooked jerky jockey,
And you drive a crooked hoss,
Mr. Grinch!
You're a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich,
With arsenic sauce!

...I just learned that the guy who sang this song was also the voice of Tony the Tiger. RIP, my good man.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Part 2: Living the Dream

First of all, apologies for my long absence from posting, but I have been at my parents' house in Florida on a (probably healthy) break from the Internet. Now to continue from where I left off.

I'll save you the suspense...yes, my singing partner and I were the runners-up in the groups and duos category of the karaoke contest. Maybe one of the coolest things I've ever been a part of. We each won a $100 gift card to any restuarant in Manhattan, which I plan to use every last bit of, if such a thing is possible at a vegetarian restaurant. Victory!

Let's back up a little.

The venue, as I mentioned before, was The Spotlight Live in Times Square. I have mixed feelings about this place, which I will detail below.

Keep in mind that I have only patronized this bar as part of a corporate event, and I may be a little biased by my glorious post-performance high. Caveats aside...

The place does not really attempt to hide the fact that it is mostly a giant, tourist-y merchandising ploy. You are filmed while singing, so that they can attempt to sell you a souvenir DVD afterward. Nothing wrong with this at all, but it is the reason for the small song list - they need to own the rights to every song in order to produce the DVDs. I'll give the song list a little credit, as it did include two of my favorite karaoke songs ever - Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" and "I've Had the Time of My Life", my chosen duet for the night.

The technology factor is quite cool. Rather than hunt through a book, straining your eyes to read the small type and write down the song number, there is a touch screen at each table that allows you to search for songs and add yours to the queue. In addition, the audience can vote for their favorite performances - what becomes of these results on an average night, I'm not quite sure.

The backup singers are certainly a fun draw. Honestly, when else in my life will I get the opportunity to perform with 4 enthusiastic, choreographed men and women singing behind me? However, I would suggest that the backup singers either needed their mics turned down or needed to sing less often - i.e. sing backup. Again, this may have been special to a corporate party, when they might assume that we need a little extra drowning out. I actually couldn't hear myself at all, which gave me a fuller understanding of the need for stage performers to wear those earpieces. Still, the backup singers were very nice folk.

Almost forgot about the private karaoke booths. I didn't experience these myself because I was frantically running around waiting to get on stage. I know that they are sound-proof, each has a screen with the list of songs, and that they looked like something from The Fly. I only saw 3 booths, one of which was being used for storage of extra chairs. These pods were certainly not a main attraction that night, but a nice option I suppose.

Overall, The Spotlight Live is more of a karaoke club, bigger (3 stories) and more fancily decorated than any of the little hole in the wall bars I'm used to. Although I can't imagine what else I expected from Times Square. It's certainly not a place to go if you have a specific song in mind (the only Madonna on the list was "Holiday" - what??), or if you don't want 3 floors of people paying attention while you attempt to sing with backup. I would recommend trying it at least once for the novelty (sorry I can't quote prices!), and I would probably like to go back and try again. Without a doubt, it's a unique experience and a lot of fun once you're up on stage with the spotlights obscuring much of the crowd from your view. I certainly feel more ready to try live band karaoke... next on my list.

Below is a screenshot of my singing partner and I on stage doing our damndest to evoke the full Dirty Dancing atmosphere. I think we did pretty well, with about 4 couples dancing in front of the stage and my partner doing the crazy Patrick Swayze jump from the stage and subsequent cheesey dancing and strutting. (No we did not do "the lift" - let's get real.) I could only stand on stage and swish my skirt like a dork, a la Jennifer Grey. But my insane polka-dot dress did earn the appreciation of the emcee, which may have settled the vote-by-applause in our favor, so I'd say I did my part. First place went to a group of four guys who created a stunning rendition of "Total Eclipse of the Heart", complete with dreamy spinning in their choreography. I was honored to lose to them. Maybe if we had mastered a few dance moves ahead of time... sigh, we'll never know.

Just for fun, I'll leave you with a scene we all stop and watch every time it's on. Admit it, you know this one by heart.

The Spotlight Live
1604 Broadway, New York, NY

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Karaoke Contest of My Dreams/ Nightmares

My office Holiday party is tomorrow night, and of all things, this year my company has chosen a massive karaoke bar in Times Square. And there was joy. The venue is The Spotlight Live at 49th and Broadway. We were informed a couple weeks ago that there would be a karaoke contest, and I felt ready to potentially embarrass myself in front of hundreds of coworkers, just to know I had the guts to enter.

Soon after, we received further details on the contest in the form of a very colorful email announcement, designed to look like an ad for American Idol tryouts or some such nonsense. The email informed us that:

All performers will be accompanied by professional backup singers. And...

In addition to a selection of great prizes for the top teams, the winning team will have their performance simulcast on the Jumbo Tron in Times Square for all the world to see!

Um, is it just me, or does that last part sound more like a threat than a prize? Still, I decided to persevere. I no longer had the courage to go up on stage alone, but with a coworker to duet with, I felt I could go through with it.

For me, that's the crux of what karaoke is about. Even if you don't have a particularly great voice, as long as you commit to the song, and you're out there really trying to give the people a show, then I commend you. Now I'll admit, it's always nicer to hear someone with a minimally decent voice than some tone deaf drunk on the mic tearing up "All By Myself", but this goes without saying. And there will certainly be many future posts about which songs I think fail miserably and succeed best in the karaoke environment (and why). But for now, back to the contest.

Here's a link to the song list for tomorrow night (Excel spreadsheet). I guess because the backup singers have to be prepared, they had to limit the selection. A little heavy on
High School Musical for my taste. But they just happened to have my song of choice - "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes - so I felt strongly that it was meant to be.

...Until I signed up and received a response from the organizers that all the spots had filled up and a lottery would determine who actually got to compete. Rats. Who knew there were so many brave souls in my office? Good for them, I suppose. Not so good for my blog.

Whether or not I perform, I shall report on the event and review my first experience at this new karaoke venue. Sneak preview, folks: I'm certainly not in it to win it. I know my voice is nothing too special, passable for well-chosen songs, sure. I also don't delude myself to think that amongst hundreds of people in my office - some who are rumored to have choreography prepared - there won't be several who can belt a song out for real. Mostly, I want to prove to myself that I will actually get on that stage, if the lottery gods allow it. What is it they say, break a leg? Yeah, wish me that.

Listening to: The Postal Service - "Natural Anthem"

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Jens Lekman: More than just a difficult-to-pronounce name

This emo-looking Swedish singer-songwriter (who pronounces his name "Yens Lake-mon") surprised me with a deep, striking voice and hooked me in with a song catalogue that ranges from sweet and pretty to groovy/danceable to just flat out quirky and cool.

I believe if I were going to offer one song to convince you this guy's worth your listening time, it would definitely be "A Postcard to Nina" from his most recent album, Night Falls Over Kortedala. I've gotten a bit addicted to this one myself. Other favorites on this album: "If I Could Cry (It Would Feel Like This)" and "Your Arms Around Me."

Also worth checking out is Oh You're So Silent, Jens, a collection of previously released material from 2005 and before. "Maple Leaves" is just grand.
Happy listening!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My Favorite Music Videos: Fatboy Slim - "Weapon of Choice"

Welcome to the first in what's likely to be quite an extended series. I'll be posting my favorite videos, new and old, but we all know they'll be mostly old. Frankly, I'm not the MTV watcher I once was, so expect mainly videos from the early 2000s and before. I promise I'll do my best to seek out some newer selections too.

Let's take a trip back to the year 2000, sophomore year of college for me. I still remember how excited I would get when I caught this video starting while I got ready to head off to my morning classes. Such a simple concept for a video, and yet so very enjoyable. I'll admit that my opinion on this matter may be strongly influenced by my love of Christopher Walken, but I don't think I'm alone on that one.

According to Wikipedia, the lead vocals are by Bootsy Collins? I just learned something new! Wiki also provided this little gem:
"According to an interview on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Walken got the inspiration for certain dance moves by observing raccoons."
And now you ask yourself, "What bit of valuable knowledge did I just push out of my brain by learning this fact?"

Without further ado, Mr. Walken, take it away.

Monday, December 10, 2007

No time like the holidays to be honest with myself

I'm just gonna come right out and say it. Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" is a really good song. I don't care if she attempts to rhyme "fireplace" with "Christmas day". Come on, give it a listen, and see if you're not humming it for the rest of your goddamn life.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Two Good Reasons You Should Be Watching Flight of the Conchords

I know I'm discussing a tv show/comedy act, but since the songs are the best part of the show, I'm going to consider this relevant.

Around my apartment,
Conchords is more than a show; it's a household bonding time, a source of endless quotes, a way of life. So for the unconverted masses, I offer two of my very favorite songs from the first season, in conveniently-placed video form.

1. "Think About It" [2:36] - probably the best lyrics/delivery of any of their songs thus far, in this humble blogger's opinion

2. "Bowie to Bowie" [4:31] - Jemaine's Bowie impression kills me every time. The video is a clever compilation of Bowie's various looks and sounds over the years. But really you just have to watch.

Season 2, I wish you'd start already.

Friday, December 7, 2007

After all this time...

I don't know how many of you remember a wondrous show called "Pop-Up Video" that aired on VH-1 in the mid-to-late 90s. I myself never understood why this show faded away and then disappeared completely from the network. For one thing, it was one of the last bastions of showing music videos in their entirety (imagine that!). And though the mostly useless pop-up facts were often phrased as lame puns, it was still damn entertaining when you were lounging around in the afternoon.

Well looks like VH-1 wised up a bit - with a little searching I found an archive of 47 original Pop-up videos on the VH-1 website. Some of these are very vivid to me, as I probably watched certain episodes well over 10 times during those lazy days (Holy crap, how many times have I seen the Pop-up version of U2's "One"?? Or "Losing My Religion", for that matter). Well now I can be lazy again. And so can you! Check out the archive here.

Sometimes the Internet plus my at-work ADD makes for magical results.

Listening to: Queen - "Killer Queen"

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I Dig Music

Forgive me, but nothing truly epic is coming to mind for a mission statement here. I wanted to dedicate a blog to music, which may mean anything from waxing nostalgic about my favorite musical decade - the 90s - to reporting from the front lines of as many NYC karaoke bars as I can. You'll see that I like to rank things and make lists. I also revel in making fun of bad lyrics and appreciating the better ones. Perhaps a review here, a long lost (or never found) music video there. And I will definitely suggest artists/albums/songs that I am obsessed with - do with this info what you will.

Above all - I want feedback! I hope for this to be an open forum of sorts, especially when it comes to ranking, interpreting, sharing ridiculous psychological assocations. We're all friends here, so fear not.

This introduction still needs something, though
. When in doubt, why don't we turn to the immortal words of Prince?
Dearly Beloved...
We are gathered here today
to get through this thing called LIFE.
Electric word "life", it means forever
and that's a mighty long time
but I'm here to tell you
there's something else ... the afterworld
a world of never ending happiness
you can always see the sun, day or night.
So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills --
you know the one ... Dr. Everything'll be alright.
'stead of asking him how much of your time is left
ask him how much of your mind, baby
'cause in this life things are much harder than in the afterworld
in this life you're on your own!
and if the elevator tries to bring you down
go crazy... punch a higher floor!
Happy reading,

Listening to: Thom Yorke - "And It Rained All Night"