Against all odds | Bleader

Friday, September 9, 2011

Against all odds

Posted By on 09.09.11 at 10:44 AM

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A small clique of people, all friends, were basically the only ones at karaoke last night—they were really the only people in the bar. Faced with this crowd of strangers my friend considered his options—Judy Garland? Johnny Cash?—but eventually discarded them. Meanwhile the strangers were tag-teaming the open mike. One man sang, unfortunately, “Hallelujah,” the most gratuitously covered song in history. I read an excellent analysis purporting to offer “scientific proof” of the greatest diva of the last 25 years, in which the author claims that Whitney Houston bests other contenders—Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin—by virtue of the fact that she “broke” the national anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl (“While Aretha pretty much broke every song she ever performed, leaving it smoking on the stage, never to be touched again, Whitney broke our goddamn National Anthem”). Everybody knows Jeff Buckley broke “Hallelujah”—of course its author, Leonard Cohen, didn’t do too badly either—and I think all these pretenders need to back the fuck off. You want a karaoke song? Here, try Bon Jovi.

There’s nothing but irony at karaoke, or there is none at all. “It’s a chance to be sentimental!” my friend said. It was true. In the handful of times I’ve been (and rarely participated; OK—once—“I Can’t Make You Love Me.” OK, and another time—with a friend—“You Oughta Know.” I only regret the latter) I’ve noticed a not-insignificant number of men, at the bar by themselves, solemnly performing when their time came. They aren’t in if for the laughs, at least so far as I can tell. (Maybe they’re in it for the bacon?) One middle-aged man last night performed a sort of party-time pop-country number, I’m not sure what, and then returned to his seat at the bar. He had what resembled paperwork in front of him. He wore khakis. Another solo patron, whom I recognized as a local business owner, sang some old standard, and then returned to the mike later for an inoffensive-given-the-circumstances version of a truly execrable song, Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day,” that lite-rock disaster. “Against All Odds” seems a standby, and it was performed in turn by the khaki man, and this is the point: that’s a song that needs to be performed with hipster detachment or 100 percent pure sincerity. “There’s so much I need to say to you,” this guy crooned. “So many reasons why.” Indeed.

Bonus: “Against All Odds”—and by extension Phil Collins—figures into one of my favorite This American Life episodes. Listen here!

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