Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Power of Karaoke

I’m feeling depressed this month. Tinemba yu’ gi este na mes.

I spent the last year trying to get a permanent job at UOG and got nothing despite applying for several positions. Right now I’m teaching part time at UOG this month to get by, but come August, I won’t have a full-time job but will still have two kids to support, credit card debt to appease and a mountain of student loan debt that is always mahalang for my salape’. I’m spending the month of July trying to line up some full-time work for decent pay, but haven’t found anything certain yet.

This is especially so when I’m watching a movie and some fantastic, but old pop or rock song comes on, and I’m tempted to start singing along with the soundtrack of the movie. I used to do that, but movies have a way of chopping up or rearranging a song to make it fit and so its really really embarrassing when you are the only person in a theater yelling along to a song and it cuts out, but you keep belting it out for a few embarrassing seconds afterwards.

I haven’t made official plans to go out and karaoke yet this month, but I think about it all the time, and I’ve come up with a list of the first ten songs that I will sing once I get there. This list definitely dates me as being young and impressionable during the 1990’s since most of i mas ya-hu na kantan karaoke siha are from that decade. Nonetheless, this is my A-Team list, infused with the essence of Macguyver, which, when used properly, can lift spirits, solve global warming, balance the budgets of governments and maybe even finally get war reparations for Chamorros. Such is the power of karaoke!

Check out my list below, and feel free to share some of your own favorite karaoke songs in the comments. By the way, there are no Chamorro songs on the list, that’ll be for a separate post!


#10: “Basket Case” by Green Day. A very close call between this song, “Time of Your Life (Good Riddance)” and “Longview” from Green Day. This is a lovely little blitzkrieg of a song which is great to start with. Fast, lively, funny and also pathetic in so many ways, this song has a great way of helping you forget whatever you were worrying about or thinking about a moment ago.

#9: "Undone - The Sweater Song" by Weezer. So many great Weezer songs to choose from, some of which aren't on most automated karaoke systems (put hemplo: In the Garage). But if given the choice of only one to choose from, I always have to pick "Undone" for nostalgia and for sheer weirdness. A real hard-core karaoke song makes you sing with absolute intensity pat fehman na sinente about the most ridiculous things, and so its almost surreal when the chorus arrives and you find yourself swept up in the fervor about communicating to some unknown person about the means through which all of the armor of illusions that you cherish in your life and keep wrapped around you, can be destroyed by the simple yanking on one of its many threads. The dialogue at the beginning and the middle of the song is also great for ad-lbbing with your friends and you can always replace the proper names or ideas with more local or contemporary flavor (hey jose, you going to the giput after the pocket meeting?)

#8: “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. There could be so many Queen songs on this list, but naturally I had to go with the one which it seems was written to be song by a large group of people pumped up and invigorated by life and alcohol, who don’t only want to yell song lyrics, but want to yell in voices that sound like prissy Europeans and yell nonsense-sounding-but-not-really-nonsense-words like “Bismillah!” and “Galileo!” BR contrasts to most karaoke pop favorite songs, because part of its appeal is its specificity and its novelty. Most rock groups like Queen have long “epic” songs like this, but those songs tend to remain popular only with hardcore fans and never receive popular appeal. But the story and the musical and vocal variations in BR make it so unique and truly an experience of its own to sing it.

#7: "Creep" by Radiohead. This song was for quite a while, my all time number one karaoke choice, so loved by me that I would sometimes choose it more than once to sing, even when such a move is frowned upon in collective/joint karaoke outings. The lyrics for this song are mysterious and almost mystical, especially when one tries to grasp what exactly the meaning or the story of the singer is meant to be. The song is complex in how it describes the relationship between the singer and someone who they see themselves as both loving, but also a creep in relation to. It literally runs the gamut of paralyzing and enchanting feelings that one feels when in love. From wanting to possess, to wanting to observer and daring not to touch, to not feeling good enough, but also feeling like you should be the only person in their world. But the song ends with that haunting line which everyone can take something different from, "I don't belong here."

#6: “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis. This one comes in very close with “Wonderwall” by Oasis, but is higher up on my list because the variations in the music and lyrics like “please don’t put your life in the hands/of a rock and roll band/ who’ll throw it all away” make it a richer experience to sing and listen to. If you ever hear my sing this karaoke style you might hear my mix up the English lyrics with some Chamorros ones. I love to end this song with my own Chamorro translated lyrics. So the real last lines for the chorus are “don’t look back in anger/I heard her say,” but I like to say instead “lao mungga ma atan yu’ baba/ ai nai ta’lo”

#5: “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind (3eb): A karaoke tour-de-force for my generation. Incomprehensible at times yet very highly suggestive lyrics, which find a way of resonating for almost everyone. It was one of those fun little pop-rock songs which was played everywhere for the longest time, with most people having no idea that it was a song about the joys and sorrows of doing crystal meth in San Francisco. The album edit is much more fun than the radio edit, which cut out the last verse where the singer describes having sex with someone else on crystal meth and than fearing that she’s dead.

#4: “Lighting Crashes” by Live. Another great song which is fun to sing, but whose subject matter makes it a little awkward if you ever say that you “love the song.” Most people interpret the song as being a tragedy where a mother dies giving birth to her baby. According to the writer and singer, the focus of the song is on how life transfers from one generation to the next. In the same hospital an elderly woman passes and a new child is born. The simplicity of the lyrics actually helps enhance its potential meaning, as if the simple words and images such as “lightning crashes” and “I can feel it coming back again/like a rollin’ thunder/chasing the wind” all become so easily filled with our own experiences and our own ideas.

#3: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones. This was never a favorite Rolling Stones song of mine until I heard it in the context of the TV show House M.D. The song itself is about inspiration and disillusion in the 1960’s, involving different things such a protests, drugs and love. For all of my music life I have preferred The Beatles over the Rolling Stones, but every once in a while I’ve returned to a Rolling Stone song which I once didn’t think much of, and heard it and enjoyed it in a whole new light. This song fits so well with the story of Gregory House, and when I saw it used as the soundtrack to both his life and his philosophy the song really clicked in my head. House is an extreme example of the things we all do to ourselves and other people in order to create order in our lives, feel in control and pursue what it is we think we want or need. He ruthlessly puruses knowledge and the truth of a situation in order to feel in control, to feel like the things that he wants, he can not only get, but also deserves. But, as we often see in that show, being the smartest man in the room or in a hospital doesn’t exempt you from life’s rules, life’s inconsistencies and its chaos. And so many times the very things which will fit most well in our hearts or souls come in ways we would consciously reject as being too much or not enough, the things we say we don’t want.

#2: “Iris” by Goo Goo Dolls. I am not someone who hates pop music because its vapid or simple, because that is usually the thing which makes a piece of music connect with people on a more intimate or deep level. When something is complex or riddled with deep and overbearing meaning it is hard to find yourself in it, and finding yourself is one of the main reasons why people turn to music. To find some echo of your life, your pain, your join and even your politics. “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls is one such song for me and probably for many people my age. It was written and inspired by the plot for the movie City of Angels, but its meaning goes far beyond that of an angel who is in love with a human and wants her to see and know him. It potentially speaks for all who have loved someone they knew they could never have, or wanted something in their life which was impossible. This song is one of those many potential bridges through which we can see and feel the limits and dreams of our lives, as not small and insignificant, but as meaningful, epic and tragic.

#1: “One” by U2. My favorite song to finish a long marathon of karaoke songs with. This song is all about the impossibilities of community and unity. It is about at once the love and the bonds which we feel with each other and can make people across the world see themselves as tied through fate, destiny, liberation and justice. But it is also about the difficulties in those ties, how we are all always frayed at the edges, always feeling like we are being torn apart or betrayed, and the best of the human spirit wasted or lost on war, violence and trauma. For a politically-minded person such as myself its the perfect way to end a karaoke session.

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