8.7

Brian Raftery

Don’t Stop Believin’: How Karaoke Conquered the World and Changed My Life [Da Capo]

Books Reviews Brian Raftery
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Brian Raftery

Serious magazine writer takes lighthearted look at karaoke

I don’t do karaoke. Playing real instruments is my thing. That said, I’m also open-minded, so I gave Brian Raftery’s Don’t Stop Believin’ a chance. You might think Journey is cheesy, but I do have a soft spot for that song. Raftery didn’t disappoint. He’s got a wicked sense of humor, and he loves to make fun of himself, too. He’s got to make fun of himself. If he took karaoke seriously, I wouldn’t have made it past the first page.
What he’s got here is a memoir that turns more reportorial in the second half. I don’t mean that it gets boring with a load of facts and figures as it goes on. Being a writer for Wired, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, and Spin, Raftery has a natural inclination to put on his journalist hat even when he’s talking about himself. The technique works well. He starts off describing how karaoke helped him to shed his inhibitions. He got into it as a young lad, bored out of his gourd in the suburbs. Being in a real rock band just wasn’t for him, but belting out to simulated music was. The obsession progressed, and he traveled with it.
All the way to Japan. He’s made more than one trip to the land where karaoke was born, and he details his various adventures through karaoke bars, replete with hot tubs, endless drinks, snacks, participating hostesses, and drunken businessmen trying to impress the boss or just plain drunk. Good times.

Apparently, Raftery also has a good time collecting karaoke videos. He’s done his homework and has come up with the following categories of characters among them: The Wandering Lover, The Soft-Core Swooner, The Random Fly Girl, The Horny Bugle Boy, and The Guy Who Picks a Random Woman Off the Street, Puts Her on the Back of His Motorcycle, and Then Takes Her to a Farm So That They Can Dance Near the Rail Yards. Never have I seen such intriguing astuteness about some things I would never want to see. I’ve got to applaud him for taking his obsession all the way.