Jesse James Rice

Write or Die

A blog about needing words to breathe.

Karaoke, L.A. Style

I Love Karaoke

Really—not being ironic. I love the bad songs, the worse voices, the even worser on-sreen lyrical mistakes—all of it. So, when I was invited to my friend Brook's karaoke birthday party, I was game. I clicked that RSVP like a millennial on a Buzzfeed article with numbers in the title.

It was a chilly, rainy mid-October evening in Koreatown, Los Angeles. Nah it was probably warm—I don't remember. Point is, I was wearing a jacket. I looked pretty good. I was ready to sing.

Perhaps I was a little tired already, showing up to a 10 'o clock birthday party. It was at one of those private rooms you pay $50 an hour for—you know, so you only have to make a fool of yourself in front of people you know. I stepped in, bought a cool $5 can of Hike and plopped into a chatty group of girls. They were watching their friends defile Beastie Boys or something equally misogynist. The mood in the room was energetic. I knew moments after I arrived, I would rather be in bed.

I drove all the way there, I thought—I may as well try to have fun. I'd put in a song. One song. None of these women have heard me sing, anyway—I was going to blow their minds.

The Song

It had been a karaoke go-to of mine for a long time: The Backstreet Boys 1999 hit "I Want It That Way". One song, and then I'd be between my comfy sheets.

Well, as it turns out, these 12 girls had put in 1,200 songs before I'd arrived. I waited for what felt like 45 minutes before my song finally came up. But hey, I was really looking forward to this—I love karaoke, remember?

I walk up humbly. These people didn't know what kind of magic was about to come at them. The song started smoothly, there were a couple cheers, and I could tell they were going to get into it.

Then something happened that changed everything.

Tell Me Why

Some guy that must have been a long-distance friend of Brook's popped into the room. She and the other girls immediately swarmed around him to say hello. I continued to sing, relatively unfazed. I was determined to make these people remember me.

Well, it just so happened that Brook handed this new guy the second microphone—in the middle of my song. And he begins to sing it with me! Well, you can imagine how I felt. My natural response was to sing LOUDER than this fool. Seriously, who did he think he was jumping into my song? The one I had waited all night to sing?

Luckily, he wasn't that good, and was happy to be relegated to all the harmony and background parts. "Tell me why...ain't nothin' but a mistake..."

We get through the song. It was a hit. I hid how upset I was, and all the girls cheered like crazy. I had done it! I had blown their...wait. Now they're swarming this dude again. Hugs, cheers, photos...ladies, he was singing harmony! Your hugs and cheers are misdirected. These people didn't seem the least bit interested in me, so I chugged the rest of my beer and took off, chalking it up to 'it's probably her brother who just surprised her coming home early from Iraq' or something. I decided not to take it personally.

Okay—I was not pleased. But I was happy to finally be in bed.

As It Turns Out

That long-distance friend of Brook's? Yeah, he didn't even know her. Hell, he wasn't invited to the party! His wife just happened to hear that song as they walked by the room, and she pushed him inside. To sing it for them. To steal my song...

It was Howie from the Backstreet Boys.


No regrets about out-singing him, though. I sounded great.