Posted by: naanofyourbusiness | June 30, 2010

The International AND Generational Karaoke Gap

This movie created unachievable international, karaoke expectations, and no one gave me a pink wig to wear!

In Shanghai, Karaoke or KTV at karaoke bars is quite popular.  I wanted to experience this for myself…you know, like in the movie “Lost In Translation” when Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson end up singing karaoke with a bunch of random, drunk, japanese businessmen (yes, I know that Shanghai is not in Japan).  Well, my mother insisted on joining me and that “Lost In Translation” scenario was simply not the case.  Here’s why:

First of all, the people working at the KTV joint barely knew English, which made figuring things out slightly more difficult without a native speaker…or any chinese speaker for that matter.

Second, all the digital karaoke songbook/computer screens were in Chinese!  It took me more than 10 of our 60 minutes to even figure out how to get to the English song menu.  Until then, the only song I could find was “Roxanne” by the Police.  It’s a fine song, but I somehow had it playing on a loop.

Third, this particular KTV only had private karaoke rooms, so it was just me and my mother in a room for one hour trying to agree on anything…let alone what songs to play.  Oh, and we had microphones!

Fourth, what do you sing at karaoke when it’s just you and your Indian mom?!  I guess Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” and Ke$ha’s “Tick Tock” are out of the question.  Plus, all the songs she knows by heart are in Hindi or from the Light FM radio stations she listened to in the early 80s and 90s when she first moved to America. With that in mind, the plan was to take turns picking songs to sing with the intention of (at least) trying to pick songs that both of us knew/recognized, so I primarily drew from the early 90s and some karaoke classics from ABBA and the Beatles.  Alas, most of my choices weren’t “Light FM” enough…not even Mariah Carey’s “Hero,” which I proceeded to butcher…

Fifth, I NEVER WANT TO LISTEN TO ANOTHER AIR SUPPLY SONG EVER AGAIN!!!  At one point, while I was shamefully singing ‘NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye”—I mean the 1994 hit “All That She Wants” by Ace of Base (okay I sang both at some point, but my mom was actually singing along to “Bye Bye Bye”), my mother had figured out how to program the karaoke machine with nothing but her choices, and the only songs she picked were those by the 70s/80s soft rock duo known as Air Supply.  I was not only “All Out of Love,” but after the third Air Supply song, I was all out of patience!!!  Was this punishment for reliving my decade old, boy band fan girl days?!

Finally, I like my parents just fine, and I’m here to visit them.  However, I’ve decided that I really need to experience the Shanghai night life with people who are roughly in the same generation as me….Does anyone know how say “Let’s hang out, I swear I’m not a creeper!” in Chinese?



  1. I loved doing Karaoke in Shanghai, but the thing is that karaoke was originally done in private rooms. I remember having like 14 people in one room all singing songs in different languages. Of course, we had our Chinese friends figure out the booking and the controls.

    Oh, how I miss Shanghai!

  2. It wasn’t a terrible experience. It was educational more than anything, but I think KTV is at it’s best in large groups.

  3. divya, usually i try my best to not even smile at your jokes so as not to encourage more punnery, but i couldn’t help it, you had me laughing, grrrrrrl

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