Like many Americans, I had always thought of karaoke as something done in a bar in front of a group of strangers, usually by someone monopolizing the microphone to show off (thanks, Top Gun). Then I went to Japan. If you’re invited to karaoke in Japan, abandon any hope of quietly sitting in the corner and listening…you MUST SING, no matter how much you try to avoid it (and believe me, I tried). The fact that the small town where I lived had only three English songs was no excuse (if you’re ever there, I suggest kicking it off with Dancing Queen, moving on to Love Me Tender, then a big finish with My Way).
The amazing thing was that after returning from Japan, I actually…missed it. There was something magical about being surrounded by friends sharing their favorite songs, singing lyrics that suddenly seemed to be written just for us. Luckily, for the Seattle karaoke refugee, there’s Rock Box. When a friend introduced me to the place a few years ago, I was stunned when the staff handed us an iPad (the standard remote also works fine for song selection). Not only that, but the list of English songs was as long as the list of Japanese songs, plus a number of other languages. Finally, a place to make a fool of myself with dignity!
But popularizing Japanese-style karaoke in the US isn’t easy, which is where Rock Box’s social strategy comes in. They’ve been posting to Facebook and Twitter almost daily with special events, contests, raffles, discounts, and the top songs of the month. With over 3,200 likes, the strategy seems to be working.
Oh, and the top 5 songs for March 2013? You guessed it, #1 is Seattle’s own…
1. Thrift Shop (Macklemore/Ryan Lewis)
2. Don’t Stop Believin’ (Journey)
3. Total Eclipse of the Heart (Bonnie Tyler)
4. Call Me Maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen)
5. Baby Got Back (Sir Mix-A-Lot)