Monday, April 18, 2005

Singing and Dancing

A few friends and I have been conjecturing lately on why Asians like karaoke so much. My theory was that creativity is not cultivated in Asian cultures to the extent that it is in America. Emphasis tends to be on academic and professional success. So instead of dreaming about becoming pop stars or rock musicians, Asians save their dreams for when they go out to karaoke. But then I mentioned to another friend how Asians also like Dance Dance Revolution. His interpretation: "They seem to like following directions. Asians are a very orderly people." And I realized he's right. Karaoke and DDR both involve following directions in the act of creativity. Okay, so Asians do like to go clubbing, where no directions are involved, but I think my friend might be on to something.

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Anonymous Vivian Darkbloom said...

I can't speak to why Asians might be especially fanatical about it, but I know a lot of people in general who enjoy getting their karaoke on. I've never done it myself (too self-conscious), but I've attended several karaoke nights at various bars and had many conversations about karaoke's appeal, including one last night. My friends were saying how supportive people act during karaoke, and how it really doesn't matter if people really suck at it, you just cheer just as loudly for them. In this hyper-competative, capitalist, every-person-for-him/herself society we live in, sharing in something fun and "creative" with a community of supportive people (even if they're soused) is appealing. Shedding any shred of concern one might have of looking "cool" while karaoking (which is impossible, I think), must be liberating as well. It's a way for uptight people to "let loose" in a performative, but still structured, way.

I saw this movie that was made in the 1930s with Cary Grant or someone. It wasn't a musical, but there was a scene in which all these people who were riding on a train sang a song together. The chorus was the same every time, but the verses were improvised by all the different people on the train. This was a way of passing time and having fun and being a little creative. When I saw that, I thought about how we don't really have much like that in today's American culture. Maybe karaoke, or something like country line dancing, comes close.

4:20 PM  
Blogger mlliu said...

In support of your thesis, I'd add that scene in "There's Something About Mary" where Mary gets up and sings karaoke, she sounds horrible, but once she stops taking herself so seriously, the crowd goes wild.

Maybe there's something about today's society, like you said, where creativity isn't really fostered in everyday life. Everything's so compartmentalized, and maybe karaoke taps into that ever-present need to be creative.

12:01 AM  

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