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In defense of karaoke, the official Codeword pastime

And now, a break from our normal marketing content.

April 11, 2024

Headshot of Kyle Monson - Founding partner at Codeword

Kyle Monson

Founding Partner at Codeword

A bunch of friendly, smiling Codeword employees singing their hearts out

Ooooh Deez Links’ Hate Read really lived up to its name yesterday, with a screed against karaoke parties. Read it and then come back and let’s talk about it…

…OK so obviously there are lots of reasons to be a grump about karaoke, if you’re the kind of person who insists on quiet get-togethers, deep conversation, and masterful musical performances. 

But as someone who loves a good k-hole and is a nationally recognized karaoke thought leader, allow me to defend karaoke as the second-highest form of nighttime social activity.

Despite what the newsletter says, karaoke isn’t about alcohol abuse, or ear-hole abuse. Here’s what it’s really about… 

Shared Culture — Look, popular culture is fragmented to the point where we don’t have shared cultural touchstones anymore. Karaoke is one of very few activities where a group of people can have a cultural experience around shared art, shared nostalgia, and shared enthusiasm. A good karaoke singalong is a reminder that we’re all living in the same society after all. 

A Talent Show Where the Vibes are Always Good and the Talent Doesn’t MatterYour voice doesn’t matter in karaoke. Saying it with my whole chest and my awful voice. Karaoke is about song choice and energy, that’s literally it. Karaoke in a big open bar with strangers is very different than karaoke with your best friends in a private room. But in both settings, the audience will support you 100 percent. What other activities include a performer and an audience, but are inclusive enough where everybody in the room can succeed in either role? 

A Participatory Social Setting — There aren’t a lot of social events where you can do stuff. I love meeting up with my friends to watch football or Formula 1, but let’s be honest: We aren’t driving a race car, we aren’t throwing a football, we’re just sitting around drinking. Then there’s bowling and ice skating and beer pong and Top Golf, which is fun for an hour or maybe two, but then what? You’re sitting around drinking. 

A Social Setting That’s Only Kind of Social — Karaoke is a party where everybody’s laughing and having fun but you don’t have to talk to anyone. Bliss! The only social expectation is that you smile, pump your first, and say “oh shit I love this song” every once in a while. 

Variable Rewards — Like the mouse pushing the button for food, or the slot machine addict, karaoke fans know how addictive the variable rewards are. Time moves differently at a karaoke party, and it’s measured in three-minute increments. Don’t like this song or singer? Count to 180 and it’ll be over. Got a song coming up in the queue? Enjoy the moments leading up to it. And every once in a while, there’s a banger that makes the late night worth it. 

Karaoke is about self-discovery — I’ve seen introverts become extroverts. I’ve seen misanthropes become the life of the party. I’ve seen shy people come out of their shell mid-song, like that Lady Gaga character in A Star is Born. I’ve seen people leave a karaoke party changed forever. 

So 🎶 turn around, bright eyes 🎶 

Maybe every now and then you should fall apart. 

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