It’s an unfortunate fact that things are pretty shitty for a lot of people I know. I’d put it more eloquently, but when it comes down to it, that’s the best way to put it. Things. Are. Shitty. Relationships are falling apart, money isn’t coming in, and jobs are scarce and few and far between. Personally, I can’t complain too much. I have a job that, while preventing much of a social or literary life outside of grading, offers me fulfillment in ways I’d previously thought wasn’t possible, so much so that it surprises me almost daily how much joy I glean from teaching fifteen-year-olds about guillotines, revolutionaries, and decapitation. With that (apparently violent) job comes a good place to live, despite its lack of reliable heat, its hot water tap that only sometimes works, and a landlord who, though sweet, lives two doors down and wants to have a fifty-minute conversation every time I leave my house for work, for groceries, for coffee, for….well, anything, really. She’s eighty years old and she’s a talker. Pair those two basic necessities (job and living space, check!) with the fact that most of my family lives a mere twenty minutes away, with the added bonus that I actually like them, and I’ve got a pretty sweet deal.
My friends, though, they’re having a shitty time. It’s like all crazy has broken loose. And I find that the best solution to shitty times is often the simplest. Eating your feelings will cause you to lose self-esteem while gaining love handles that no one will be holding anyway because, hello, you’re eating your feelings because you’re sad and alone. Crying, well, that will work for a small amount of time, except you also need to take into account the number of tissues you’ll use while sobbing your eyes out over the fact that you’re sad and alone. Don’t take your problems out on the environment. Mother Nature has enough problems, and so do you. You have no job, no boyfriend, no car, and your dog just ran away. Your life is a country song and, unlike Carrie Underwood, you can’t simply carve your name into the leather seats of he who scorned you. That’s destruction of private property, my friend, and that simply won’t fly. Not even the Napoleonic Code will save you. With these options out of the window, there is only one solution.
Let’s talk a minute about karaoke.
I know what you’re thinking right now. You’re thinking I’m talking about going to some terrible place where desperate men sing Bonnie Tyler as they cry into their double-Jamesons-over-ice. Well, maybe I am talking about going to that kind of place. Don’t judge. We’re all friends here. Regardless, hear me out, because there are five karaoke spots right in New Orleans that can actually satisfy your hunger for singing your wee heart out while dancing up a storm and forgetting about the fact that your life actually sucks. Don’t live in New Orleans? No problem. This list will suffice for the time when you decide to come on down and visit us, remembering that we are an actual, living city that is for more than just partying and wearing beads (New Orleans Pride PSA over….now).
Top Five Karaoke Venues For Forgetting That You Are Sad And Alone.
(In no particular order, and for no other reason than these are the places with which I am familiar. No karaoke hate mail, please.)
1. Cat’s Meow, 701 Bourbon Street, French Quarter
Favorite Performance: “Proud Mary”
Appropriate drink: over-priced Bud Light
Rating: 3 out of 5 Cyndi Laupers
My first and, as far as you will know, only venture into Cat’s Meow was for a bachelorette party during my college years. I didn’t sing on stage that night, but I did witness many a performance of Britney, Christina, and *Nsync. This was the early 2000s, mind you. If you’re going to go to Cat’s, you need to be aware that you will a) pay too much for drinks, b) probably see a lot of skin on people whose skin you do not want to see, c) hear terrible renditions of songs that you used to really like and may never be able to hear again, and d) possibly witness a fight outside at some point. Cat’s calls itself “The World’s Best Karaoke Bar,” and you just have to appreciate the pomposity of the title. The stage at Cat’s is situated next to a wide, open window through which tourists stick their heads and call out insults/flattery to the current performer. As a New Orleans native, I pretty much despise Bourbon Street, but I understand its appeal to tourists and frat boys. There is not any appeal, however, for your nice shoes, so leave those puppies at home.
One of the best things about Cat’s is that, between songs, the DJ plays current pop and hip hop, which will allow you, in your sorry and sad state of affairs, to dance to your heart’s content to songs that you normally can only appropriately dance to in your car. How much room do you have, really, to fully express yourself to Rihanna while driving your Subaru? Exactly. So go to Cat’s if you want to watch some seriously drunk people sing some seriously terrible songs, and understand that you will need to take approximately three showers when you get home in order to wash the stink of Bon Jovi and beer off your soul.
2. Little Tokyo, 1340 South Carrollton Avenue, Uptown
Favorite Performance: “Total Eclipse of the Heart”
Appropriate drink: plum sake
Rating: 4 out of 5 Cyndi Laupers
If you like the appeal of somewhat-traditional, Japanese-style karaoke, then this is for you. Boasting up to three rentable, private rooms, Little Tokyo offers a full sushi and noodle menu as well as a pretty hefty selection of liquor, beer, and, of course, sake. The largest room fits up to 25 people, and is the perfect choice for a birthday party, bachelorette party, or any other celebration. It might freak some of your guests out that you have to walk to the back of the restaurant down a dimly-lit hallway to reach the karaoke destination, but once you enter that room you’re rewarded with comfortable couches, a plethora of song books, and, if your friends are as cool as mine are, a lively rendition of “Tubthumpin’.” As you watch your friends sing and dance to mid-90s one-hit wonders, you can enjoy an avocado and cream cheese roll along with curry nachos and onion rings served with wasabi dipping sauce. What, what! The best part, at least in my mind, is the fact that there’s a red button you can press when you want more of anything: food, drinks, song lists. It’s like being a VIP even when you’re just a schoolteacher. And, speaking of song lists, Little Tokyo does an excellent job of providing a mix of standards as well as current tunes, so you can slip in some Sinatra between your Meatloaf and your Gaga. If you go to Little Tokyo sometime near December 19, you might even see yours truly interpretive dance to “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” And why not? I’m just living in a powder keg here, giving off sparks.
3. Gennaro’s, 3206 Metairie Road, Metairie (technically not NOLA, but close enough)
Favorite Performance: “Summer Lovin’”
Appropriate drink: an entire glass of whiskey. Maybe with a mixer. Probably not.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Cyndi Laupers
This is old-school karaoke. Grab a mike, sit at the bar, and sing about life’s troubles. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I only attended Gennaro’s karaoke night once in my short life, but I would go again if only to sing “That’s Life” with the elderly gent who sounded like he’d seen quite a bit of trouble in his day. If you really just want to sing some songs without the pressure of performing in front of people whose opinions you might actually care about, and with a friendlier, more accepting crowd then, say, Cat’s, then head to Old Metairie and sign up for some old-fashioned, life-sucks-but-we’ll-all-get-through-it-with-a-little-help-from-our-friends-as-well-as-Johnny-Cash karaoke. It might be depressing or it might be the greatest thing you’ve ever done in your life. Either way, a good time. I considered putting on this list, instead of Gennaro’s, a karaoke spot whose name escapes me but where we celebrated my friend, Ben’s, birthday one year. Our friend Lish was accosted by the emcee, though, and I feel like Gennaro’s special brand of neighborhood bar has to supersede a place where most of us feared for our lives. Plus, the bathroom at that place was outside. What is this, 1836? Give us a working bathroom, Mysterious Creepy Karaoke Place.
4. Lost Love Lounge, 2529 Dauphine Street, Faubourg Marigny
Favorite Performance: “Super Bass”
Appropriate drink: PBR or something equally hipster-iffic.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Cyndi Laupers, Cyndi in a totally ironic and hip way.
Finally, a karaoke night for the iPhone generation. My friend, t, and I stumbled upon Lost Love’s karaoke night one Friday, and we have not been the same ever since. The DJ, MC Weis, not only offers an extensive list of songs, but also will pull up virtually any song you can think of, resulting in a performance of Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” that changed my life. This one is a late starter (11 pm on most Friday nights), but the crowd is super friendly and knows how to treat karaoke with a sense of humor. And if you work up an appetite while dancing to a rendition of “Twist and Shout,” you can order top-notch Vietnamese food such as fried tofu poboys, spring rolls, and pho. Pho and karaoke? I know, right? Get out of town. One of my fellow songbirds said that Lost Love’s karaoke was like, quote, “Pretending you’re all going to see your friends’ bands, which happen to sing every song, ever.” If you really are depressed about living a country song, skip the Quarter and go straight to the Marigny for Lost Love’s karaoke night. Even the bar’s name is speaking to your soul. You (and your Vietnamese-food-craving tummy) will be so glad you did.
5. The privacy of your own home, address unknown, I’m not a stalker
Favorite Performance: The entirety of the original Broadway production of “1776.” Because when I think Founding Fathers, I think jazz hands.
Appropriate drink: Water. Why would you drink alone? Hydrate yourself, you lush.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Cyndi Laupers
Have you seen “1776”? If you haven’t, you should. Mr. Feeny from “Boy Meets World” is in it. That said, let’s be serious: don’t you like to sing in the shower? Don’t you sometimes, when a song like “Dog Days Are Over” comes on the old iTunes, stop what you’re doing and start interpretive dancing around your room? If you don’t, then you should, because this is seriously the best way to overcome whatever depression you might be feeling about your life’s current state of affairs. The beauty of singing karaoke in your own home is that you have a myriad of props at your disposal to aid you in your musical adventure. The broom is your microphone and the couch is your stage from which to jump into the pile of laundry that is your fan base. Let’s face it: no matter how shitty things are, there is always time to sing. There is always time to dance. There is always time to, for a few brief moments, make a complete fool of yourself and simply let yourself be something other than depressed or miserable or self-pitying or sad and alone. There is always time to let it be.
“Let it be.” Now there’s one I haven’t sung yet. Who’s up for karaoke?