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Karaoke (noun, Japanese): “Empty Orchestra”

I love to sing. I spent a few years in a school choir as a teenager, and only left it when I realized I wouldn’t be able to take both it and the accelerated English classes I wanted to. Unfortunately, someone I once very dearly loved convinced me that I couldn’t sing, and put me down when I tried. Ever since then, it has been a guilty pleasure I indulged only when I was alone in the shower, driving, or listening to music in an empty house. I know I don’t have a golden nightingale voice, but I’m of the opinion that anyone and everyone should be allowed—and encouraged—to sing. I would have gladly put up with the tone-deaf, tuneless voices, happy to know that singing brought them as much joy as it did my little voice. I was informed that the world did not share this attitude.

In so many respects, our culture reserves singing for those who have a gift and training for it. While it’s all good and grand that we celebrate those who are gifted and put effort into their craft, there seems to be this strange stigma about amateur singers. Just because there are professional NFL players doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t go to the park and play flag football, and yet somehow the existence of Adele and Taylor Swift means I can’t sing in the park without getting weird looks?

I’ve been 21 for twelve days now, and I’ve already got a bar where people expect to see me weekly. I don’t drink, but it’s worth it for the karaoke. The Denny’s Diner lounge is the most lame, dorky, stupid place in the world, and (being acutely aware of that) I love it. A bunch of suburbanites come out on Friday nights to get tipsy and sing to each other. The best part is nobody cares.

Some people have better voices than others, but once you start singing, who cares how well you do or how well anyone else does? It gives you a chance to be comfortable not only in your own skin, but in your own voice. It’s 20th century Rock Band, that’s what it is. There’s no pressure, and for a moment you can be whatever kind of rock star you want to be. You admire the people who have better voices, you respect the people who have worse voices. You laugh and you clap at everything, and let yourself enjoy synthesized pop songs you’ve heard everywhere and nowhere before.

Karaoke is teaching me to love my voice again. After being self-conscious about it for so long and hiding away what I love to do most, this is the most limitlessly fun thing I have done in a long time. I’ve become so much more at peace with myself over the past year, and I think that I’m finally starting to reap the benefits of that as this guilty pleasure becomes something I can happily showcase and joyfully indulge.

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