A friend of mine is engaged in this year’s KWC and I went along to support her in the State Finals. It was held at The Fox and Hound Hotel Armadale, WA.
I kind of like the idea of a competition specially made for karaoke. The bar-type, amatauer nature of karaoke singing puts it well outside the professional ranks and somewhere around the knock-about, variety-level style of talent competition. It seems reasonable to have one for it. There are cash prizes and, if you’re the national winner, a trip overseas to compete in the international comp.
I’ve been in one local comp, just one, and did pretty well from it, coming third in my local heats. I had a great time and did better than I expected. I’ve also been along to watch a few comps and support friends like I did today. The KWC is the biggest one, involving public bars from around the world, but almost every public bar that runs a weekly karaoke show gets involved in running a comp of some sort. They do this because it draws a crowd. Crowds spend money.
On paper, it all lines up quite nicely. In practice, the wheels get a bit wobbly as almost every rule is measured and weighed. For instance: What defines a karaoke singer? When is someone too professional to compete in karaoke? It seems it’d be an easy answer but karaok-ers want a specific one that keeps the comp true to karaoke and out of the hands of people who sing for a living or part thereof.
The other wobbly one is what I call the ‘regular’ factor. It’s not a written rule but more an unspoken one between the owners of the establishment and those who visit it each week. It suggests that a regular customer who visits frequently, buys drinks and meals, carries more weight than a blow-in who comes in just for the comp and it’s prizes. In the past, regulars have complained and used their patronage as a bargaining chip to better their standing in the comp. Some sympathetic business owners have caved and given notice to judges as to who should be acknowledged with an award (solely for their custom, not their singing or performance ability). This explains why I used to get it so wrong when it came to picking winners and losers in the comps I observed.
Before I competed, I went and watched the comps. They are judged on three basic criteria. Ability to sing true; Entertainment factor; Singing without prompting.
Ability to sing true goes without saying. A singer must be in-pitch and in time with the music.
Entertainment factor is the next element to add points.
The prompting screen is out. Watching it during the performance loses them.
So I’d watch and listen to the ten singers do their work, listing their names in the order they were called out. After their two-song offerings I’d rearrange their names according to those who I thought did best and those who did least, filling up the middle with those who didn’t fit in either space. When the time came for the judge’s announcement, I’d take a look at my list as they called out. Last was always called first. Something strange would happen by the time number five was called.
Invariably, my bottom three were always in their top five and my top three were always outside theirs. This wouldn’t happen just once but nearly every time. I wasn’t a little wrong, I was a long-way wrong. Something else was at play and it took a long while to work it out what it was. Not being a regular to any of these places I couldn’t see the inside politics. I didn’t know who those ‘regulars’ were. Someone else pointed them out. When a following comp concluded, I asked around to find out who the regulars were and, wouldn’t you know it, my innacurate list was very accurate if I applied the ‘regular’ politics.
The Karaoke World Championships are not immune. The heats start at public bars and those who win finals take away cash and prizes. This makes the comp susceptible to the same problems. Is there a way to escape them? I’d like to think so but I doubt it can happen. If one singer in a final can draw in ninety five percent of an audience who is there to support someone else and they still lose that comp, you know something is awry. I’ve seen very lousy singers go through and far better singers left behind.
Older women hate the younger, leggier, hair-flicking women. Men hate having to compete with legs, tits and short skirts. It doesn’t matter who you are, there is always someone who has more that stands in your way. Somewhere out there is a singer / performer who deserves a break to win what they deserve to. I hope my friend Linda wins today.