If at first you don’t succeed… (Singing North Carolina, #31)

We took our seats at a tall table near the karaoke action. The place is huge. Pool tables, skeeball, darts, and pinball are in the back, a large bar area showing various sports takes up the front, and the karaoke is in between. A sign inside Bralie’s states the bar is “Supporting our community one family at a time,” though nothing on their website or anything else I can find reflects anything they do to state such a charitable claim. There is also a large cardboard Happy Birthday sign hanging from a rafter that seems rather permanent. There is a boarded up building across the street, and the bar shares strip mall space with at least five hair salons.

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The externally nondescript Bralie’s.

People are starting to put in slips before the karaoke begins, but the number of singers never seems to swell that large. Most of the crowd is in their 20s and 30s – it is so hard to tell. We are slightly away from the main college area (Duke mostly), but I’m sure some patrons are students, or at least used to be. A large group of people shares a round of shots.

My first song goes well, as it’s one of my typical “warm up” songs, and it comes easily to me. But when my name is called a second time and my song begins, all goes to hell pretty darn quick.

From the first few notes, I can tell I’m in trouble. The key is wrong, and I don’t know enough about music to correct myself. I’m the sort that can sing pretty well, but if a song is presented in a different key from how it’s played on the radio, I’m doomed. So here I was, doomed.

I tried to fumble my way through the first few stanzas, but it was no use; I knew I was painfully off-key and looked pathetically confused at the KJ. She was sympathetic to both me and the crowd, stopped the song, and switched to a different version of Loverboy’s primary hit. I started over, feeling more than sheepish, but the end result was better for all present. I sang on key with a familiar backing, but left the stage as quickly as possible to minimal applause, my friends being the unconditionally supportive exception.

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My supportive friends, who would have clapped even if I ran screaming off the stage.

After the song, I asked the KJ what happened. She explained that different companies have different versions of a song based on copyright issues, the quality of the re-recording, and other factors. Sometimes a song simply doesn’t get recorded in the proper key by a certain karaoke label – I find this more than a little nuts, as the key of a song is, well, pretty key to the song. The version she went with initially is from a company that is usually reliable, but as soon as she heard me struggle with my song (also seeing me looking pretty darn panicked) she knew what the problem likely was, and switched versions. And now we both know, not when it comes to Loverboy, not all discs are created equal.

The basics:

  • Location: Bralie’s Sports Bar, Durham NC
  • Miles traveled: 312
  • Songs sung: Heart of Glass (Blondie), Working for the Weekend (Loverboy)
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