Wanna Buy a Karaoke Singing Machine?

Wanna Buy a Karaoke Singing Machine?

"Wanna Buy a Karaoke Singing Machine?" Those are words I never thought I would ever hear.

Yet these were precisely the words I heard from an over enthusiastic yet seductive salesperson who approached me while I was casually browsing through a large local electronics store. 

As we deeply dig our heels in this digital age, even to this day I am old soul. Definitely a throwback. I still love the tactile sensation of books and old-fashioned things.

And in the same parallel sense, I still love walking into a real store to try out anything and everything I am looking to purchase.

No doubt at that moment,  I was a man on a mission. I was possessed with an effusive sense of urgency to buy some type of karaoke singing machine. She definitely must have sensed my strong intent of purpose miles away as she "zoned in" on me like a rat on a cheetos puff. 

After all, this followed the day that would forever change my life.

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This was the day after I received word that I had been chosen from a pool of 10,000's of contestants to perform on ABC-TV's "Karaoke Battle USA". This was a new show that would air on a Friday night right before another show you may have heard of "Shark Tank."

"Karaoke Battle USA" was a show that shamelessly attempted to borrow from the "American Idol" mega-successful model. Three judges would rate (or ridicule) various singers who performed karaoke songs onstage in front of a live audience.

I would be one of those chosen ones. 

Note: The Featured Photo of this post is merely representative and does not correspond to anyone related to this post. Therefore Karaoke Pub Crawl and its associates cannot be held responsible for portraying any likeness to any real persons in this featured photo.

Singing for the Karaoke Singing Machine Liquid


How did I ever get involved in karaoke?

Don’t really have a clue. I love music, and I’ve always loved playing music, but I never cared too much to sing. Someone must’ve definitely pulled me in, oh yeah I seem to remember now.

It happened one Tuesday night when a friend invited me to go with him to Japas 27.

Karaoke Singing Machine Bar Japas 27

Japas 27 was a non-descript karaoke joint on the 2nd Floor of a Japanese sushi restaurant. Here is where it all started. It was a small L-shaped room with a decent sound system, with a long bar where they served food and drink and where you could sing to a karaoke screen. In the back, there were circular banquets and a few tables.

It certainly helped there were always attractive Asian bartenders who would pour you drinks and hand over the mic.

Only on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights, you could choose a song to sing, and the karaoke singing machine would score your performance after singing from a score of 1-100. After finishing the song, you would wait 10 seconds and your numerical score would appear on the bottom right of the screen.

Karaoke Singing Machine banquettes

Any song where you scored 89 or above by the karaoke singing machine, you would win one free drink. The drinks could be anything alcoholic or non-alcoholic such as soda, sake, wine, craft beers, or hard liquor up to $15 per drink.

 I broke the karaoke Singing Machine

Somehow this intrigued me, not so much for my love of singing, but every week I was curious to see how high I could score. Now I’m not saying I’m a great singer, but I can hold a tune.

That’s when I became hooked. At least once a week I would meet my friend, and became a regular Sunday thru Monday night goer to Japas 27. Soon I was winning 2, 3, and 4 free drinks per night. And I met many great new friends.

Well, one night, two days before my birthday I won 23 free drinks – that’s right 23 !! 

Other weeks, I was winning 8, 11, 14, 16 drinks and so on. People at the bar loved to hear me sing, and many would come to watch my performance at the karaoke bar.

But I never took it seriously, I was just having fun!

Then one early January evening, something happened.

It Started with a Local Contest

Karaoke Singing Machine contest

My same friend approached me and asked me if I would like to sing in a local karaoke contest.at a different karaoke pub called Karaoke Cave. At first having zero interest I said, “No”, but he somehow convinced me to go check it out, so two nights later we went to the “”Cave” together.

karaoke battle USA judges
Karaoke Battle USA on ABC

The cute bartender started handing out the sign up forms. That certainly complicated my decision. My friend was also cajoling me to join. Reluctantly I signed up, saying, “Okay, sure why not?” and I joined the contest. I had absolutely no idea what this contest was about, what was required, or what I was getting myself into. That is, until we both showed up for the first day.

Karaoke Cave, another Karaoke Singing Machine

Apparently, this was BIG THING. Professional judges sat on a panel every week (very much ala “American Idol”), you would sing a song of choice and they would score you.  If you survived the Top 3 that week, you would advance to the next round. Each round became progressively more difficult.

There were hundreds of people who joined and competed in the contest in New York alone, and thousands more from various regions all over the country.

The local end for NYC contest would run weekly over the course of the next 4 months through April. Then there would be a New York State Final in May, and the top 2 winners of the New York State final would be featured on the new ABC-TV show “Karaoke Battle USA” premiering in the summer.

Only a total of 8 out of many hundreds would be selected from the Northeast USA region to appear on “Karaoke Battle USA.”

Note, I had zero expectation going in. I was only competing every week for fun!

Don’t ask me how, every week I’d pick a different song and somehow made it into the Top 3 for the next 8 successive rounds, Sometimes I‘d sing, and sometimes I’d accompany myself with the guitar. And sometimes I used a tambourine or a different musical prop.

I'm the Karaoke Singing Machine

Yes, I made it to the New York final.  One more to go. Pretty exciting stuff.

On May 21, the New York State Final final was held at Pulse near Times Square NYC, there were 40 great karaoke singers from around the state competing, but it just wasn’t to be. Although I pulled off what I thought was a very solid performance and the crowd loved it, my winning streak was snapped,

Over. Time to go home.

But did this stop me?  No.

I was determined, so I Googled to get information about the New Jersey State competition, and discovered its contest was still going, and there were still first come first serve open slots for next Tuesday. Like New York, winning the New Jersey competition would also get the winner on the ABC-TV show.

That following Tuesday, I took a 2 hour train ride to our neighbor state of New Jersey at 8:30pm to compete near Princeton University for an 11:30 pm time slot. However, bad fortune happened earlier that week. I was stricken with acute bronchitis and was still terribly suffering and could not sing the notes properly.

I arrived to bring it and gave it my best that night, but my voice was so severely limited. I was eliminated from the completion once again.

Very depressing. Extremely disappointing.

But did this stop me?  No.

One last try.

So the following day, I sent an email to the director of karaoke operations for the national organization running the contest, explaining I competed both in New York and in New Jersey; making the final in New York but then was unfortunately stricken by illness for the New Jersey.

Since I worked so hard, would it be possible to submit a video of my singing for reconsideration for the ABC-TV show instead?  He said, “Yes.”  I waited 3 days to recover my voice, recorded the video of myself singing “Viva La Vida”, and mailed it to the company.

On June 20, I received an email from both the national karaoke organization and “Karaoke Battle USA” stating, “Congratulations, based on your video, you have been selected to appear on the new ABC-TV show “Karaoke Battle USA” which will be live taping at the Gramercy Theater in New York City from July 2-3”.

Rewind back to the beginning of this article, this brings us back to the next day where I was searching for my karaoke singing machine.

Success!  

Success is Mine

Now I remember feeling really proud of myself for not giving up. Can you imagine that?

But I now only had less than two weeks to prepare. Better wake up!

Now the REAL work would begin!


From Karaoke Singing Machine to "The Move” 

Karaoke Singing Machine to The Move

Yeah, with such a unique pool of talent at “Karaoke Battle USA” I knew I had to come up with something special. Something truly memorable. So I came up with “The Move.”

This is where my purchase of my karaoke singing machine would come in. And play a pivotal role.

I remember when I was first practicing “The Move” in my living room for the taping of the short-lived ABC-TV show “Karaoke Battle USA” (no jokes about why it was short-lived!) and thought it would be something cool to try.

Yeah, I kinda “stole the move”. But not really.

Three weeks earlier, I was doing a big show playing guitar and singing for the “Don’t Give Up Gospel Choir from Japan” at Gospel Fest (that’s another blog post) where we were only one of many acts.

Don't Give Up Gospel Choir

Near the end of the event well after our performance, a gospel band performed and featured a young teenager with great talent about 15 years old who had this beautiful soulful voice.

But this wasn’t what I remembered him for.

He performed this powerful gospel song, blew the doors off the place with his vocal, then near the end of his performance after singing the last chorus he spun around and did “this sort of James Brown move.”

I remember thinking to myself “Whoa! That’s really cool!” and started toying in my mind with the idea of using something similar for my live taping performance.

So I later summoned my same friend to video record me (yeah, he was a good friend!) in my apartment several times during the week leading up to the taping, where I would practice and he would critique me on several different variations of “The Move.”

Karaoke Singing Machine crowd

Well, let me say “The Move” had some really delightful and funny variations!


It’s Showtime!

The Prudential Center

It’s Saturday July 2 at the Gramercy Theater, Day 1 of the live taping of “Karaoke Battle USA.”

The show is being hosted by semi-famous B-movie actor Joey Fatone, formerly of “N Sync boy band fame, with celebrity judges Carnie Wilson (Wilson Phillips), and some cowboy and a journalist I never heard of.

We had to report to the large Green Room in the basement of the Gramercy Theater to wait our turn by 7:30 am in the morning. No lateness would be tolerated. And if it took all day to wait your turn, so be it.  

Backstage with the Karaoke Singing Machine

To make matters worse, the congested room full of people was humid and hot and without adequate AC from a scorching July day. Arghhh!!

Most of that entire interminable day would be spent hanging out in the Green Room with the other sweaty contestants, making new friends from all over the country, eating lukewarm food from the messy buffet, and hamming it up!

Hamming it up with the Karaoke Singing Machine

At random times, someone with a large TV camera and a microphone would be walking around and unexpectedly wave that camera at you at the most unexpected occasion and ask for an interview, shining a bright light right in your face! 

When the light was on you, it was show time! You had better “walk that talk.” Footage could be included in the final cut airing on ABC. You were receiving a free plug!

So part of the downtime I spent obsessively putting yellow eyeliner all over my face, preparing for that impromptu interview. You just never knew when that mischievous camera man would sneak up in front of you and “shine the light” when you least would expect it!

karaoke battle ad

Most of the time, by 15 minutes later that yellow eyeliner would smear off my face from the hot and humid conditions.

Well thank goodness, the other part of the time I would actually sneak out of the Green Room, and discreetly sit in the dark audience where it was much cooler due to central air conditioning.  Gorgeous.

There were bright colored stage lights everywhere, and I could now see the judges and watch some of the other contestant’s performances during the taping. Very exciting and fun!

Finally when I returned to the basement I was told by a proctor at 2:30pm that I would be one of the last performers to go onstage at 5:30pm. My damn luck! 

But no matter. It’s Showtime! 

And I would be READY to ROCK IT!!

For Your Entertainment

Karaoke Singing Machine curtain

It’s 5:40 pm and I’m waiting behind the grey curtain holding my red tambourine. This was a stage prop I used for my song, and had been using at every competition for several months.

If I told you I wasn’t at all nervous or had butterflies churning in my stomach, you would surely see my nose grow very long. At that precise moment, I was motioned by a stage hand to slowly walk to the stage.

Game on!

When you are standing onstage under hot bright lights in front of those three judges, you feel totally naked. There was also a packed crowd of free ticket holders, a sea of jesters like shrunken heads before me.

The Cowboy judge starts off with the first question, I really don’t know what I was thinking.

The Cowboy says, “So who are you?”

My reply, “My name is Kaju Tsunami, who are you?”

I then did see Mr. Cowboy give me a weird look, while he is scratching his head. (Laughter from audience)

Second the journalist judge asks, “So why are you not wearing shoes?”

I quickly reply, “I’m from Hawaii, and this is how we go.”

He stares at me stoically. The audience cracks up in uproarious laughter!

  

Finally its celebrity judge Carnie Wilson’s turn, and she asks,

“So what are you singing, Mr. Tsunami?”

I quip, “Huh !!?”   

Then without further delay, before the crowd could respond, my background music begins playing and it’s “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones. On cue, my head starts thrashing forward and back to the beat, while I am thrusting my right arm in the air grasping the red tambourine in upward rapid-fire movements.

After 5 seconds, the music stops. I am interrupted. What??

A short nerdy-looking man with round thin-rimmed glasses walks up to the stage and says to me, “I’m really sorry sir. You can’t use that tambourine. Props aren’t allowed.”

Well, I was SO tempted to argue with him as I’d been using this same prop throughout local competitions and in the State for nearly six months. But proudly, rather than argue and further delay the performance I didn’t. I replied, “Okay, you can take it.” and promptly handed the red tambourine to him.

The music restarts, and I hear the Charlie Watts’ drumbeat driving rhythm. I’m in a pinpoint focused trance.

My head begins to violently thrash.

And my right clinched fist starts viciously pumping in the air.


I begin the call, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction…” while I swagger “like Jagger” all over the stage.

From the corner of my eye, I can see judge Carnie Wilson make spastic contortions of her face,

And I am lip reading her say, “What the f**** was that!!” 

But I am totally unaffected. I’m rolling like a freight train, and nothing could stop me!

“I Can’t Get No…!”  “I Can’t Get No…!”

I chant the rock’ n roll anthem in rapid-fire succession, then while landing on knees I waddle toward the front edge of the stage, engaging the ever-pleased uncontainable wild crowd!!  They are crazed!

I’m now back up on my feet, getting ready for the “Hey, hey, hey!” near the end of the first chorus.

Here it comes, and I give you full detailed instructions….

After the “Hey, hey, hey”, I do my ½ reverse pirouette, and I finally throw down “The Move”!

My bare feet scurry and slide side to side along the stage, while my Aladdin’s black satin pants fiercely shake like rippling water! 

I quickly transition into a “spastic quasi-moonwalk” while sliding across the stage – and the crowd is absolutely loving it and going absolutely wild!

At the end of my run, I make a second ½ forward pirouette, landing on my knees once again!

Late night TV would never be the same, now that this hilarious new dance has been indelibly etched into every viewer’s brain!

There it is, “The Move.”  Well, that’s history, folks!   Hope you enjoyed it!

“The Move” is now complete, and my nickname “Hawaiian Hips” will now be forever engraved in my tombstone forever!


From Karaoke Singing Machine to Hawaiian Hips!

Ladies and Gents, for your entertainment, here is “The Move” for the ages that forever has earned me the moniker  ”Hawaiian Hips!”

Better yet, watch this final hilarious performance here (on my You Tube Channel) of “Satisfaction” as performed by “Hawaiian Hips” on ABC-TV’s “Karaoke Battle USA.”

This first aired on ABC-TV on Friday September 2, 2011. And I am very proud to say, out of all the great Northeast male singers who made that show, I was the only one who was not edited out of the Final Cut.

This performance was shown in its entirety, and I am proud of it! 

And to think this all began in a store while looking for my karaoke singing machine.

*Editor’s Note: The show “Karaoke Battle USA.” was cancelled after six weeks.

Thank you for reading and watching my video performance on “Karaoke Battle USA”!

Let me know what you really think.

Your feedback is always appreciated my friends!

Cheers,

Kaju

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