An American Idol in New Haven
Finally – karaoke (or “noraebang” as we call it in Korean) has come to New Haven in a major way. I am a huge fan of karaoke, particularly the private, box-style karaoke that is typically offered by Asian establishments. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out about the Aug. 25 grand opening of Karaoke Heroes, the first dedicated karaoke bar in all of Connecticut, right in downtown New Haven.
While there are other bars and restaurants on or near the Yale campus that occasionally host individual karaoke nights or special events, such as Anna Liffey's or Gryphon’s Pub at GPSCY, there has been no place for those of us with more frequent karaoke kravings to go. Until now.
Enter Karaoke Heroes, delivering on the promise of all karaoke, all the time. Started by a Yale alum (MBA ’12) who used to be a bankruptcy attorney at a big law firm, Karaoke Heroes – with its superhero theme – offers both American-style public karaoke and Asian-style private karaoke. The main area, which includes the bar and a small elevated stage for those who want a larger audience, is decorated with colorful comic book panels specially created for Karaoke Heroes by a Marvel Comics illustrator. Singers who prefer to embarrass themselves only in front of their friends can, at the rate of $8 per hour per person, reserve one of three swanky, soundproofed, private rooms that can accommodate from 6 to 30 people (perfect for your next small group outing). And everyone can enjoy being served by waitstaff dressed as caped crusaders.
The extensive song list at Karaoke Heroes should satisfy almost every musical taste. It includes more than 5,500 songs and encompasses artists from ACDC to Sinatra, Coldplay to Kanye, and Paris Hilton (did I really just refer to her as an “artist”?) to Color Me Badd (does anyone else remember them?). What’s more, because Karaoke Heroes is modeled after noraebangs in large cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, the private rooms also offer songs in Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, and Spanish. That means that we can all unleash our inner PSY.
Karaoke Heroes is open from 5pm until 1am or later, and there’s no cover to get in. So you can just drop by after your Torts lecture, a meeting with your clinic client, or your journal sourcecite and unwind with a quick drink and few songs before heading home. No surprise that within just a few months of opening, Karaoke Heroes has become a popular nighttime destination for the YLS crowd and has already been the site of many a bar review.
To kick off their grand opening, Karaoke Heroes held a karaoke contest on the New Haven Green, offering a $1000 cash prize to the best performer. I headed over to soak in the good, the bad, and the ugly (and there were plenty of each) and to see a performance by everyone’s favorite failed American Idol contestant, William Hung, who was also serving as a guest judge. It was a beautiful day to be out on the Green, and a decent crowd had gathered by the time I arrived, with many spectators sitting in their own lawn chairs or sprawled out on the grass.
After about an hour of tryouts, in which contestants gave their best 1-minute performance to pre-qualify for the contest, the competition began. It still amazes me that contestants in a singing competition invariably choose a song that is impossible for anyone but the original vocalist to sing. You know what I’m talking about. Rolling in the Deep by Adele. I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston. Anything by Mariah Carey. Isn’t the point to pick a song that will highlight your vocal skills and range rather than expose every flaw and weakness? Needless to say, the performances ran the gamut and actually included some truly stellar numbers by some very talented singers. One woman (who went on to win the contest) delivered the most spot-on rendition of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, complete with gold jacket, white glove, and moonwalking.
About halfway through the competition, William Hung took the stage. Of course the same question was on everyone’s mind – would he perform She Bangs? Building up the audience’s anticipation, Hung instead belted out his rendition of Barry Manilow’s It’s a Miracle as people got up from their seats to dance in front of the stage. I have to admit, it really wasn’t a bad performance. Sure, he’s no Barry Manilow, but he actually hit all of the notes – which I can’t say was true of everyone who sang that day. Hung then announced that he would be performing another song “that everyone might recognize.” Cue the Ricky Martin and cheers from the crowd.
Hung’s performance and accompanying gestures (dance moves?) were just as we had seen them during his American Idol audition. The most adorable thing about Hung’s guest appearance was that he brought his mother to the event. Just before he took to the microphone, she repositioned her lawn chair so that she had a clear view of the center of the stage and then proceeded proudly to videotape both of his performances in their entirety. With the conclusion of the karaoke contest and the crowning of the champion, Karaoke Heroes was officially opened for business.
So whether you’re the next William Hung or the next Adele, New Haven now has a place for you to work your singing chops six days a week. And who knows? The next American Idol could be your law school classmate! (Or it could be this guy....)