City Pulse

By Raine Marlowe Graves

The lights are blinding you, making you blink uncontrollably and causing onlookers to wonder if you are in the midst of a seizure. Your hands are sweaty and your heart is thumping like the back-seat of a pimped out Escalade. The time has come, this is your moment. You are the next:

Karaoke Idol!!

Now I must admit, I have a bit of an advantage over many would-be karaoke stars as I am a trained chanteuse. But, EVERYONE can learn to wow ‘em on the mic; it just takes a little commitment and a lot of chutzpah (I always wanted to use that word – so appropriate in our fair city!) So everyone take a deep cleansing breath and a big swallow of any alcoholic beverage you can get your paws on as I lead you into the limelight!

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Rock that mic

Step one: Preparation and Training

Now that you’ve got the fever you’ve got to feed it! There are many schools and private instructors that you can work with. I have actually given lessons myself so I know what the deal is. The basics are simple. The key is breathing (yes, this is the key in many things – including living – so pay attention!) Once you can learn to center yourself and “breathe from your belly,” you won’t wake up the morning-after sounding like Minnie Mouse on a bad day. You can learn your “range” so you will know better than to pick a Celine Dion song that will make other club goers run and scream from the audience. And best of all, if you’re faithful and do your exercises, you will gain power. All the better to belt that Benatar song, baby!

The Singers Forum (24 West 29th Street, 212.366.0541) is a true vocal academy. SF gives back to the community through scholarship and senior outreach programs. A non-profit organization that offers both private and group lessons, it caters to absolute beginners to advanced divas. Open mic sessions and workshops are regularly offered to get your feet wet.

Cari Cole Voice Studios (401 E. 34th Street, 212.532.0828) offers it all. There’s individual or group training, everything from long-running programs to one-day seminars. Great teachers who will help you find your best voice. This group is very supportive; these guys have an online presence where you can find helpful information and like-minded seekers. For the serious student, many of their charges work in the industry.

If Broadway is your thing, then Adam Roebucks Studios offers “Singing Made Simple” (contact adam@everythingadam.com or www.singingmadesimple.com). This place offers private lessons to work on your “Hello Dolly.” A few lessons with this talented man, and you’ll be belting “Life is a Cabaret” at your office’s summer barbeque!

** Please note these are professional teachers who take their craft seriously. While you can have loads of fun, do respect their expertise and time.***

Step two: Finding a stage

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For you head-banging types: The ultimate rock star experience! Monday nights at Arlene Grocery for rock and roll karaoke with a live backing band are free!!! Starting at 10 p.m. on the hipster haven LES (95 Stanton Street). Hot, crowded, and filled with cute rocker boys and tough rocker gals: it’s the ultimate place to get down and dirty (don’t forget drunk!)

Tortured artistes and hipsters: Sunday is your night downstairs at Lit Lounge (93 Second Avenue). A place for true artists, musicians, and the people who want to know them. Comforting dark, relatively unpretentious and very much a neighborhood staple, if you’re dream is to be the next underground NYC sensation, then this is a good place to start.

You can karaoke your bad self all week long!

Should you have a large group and can’t bear to share your talent with the masses:
Try Muse Karaoke Suites (154 W. 26th Street). Claiming the largest song catalog in the city (for you sophisticates, music is available in a multitude of languages – even Thai and Hindi, should you be so inclined!) The pricing is a little confusing – depending on the day, time, and number of friends joining in – it does require a little pre-planning so as not to faint from bill overexposure at nights end! This spot is a good way to work yourself up to wowing the public.

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For the true Karaoke aspirer:
If you are not going to let smoke, alcohol, and rowdy hollabackers get in your way of karaoke stardom, the only place to go is Tinga Tinga Karaoke (162 Madison Avenue). While this crew doesn’t serve alcohol if there are those among your party who can’t bear to spend the night without a cocktail, the folks here encourage you to BYOB. A little sedate for my taste but definitely appropriate if your Grandma is in town and you want to show off your new mad skills.

Step three: Relish the idolization

You did it, you hardworking diva! Now it’s time to develop your stage persona. Pick a hot star name and shout it out! Make up that beautiful face and dress up that soon to be (in)famous ass!

Shop for your sexy rock-bitch threads at the iconic Trash & Vaudeville (4 St. Marks). Don your sexy stovepipes and your stiletto boots and saunter onto that stage. Maybe even bag yourself a rock-boy on the way! Flirt with resident rock chic expert “Jimmy” (an icon himself) who will make you feel like the only one in the room and tell you (quietly, gently) if you should consider an alternate outfit.

If you’re heading uptown to the great white way, rock the vintage look – my favorite is Family Jewels (130 West 23rd Street) where I have bagged some major deals from Gucci to DVF. In this candy store of times gone by, choose from Bye-Bye Birdie to Jesus Christ Superstar inspired-looks – no doubt you’ll find the era that turns you on!

Jazz your thing, baby? You’ve got to be giving some major sex appeal. If you’ve got the green, you couldn’t do any better than Versace (647 Fifth Avenue) where Donatella’s got your number. Not quite so flush? Then head to discount designer emporium Century 21 (22 Cortlandt Street) where you might actually find a high-end designer look that fits your price range. Sexy abounds, but the crowds are kill-ah!!! Avoid if you have a hangover.

It’s time to sing your heart out. You earned it!

Originally published March 2007
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