Some people step on stage at local bars on karaoke night to sing their drunken interpretations of their favorite songs. Others karaoke to win.
That's what Mel Arizpe and Laura Carrizales did, along with 100 other soloists and 14 duet couples.
This year, Arizpe and Carrizales left The Karaoke World Championships, a 16-year-old national karaoke competition in Las Vegas, with trophies almost as big as them and round-trip fare and accommodations to Helsinki, Finland, where they will compete at the global level.
The KWC is the Olympics of Karaoke, Robert Olivas, assistant Texas state director, says. Venues all over the U.S. work to produce their best singers in April, June and July. In Texas, for example, 11 venues sent 10 singers each to the state finals this year. Partners Arizpe and Carrizales were among them.
The two lead their pop/R&B cover band Mi Diva Loca playing any show they can get. The band has played the Dallas Pride Festival for the last few years and was voted Top Local Band, Group or Musician by Dallas Voice three years in a row starting in 2013.
The couple had not considered participating in the KWC until their friend Olivas invited them out to a qualifying match at Chesterfield’s Food & Spirits, a Dallas dive bar. Carrizales won and Arizpe took second at the qualifiers.
Later, they made their way to the final round of the state competition at Legacy VNYL, a nightclub at the Shops at Legacy. Arizpe sang “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” by Jennifer Hudson. She won as the top female soloist, which paid for her trip to compete at the national level in Las Vegas.
Eventually, they realized they could compete as a duet at the national level as well, Arizpe says. In the weeks that followed, money was raised to pay for Carrizales trip' to Nevada.
“Going to Vegas as a soloist and a duet was kind of a marathon,” Arizpe says.
The soloist round did not go as Arizpe had planned. There was a technical issue that caused her to get off track during her first song. She hoped with her second song she could still make it in the top 15 out of 50 female singers. However, she found out the next day she landed in 22nd place.
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She and Carrizales made it to the final duet round with their performance of “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys and “Does He Love You” by Reba McEntire and Linda Davis. For the final round, they took a bit of a risk.
Most singers chose to perform ballads to help showcase their vocal range, but Arizpe and Carrizales decided to go a different route. They incorporated rap in their performance of “American Boy” by Estelle, featuring Kanye West.
“At that point we thought, ‘Let’s just show them something different,'” Arizpe says.
This performance landed them first place for the Top 5 Duet Teams in the Nation. Their friend and self-proclaimed “karaoke junkie” Olivas came in fifth place with his duet partner Patricia-Cato Young.
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“You should see these trophies [they won]. They’re monstrous,” Olivas says. “As a matter of fact, they had to buy a suitcase and ship it home separately.”
Now, they are off to the world championship in Finland. While their risky song choice may have sealed the deal for Arizpe and Carrizales in Las Vegas, the judges advised the singers to not take such chances in Finland.
People often ask Arizpe and Carrizales if they have gotten married yet. Every time they go to Las Vegas they think “Should we do it?” Arizpe says.
“If we win worlds, who knows, maybe we’ll throw a huge party and finally [get married],” Arizpe says.