Rock Star Karaoke Finals

It takes a special kind of artist to be a karaoke superstar. It is not enough to sing well, although that helps. A karaoke superstar must own the stage; he must brand it with his name, make the crowd forget they have heard this song a gazillion times even as they sing along to every line. A sense of humor helps. Knowing the song helps (you'd be surprised). Beer helps--and, in some cases, a shot or five. Last Wednesday, a dozen or so singers competed for superstar status at the Rock Star Karaoke Finals, the culmination of several weeks of qualification rounds. For those who don't speak the patois, Rock Star Karaoke is a live-band version of the classic parlor game, and in this match, contestants had to sing two songs apiece. This can be tricky, as karaoke superstars tend to be one-trick ponies who rely on the same song every night. Case in point: Johnny Santos sang his crowd-slaying version of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," which was enough to bring the packed room to its knees. His performance was a perfect blend of imitation, ownership and confidence, shot through with howls and beery swagger. It didn't matter that he bungled his second song, or that both Angela ("Come Together") and Shannon ("Hit Me With Your Best Shot") technically sang better (karaoke contestants, like AA members, often go by first name only). The performances were scored equally on stage presence and vocal ability (full disclosure: I was one of the judges), and it was the former that swung the vote. In the end, it was no surprise when Santos won the contest, a neat $300 and a whole lotta love, karaoke superstar-style.

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Sarah Hepola