I’m Jello, Baby

16 Aug

I’ve got major league beef with most places that have karaoke.  Yeah, I said it.  It’s not that local townie bars give too much primacy to regulars and enact a “pay-for-play” tipping system if you want to sing.  I’m a man.  I know how the world works.  It’s hard out there for a pimp, but it’s nearly impossible to crack a karaoke rotation at a townie bar.  Fine.

Here’s the real problem.  No place ever has a karaoke version of “El Scorcho” by Weezer.  Seriously.  I’ve checked roughly a dozen this past year.  Nowhere.  Why is this?  I don’t care if Pinkerton isn’t licensed for karaoke.  I’m not even sure that’s how that works!  I literally know nothing about this, but I refuse to do research or not be infuriated.  Because, as we should all know, “El Scorcho” is the best singalong song ever written, bar none.  Unless you are in a high school drama club.  In which case it goes:

1. “Bohemian Rhapsody”
2.  Every song by Ben Folds or Ben Folds Five, except “Brick.”
3. “El Scorcho”

But, if you are an adult human being with a heat and a mouth, and lungs in between, it’s got to be “El Scorcho.”  Why, you ask?  What, you didn’t ask?  Then what are you even here for, people?  I’m going to tell you why.  Shush.  Just listen.  With your eyes.  Listen to my computerwords with your eyes.

1. Weezer is the seminal band of people who are alienated but not homicidal.  The Buddy Holly looking protagonist of the song “Buddy Holly” suffers the slings and arrows of the homies “dissing [his] girl” and “front[ing].”  But he doesn’t go into his school with a gun up in his waist to shoot up the place.  Why?  Because he sees a lady tonight, who should be having his baby, baby.  You know, that Mary Tyler Moore looking girl with the hat.  And that’s for all time.  Karaoke is an art form for people who lurk on the periphery of the music world.  It’s a social activity, but the potential for group participation is limited by the equipment of the venue and the lack of a band.  It is not hard to imagine Rivers Cuomo singing his own songs karaoke while heartbroken over some underage girl from Asia.  It’s simultaneously performative, social, and lonely.  Just like wearing big, hipstery glasses in 1994.

2. It’s an easy song to sing.  The chorus is slow and loud and in an easy register and already sounds like people are singing along.  You can really lean into it and belt it out.  “IIIIII think IIIIIII’D be GOOOOOOD for YOUUUU, and YOUUUU’D be GOOOOOOD for MEEEEEE.”

Plus, there are all those little vocal tics that invite the audience to sing along.  The exclamation “How cool is that?”  The Bon Jovi-esque key change on the last “WAIIIIITIIIIIING.”  The way the final chorus is sung like a round.  Even the guitar solo is good to sing.   It’s easy and fun to make it sound good.

3. It’s such a relatable song.  One of those where the specificity of the details makes it more broadly understood, since we can fill in our own analogues.  “God damn you half-Japanese girls” could just as easily be “…you girls with pixie haircuts” or “…you guys with shaggy hair” or whatever you’re into.  Rivers’s outrcy becomes more than just his personal preference (fetish?).  It’s a stand-in for our own “type,” and the feeling of “Here we go again.”  (Which is iterated more explicitly in “Why Bother?”)

The feeling of an unavoidable and outsized attraction to someone “out of your league” is, at its remotest, an adolescent memory and at its most immediate, an affirmation that someone “gets” your own personal and unreasonable heartbreak.  It’s conversational and humorous and quirky, and sure some of the references are a bit dated (“I asked you to go to the Green Day concert/You said you’d never heard of them,” really?  in 2010?), but it’s a sentiment that is mournful and hopeful and universal.  Who among us hasn’t thought: “I’m a lot like you, so please, hello? I’m here, I’m waiting?”  It’s sort of a perfect synthesis of frustration and exhilaration.  It’s a song about a crush, written colloquially and without melodrama.  Am I right, ladies?  No?  Okay.  Fellas?  Right on.

Bittersweet is a great emotion to sing.  No one wants to hear “Walking on Sunshine” or “Piano Man.”  Specifically at karaoke, but also ever.  It’s not creepy like “Personal Jesus” and doesn’t make white people say the n-word like “Hypnotize.”  “El Scorcho” is the world’s best song for singing in public.

So here’s the thing.  If you have a karaoke place or thing, you must make your best effort to include “El Scorcho” in your repertoire.  We, as a human race, will thank you.  Until then, the world will hear me sing “Thunder Road,” over and over.

Got to go, guys.  I know it’s late, we can make it if we run.

How cool is that?


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