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Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke Hardcover – August 6, 2013
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Chuck Klosterman Reviews Turn Around Bright Eyes
When Roger Ebert died, obituary writers cataloged all the wonderful details about his career as a critic, of which there were many. But the quality that came up most often was the one that mattered most: Ebert never lost his connection to the sheer glee of sitting in a dark theater and experiencing a movie that made him feel something. His intellectual relationship to criticism never eroded his emotive, visceral relationship with the art that he loved. This is an incredibly rare quality. And it’s the same attribute that informs everything Rob Sheffield writes. Even if Sheffield were a robot, his writing would be worth reading, simply because he (a.) knows how sentences work and (b.) seems to effortlessly recall every interesting thing about every single song he’s ever heard since kindergarten. He’d still be an excellent music writer if he thought music sucked; the fact that he loves music so sincerely makes him borderline unstoppable. Turn Around Bright Eyes is technically about karaoke (and ostensibly about learning how to romantically recover from the romantically unrecoverable), but it’s actually about what music can give your life -- if you’re willing to give your life to music.
What you realize from Turn Around Bright Eyes – and from its narrative progenitor, Love in a Mix Tape – is not just that Sheffield calibrates his entire existence through popular music. It’s that this calibration is simultaneously reasonable, creative, and profoundly satisfying. This is not a book about how karaoke helped some depressed person escape from reality; this is a book about how karaoke continually allows a happy person to perform his own reality, in public, whenever he so desires. When Sheffield describes how it feels to cover “Ziggy Stardust” in a windowless room, he is only halfway talking about David Bowie; he is mostly talking about himself. When he defines why Neil Diamond is the cornerstone of the karaoke universe, he is defining what he values about culture; when he outlines why he added Rush to his karaoke repertoire, he’s outlining the process of personal growth; when he explains the sensation of singing Bonnie Tyler’s masterwork alongside his wife, he’s explaining things about his marriage that would be impossible to explain otherwise. It might seem crazy, but it works every time. There is no question about life that Rob Sheffield cannot answer through the lyrics of a Top 40 song everyone else forgot to remember. He understands Rod Stewart the way Frederick Exley understood Frank Gifford. He understands made-for-TV Lifetime movies the way Joan Didion understood hippies. He understands Bon Jovi slightly more than the members of Bon Jovi. He understands why life hurts and why life feels good.
There’s a fleeting paragraph in Turn Around Bright Eyes where Sheffield casually mentions that he once went to a therapist who happened to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium. Rob ends up paying her $80 to listen to her talk about a 30-minute concert for 45 minutes. At the end of the session, the therapist wonders if this one-sided conversation was “really necessary,” which makes me suspect she didn’t understand the man she was talking to. By the time you finish this book, you will understand Rob Sheffield better than she did. “I’m a combination of two horrific personality types,” he writes in my favorite chapter. “An encyclopedia-minded data-storage-facility rock geek and a crippling polite firstborn Irish son.” Somehow, Rob seems to assume these are bad qualities, which makes me wonder if he’s a little confused himself. Those are the best qualities any rock writer can possess. I can’t think of a more likable, more stable, or more self-assured narrator than this particular person. Every sentence makes sense, including the ones that completely surprised me.
You know, I must be honest: karaoke scares me. It’s my greatest phobia. I could speak in front of 20,000 people, but I couldn’t sing in front of two. I’m a little ashamed of this fact, and there’s nothing I can do about it. But reading this book makes me feel like that fear doesn’t exist. It makes me feel like I just drunkenly sang “Whole Lotta Love” and totally killed it. I’m not even sure what that means.
What does it mean when a book makes you feel like you can sing?
Top Customer Reviews
The subtitle says "The Rituals of Love and Karaoke" and that's true to a large extent. But it's also about finding yourself after the loss of your spouse. It's not explicitly in the text, but it's in there. I was glad to see that since I am in widow fog now and sometimes I despair of having a sort of normal life. Mr Sheffield doesn't make it sound easy because it isn't.
He gives the history of karaoke in Japan as well as the US. I was completely unaware there are whole _bars_ just for karaoke. I thought that was a sort of once a week thing. I would have thought of trying karaoke (I can't carry a tune in a bushel basket) but Mr Sheffield makes it sound like so much fun.
I recommend this book highly to anybody interested in music or karaoke. I also recommend this book to anyone who is trying to figure out what happens next in their life.
I really enjoyed this book.
Everybody loves music when they are young. Music is as ubiquitous in the daily life of a kid/teen as television, movies, and now video games. As we grow older, however, that love wanes for most people. Almost everyone watches new TV shows and movies, but for some reason, many people stop being invested in music as they get into their late 20's, 30's, and 40's. Sure, they'll listen to their old faves and may become vaguely invested in a pop song because their kids listen to it, but seeking out new bands seems to fall by the wayside for most adults. There are those of us who never stop searching the dial, blogs, iTunes, etc. for new and exciting music. If you are one of those people, you probably already know Rob Sheffield from his work at Rolling Stone, but if not, you'll see more than a little bit of yourself in his work.
Sheffield has spent three books detailing the soundtrack of his life. Every memory is attached to a song, both happy and sad. In his first book, he details the loss of his wife. The second discusses those traumatic teen years. In his latest work, he uses karaoke to introduce us to his new wife and the way in which performing music (he insists poorly), has influenced him over the years. If you've ever never participated in the act of standing in front of a group of people to sing a song in front of a screen likely showing pictures of couples walking peacefully on a beach, you will probably feel a little left out. Karaoke is not for American Idol wannabes, it's more for people who love music so much that they want to sing it publicly, often with really bad results.Read more ›
I like this writer's style. I felt like he was talking to me over coffee in a cafe or beer in a bar and telling me about his adventures. He writes in such a close, personal, friendly way I was all "ears" the whole way through. I felt myself traveling back in time when I started reading off the names of songs throughout the book.
When you hear certain songs memories immediately come to mind reminding you of where you've been. It was great how this book illustrates how music can also lead you to where you need to be.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Love his take on songs and life. Love his humor. I'll read anything he writes :)Published 1 month ago by O.E.
Recommended by a colleague. This book was everything I wanted it to be and more. I use it in my personal, pedagogical, philosophical realms and encourage all kindred spirits who... Read morePublished 1 month ago by cubano
LOVE all of his books - highly recommend to anyone, especially if you grew up in the '80's! Such a way with words!Published 8 months ago by Jody LaVersa
Sheffield's 3rd book is my least favorite of the three, but still good in its own right. Compared to the other two it just didn't stack up. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Dave Kolb
This book was about bars and karaoke. It just kind of silly. It was hard to finish because to care about the authors ideas of love and karaoke. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Kindle Customer
I'm an unabashed lover of karaoke, but I rarely have the guts to get up and sing. This author has none of my awkward feelings about performing in front of a crowd. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Breezy
I reviewed my first Sheffield book (Love is a Mix Tape) as a gift. I've so far read all of the, and Turn Around Bright Eyes is probably my favorite.Published 11 months ago by Cody