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Don't Stop Believin': How Karaoke Conquered the World and Changed My Life Paperback – Audiobook, December 9, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
What some condemn as an aesthetic crime is actually the most direct form of music appreciation that now exists, contends this indulgent tribute to a dubious art form. Entertainment journalist and karaoke connoisseur Raftery celebrates the medium as both a democratization of our overprofessionalized entertainment culture and a kind of therapy that transforms shamed self-consciousness into brazen, talentless self-acceptance. He traces the industry's history from its early struggles to cajole club goers into making spectacles of themselves to its rise as mockery-proof nightlife mainstay. Delving into the stringent engineering of instrumental backup tapes, he explains why Bobby Brown's On Our Own (from Ghostbusters II) is a greater karaoke song than Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone. Intertwined in his world tour of karaoke bars is a personal saga of singing badly for drunken audiences from Manhattan to Tokyo, a habit that eased the forming and breakup of relationships and prodded him into a blissful state of not caring about how I look or sound. Raftery vividly evokes the boozy, semimelodic pathos that makes karaoke a profound group-bonding rite, while acknowledging—nay, toasting—its tackiness. The result is an entertaining, exuberant homage that's anything but off-key. (Jan.)
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“Part history lesson, part confessional…An amusing and often enlightening journey, highlighted by lists of the all-time best and worst karaoke songs.”
“[A] lighthearted look at karaoke…Raftery didn’t disappoint. He’s got a wicked sense of humor, and he loves to make fun of himself, too…Raftery has a natural inclination to put on his journalist hat even when he’s talking about himself. The technique works well…Never have I seen such intriguing astuteness about some things I would never want to see. I’ve got to applaud him for taking his obsession all the way.”
“More than a discourse on the sing-along phenomenon…With wit, self-deprecation, and a combination of a reporter’s skills and a passion for his subject, Brian tells of his adventures in karaoke; its history, and its evolution from fad to phenom.”
“You can taste [Raftery’s] addiction. His passion is, like the collective yearning to sing Total Eclipse of the Heart, contagious.”
Skyscraper, Spring 2009
“I have read many, probably too many, music books over the past decade but rarely has one made me laugh. But Don’t Stop Believin’ did—a lot…Brian Raftery’s book is a memoir and a love letter to everyone’s favorite narcissistic leisure activity, karaoke…Raftery’s gusto for championing the underdog (he being one of them) is contagious and his genuine love for this often-maligned pastime should be applauded and respected.”
“When Raftery digs deep into the history and social aspects of karaoke, it becomes an enthralling history book of a much-maligned art form…A great book.”
London Telegraph, 5/26/09
“To understand how and why we got lost in music, take a look at Don’t Stop Believin’…For the karaoke fan, the book is a delight.”
Glorious Noise website, 9/30
“A book that is as good as most karaoke performers are bad…You may think that you’re about as interested in reading about karaoke as you are in endless playings of Don Henley’s Greatest Hits. But Raftery’s self-aware obsession…is hilarious and engaging.”
Orlando Sentinel “Word Count”, 1/2/09
“[An] ode to the pastime…Like essayist Chuck Klosterman, Raftery is an unabashed nerd…There are some fantastic performance tips in here too, dissecting with hilarious accuracy what makes an otherwise bad song perfect for karaoke and vice-versa.”
Reference and Research Book News, 2/09
“[Raftery] goes far beyond merely recording required behavior, fashion trends, and counting drinks. Instead he comments on collective memory, competitiveness among and within nations, the ratio between aspiration and talent, and the evolution from casual participant to fanatic…The result is a mystery tour married to a serious ethnography.”
Under the Radar, Winter 2009
“Deftly mix[es] cultural history with memoir…An endearing and intriguing case for an oft-maligned…er, art form.”
Buffalo News, 1/25/09
“[Raftery’s] style is at once serious, funny, respectful and aware, of both the ludicrousness of karaoke, and the real spirit behind it…Wonderful, sharp writing…Cheers to Brian Raftery, then, for doing so much with so little. It’s probably the best book ever written about karaoke.”
"Delves into the tangled history of the art form (and yes, it is an art form), from its rocky start in 1970s Japan to its embrace by everyone from trendy indie rock bands to Midwestern brial parties...A love letter to a hobby that became an obsession."
"Reminds us that belting out tunes with all your heart can be fun, wrenching, and ultimately very satisfying."
"This book is for people who take karaoke seriously and know just the right songs to sing. fans of pop culture and the writing of Chuck Klosterman will enjoy Raftery's style. highly recommended for popular collections in all public libraries."
"[The] definitive book on Karaoke...Hilarious and just plain fun to read...I liked this book an awful lot. if you've got an inner-Karaoke guy in you dying to be let loose, chances are you will like it, too. if not, it still makes a reat gift for that friend of yours prone to singing badly at parties and other forms of lampshade wearing fun."
“As much memoir as it is history, and the story it tells—of how one pudgy, loveless music journalist learned to stop worrying and love the rush of performing—is an endearing one…Karaoke itself may not be to everyone's liking, but this bite-size book is a treat, like hearing a surprisingly competent singer offer her take on Milli Vanilli’s ‘Blame It on the Rain.’”
“Raftery, the most obsessive karaoke fan you could imagine, perfectly captures this exhibitionist thrill in his entertaining history of the art…The book is an elegy for his 20s, a fascinating look at the underbelly of the music business, a meditation on the nature of authenticity and a quest for the perfect karaoke song…In an age of digital piracy and ‘Guitar Hero,’ the future of karaoke is uncertain, but this rollicking and surprisingly informative account of a life lived with microphone in hand is a fitting ode to its joyful tackiness.”
Salt Lake Underground, 2/09
“Raftery’s text does the culture justice like no other.”
Relevant, April 2009
“[Raftery’s] Chuck Klosterman-esque writing will have you laughing and tempt you to belt out some Journey.”
“The author’s obsession [is] delineated in colorful, mostly engaging prose…Interspersed with [Raftery’s] personal story is a loose-limbed, entertaining history…Lively, amusing, irreverent and often scattershot—in other words, perfect bathroom reading material.”
“Raftery vividly evokes the boozy, semimelodic pathos that makes karaoke a profound group-bonding rite, while acknowledging—nay, toasting—its tackiness. The result is an entertaining, exuberant homage that’s anything but off-key.”
“In this waggish memoir, Raftery chronicles his journey (heh) across the world, rocking karaoke joints.”
“A delightful and ultimately moving read.”
“A personal look at the sing-along phenomenon.”
Shelf Awareness, 12/10/08
“[A] breezy paean to the ‘empty orchestra’ (the literal translation of ‘karaoke’)…Raftery writes…with brisk humor…Raftery’s enthusiasm for [karaoke] is endearing—and ultimately infectious…A light, informative and highly entertaining history of karaoke from a writer who can’t stop himself from singing along.”
Top customer reviews
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Michael Palin's documentary "Around the World in 80 Days" from 1989 also introduced karaoke to a wider Western audience - there is one scene where he is singing in a karaoke bar in Tokyo. Oh and I was pleasantly shocked at the number of karaoke bars in Helsinki when I visited last year - so there is some truth that more people do karaoke in Finland per capita than in any other country in the world.
If only I had known about this book earlier - or if I had started doing karaoke many years earlier!
On one hand, it presents a faithful and expansive overview of the world of karaoke - including its origins and milestones along the way. Anyone who has enjoyed this spectator sport in the past will find this part very enlightening.
On the other it presents a steady stream of witty, well-paced, and thoroughly enjoyable vignettes. All of these are based around karaoke, but they tell entertaining stories all their own - and the author reveals quite a bit of himself in several of them. Much like the "King of Kong" documentary, this easily read book can appeal to readers both inside and outside of the "scene." Mr. Raftery did an absolutely brilliant job on this.
Sure, there are tons of valuable and interesting tidbits about karaoke but there's so much more to the book. 'Don't Stop Believing' is equal parts travelogue, self help biography and informational on karaoke. The best thing is that all of those parts add up to a very well written and thoughtful book about one of life's most ironic pastimes, amateurs grabbing the mic in a crowded bar, singing popular (or not so popular) songs to a group of mostly strangers.
It took me by surprise, honestly, I thought I'd enjoy more information on a topic I was already interested in but what I didn't expect was the insight that Mr. Raftery shared. He was able to sum up what makes karaoke not just a fun thing to do on a drunken weekend but a majorly life affirming rite of passage that everyone should partake of.
I loved it and for the first time, I can more easily express why I love to sing even though I'm so bad at it and why I want everyone to join me in this ultimate freedom of publically enjoying your own follies rather than trying to hide them.
Read it and go sing your heart out!
Little nuggets of the history of karaoke in the USA and, ultimately, of the origins from Japan help ground the book to general culture.
If I were to write a book, this would be a definite topic that I would have enjoyed researching first hand! A great read for karaoke lovers. Kudos to Raferty!