Pink Houses

Ain't That America?

In which patriotism swells at karaoke until it is unseated by a pop princess.

I thought I’d try a new tune at my karaoke haunt on Saturday night (is it a “haunt” if I go there three times a year?)  Anyway, it was Fourth of July weekend, the vague odor of fireworks and hot dogs was in the air, and I thought I’d add a new tune to the repertoire … John(ny) (Cougar) Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses,” which, while not exactly complimentary to our great land, is a poetic picture of Americana and a “classic” (27 years old!) rock tune people can get behind.  “Home of the free-eee, YEAH!”

First, I practiced in the bathroom at home to make sure I could hit all the notes in my range (sign one that I may have a problem).  I anticipated my big debut all evening and worried that every man, woman, or beast who stepped up to the mic would take my song before I had my turn. After all, it was such a winning idea, I thought.

And then?  A one-two punch of awkwardness.  The KJ (karaoke jockey), a very patient, hospitable, lawyer-by-day, chain-smoking-KJ-by-night, fellow, asked if he could sing it with me.  Ummm.  You can’t say no to this guy who is deigning to let you take his “stage” (i.e., corner of a dank dive bar), but I prefer to be a solo act, especially when attempting a new song, which happens like twice a year.  But whatever. He sings well enough and takes a clue to back off if glory notes are involved.

So it’s important to know that this KJ likes to alternate the karaoke performances with dance tunes.  So you’ll have a guy singing Whitesnake followed by Flo-Rida singing about Apple Bottom jeans.  Makes for a fun atmosphere, but one wrought with uncomfortable segue, as dancers may not like the proverbial buzz kill of their dance tune being switched off for a down-tempo song about a black man with a black cat living in a black neighborhood. So my “Pink Houses” debut went something like this …

On the turntable: “Party in the U.S.A.” … crowd goes wild … hips shaking like yeah …

KJ: “Up next!  [Lucy]!”  I approach the mic. 

On the turntable: “See You Again,” the first bonafide Miley hit and easily the most infectious pop tune of the past two years … crowd erupts and goes more wild … this continues for 15 seconds until…

KJ: “Ooops … sorry about that.  Uhhh…”

Me: “Well, this isn’t awkward at all.”

On the turntable: The corn-fed-rock strains of “Pink Houses.”  Ahem.

On the dancefloor: What the what?

Ultimately, even without the lighter-elevating, fist-pumping crowd support I’d hoped for, I was proud of my performance.  I sang it well enough, hit (almost) every note, infused the right amount of passion, and even got a few people to remember it was Fourth of July weekend.  But the crowd?  Well, they still wanted Miley back.  Next year maybe my patriotic ditty should in fact be “Party in the U.S.A.” and kill two birds with one stone.

I still love you, JCM.  Actually, way more now than I did when I was 10 years old.  Another sign that I am growing begrudgingly curmudgeonly.

Hope everyone had a stellar Fourth.  Can’t wait for Labor Day.