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The Rolling Stone Guide to Karaoke at Home

Forget star signs. Forget spirit animals. Forget icebreakers and board games. Nothing tells you more about a person than their go-to karaoke track

Forget star signs. Forget spirit animals. Forget icebreakers and board games. Nothing tells you more about a person than their go-to karaoke track. A universal social lubricant, karaoke has been bringing people together, from Japanese bars to Australian living rooms, for decades. And why wouldn’t it? When it comes to an at-home group activity, karaoke is basically the antithesis of a potentially relationship-destroying game of Monopoly or Settlers of Katan. Where Katan is hoarding your precious resources and screaming at your friends, karaoke is sharing your favourite songs and singing with your friends. Everyone wins. So, if you’re planning your next group activity for a get-together at home, forget the Monopoly Guy. Forget sheep and wheat. Let us guide you through the best way to have an authentic Shibuya karaoke kan experience at home without the need for flights, or relationship therapy. 

The Right Equipment, Drinks and Snacks

Before we get into the more practical aspects of karaoke at home, let’s look at how it all started. Long before James Corden started pestering celebrities to go for a drive with him, karaoke was born almost accidentally in 1970s Japan. The man most often credited with inventing karaoke is Kobe native Daisuke Inoue. Inoue played in a band that provided backing instrumentation to salarymen at bars and clubs around Kobe and Osaka. Unable to attend a particular gig one night, he decided to record the backing tracks to tape. Later sensing an opportunity, he invented a coin-operated eight-track tape player, microphone and amplifier system which he dubbed the 8 Juke and started renting it out to bars and clubs around the Kansai area. The idea took off and karaoke bars and venues started spreading throughout the country, eventually creating the multi-billion dollar industry we know today. So naturally Inoue is now a multi-billionaire living in the mansion that karaoke built, right? Wrong. Inoue neglected to patent his 8 Juke and more opportunistic entrepreneurs started creating their own similar systems, becoming rich in the process. Inoue wasn’t forgotten though, he eventually received acknowledgment for his contributions, winning the satirical Ig Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for inventing karaoke and “thereby providing an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other.” 

Technology has come a long way since the 8 Juke with at-home karaoke options ranging from entry-level to advanced depending on your budget and how seriously you take the art of the empty orchestra. For those with video game consoles like the Nintendo Switch, the Let’s Sing series of games is still in full force, recently releasing a 2023 version of the game. For the more diehard karaoke enthusiasts, if you’ve got even basic microphones, a mixer and speakers at home, there are tonnes of karaoke tracks available on YouTube or from subscription services like Singa or KaraFun. 

You can’t have an authentic karaoke night at home without saying “kanpai” with some Japanese drinks and thankfully Monsutā has a lineup of drinks made and canned in Japan to help you do just that. Monuta’s smooth, crisp and bold beers and their zesty alcoholic lemon chūhai will keep you refreshed when you’re off the mic. Don’t skip on the finger food, Japanese snacks like wasabi peas, kaki no tane and edamame pair perfectly with Monutā’s drinks and will help keep your energy up throughout the night. 

Go-To Tracks

Chip Douglas had “Somebody to Love” in The Cable Guy. Bob Harris had “More Than This” in Lost in Translation. But picking your go-to karaoke tracks isn’t easy, just look at Michael Bluth and Maeby Fünke in Arrested Development. There are no losers in karaoke but it is recommended to know your range and know your lyrics. Sure, it’s fun to give Celine Dion or Mariah Carey a go but you don’t want to blow your voice out too early. The next step is to pick songs that you’re sure you’re at least fairly familiar with. All too often people try to jump into an Eminem or Danny Brown track thinking they know all the lyrics only to realise after a few bars that they’re in way too deep. Finally, make sure you read the crowd. No one needs to hear “Wonderwall” two tracks into a karaoke session, maybe save it for later in the night. As Mindy Kaling said, “People should be thinking of themselves more as temporary DJs for the party…it kind of behooves you to pick a short song. I don’t care if Don freakin’ McLean shows up in a red-white-and-blue tuxedo, no one is allowed to sing ‘American Pie.’”

Inoue might not have become rich and famous with his invention but he has no regrets, saying all he wanted was to “teach the world to sing.” Without a patent, his invention exploded around the world and now, with the right equipment, some snacks and a few refreshing Monsutā beers or chūhais, it’s easier than ever to enjoy karaoke at home with friends. So next time you’re planning a get-together, swap Oxford Street and tears for Backstreet Boys and beers, it’s what Daisuke Inoue would have wanted.  

Monsutā products are available from BWS, Dan Murphy’s and Jimmy Brings.

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