Vulnerability puts the ‘care’ in karaoke

Karaoke gives spaces allowing performers to feel free

The event was hosted on July 16.

Fan Wu was inspired by the bursts of mania and melancholy from karaoke performers when he created “Care-oke.”

Union Gallery hosted “Care-oke” on July 16. The open-mic karaoke show was about the catharsis of performing on stage in front of strangers. Wu said karaoke allows the individual to be vulnerable and free in a setting where they normally wouldn’t be.

“There’s something psychologically satisfying about witnessing that kind of catharsis, by going to strange karaoke bars and seeing the different mixtures of people perform on stage,” said Fan Wu, Care-oke host, in an interview with The Journal.

Kingston is heavily saturated with karaoke bars. The Toucan, Royal Tavern 2.0, The Mansion, and Musiikki all have karaoke nights, giving entertainment in the city a distinct flair in the range of voices seen on stage.

Wu said the Kington karaoke scene had a vast range of experience from classically trained to amateur.

“Sometimes there would be opera singers who would perform Pavarotti at a local dive bar, or sometimes people with totally unafraid voices singing folk songs with their whole heart behind it,” Wu said about the Kingston karaoke scene.

Despite the beauty of seeing trained singers, Wu emphasized the pleasure of watching an amateur performance. There is an enthusiasm and passion emerging from the singer—something he defined as naked in its vulnerability.

Wu labeled the exposure of one’s vulnerability as revealing a truth about the singer, since they’re not able to hide behind autotune or false confidence. Performers’ raw voice will show if they’re accurately singing the words and notes.

Wu notes the change in the singer when performing.

“For the final four or five minutes, [the singer] can transform into a self they don’t often get to show off in the world,” Wu said.

“There’s an untrained element to it. A kind of explosive, passionate element to it that can be very vulnerable.”

As a long-time lover of karaoke, Wu found it to be a place of gathering and community building.

“It started with me learning what my own comfort levels were around karaoke and pushing the limits into something more performative, trying songs that were more experimental,” Wu said.

“Karaoke does have a social dimension. I think in Japanese it means empty orchestra, which I find very beautiful as an [etymology]. There’s a kind of collective experience there and there’s [an] intangible circulation of energy happening.”

Karaoke is unpredictable because no audience is the same. When hosting, Wu said they didn’t want to bring in too many expectations because there are a lot of different ways to have fun.

“I want people to feel like they’re being held to push the limits and [are] able to try new songs, to be more performative and inhabit the body differently on stage,” Wu said.


friends, karaoke, Music, vulnerability

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