American karaoke probably makes a native Korean feel the same way I do when I eat Mexican food in a place like Arkansas. Still, I dragged my friend Alex to PJ's Sports Bar (614 W. Gray, 713-520-1748) so I could get an expert's opinion on the dive-bar version of South Korea's national pastime. (PJ's on Friday is about the only karaoke night I can stomach — most patrons still sing like amateurs, but they drink like professionals.)
Alex's verdict: "Too public."
Koreans do karaoke in private rooms, he said. It's one of the customary stages of a night on the town (after a meal and before the hook-up bar), and it's taken pretty seriously. A lot of Koreans actually practice karaoke at home. To me, that's like putting on cologne before masturbating. But Alex also said that teens often steal away to private karaoke rooms to have premarital sex, so I guess there's a lot at stake.
After he laid this out for me, we watched a few singers, but a drunk kept telling Alex that he should sing because he looks like he "has talent" — isn't that like telling a Hispanic that he looks like he's good at soccer? — so we headed to the downstairs bar. I asked owner PJ to make me a shot, and he whipped up something called a Lindsay Lohan, which tasted appropriately alcoholic. Sadly, Alex doesn't drink, so I didn't have any leverage with which to convince him to sing Sam and Dave's "Soul Man." Not sure how many people would have gotten the joke, but I would have appreciated it.
Maybe next time.
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