NOVEL APPROACH: ‘Love’ in the time of ‘Karaoke’

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First Posted: 9/15/2013

Holding the microphone, he stares into the small blue screen as he prepares himself for those scrolling white words. He is ready to sing love to the audience and make them swoon in less than three minutes.

This is author, editor and music journalist, Rob Sheffield, back in action with his latest work, “Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke.”

Sheffield, who has authored two previous memoirs, “Love is a Mix Tape” and “Talking to Girls About Duran Duran,” is perhaps one of the best contemporary music memoirists.

After decades of thrilling readers with his pop culture expertise, Sheffield begins his new venture with a love story, appropriately titled, “Total Eclipse of the Heart:”

“Tonight we are setting out to belt some of our favorite songs. We’ll do songs we’ve never tried before. We’ll take on duets we haven’t sung together. And we’ll do the standards we always have to do. But when you take that karaoke microphone in your hand, you don’t know what kind of adventure you’re stepping into. So you just have to surrender and let the song take over. […] If you’re lucky, and the beer doesn’t run out, it’s more than just a night of debauchery. It’s a spiritual quest.”

The following chapters share a commonality — all of them titled after a popular karaoke song. As each chapter unfolds, readers follow Sheffield down karaoke lane, beginning with such artists as Bonnie Tyler and Merle Haggard, only to conclude with David Bowie and Nirvana. While weaving his personal experiences throughout, Sheffield’s vast knowledge as a music journalist adds further layers to the work.

Similar to his earlier memoirs, Sheffield’s writing style remains constant — conversational, witty and upfront. In addition, the book is heaving with sentiment, humor and cheer. Even after the loss of his first wife, Sheffield emphasizes that happiness is all around us, even at a karaoke bar. In fact, it was music that led Sheffield to believe in love again, demonstrating that music has the power to bring people together.

Interestingly enough, “Turn Around Bright Eyes” opens with an epigraph from Sonic Youth’s song, “Eric’s Trip:” “We make up what we can’t hear. Then we sing all night.” Without a doubt, Sheffield keeps singing as each chapter speeds forward in succinct order. The last chapter comes all too soon but, luckily, we can read it again knowing that Sheffield is still out there, mic in hand, conquering love in the time of karaoke.

‘Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke’ by Rob Sheffield Rating: W W W W W