When things started opening back up, there was one thing I wanted to do more than anything: my regular Wednesday night karaoke at Kate’s Pub in Wallingford. Karaoke is tragically, deeply uncool, and I recognize that, but also, it’s super-fun with the right people, and even with a certain degree of sloppiness, a good time can be had all around. However, it’s a narrow path to tread; too much sloppiness leads to an unwatchable five minutes of slurred lyrics, stumbling dance moves, and mic feedback; and too much precision effort can make you feel like you’re watching auditions at the local high school for the spring musical. There is a sweet spot in between, but you wouldn’t know that from watching tonight’s Mariners game.
Tonight, the Mariners, playing one of their worst games of the season and utterly throwing down the notion of a positive run differential and dancing upon it in hob-nailed boots, barely avoided getting no-hit, almost got shut out, and Justus Sheffield pitched so poorly facing his old team he prompted a stream of questions about whether the Mariners could go to a four-man rotation. It was, in a word, unwatchable. It was the very worst night of karaoke. Here is each significant player from tonight, and each karaoke song choice they embodied:
Justus Sheffield: “End of the Road”, Boyz II Men
Your friend who just got broken up with might want to go to karaoke. You should, if at all possible, attempt to dissuade this; ask them if they’d rather go walk barefoot across some barnacles instead, or perhaps dig out a blackberry bush barehanded, because most breakup songs are even worse than the worst activities, shrill and terrible. Even if you can avoid “Since U Been Gone” or “Gives You Hell”, things might go the other way into morose, lugubrious warblings that are still so powerfully generic they double as high school graduation songs. (Looking at YOU, Adele, and also R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts”)
Tonight Justus Sheffield warbled through just 1.2 innings against his ex-team, surrendering six runs while walking three and giving up a truly majestic dong that literally everyone in the ballpark saw coming. It’s okay if you’re going through something, Justus, just please don’t make the entire bar witness it. At this point, as the official Justus Starts Recapper of LL, I have to say, I don’t even know what to say. It’s just bad. All of it is bad. I feel terrible for him, but also, oh god, it’s all so bad. This whole night for Justus was the spoken word section in “End of the Road”: cringe-inducing. “I’m in so much pain because you won’t come back to me, will you? Just please come back to me” - Justus to his command, one must assume. Volunteer to take your friend bowling instead.
Hector Santiago: “Take on Me” by A-Ha
Sometimes a singer, either because they haven’t thought the whole song through or because they have a misplaced sense of confidence, makes a bad choice and winds up outside of their wheelhouse. It’s not Hector’s fault that he got thrown into long relief duties tonight, allowing three runs on seven hits; he’s got a lot going on, okay? Much like I know to go get in line for another drink when the singer inevitably forgets about the dog-whistle heights of “...or two” in the chorus, I knew enough to go clean out the cat litter during Santiago’s outing. I love ya, Hector, I just don’t necessarily need to see this, and I’m a little embarrassed for both of us.
Will Vest: “It’s Tricky” by Run-D.M.C.
Is this a hard song to sing? No. It is not a song you sing so much as you recite to a beat. It’s not even a really hard song to rap, especially if you can rope someone else into doing it with you. And yet there is a great payoff in this song, which isn’t as offensive nor as repetitive as Ginuwine’s “Pony.” It’s not the hardest, but it will make everyone cheer, provided it’s the right environment. Will Vest, pitching two innings and allowing just one hit and no runs after the Yankees had already put up a touchdown on the Mariners, was the equivalent tonight of getting up after a singer had just butchered “Total Eclipse of the Heart”—so long, and so bad. Really any short, punchy song done competently will work, but this one was especially competent, and on a night on utter incompetence from the Mariners, that’s what the crowd was mad to hear.
Rafael Montero: “Love On Top” by Beyoncé
There are two types of singers who attempt Queen Bey at karaoke: those who can actually sing, and those who are drunk and overconfident. Montero, fresh off a scoreless outing and feeling himself, asked for “Love On Top” and conveniently looked away when the KJ rolled their eyes. Some of it was just straight-up unluckiness for Montero, his typical ground-balls-finding-holes-bullshit, but then there was also this key change to Luke Voit into which Montero strode confidently, only to fall flat on his face.
Jameson Taillon: “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” by Jennifer Hudson
No one needs to sing this song at karaoke, because either it is a disaster, or you’re just showing off. Tonight Jameson Taillon showed off to the tune of nine strikeouts in seven innings and just one run, in one majestic road-ERA fixing start. Shut up, Jameson.
The Yankees offense: “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls
There are certain sounds that send a chill down one’s spine: a squeaking gate on a winter’s night, footsteps behind you on a darkened street, sounds your grandmother insists are just the house “settling.” For me, it’s walking into a bar on karaoke night and hearing “I’ll tell you what I want what I really really want” answered, louder and shriller, by “so tell me what you want what you really really want.” Nothing makes me Grandpa Simpson/Troy with the pizza box back out the door faster. Group songs almost never bode well for an evening, and instead mean a long wait to sing, difficulty flagging down a bartender for a drink, a line for the bathroom, and a world of untold horrors within said bathroom. But there’s something specific about the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe”; it is a dull, repetitive song, a song that means no good has come before, and no good will come after. It’s a song that means, end your night here, and really, it would have been better for all of us if after the third inning, the Mariners said “you know what, we’re good,” closed out their tabs, and headed home, letting the Yankees just bop away into an empty bar. The Mariners batters sure did their parts to ghost and leave the pitching staff to pay the tab, scraping just one measly run across while striking out 12 times and probably getting Dick’s burgers on the way home and not asking any of us if we wanted any. So rude. Such a bad night at the karaoke bar.