Open a stage to any karaoke performer and the result can be humiliation, triumph or even love. While the latter sounds farfetched, karaoke stars admit to attracting the occasional karaoke "groupie'' if their voices happen to touch any hearts or minds.
As South Floridians, we don't take our karaoke as seriously as residents of some cities, but karaoke still makes for lively entertainment. The problem with lively is that it's not always tantamount to quality. Our visit to local bars helped identify the broad classifications of tropical karaoke participants: the serious performers who are out to prove why record labels should call them back, the inebriated, mumbling rock star who throws in foul language that appears nowhere in the lyrics and the hordes of bachelorette party girls who invade the stage with vigorous dancing and Mick Jagger-like swagger.
While there are plenty of talented exceptions, listening to many entertainers comes in a close second to hearing two rabid feral cats fighting it out in a back alley. Karaoke lounges may be few and far between in Miami and South Florida, but here are a handful of spots where you can still sing your heart out to an adoring (or inebriated) crowd.
This South Beach staple for all things karaoke has stood the test of time as other karaoke haunts have shuttered. Whether you’re looking for a private room or your turn on the bar’s main stage, Sing Sing has you covered. Private rooms are equipped with flat screen TVs, cushy couches, two microphones, sound-activated party lights and cocktail tables. With over 120,000 songs to choose from in 13 languages, “your song” is definitely on the list. The bar itself pulses in neon lights for a festive, fun night out. Room package rates start at $37 per person for two hours and three drinks per person included. In the main room, a drink buys you your turn in the spotlight. 717 Washington Ave., South Beach; 305-763-8410; singsingmiami.com.
Titanic Restaurant & Brewery
Backward caps, fraternity letters, board shorts and sandals: all attire you'll probably see at the Titanic Brewery. Even though plenty of University of Miami students perch at the bar, there's also a good crowd from the real world. The brewery's machinery glistens through glass walls. The bartenders pour pints of Nut Brown Ale, Captain Smith's Rye, Whitestar IPA and more. Snacks like empanadas, beer-battered shrimp, chicken egg rolls and barbecued pulled pork sandwiches are also available.
Sunday nights are devoted to karaoke starting at 9 p.m. A student passionately sings Vicente Fernandez's El Rey. He says singing in front of a crowd of strangers is simple if you let go of any pressure. "If you leave your shame at home, nobody cares,'' he says, while a guy in a Def Leopard T-shirt sings Elton John's Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me. The DJ holds up a candle for dramatic effect. Titanic also holds an impressive open mic/jazz night on Tuesdays and an open blues jam night on Wednesdays. 5813 Ponce De Leon Blvd., Coral Gables; 305-668-1742; http://www.titanicbrewery.com.
Lips incorporates the karaoke portion of its entertainment into its Tuesday night drag show, and the customers are typically pulled into the performance one way or another. Shy patrons might want to pass on this spot.
“It's a party place,” says Ivana Du, an impersonator of Will and Grace character Karen Walker, Ms. Bunny Swan from MADtv and Elizabeth Taylor. "So, if you want to come here, you've got to party.”
The showroom looks like a scene from a Las Vegas club with disco balls and giant high heels made of crystal beads adorning the ceiling. And, oh yes, there are the drag queens - also the servers - with their lean physiques, loads of makeup and broad shoulders. The show's host is none other than Miss Twat LaRouge. The restaurant has an appetizing, gourmet menu with dishes like blackened salmon, sesame ahi tuna and the chicken roulade. 1421 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Oakland Park; 954-567-0987; lipsfla.com.
Before reaching the front door, a ferocious dog growls from a vacant scrap of the building that was once a seafood restaurant. Once inside the rugged bar, expect to find every kind of creature: bearded whiskey-guzzlers, graduate school hipsters and aggressive women with raspy voices.
Seven Seas feels like a Keys transplant. Mounted fish and buoys decorate the cluttered walls, along with photos of legendary Key West haunts like Sloppy Joe's Bar and Captain Tony's Saloon. An old school jukebox in the corner plays CDs of artists like the Doors and Fleetwood Mac. There's no elevated stage, only a small area for the talent.
The bar is crowded and the crowd is rowdy. A tipsy woman belts the Eagles' "Hotel California" to cringing faces. When asked about her love for the Eagles, she all but runs away for fear of her name appearing in print. Turns out, her husband works the night shift (when she is supposed to be home). For her, karaoke is a scandalous affair. 2200 S. Red Rd., South Miami; 305-266-6071.
This laidback, hard partying sports bar in Fort Lauderdale throws a couple of karaoke parties a week on Sundays and Thursdays. With “2-4-1” happy hours all day until 8 p.m., you’re definitely encouraged to drink up here. Karaoke starts at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday nights hosted by Donald and Bobbi. Take the stage where bands and DJs preside over the rest of the week, and let it rip. Thursdays brings “Skary-Okee,” karaoke of the dark side, encouraging would-be belters to perform metal, new wave, punk, electronica and “dirty” rock-n-roll. Domestic drafts and well drinks are also on special for $3 in case you need some liquid courage. 2780 Davie Blvd, Fort Lauderdale; 954-581-8400; jsbar411.com.