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Armed with a keen eye and a terrible singing voice, writer Brian Raftery sets out across the globe, tracing karaoke's evolution from cult fad to multi-million dollar phenomenon. In Japan, he meets Daisuke Inoue, the godfather of karaoke; in Thailand, he follows a group of Americans hoping to win the Karaoke World Championships; and in New York City, he hangs out backstage with the world's longest-running heavy-metal karaoke band. Along the way, Raftery chronicles his own time as an obsessive karaoke fan, recalling a life's worth of noisy relationships and poor song choices, and analyzing the karaoke-bar merits of such artists as Prince, Bob Dylan and Fugazi.
Part cultural history, part memoir, Don't Stop Believin': How Karaoke Conquered the World and Changed My Life is a hilarious and densely reported look at the liberating effects of a good sing-along.
About the Author
Brian Raftery's features, profiles, and criticism have appeared in such publications as Wired, Spin, GQ, and Entertainment Weekly. His favorite karaoke song is Night Ranger's "Sister Christian."
“The author’s obsession [is] delineated in colorful, mostly engaging prose…Interspersed with [Raftery’s] personal story is a loose-limbed, entertaining history…Lively, amusing, irreverent and often scattershot—in other words, perfect bathroom reading material.”
Publishers Weekly, 10/20/08
“Raftery vividly evokes the boozy, semimelodic pathos that makes karaoke a profound group-bonding rite, while acknowledging—nay, toasting—its tackiness. The result is an entertaining, exuberant homage that’s anything but off-key.”
Entertainment Weekly, 12/19/08
“In this waggish memoir, Raftery chronicles his journey (heh) across the world, rocking karaoke joints.”
“A delightful and ultimately moving read.”
“A personal look at the sing-along phenomenon.”
Shelf Awareness, 12/10/08
“[A] breezy paean to the ‘empty orchestra’ (the literal translation of ‘karaoke’)…Raftery writes…with brisk humor…Raftery’s enthusiasm for [karaoke] is endearing—and ultimately infectious…A light, informative and highly entertaining history of karaoke from a writer who can’t stop himself from singing along.”
"Delves into the tangled history of the art form (and yes, it is an art form), from its rocky start in 1970s Japan to its embrace by everyone from trendy indie rock bands to Midwestern brial parties...A love letter to a hobby that became an obsession."
"Reminds us that belting out tunes with all your heart can be fun, wrenching, and ultimately very satisfying."
"This book is for people who take karaoke seriously and know just the right songs to sing. fans of pop culture and the writing of Chuck Klosterman will enjoy Raftery's style. highly recommended for popular collections in all public libraries."
"[The] definitive book on Karaoke...Hilarious and just plain fun to read...I liked this book an awful lot. if you've got an inner-Karaoke guy in you dying to be let loose, chances are you will like it, too. if not, it still makes a reat gift for that friend of yours prone to singing badly at parties and other forms of lampshade wearing fun."
Blender “Editor’s Picks”, 2/09
Orlando Sentinel “Word Count”, 1/2/09
“[An] ode to the pastime…Like essayist Chuck Klosterman, Raftery is an unabashed nerd…There are some fantastic performance tips in here too, dissecting with hilarious accuracy what makes an otherwise bad song perfect for karaoke and vice-versa.”
Reference and Research Book News, 2/09
“[Raftery] goes far beyond merely recording required behavior, fashion trends, and counting drinks. Instead he comments on collective memory, competitiveness among and within nations, the ratio between aspiration and talent, and the evolution from casual participant to fanatic…The result is a mystery tour married to a serious ethnography.”
Under the Radar, Winter 2009
“Deftly mix[es] cultural history with memoir…An endearing and intriguing case for an oft-maligned…er, art form.”
Buffalo News, 1/25/09
“[Raftery’s] style is at once serious, funny, respectful and aware, of both the ludicrousness of karaoke, and the real spirit behind it…Wonderful, sharp writing…Cheers to Brian Raftery, then, for doing so much with so little. It’s probably the best book ever written about karaoke.”
Cleveland Scene “Culture Jamming,” 2/15/09
“Part history lesson, part confessional…An amusing and often enlightening journey, highlighted by lists of the all-time best and worst karaoke songs.”
“[A] lighthearted look at karaoke…Raftery didn’t disappoint. He’s got a wicked sense of humor, and he loves to make fun of himself, too…Raftery has a natural inclination to put on his journalist hat even when he’s talking about himself. The technique works well…Never have I seen such intriguing astuteness about some things I would never want to see. I’ve got to applaud him for taking his obsession all the way.”
“More than a discourse on the sing-along phenomenon…With wit, self-deprecation, and a combination of a reporter’s skills and a passion for his subject, Brian tells of his adventures in karaoke; its history, and its evolution from fad to phenom.”
London Lite, 2/3/09
“You can taste [Raftery’s] addiction. His passion is, like the collective yearning to sing Total Eclipse of the Heart, contagious.”
Boston Globe, 2/8/09
“As much memoir as it is history, and the story it tells—of how one pudgy, loveless music journalist learned to stop worrying and love the rush of performing—is an endearing one…Karaoke itself may not be to everyone's liking, but this bite-size book is a treat, like hearing a surprisingly competent singer offer her take on Milli Vanilli’s ‘Blame It on the Rain.’”
“Raftery, the most obsessive karaoke fan you could imagine, perfectly captures this exhibitionist thrill in his entertaining history of the art…The book is an elegy for his 20s, a fascinating look at the underbelly of the music business, a meditation on the nature of authenticity and a quest for the perfect karaoke song…In an age of digital piracy and ‘Guitar Hero,’ the future of karaoke is uncertain, but this rollicking and surprisingly informative account of a life lived with microphone in hand is a fitting ode to its joyful tackiness.”
Salt Lake Underground, 2/09
“Raftery’s text does the culture justice like no other.”
Relevant, April 2009
“[Raftery’s] Chuck Klosterman-esque writing will have you laughing and tempt you to belt out some Journey.”
Skyscraper, Spring 2009
“I have read many, probably too many, music books over the past decade but rarely has one made me laugh. But Don’t Stop Believin’ did—a lot…Brian Raftery’s book is a memoir and a love letter to everyone’s favorite narcissistic leisure activity, karaoke…Raftery’s gusto for championing the underdog (he being one of them) is contagious and his genuine love for this often-maligned pastime should be applauded and respected.”
“When Raftery digs deep into the history and social aspects of karaoke, it becomes an enthralling history book of a much-maligned art form…A great book.”
London Telegraph, 5/26/09
“To understand how and why we got lost in music, take a look at Don’t Stop Believin’…For the karaoke fan, the book is a delight.”
Glorious Noise website, 9/30
“A book that is as good as most karaoke performers are bad…You may think that you’re about as interested in reading about karaoke as you are in endless playings of Don Henley’s Greatest Hits. But Raftery’s self-aware obsession…is hilarious and engaging.”
Magill Book Reviews, March 2010 “Raftery unites his worldwide karaoke research with personal memoirs in a satisfying, authoritative work…Raftery ties it all together seamlessly, with verbal felicity…[A] highly engaging account, at once casual, personal, and scholarly.”
The Onion’s A.V. Club, 7/2/10“The book is funny, insightful, and unabashedly geeky about karaoke.”