By DAVID GREEN
Chris Diccion is no stranger to karaoke. But competitive karaoke? Now that’s something new. At least it was new a few weeks ago, before he became a karaoke king.
The Morenci graduate—now an Ann Arbor resident—was on a bowling outing near Jackson when he heard karaoke going in the lounge. Of course he stepped to the microphone for a couple of numbers, and his performance drew some attention.
“I was urged by the hostess and waitstaff to enter a contest that would draw participants from the Ann Arbor, Jackson and Lansing area,“ Chris said. “It featured some pretty sweet prizes.”
Billed as the first annual “Tune in a Bucket,” the competition featured an all-expense paid weekend vacation, 150 free CDs, a songbook with 240 musical numbers, and get this—studio time to create a 10-track demo disc.
“I enjoy singing and I usually get a good crowd response, but the idea of entering a contest of this scale seemed absurd to me,” Chris said. “It seemed to go against the spirit of karaoke—just havin’ some fun.”
Besides, he says, it’s hard enough for the casual singer to perform in front of a collection of half-numb drunks, let alone a panel of critical ears.
Chris had discovered that a whole subculture of singing freaks exists around the karaoke stage, encompassing a wide array of personalities.
“I knew I’d be up against some type-A’s, most with talent to boot.”
The pressure from family and friends didn’t subside, and with it, a sense of curiosity grew within Chris. Besides that, he said, there was always the feeling of regret that would pester him later if he never gave it a try.
So finally he signed up, along with more than a thousand others. Chris competed in Ann Arbor for seven weeks of elimination rounds, always advancing another step up the ladder.
Finally, on May 12, ten finalists remained for the finals in Lansing. Competition got underway at 7 p.m. in front of a five-judge panel. It was 3:30 the next morning when Chris’ rendition of Bobby Darin’s “More” made him the champ.
A love for music
Prior to the age of karaoke, Chris’s “public” singing career was limited to church choir, a few weddings, high school graduation, etc.
“But privately, music and song have always been a passion,” he said. “Trying to sing to my favorite songs gives me a greater appreciation of the song itself—a better understanding of how and why it was made, and its unique style.
“That’s why I like to try different types of music. Throughout the competition, I was usually either rapping to Eminem or crooning to Frank Sinatra. There’s a certain satisfaction in recognizing—validating—both types of music through song.”
The prizes from the competition are a great bonus to the effort spent in front of the microphone, and it’s the free studio time and CD that excites Chris the most.
“I haven’t compiled my list of 10 songs yet, but I’m sure of a few,” he said. “I want to choose wisely, of course, something that will stand the test of time to my ears. I’m pretty self-critical.”
Now that it’s all over, people ask him where he goes from here, or, more specifically, “What about American Idol?”
“C’mon now,” is Chris’s response.
What an absurd idea. That’s about as silly as toppling a thousand karaoke warriors to be named the best in central Michigan.
May 28, 2003