Norebang: (n) a personal karaoke room rented out by the hour
It is Wednesday. Your coworkers, heady from raw fish and soju, decide you must all go sing songs in front of one another in a basement. You are not convinced, and you say as much. Many times. But then you begin to feel like a douche, and everyone but you is sort of drunk, and only hours before you’d reestablished yourself as a key volleyball player and generally awesome person to this crowd, so you go. Before, these excursions only led to you clapping on the fringes like an idiot. Safe. Painless.
But upon entering the ‘bang, you are sandwiched between two jovial old man coworkers that thrust the song book in your hands and gesticulate wildly at your face. “Balls,” you mutter, because you know you are doomed. So you fish out some innocuous old tune and pass the book on, praying you are forgotten amid the beer, the old Korean pop songs, the frenzied tambourine shaking.
A half hour passes, then an hour. The party is winding down. You feel the sweet breath of freedom on your neck. But it is only Old Man behind you again, book in hand. Your coteacher arrives and reiterates his obvious desires. You try to act shy, and then embarrassed, and then rude. You are back in douche territory. So you submit your previously chosen tune to Coteach. She blinks. “No one knows that song,” she insists. “I will help you.” She names songs by obscure Dutch bands that recorded one EP long before your birth. Much frowning and head-shaking follow.
The crowd is restless. It is clear you are the closing number. And while everyone has been fucking rocking en masse to operatic Korean jams, you are the only one that sees what a train wreck it will be to close with an English song no one knows, in the middle of the room, alone, looking super white.
It only gets worse when exasperated Coteach suggests, “My Heart Will Go On? Baby, One More Time?”
You scream, “The Beatles!! I know the Beatles!”
It is decided. Death by the Beatles. You consign the responsibility of choosing the actual song to Coteach, while you sob quietly in despair. Oh but you should not have sobbed so soon, because the worst is yet to come…
You are pushed to the center of the room. Your coworkers all politely stand down to watch the spectacle. No one ever asked you if you could sing (you can’t) and you whimper, once, “I’m sorry.” They hand you a microphone and turn you to the TV to see what horror scrolls across its unfeeling screen.
These are the thoughts that explode in your brain: HOLY SHIT THIS SONG IS REALLY LONG. HOLY SHIT IT IS COMPRISED OF ABOUT THREE NOTES. HOLY SHIT THESE NOTES ARE REALLY DEEP AND MANLY AND YOU CAN’T REALLY REACH THEM. HOLY SHIT NO ONE IS TOUCHING THEIR TAMBOURINES AND WHY THE HELL ARE THE “NAs” WRITTEN AS “DAs” ON THIS TV? AND THIS IS ABOUT THE 39TH TIME YOU’VE “DA DA DA DA-ed” ALL ALONE IN A ROOM FULL OF KOREANS. HOLY SHIT THIS SONG IS WAY LESS TRIUMPHANT WHEN YOU SING IT BY YOURSELF AND THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL YOU CAN DO THOSE PAUL MCCARTNEY “Ju-ju-jude-ee-juu-dee-judey-judAAYs!!” HOLY FUCK THIS SONG IS REALLY LONG-
At last someone with ears and a heart cuts you off. You receive the kind of wild applause reserved for the kid who comes in dead last at the Special Olympics.