Knoxville's Karaoke Superstars

We prowl the dark underbelly of Knoxville nightlife in search of singing sensations

When Daisuke Inoue presumably invented the modern karaoke machine in Kobe, Japan, almost 30 years ago, he probably had no inkling of the unstoppable force of pop culture that he had just unleashed upon the world. It’s a simple machine with a microphone that allows you to sing along to popular tunes that lack vocal tracks. Despite its humble intentions, karaoke is currently banned in North Korea, has caused murders over bad renditions of “My Way” in the Philippines, and lurks almost nightly in the farthest reaches of Knoxville bars. (It’s a shame Inoue never patented the device.) Although often used as a can’t-miss punchline in movies and TV (drunken main character + singing karaoke alone = sad yet amusing loser), karaoke is the trend that would not die—people still love it, finding a mysterious satisfaction in exposing their singing (in)abilities. Why? Perhaps you’ll find some clues in this visual tour of some of Knoxville’s biggest and smallest karaoke venues.

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