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If you're looking for a venue other than the shower to bust out your rendition of Queen's "Somebody to Love," you're in good company. Otherwise jaded New Yorkers have become hooked on the goofy, addictive pleasure of karaoke. The K-word means "empty orchestra" in Japanese, and seems to tickle both downtown hipsters (who dig the irony of kitsch) and uptown financiers (who need a good rebel yell after the end of a workday), and everybody in between who loves to flex the golden pipes after a few drinks.
There are three ways of getting your lead-vocalist groove on: doing it in public, at a barwide Karaoke Night; reserving a private space at a bar ("karaoke boxes," they're called), where only your friends can hear you scream—er, sing; and bounding up onstage in front of a live band.
The hardcore karaoke places tend to be either grungy or glitzy, with as many as 15 available boxes for rent by the hour or full night (each box including music machine, microphones, and bar service), as well as up to 80,000 songs on tap for you to warble. (Don't worry, that figure includes stuff by Journey, REO Speedwagon, Britney Spears, and other grotesquely catchy Top 20 music.) The most popular of this lot include Chinatown's scruffy Winnie's (104 Bayard St., at Baxter St. 212/732-2384), the East Village's Sing-Sing (9 St. Marks Place 212/387-7800), the triple-serving-of-cheesiness at Midtown's Pulse (135 W. 41st St., between Broadway and 6th Ave. 646/461-7717), and just about anywhere else in the unofficial Koreatown that sprawls around Herald Square. Try Karaoke Duet 35 (53 W. 35th St., 2nd fl., between 5th and 6th Aves. 646/233-2685).
For live-band karaoke, head to the Lower East Side's hottest sing-fest: Monday-night rock-n-roll karaoke at Arlene's Grocery (95 Stanton St. 212/995-1652).
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