Rolling Stone columnist on karaoke as cure for heartbreak
Longtime Rolling Stone columnist Rob Sheffield, a Brooklynite whose 2007 debut memoir “Love is a Mix Tape” earned critical raves, will release on Tuesday “Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke” (HarperCollins; August 6, 2013). The author will appear Tuesday evening at DUMBO’s powerHouse Arena for a book launch party. A sequel to Sheffield’s first book, which presented a humorous yet heartbreaking account of his courtship, marriage, and sudden loss of his wife to a pulmonary embolism, “Turn Around Bright Eyes” reveals the widower’s path to moving on – through karaoke.
After the tragic death of his wife, Sheffield relocated from Charlottesville, Virginia, to lower Manhattan. Soon after, the September 11 attacks hit, and his new home was inundated in an entirely different grief.
Though he struggled to endure heartbreak, Sheffield found solace in music – his obsession and life’s work – and allowed that outlet to guide him through an emotional recovery. One night, when he was out with friends, Sheffield discovered karaoke. After an evening of attempting to sing on key and allowing himself to pretend to be someone else for the duration of each song, Sheffield fell in love with the silly activity.
Looking beyond his own experience, in “Turn Around Bright Eyes” Sheffield invites readers to explore the broader history of karaoke, from its origins in Japan (where the word karaoke means “empty orchestra”) to the development of the Hollywood karaoke scene commonly seen in film. Rife with humor, Sheffield’s book suggests that even the most quiet, reserved souls can enjoy a casual night of singing. He writes, “A night of karaoke is just like Ovid’s Metamorphoses, except with twice as much Stevie Nicks and 70 percent more Lionel Ritchie.”
Sheffield’s hobby takes him (and his voice) to some bizarre places, including a senior-citizen community in Florida (where he performed Frank Sinatra), a cowboy saloon in the Mojave Desert (where he sang a Merle Haggard classic), and, of course, some local haunts in Chinatown.
Most importantly, Sheffield’s journey enables him to enjoy a new life, and, eventually, a new love. Interspersed with his own memories are tidbits of karaoke/rock star trivia. At its core, “Turn Around Bright Eyes” is a story about how music brings people together in the strangest of ways.
The August 6 event begins at 7 p.m. powerHouse Arena is located at 37 Main St. in DUMBO.
Rob Sheffield is a columnist for Rolling Stone, where he has been writing about music, TV, and pop culture since 1997. He is the author of two national bestsellers, “Love Is a Mix Tape: Love and Loss, One Song at a Time” and “Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut.” He also appears regularly on VH1. He lives with his wife in Brooklyn.