How to Sing “Fairytale of New York” at Karaoke without Sounding Like a Jerk

The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s “Fairytale of New York” is obviously one of the best Christmas songs of all time. It’s a lively tune with a melancholy final verse (oh god that verse), the story of a couple that wonders if they have any good times left, a bittersweet look at the present compared to Christmases past. I sing along every time it comes on, even if that means I’m belting it out in a busy store, and it makes an excellent karaoke duet. But although it’s a perfectly crafted song, not all the words are winners. My mom came up with some alternate lyrics to one line so that you can sing without cringing, and I will now share them with you, my gift to you for this festive season.

Instead of “you scumbag, you maggot,  you cheap lousy f*ggot,” sing “you scumbag, you fungus, you cheapskate among us.” It scans, it keeps the idea of cheapness and vermin, and you cut out the slur. So go ahead, belt it out and Happy Christmas (your arse).

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A Fun Night in Tokyo

Top of my list of things to do in Tokyo was sing karaoke in the land that invented it, and the first Saturday I was in the city, I did just that. Of course, the closed-room private karaoke of Japan and Korea means that, unlike the karaoke nights at bars in the States, I couldn’t just show up and put my name on a list to sing next. I’d need to have a set of friends to go with. Luckily, a couple of Oregonians I’d met in New Zealand were visiting a friend in Japan the same time I was there, so the four of us met up and went to Shibuya, the neon entertainment hub of Tokyo.

My Tokyo glamour shot

My Tokyo glamour shot

You can pick out your own tambourine when you sign up for a room

You can pick out your own tambourine when you sign up for a room

Per person prices--look at the increase at 11pm!

Per person prices–look at the increase at 11pm!

Even better, we went to Karaoke Kan, because my host said that’s where Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson filmed the karaoke scenes in Lost in Translation. Takako, Vasha and Dar’s friend, arranged for us to be in one of the two rooms that they filmed those scenes in, which was cool, and she ordered our drinks and food for us, too–lucky us! She’d done a study abroad thing in high school, where she became friends with Vasha, so those two had the easy chatter of old friends, which is always nice to see.

Our room, 601

Our room, 601

Lifelong friends Vasha and Takako

Lifelong friends Vasha and Takako

The three of us women got silly right away with Spice Girls and the like, and Takako serenaded us with a Japanese ballad. Dar took a little longer to find the perfect song, but he blew it away when he did. (I didn’t know it; I think it was a pop punk song from the ’90s? Most of our choices were from the ’90s.)

You know what they say: The couple that karaokes together, stays together

You know what they say: The couple that karaokes together, stays together

All the accoutrements for a successful night's karaoke-ing

All the accoutrements for a successful night’s karaoke-ing

Then I sang “More Than This,” that moody beauty by Roxy Music, in an homage to Bill Murray’s talk-song version in Lost in Translation. Of course, I wasn’t flirting with a girl half my age while I sang it, and I’m not a comedic legend making a splash in my first dramatic role, but other than that, it was just about the same.

Singing "More Than This"

Singing “More Than This”

Groovy wallpaper

Groovy wallpaper

After our two hours were up, we decided not to extend, since the prices make a huge leap after 11pm. Instead, we had a bite to eat at a place across the street, then wandered into one of the many arcade game places and had a drum-off. We realized the last train of the night was about to leave, and I didn’t know how to get home without the train, so we raced across the busiest intersection in Japan just in time to make it.

Drumline

Drumline

Vasha, me, Dar, and Takako--a great night out

Vasha, me, Dar, and Takako–a great night out

As we ran (okay, my friends ran, and I jogged poorly), I glanced around me and took in the stylish Japanese youth texting, laughing, strolling to their next destination. It was a beautiful spring night, the neon was buzzing, the bars and nightclubs and arcades were full of smiling people. I wished I could stay up all night with them.

The neon of Shibuya

The neon of Shibuya