Karaoke World Championships

Photo Credit: Hannah Ewens @hannahrosewens

Yes, it exists. In Helsinki, Finland. Because the Fins LOVE karaoke.

Spots can also be found in abundance in the activity’s lesser-known cultural home: Helsinki, Finland. It’s a small capital city with about 30 karaoke bars one every few minutes walk in the center. Many pubs also have their own machines. There is a metal karaoke bar, a gay karaoke bar, and there is a public library with a karaoke booth. It is possible that many Finnish people love karaoke even more than the Japanese.

Hanna Ewens at Vice was on the first plane to Helsinki when she heard about these championships. Yet, once she got there, the existential but critical question that has vexed humanity for years raised its ugly head again – what exactly is karaoke?

What is karaoke? For the first of many times this weekend, I try to work it out. It’s not the same as an open mic night where you sing your own songs, with no recorded track, and a level of professionalism expected (for instance, actually knowing the words). Neither is it a Stars in Their Eyes-type scenario, since there’s no pressure to perform the song like the artist. It’s not drag, because, apart from one contestant dressed like a queen and a couple of guys singing Whitney Houston numbers, there isn’t anything political or subversive about what we’ve seen so far.

The true success of karaoke is the fact that the interpretation of what is considered ‘good’ can not be defined by any rules – it really is in the hands of those that witness the performance, coupled with the contextual elements that surround the performance: What song did the performer choose? What was the context which drove the choice of song? What or how did their outfit enhance the performance? The considerations could be endless. Knowing a good karaoke performance is sort of like porn – you know it when you see it.

Photo Credit – Hannah Ewens

When Vintage Became Cool

Photo: Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images
Photo: Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images

Throughout all the big fashion forward cities around the world such as London, Paris, San Francisco, and New York, vintage clothing stores are a staple of inspiration and innovation. Back in the 1960s, an epicenter of vintage clothing stores was on St. Mark’s place in NYC, and the store that led the way was Limbo, which opened in 1967 and hung around until 1975.

Part of the 1960s cultural rebellion, then, involved calculated grubbiness. Teenagers allowed tangles in their hair and old, frayed clothing on their bodies. They picked up old chairs on the street and bought worn-in jeans. This lifestyle was environmentally friendly, it was cheap, and it scandalized adults win, win, win. The trend peaked in New York in the late 1960s, and the flagship store was a place called Limbo.

Through the years, St. Marks Place has continued to hold on to its gritty and bohemian roots yet as Manhattan continues is march towards becoming the Mall of America, the ability for vintage clothing stores to survive sky high rents becomes a challenge. However, what is far more interesting is how with the passing of time, the mantra “they don’t make ’em like they used to” is becoming a stark reality in the vintage trade.

As Laver’s Law says, the clothes from about 30 years prior amuse us the most. What’s not the same is that in the 1960s, 1930s clothes were unique and made from high-quality materials; in the 2010s, 1990s clothes are, like, Express baby doll dresses. The higher-quality old stuff is in shorter supply, and so it’s become more precious and much more expensive. To a dance once in junior high school, I wore a perfect-condition 1950s pink tulle party dress, purchased on or near St. Marks for, as I recall, $5. I just looked on eBay for something similar; the price point was around $125.

So keep a hold of those old, vintage threads from the 1950s and 60s. They are becoming rare and highly sought after!

Photo Credit – Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images via The Cut