Singing With Strangers: Are Karaoke Apps Replacing the Traditional KTV?
KTV, noraebang, karaoke — it goes by many names— but whatever you call it, these are the social watering holes throughout Asia (and quite frankly, the rest of the world) where people bring their friends or colleagues to rent rooms and sing their hearts out. However, such social activity is no longer advised given the pandemic that has been ravaging the globe. Most in-person gatherings have been canceled or moved online or onto apps, even co-working spaces.
Karaoke, of course, is no exception. Complete with reverb and sound effects, karaoke apps are gaining massive traction. Thousands of users are signing on to singalong with friends — and in many cases, with complete strangers. Among many available singing apps, Pokekara and 全民Party are two that have been rising to the top of the download charts.
While it was released in 2018, Pokekara has really hit its stride in the time of home isolation and sheltering in place. To date, the app has accrued over 100,000 downloads and and currently holds the title of being the most popular karaoke app in Japan. The app allows users to test the limits of their vocal ability in solo rooms or duet with friends. There’s even a live-streaming feature that allows users to perform to an audience on the app. Like other livestream platforms, others tuning in can send gifts, comment, and compliment the videos on the app. For karaoke-lovers who have been deprived of a physical location and human interaction, the app is a great online space that fosters community and access to people.
Similar to Pokekara, 全民Party is also a karaoke app that has gained mass popularity during the pandemic. Initially released in 2016, 全民Party is currently the number one karaoke application in China, and other Mandarin-speaking countries. Much like the Pokekara, it has a focus on creating a sense of human interaction through the virtual karaoke rooms it has and the multitude of ways strangers can interact with each other, such as themed “rooms” that singers can pop into and vie for a chance to grab the mic. Themes include “Jay Chou songs,” “ballads,” and “classics.” However, what differentiates 全民party from Pokekara would be the single-player options that offer rhythm-based singing games for users.
The sudden surge in the popularity of these virtual event applications attributed to the many trapped at home, perhaps missing the human interaction we all once took for granted. Also, in such tense times when worries and anxieties run high, singing is a great stress-reliever. According to this article from the BBC, singing can actually release endorphins, AKA “the brain’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals.” And karaoke apps offer a welcome respite for those looking to warble away while keeping themselves and those around them safe.
Once in-person karaoke resumes after the pandemic passes, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for these virtual karaoke apps. It’s an uphill battle if they hope to retain their current momentum, however, both Pokekara and 全民Party started long before COVID-19 and will likely continue on well after. After all, there’s something to be said for being able to have a karaoke session from the comfort of your own home.
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