Los Angeles is a karaoke town

A man in a black T-shirt and glasses sings into a microphone on a stage.
Rafael Hernandez, Little Tokyo Service Center’s development and event coordinator, is the winner of a karaoke contest co-hosted by The Times and Sunday Jump at the Pilipino Workers Center in Los Angeles on Nov. 13.
(Ringo Chiu / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Nov. 14, and I’m Ada Tseng, assistant editor of the Utility Journalism Team — “news you can use” — and, as of Sunday, karaoke event planner for the Los Angeles Times.

The Times and Sunday Jump hosted “Let’s Talk About Filipino American Mental Health (and Do Karaoke)” in Historic Filipinotown on Sunday. The event featured a panel discussion (I moderated) about reporter Agnes Constante’s mental health series in The Times and was followed by a friendly karaoke competition between Asian American mental health organizations. Congratulations to Rafael Hernandez of the Little Tokyo Service Center — the audience-chosen winner with a stirring rendition of “I2I,” by Tevin Campbell, from “A Goofy Movie.”

I love karaoke. When I was growing up in San Jose in the 1980s and ’90s, my parents’ friends would have weekend dinner parties where they’d sing karaoke in the living room until late hours of the night.


My dad is my favorite karaoke singer. He’s an otherwise introverted, now-retired engineer, but when he sings karaoke, he smiles wide and belts out those power ballads.

At first, as kids, we didn’t participate. A lot of songs I associate with the ’90s are my dad’s favorites, from Taiwanese singers like Wu Bai, Huang An and Wakin Chau.

But eventually, I’d go to the LaserDisc stores with my parents and flip through the English-language selections. We definitely had one in heavy rotation with Janet Jackson’s “Escapade,” Vanessa Williams’ “Save the Best for Last,” Bryan Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You,” Richard Marx’s “Right Here Waiting” and Wham’s “Careless Whisper.”

Later in life, I’d start to associate karaoke with shenanigans, Koreatown and my friends singing Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison.” But to me, karaoke has always been about family, friends and community.

On Friday, The Times published several karaoke stories. August Brown wrote about how karaoke has fared during the pandemic. A newsroom-wide team visited local karaoke spots to bring you 29 essential L.A. karaoke spots for every kind of singer. (Worth clicking on just to see illustrator Jess Hutchison’s infinite karaoke-room animation.)

And Phi Do and I collaborated with The Times’ Data and Graphics Team — and musicians from Pandora’s Music Genome project — to create the ultimate guide to finding your go-to karaoke songs.


At the Utility Journalism Team, we write a lot of guides, so we’re always looking for experts to explain things to us. But when it comes to karaoke, who are the experts?

There are the professionals: karaoke DJs like Adam Jones and Kiki Park, and musicians like Graeme Hinde, who plays in the live band Casual Encounters Karaoke.

There are the music experts, like YouTube musicologist Howard Ho, vocal teacher Sarah Cabrera and singers AJ Rafael and Alyssa Navarro — who, like me, grew up with karaoke and, not like me, recently sang a customized Disney medley to thank their guests at their wedding. (Though my dad did sing a couple bars of Wu Bai’s “Till the End of Time” in the middle of his speech at my wedding.)

But at the end of the day, you are the expert on your voice — and what makes you happy when you sing.

Our song generator allows you to filter through tried-and-true hits by time period (from the ’60s to now), vocal range (from bass to soprano) and mood.

Try it out! And let me know what you think.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.


Waiting on election results. It’s another lengthy vote count in California, with several key races undecided. When will we know the results? It could be several more days. Ballots postmarked on election day have until Tuesday to arrive for counting. Los Angeles Times

Karen Bass pulls ahead. In the marquee race in Los Angeles, the congresswoman from South L.A. has pulled ahead of billionaire developer Rick Caruso in the race to become the next L.A. mayor. Will we see a repeat of what happened in the June primary? Los Angeles Times

First Asian American to hold citywide elected office in Los Angeles. Times Asian American communities reporter Jeong Park explains how two corgis and a Pikachu suit helped Kenneth Mejia make history as the next city controller. Los Angeles Times

Control of Congress hinges on California. A few races in the Golden State could determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the U.S. House of Representatives for the second half of President Biden’s first term. Los Angeles Times

Complete election results. Get the latest numbers as they’re released. Los Angeles Times

Moderation in San Francisco? Chronicle columnist Heather Knight says the city is still as liberal as they come, but voters there were angry and “just want a city that works — and they’re willing to put their money behind commonsense, good-government efforts in a bid to make that a reality.” San Francisco Chronicle

Check out "The Times" podcast for essential news and more

These days, waking up to current events can be, well, daunting. If you’re seeking a more balanced news diet, “The Times” podcast is for you. Gustavo Arellano, along with a diverse set of reporters from the award-winning L.A. Times newsroom, delivers the most interesting stories from the Los Angeles Times every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.


Ten ideas for fixing Los Angeles. The Times’ Opinion section asked civic leaders for ideas about how to make L.A. government better able to solve problems. Their responses focused heavily on establishing accountability, untangling bureaucratic lines of authority and fighting racism and poverty. Los Angeles Times

Here come those Santa Ana winds again. Brace yourself for downed trees, power outages and fire weather in Ventura and L.A. counties this week. Los Angeles Times

Dagny Janss Corcoran dies at 77 . Times art critic Christopher Knight pens a heartfelt appreciation of the celebrated bookseller and major L.A. art player who founded Art Catalogues, a unique and indispensable shop specializing in Modern art books. Los Angeles Times

UCLA’s shocking upset loss to Arizona. Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s final rally fell short at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, and UCLA’s Pac-12 title hopes suffered a huge blow. Los Angeles Times


The role of “Capt. Hollywood” in an assault claim against Les Moonves. We take a deeper look at Cory Palka, the former LAPD commander who, according to New York’s attorney general, tipped off CBS to Moonves assault claims and helped to contain the allegations Los Angeles Times

Arrest made in crash at South L.A. carnival. Six people were injured Saturday when a Porsche drove into a crowd at a street carnival in Historic South Central. The abandoned vehicle was found after the crash, and a man police believe to be the driver was arrested later that night. He has been charged with felony hit-and-run. Los Angeles Times

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A look at San Francisco’s park revival. In 2017, San Francisco became the first city in the nation where every resident lives within a 10-minute walk of a park. A look at seven of the two dozen new parks and playgrounds since the pandemic. San Francisco Chronicle

Time to mask up again? L.A. County’s coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are rising amid the wider circulation of newer Omicron subvariants as Thanksgiving nears. Los Angeles Times

Flu season hitting hard in San Diego. An uptick in flu cases prompts hospitals to put up overflow tents in parking lots to ease the burden on ERs. San Diego Union-Tribune


There was once a Chinatown in this California town. Eureka ran its Chinese residents out. Now the story is finally being told. Los Angeles Times

Are we going to ban rodeos? There’s a growing movement in California to ban — or seriously curtail — these type of shows. Some see it as a performance highlighting the skill, bravery and strength of a talented cowboy or cowgirl. Others say it’s animal abuse. Los Angeles Times

How about banning turning right on a red light? Over the last decade, pedestrian deaths in the U.S. have increased by 54%. Columnist Robin Abcarian looks at how cities including San Francisco, San Jose and Berkeley are trying to reverse the disturbing trend by prohibiting drivers from turning right on red lights. Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles: 68, sunny. San Diego: 67, sunny. San Francisco: San Jose: 62, sunny. Fresno: 61, sunny. Sacramento: 58, areas of frost then sunny.


Today’s California memory is from Mac Larsen:

In the mid-1990s, my wife and I would sail from San Diego to Catalina in the summer, mooring outside Avalon for a few weeks each time. One summer, while bar-hopping, we came across who we thought was a good-sounding karaoke singer. It was Rod Stewart singing “Maggie May”! Strangers next to our table didn’t believe it was him, so my wife walked over to his table. I watched her chat with him and his guests, and he showed her his credit card. She came back with a glowing smile. He sent us a small gift. Great guy.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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