Singin’ In The East End Rain

July is usually the best weather month of the season. June can be chilly, and August can bring hurricanes. July is just perfect. So what’s the deal this year? We’ve seen week after week of impossibly hot and humid conditions, followed by rainy deluges worthy of Noah’s Ark.

Actually, I’m writing this from Palo Alto. The weather here has been spectacular, but I’ll try not to rub it in.

Rainy weather on the East End poses unique challenges. The roads are already choked with traffic. There are limited movies, indoor activities, and restaurants. And with East Hampton Bowl officially closed, the situation is dire indeed.

Here’s an idea: why not stay home and do karaoke? Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Been there, done that. So ’90s. The equipment is clunky and expensive. The songs are lame.

Guess what? All those excuses are lame. Thanks to the magic of the smart phone, and the app store, you can spend these rainy Saturdays making sweet music with your friends and family. Here are some ideas:

The Game

For those of you with console systems such as Xbox or Wii, there are lots of karaoke games worth checking out. Many are branded with songs from popular TV shows and movies, like Glee. If you’re tone deaf like me, try Def Jam Rapstar—a hip-hop/rap version of karaoke, with no “singing” required.

Then there’s a game called Wii Karaoke U. A phenomenon in Asia, this game is coming to Europe and rumored to be coming to the States for download on the new HD Wii U system. Wii Karaoke U is popular for several reasons. First, you can compete live against other Wii users from around the world, in real time. Pretty cool.

Even cooler: you can create this little dancing avatar character to represent you as your virtual performer. You can even purchase costumes, props, and other gear for your karaoke pal. Nerds beware.

Another interesting fact: Wii Karaoke U is free to download; you only pay by the hours you play. This might not seem like a big deal, but in the world of console games, where it’s always been about paying money upfront for your content, this is a big change.

The App

What if you don’t own a console system? Are you supposed to sit there on the couch, with your bored, poorly behaved children, humming a tune and wishing you could belt out a Britney Spears or Donna Summer classic to lighten the mood and save your marriage?

Have no fear. There are several good apps that can instantly turn your smart phone into a connected karaoke booth.

RedKaraoke is quite popular and highly rated. The app is free to download and comes with several basic tracks, but you’ll need to purchase song credits to access the best tunes and freshest beats. You also need to sign up for an account, which takes time and is slightly annoying.

Overall, the karaoke experience is fun. You can adjust size and speed of the lyrics on your phone, which is great for younger kids. On the iOS (iPhone/iPod/iPad) version, you can connect to your Apple TV and project everything onto your TV, which really gives the feel of a karaoke machine.

My daughters, age 9 and 8, gave this app a solid 4 stars out of 5.

Another app worth checking out is Sing! Karaoke. It’s made by Smule, the studio behind Ocarina and a lot of popular music apps. Free to download, Sing! turns karaoke into a game experience by tracking how closely your singing matches the timing and pace of the actual track. It even rates your performance and provides tips, even if it can’t help you carry a tune.

Like RedKaraoke, Sing! requires you to purchase credits to access additional songs. But Sing! also gives you ways to earn them for free, such as watching an ad or signing up for an online music site.

Rating from my daughters: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Hopefully the weather will improve for the rest of our summer, but if it stays wet, these games and apps will help you stop singing the blues.

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