Some years back, I became a rock critic, in addition to working as a video game critic. (It's a hard-knock life.) I started to feel professionally justified to sing along in the car to tunes I was reviewing. Other drivers would look at me funny, but I'd think, "Check it out, sucker, I get paid to do this."
I've always thought people should sing publicly, especially in front of friends, to embrace life. Look, you could die tomorrow of, apparently, swine flu; wouldn't you rather go out singing? It'll make you happier.
This is why I think the best thing about the Guitar Hero and Rock Band phenomenon is that the games give people a license to sing loud and proud among friends.
The latest news is that Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, Olivia Harrison and Ringo Starr have given approval for The Beatles: Rock Band, set for release on Sept. 9. It is not impossible to imagine The Beatles causing more buzz than any other game in history. The band's fan base crosses generations and includes people all over the world who listen to different genres. The Beatles are to contemporary music what Shakespeare is to the written word: forever and everywhere.
Compare that legacy to Guitar Hero: Metallica. It's a good game - as good as any other band game where you and friends perform with a plastic guitar, drums and/or bass while a third person sings in a microphone.
But even though I like listening to Metallica, I don't dig on singing along. All that guttural howling blows my vocal chords for 24 hours.
And the lyrics in Metallica's 49 songs are often absurd. The pounding rage of "Master of Puppets" is a frenzied blaze, but try to stop yourself from rolling your eyes while belting, "Needlework the way / Never you betray / Life of death becoming clearer / Pain monopoly / Ritual misery / Chop your breakfast on a mirror."
The good thing about these band-specific musical games, including Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, is that few buyers will be disappointed, because they know what they're getting.
That's somewhat less true of the game series that started the music craze, Karaoke Revolution, which has a new installment, Karaoke Revolution American Idol Encore 2. Like all Revolutions, you sing into a mike but play no instruments.
Idol's 40 songs are predictable for their pop TV spectrum, among them Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" and Rod Stewart's "Maggie May."
What you have to ask yourself in Idol is, do you actually want to sing KC & the Sunshine's Band's chorus, "That's the way, uh-huh uh-huh, I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh," over and over for three minutes? I'm sure that seems fun in theory, but in reality it's a soul-crushing sound storm of "Uh-huhs."
If you're into Idol's radio-slave hits, Idol is a good bet. If not, you won't love singing its tunes. That's why band- and genre-specific titles are a better long-term trend, because you pay for exactly what you want to sing along to.
In any event, I'm telling you to sing. It doesn't hurt anyone. It's free. It brings joy. Best of all, in my opinion, singing contains no fatty carbohydrates.