Excuse Me While I Kiss This Guy

Everyone's had that embarrassing moment, right? You're belting out the lyrics to your favorite song standing there like Freddie Mercury at Wembley Stadium, acting the ham. The jukebox is playing all the tunes you fell in love with as a teenager. You might as well sing along, right? You're slightly buzzed (or hammered) and, lo and behold, here comes your song. Just as you get to the bridge of Pearl Jam's "Jeremy," your drunk ass is singing "Jeremy broke his flaasssk todayyyy!"

Oops. That's not the way the song goes. But look around, and there's a chance most of your friends are butchering the lyrics as well. This isn't totally your fault; everybody knows Eddie Vedder sings like he's having a stroke. But there are tons of songs out there that folks stumble over or, more likely, think they know by heart when they've been singing the wrong lyrics for years. Have you ever heard a bunch of gringos sing "Guantanamera"? It's not pretty. And there are plenty of other songs out there just like this.

If you cruise the internet, there's a small social phenomenon developing, with folks who like to compare their favorite misheard lyrics and trade stories about individual songs. From a colloquial standpoint, misheard lyrics are known as mondegreens, and there are a handful of websites that collect them. None is really better than another. But one local entrepreneur is out to change that.

Eric Barberio and his HumorBox Entertainment group just purchased the website www.kissthisguy.com, and his idea is to take mondegreens to a new level. Barberio, who lives in North Palm Beach and bases his company in Lake Worth, says he first stumbled upon the site a few years ago while looking up lyrics to songs. "I loved it and became a member of the site because it seemed fun," Barberio says. "But the longer I remained a member, I noticed there weren't a lot of changes to the site. There was very little maintenance going into it."

I logged on after contacting Barberio to get a feel for kissthisguy, and I had mixed feelings about it. The reality is, in its current version, the site needs work. You can find a bunch of misheard lyrics and read the funny comments from users about where they were when they first realized they'd been singing the wrong lyrics. And the database is fairly extensive, with 70,000 songs to choose from. But that's where the compliments stop. It's hard to navigate, and although its potential for coolness screams at you, browsing the site is a letdown. Barberio is eager to change this.

"Right now, it's like web 1.0 — it's not using a lot of today's technology," Barber­io says. "We see the potential. It's a great database with all this content. But it wasn't getting presented in the most interactive way. Right now, it's just sound and text. We'll be adding videos, personal profiles, and focusing more on the social networking side of it."

The site's newest developments are actually set to kick in next week.

Judging by the success of websites like YouTube and MySpace, folks love social networking, silly videos, and free music. If kiss­thisguy.com can combine all three and keep humor and entertainment as its main focus, the new owners shouldn't have a tough time turning the site into a success. It's already getting a million page views per month with no marketing and minimal upkeep. So as the changes take place, traffic should increase. But the key is keeping up with the Joneses, and it doesn't take long to notice that today's most popular music genres, like new wave, emo, hip-hop, and various forms of electronica, aren't on the site. If you're looking for Kanye West or M.I.A. or Kid Sister there, forget it for now.

"It's missing a lot of demographics," Barberio admits. "It wasn't designed for a lot of rap and R&B. It's just not up there, and we want to change that."

Interestingly, kissthisguy markets itself as a PG site — no profanity allowed. So maybe 2 Live Crew's "Pop That Pussy" isn't going to be on the site — ever. Still, they realized they've got to urbanize the music selection a bit if they want the youth generation to be involved. There are plenty of links to misheard lyrics from the Fine Young Cannibals and Joni Mitchell, but search for Lil Wayne or James Brown (two artists who are widely perceived as being hard to understand) and you get diddly-squat.

Thankfully, that's all about to change. Besides, not referencing James Brown on a site of mondegreens seems like a sin. But Barberio is savvy enough to connect the dots. The site already has a partnership with a radio station in England, Kerrang Radio, that's taking misheard lyrics from the site and running contests with callers abroad. You get the feeling that things are moving forward, week by week. The best thing is that this growing company is local.

"I love that we're going to be employing people down here," Barberio says. "I'm a South Florida native; all my education was done here. At the end of the day, people love to have fun with music. There are days where I forget that this is a job."

 
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