Personally, I satiate my inner songstress with an occasional Iron Maiden sing-along in the solitary confinement of my Hyundai (my inner songstress also happens to love '80s hair metal). I do a mean karaoke rendition of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" — I wouldn't call it harmonious, but it's hardly nails-on-a-chalkboard. Overall, the singer spectrum puts me comfortably at mediocre.
As for music appreciation, I stand squarely in the ranks of those who are enchanted by the saccharine, note-jumping Broadway side of the spectrum. I mean, what's not to like about Whitney Houston knocking paint chips off a ceiling or even Jennifer Hudson exposing her soul in Dreamgirls? Still, I think it's important to consider the people who botch easy notes and rape classic rock. Melodious is dull, of course, and mediocrity is easy. But sucking? That's art.
Either way, dueling piano bar FunKey Nutz (303 SE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton) seems to think shitty singing is worth something — and proved it by hosting a Saturday night "Worst Singer" contest. So I trotted off to Boca Raton to knock back beer to the sounds of sweet cacophony.
Ambience: I slipped into the place to hear guys singing decently to a half-empty house. FunKey Nutz features dueling pianos manned by dudes who pair singing with a morning radio DJ-like shtick. I perched quietly at the bar, away from the stage and its surrounding metal spectator tables. The smallish room was low-lit with orange and yellow walls. Elevated on a small stage and decorated by mounted guitars and a large inflatable monkey, the two-sided piano faced a bunch of tables. But the creepiest part of the décor was the eclectic collection of bras — all hanging from the ceiling and reaching downward like some multi-tentacled creature. Everything from tiny strapless push-ups to super-supportive white double-Ds and an occasional pair of panties had finagled its way into the crowd despite being meant to clothe an entirely different lady-part. Either dueling piano dudes spend a lot of time at Victoria's Secret buying bras, or they'd been somehow extracting bras from female clients.
Bras ain't cheap, and I wouldn't just give mine up. Unless I passed out drunk in a bathroom stall (bathrooms here are labeled "Bitches" and "Sons of Bitches," by the way), in which case, you could probably just steal it.
Bartenders: An attractive assortment of sultry, black-clad waitresses toted trays of alcohol to tables in between gabbing with bartenders Arthur and Lauren. Lauren, who had carefully-lined almond eyes and kinky brown hair, was well-mannered and not in immediate danger of becoming naked, like some of the other female bartenders seemed to be. I eventually asked skinny-and-tattooed Arthur the burning question:
"Why are there bras hanging from the ceiling?"
"We trade women their bras for a FunKey Nutz T-shirt," he said.
"And their panties?" I squinted at him and gestured in the direction of a thong that was stapled to the ceiling directly above us.
He just shrugged.
Piano Men: These guys were a quirky pair who, according to Lauren, went by the names Harry Nutz and Busta Nutz. Light-complexioned Harry had thinning hair; Busta had a mop of brown. He covered the right end of the piano when he wasn't dancing or harassing customers.
On FunKey Nutz's website, there's a ridiculous "family history" section that reveals a story about an immigrant named "Yuri Nutz" who marries "Coco" and produces three musically inclined sons — and, bam, FunKey Nutz piano bar was born. And oh, do the Nutz boys do Daddy proud. Between songs, they took shots, had a lengthy discussion about legalizing cocaine, made several references to ejaculating on women's faces, got increasingly drunk, and still managed to produce impressive renditions of everything from Sir Mixalot's "Baby Got Back" to sing-along staples like Journey's "Don't Stop Believing."
Shitty Singers: After an hour or so of anticipation, it was finally time for the "Worst Singer" contest. At least nine people competed — a fantastic collection of atrocious singers, everyone from Barbie-doll party girls to a middle-aged couple who butchered Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe." Other obliterated songs included the SpongeBob SquarePants intro song, "Mary Had a Little Lamb," and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." The contestants released a cacophonous barrage of wrong notes, missed lyrics, and generally poor performances, which involved a lot of stopping mid-song to giggle into the microphone. Audience applause determined the winner. Harry was a major contender. He was a well-dressed kid sporting high-soled shoes, which helped augment his height, maybe to prevent people from calling him "that 12-year-old," which Busta did anyway.
Alexandra was another finalist, vacationing from L.A.; she wore a black top over her thin frame. Inevitably, Alexandra beat out baby-faced Harry for the $25 prize. I stopped her on her way out.
"Congratulations on your victory," I said. "Have you always been a horrible singer?"
"Yes, but I wish I wasn't," she said. "In fifth grade, I wanted to sing in the choir, but they rejected me."
Drinks: Bud Light was $4.25 a bottle, and after I drained that, Lauren responded well when I asked her to "just make me something good," mixing Stoli and soda into dangerously delicious concoctions.
Customers: Heather, a blond in an electric-green top, and her skinny, dark-haired friend Darcy requested a song by David Allan Coe — so after singing along with them to "You Never Even Call Me By My Name" (they didn't compete in the bad singing contest, but probably would have fared decently), I moseyed over to their table. Heather was scribbling a drunken signature on her credit card receipt when a dark-haired waitress, clad in sexy black polka-dot shorts, slid another drink in front of her.
"I've already closed my tab," Heather said, goggling at the waitress.
"This drink is on your tab," the waitress said, leaning down and dispensing an eyeful of cleavage.
"But I'd already closed my tab before you brought me that drink," Heather insisted.
"I know, but you ordered it before you closed out... You've already paid for it."
Heather stared at the drink, which had a cherry in it. It looked fruity and very alcoholic. "I guess I'll just open a new tab to pay for this one drink."
The waitress looked wildly at me. "Could you please explain to her?"
I picked up the check and waved it in Heather's face. "You bought that drink," I said slowly, "before you closed your tab. So that drink... is on this tab."
"Ohhhh," Heather punctuated that thought by taking a big sip of her drink but somehow ended up with a stream of it trickling down her leg.
After Heather and Darcy left, I figured I should wait long enough to ensure my car wouldn't cross paths with either one of them who might be driving. I noticed Harry and his compatriots getting ready to leave.
"Congratulations, you suck at singing," I said. "Are you really 12?"
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"I'm 16," he said defiantly.
"And where'd you get that bra?" I pointed to an off-white bra lying on their table, freshly plucked from the ceiling.
"Oh, um, it's mine," he said.
If anything, I learned it pays to suck, and sucky singing creates an environment pretty conducive to getting shitfaced. Good singers demand an audience — but bad singers don't mind performing for a drunken mob. The world has enough Celine Dions — but don't we need more William Hungs?