Carpool Karaoke, The Mic
James Corden’s popular segment “Carpool Karaoke” has been turned into a Bluetooth mic for your car for the price of $59.99. The TV might be good, but the product has us wondering what exactly is the point.
By MARY WALRATH
Manufacturer– Singing Machine
Release Date – July 2, 2019
For fans of The Late Late Show with James Corden, the release of the Carpool Karaoke official Bluetooth microphone, The Mic, has probably been announced to you several times through your Facebook ad suggestions. Manufactured by Singing Machine, the mic retails for $59.99 and released to the public on July 2.
I spent years of my life in vocal training, participating in competitions, going to all-state choirs, and eventually paying $50,000 in tuition for a year of music majoring in college. As someone who has since used all of that money and training for one purpose and one purpose alone, and that’s in-car karaoke, I hoped the mic would significantly increase the quality of my experience.
If there’s one thing James Corden’s team knows, it’s marketing, and the packaging in which the microphone arrived was a reflection of that. The white and gold mic came in a slick black package complete with full “Carpool Karaoke” branding and a pamphlet with simple instructions.
The microphone itself resembles an average karaoke mic with the addition of a display screen just below its head. The screen and surrounding buttons allow the user to select a radio channel for Bluetooth connection, adjust the amount of echo, toggle through frequencies and, importantly, turn the party atmosphere on and off with a set of flashing lights. An aux cord and USB are also included.
You cannot deny that the microphone is fun and relatively simple to pair with any newer car model. Note, if you’re like me and have a 2001 Altima that lacks an audio jack, tape deck, or any built-in form of Bluetooth connection, the microphone does not work well when paired with an external Bluetooth-enabling device. That said, hopefully most people haven’t made similar life decisions as me, and therefore have a mode of transportation that is not essentially a horse and carriage.
When connecting to a car with the basics of modern technology, the user finds a radio channel that is broadcasting static. They then tune the microphone to the same frequency until they can hear themselves through the car speakers when speaking into the mic. Then, you connect your phone to the mic itself through Bluetooth and, in the end, you should be able to hear both the music you’re playing and voice through the speakers. Pro-tip: if you’re a masochist and actually want to hear yourself well over the music, crank that “echo” level up as high as it’ll go.
Here’s the thing: I actually had to make a habit of participating in “juries” in college, which included standing on a stage, alone, in front of every senior member of the college’s music department and singing songs in order for them to decide if I was worthy of staying in the program or needed to be kicked out (spoiler, I dropped out before they could kick me out.) Even so, I still don’t want to be the only person in the car you can hear loud and clear while jamming to Pitch Perfect’s rendition of “Since U Been Gone.”
This is the mic’s major flaw — it takes away the essence of what car karaoke is meant to be: a way for a group of people to engage in a unifying activity. In a time of such great division, as they say, what brings people together quite like pitching into a chorus of voices reliving the glory of the late ’90s influx of boy bands.
But really, there is no way for anyone but the person directly holding the mic in front of their face to amplify their voice or otherwise benefit from the machine. Considering the packaging clearly states that the singing machine is only to be used by those not operating the vehicle, it seems to take the group part out of what is supposed to be a group activity.
Likewise, the mic doesn’t add much to the experience itself. There are no pre-loaded tracks on the machine, and it doesn’t offer the appeal of most karaoke devices, which is offering tracks sans original voices for people to sing along to solo. There are no lyric displays, access to backing tracks or libraries of songs to choose from. Instead, the mic does one thing and that is serve as, well, a microphone. And even at that, it doesn’t do too great a job of amplifying the voices singing into it. Again, kudos to the marketing team for taking a run-of-the-mill microphone device, adding Bluetooth, and marketing it as a unique product on the Carpool Karaoke brand. But that doesn’t make it nearly as fun as it has the potential to be.
All this is not to say the idea isn’t fun, or even that using the mic can’t be fun. As my roommate, who was the responsible driver in this case, said after a few minutes of begrudgingly watching me sift through her music library, “Okay, this is kind of fun.” Because, ultimately, the idea of karaoke is fun, and jamming in the car with loved ones is fun, and even picking up a mic to do it just a little louder is fun. Unfortunately, at this point, The Mic doesn’t add much more to the experience than that. Your money might be better spent finding a karaoke bar – at least you also get to drink.