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I started Rob Sheffield's books a couple of years ago on a lark. I was searching around memoirs in a Barnes & Noble and saw Love is a Mixed Tape. As a big fan of the mixed tape and a big believer that it has held my boyfriend and me together for many years, I had to buy it. Immediately I was hooked. Rob Sheffield is my rock god! I have read it many times since and have lent it out more times than I can count. I have read Talking to Girls about Duran Duran. I emailed Mr. Sheffield at Rolling Stone when I heard this book was delayed. He, of course, graciously wrote me back. And alas...Turn Around Bright Eyes...
I get why they may have delayed the book. Maybe sent him back to the drawing board. To those that didn't understand or read the first two books, it's easy to right off Rob and his current wife as... Blah... But to have read the first book, to read about his insurmountable pain, you just know, the beat gift Ally gave to him was the ability to pretty much perpetually smile. It may not be deep, it may not be romantic, but it was the impossible and she made it possible. You must read the other two books to know how much he needs her.
I laughed my a** off during much of the book. Made my boyfriend or teenage daughters re-read chapters... But the acknowledgements at the end? I bawled my eyes out in the middle of a topless pool in Vegas... It was the end of an era. If he never writes another book, these three will be in my reading list again and again for years to come.
Rob Sheffield has written two perfect books, LOVE IS A MIX TAPE and TALKING TO GIRLS ABOUT DURAN DURAN, two memoirs that perfectly capture the importance of music to his/my/our generation and the legacy that music plays to your own psyche. MIX TAPE is about the romance and untimely death of his wife in the 1990s as told by mix tapes; DURAN is a look at individual songs and how they made a difference in Sheffield's development. Sheffield, a ROLLING STONE contributor, is knowledgeable and generous when it comes to music, bridging all types of artists and genres. The new book is a bit less focused than the other two, though Sheffield's empathetic and entertaining writing still shines through. BRIGHT EYES (an obvious reference to the Bonnie Tyler song) picks up after the death of his wife and weaves in how karaoke helped him transition back to life after his wife's death. The problem is the book doesn't commit to the karaoke theme, breaking into essays about his father, Irish relatives and several profiles of assorted acts, such as Rush and Rod Stewart. While this is entertaining and well-written, it veers off the topic on the most semi-random tangents. The book chronicles the courtship with his new wife in post-9/11 New York City, as well as the karaoke bars of New York City, a phenomenon that I am not that familiar with but apparently, according to Sheffield, is a cottage industry. The book would have worked better as a series of unrelated essays, but as is, the theme doesn't weave enough to make a coherent narrative.
I love Rob Sheffield. His writing on his love of music, even the really bad stuff, is nothing short of poetic. In him I feel that I’ve found a kindred spirit. I have read and re-read Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time so many times that I had to purchase a second copy. Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man's Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut is a go-to gift for friends. I am always thrilled to see him pop up as one of the talking heads on the VH1 music countdown shows. And I probably would have canceled my Rolling Stone subscription if it weren’t for him.
I just received my copy of Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke and am half-way through. As always, I am digging Rob’s tapestry of humor and heart and cannot wait to see how it all turns out. Rob’s writing is fun, nostalgic and it is easy to relate to him. I cannot wait to finish this book.
"Karaoke has changed my life." That is a quote from the movie Duets, but that is what I think about Karaoke. I have to give 5 stars to any book that captures the essence of Karaoke and this one does. I really enjoyed the beginning and ending of the book; I think the middle was kind of long, but of course, that part was not about Karaoke. There was the whole fantasy camp thing and a bit more that didn't really keep my interest.
Karaoke not only changed the author's life, it saved his life. After the sudden death of his wife, he could not pull himself out of grief and depression until going to Karaoke with friends. I've been doing Karaoke for 13 or 14 years. There is not much more in life that I have enjoyed more.
So, if you love karaoke, or if you are wondering what the fuss is about, be sure to check out this book.
First, let me say that I love reading Rob Sheffield. I have read both of his other books and I am devoted to his work in Rolling Stone. So maybe my expectations were too high, but this book does not measure up to the other two. I felt like he was trying too hard to make this about Karaoke, meaning that the stories themselves are good, but trying to link them all back to karaoke lessens their impact. When he writes about his wife, Ally, I'm happy for him--I like this couple. I would have rather have just read about them, without Sheffield's "karaoke thesis", which is disjointed, repetitive, and definitely not universal. He sort of keeps throwing karaoke into the beginning and end of the chapters in order to try and prove his point, but it doesn't work. I am not convinced of the "power" of karaoke. Bottom line: great stories, great music, but the karaoke theme does not hold up--I wanted to love this book as much as his other two, but it didn't happen.
I read "Love is a Mix Tape" a few years ago and really felt the loss for these people that I didn't know. I bought this book not because of the karaoke stories, but because of how his life changed since that book. It starts slow, but the story really had me when he talked about the past. His parents are interesting. I wasn't sure I would like Ally, no offense, but when he writes about meeting her and her diverse qualities, I liked her. He goes into why some singers are more popular in karaoke and others are tougher. I enjoy essays on what people see in musicians and why they like them. I'll never understand the Bon Jovi thing. Also the Beyoncé being a star thing. I'm sick of her, but she's not a big part of the book. This was a good follow up and resolution to Love is a Mix Tape.
I love Sheffield's two previous books, so it was no surprise to me that I found his latest read engaging and entertaining. A fellow fan of karaoke, and fellow former patron of Sing Sing on Avenue A, I enjoyed reading his musings regarding one of my favorite late-night activities. If you don't like Sheffield's previous work or karaoke, I would skip this one, and if you haven't read any of his other books, I would table this book in favor of Talking To Girls About Duran Duran. But if you've read his other books and have ever had the time of your life singing about having the time of your life at the top of your lungs in a tiny room in k-town at 2 AM, you'll enjoy this one.
Rob is one of the most engaging pop culture writers and here he convincingly explains why karaoke is less about ability and more about social bonding. Long may he continue to sing power ballads in front of strangers!!
Rob Sheffield is just a sincere writer. His first book was amazing and I always pick it up from time to time. The second was crap, i'll be honest with you, most writers need to get over the second book hump. But the third blew me out of the water. It seems he found his niche and caught his fans up on how he was doing in life while sharing stories of his love for karaoke. It was nice to know he is happy and I know that may sound creepy, but it was hard not become attached to his story. I say sing on Rob and for everyone reading this support this man by buying this book.