“We are just into performance and we love to win,’’ said Clinton Canady IV, 31, the captain of the team. “All of us had a background in music or sang with choirs, and now we have an outlet in D.C. to express ourselves. We take it seriously, even though it seems ridiculous.”
Except it isn’t. For a parable on the changing culture of the city, one only needs to peer into places where young professionals, who have fueled the city’s growth, choose to play.
Their social worlds are becoming increasingly occupied by diversions run on cheap beer and frivolous thrills — there are leagues for storytelling, kickball, bocce and trivia. Now, karaoke is the latest play date to become colonized by competition.
By the league’s second 10-week season, which ended this month, the number of competitors had more than tripled. There were 152 singers and 19 teams, spread over three days.
Jesse Rauch founded District Karaoke in February, apparently giving Washington the nation’s second such league, after Austin. He thought it might be a relaxing romp for an uptight city. Then teams started using puppets. And props. And practicing late at night. And scouting competition.
It became a grown-up mash-up of “Glee” and “The Hunger Games.”
“This is what happens when you have young, single people with Type A personalities,’’ said Mary Alice Farina, 31, who competes with the team “Naughty by Nurture.” “So we compete. It’s not really about the winning; it’s about having fun. But the competition is the fun.
“And our biggest competition is Clinton’s team.”
Canady reflected on his squad’s first season last winter with a tinge of bitterness. “The More We Drink” placed third in a competition judged by the audience.
“Third place,” he said caustically. “We thought we should have won because we were the better singers, or at least come in second. But the other teams brought all their friends.”
Canady lobbied to add nonpartisan judges. And he wooed other singers to his team.
It worked. After winning in the Monday league, the team was set to compete in the citywide championship earlier this month, with two solo rounds and a group performance.
The final battle was in seven days.
On the Sunday before the competition, group members sat around a dinner table in Columbia Heights to strategize.
No ballads, they declared.
Canady got approval to rap a popular Jay-Z and Kanye West song, with a potentially offensive song title diluted to “Ninjas in Paris.” He would perform the song while wearing in-line skates.
In a secret ballot, the team voted that Margo Hope, a 58-year-old retail manager and the league’s oldest performer, should belt out “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” from the musical “Dreamgirls.”