Like warm vinyl records got decimated by cold MP3’s, so seemingly karaoke got hit by the soulless EDM train. Karaoke clubs, all the rage in Japan and imported to the U.S. in the 90’s, were embraced in Miami, with Studio at The Shelborne blossoming probably into the best known specimen, where drunk and drunker wailed their hearts out as their friends laughed on until the music died.
But a funny resurgence has happened along the way. Vinyl is back, but so is karaoke, and three South Beach hotspots are mightily carrying the nostalgia torch – the Club at Casa Tua (Wednesdays), Bay Club at Lucali (Thursdays) and Faena Theater (monthly). These are safe spaces where well-off, genetically-blessed clientele guzzle $15-$25 drinks in judgment free confines, intent upon collision courses with very late nights, warbling good-times tunes with reckless abandon. This crowd doesn’t work 9-5’s. It’s the great South Beach life. There’s no lazy phone gazing. Karaoke is a luxurious analogue in a downmarket digital world. When you sing with your friends, there is eye contact, and you are present.
On this circuitous trifecta, one showman, one singer, stands undisputed above the rest. There can only be one karaoke king and his name is Denio Madera.
The moment Denio arrives, everyone understands the party literally just started. Anticipation builds. Everything’s on the table: metal, R&B, classics, rock, Brit pop, ballads. He grabs the mic and prowls to crush Purple Rain. He can actually sing. He entertains. He climbs on furniture. It’s real. His friends join in. The whole bar joins in.
Who is this guy? He’s an in-demand architect and interior designer who designed a $159 million home and even designs yachts. He’s a collector and formidable player of killer guitars. He dates French models. His opulent, dolce vita Instagram feed will hook you like a drug because it seesaws between goofball mugging and rarified examples of unassailable, impeccable, maximalist taste. His iPhonography could be mistaken for magazine editorial. Did I mention he sings? Do not hate, for it is futile.
So, without further adieu, behold our exclusive interview with Miami’s Karaoke King, Denio Madera.
What are your favorite songs to sing? What’s your sweet spot that you crush?
I like to sing either rock classics from the ’70s and ’80s or modern pop classics by female artists. Last week I sang Dobie Grey’s Drift Away, Lady Gaga’s Born this Way, and Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead Or Alive. In the past, I’ve also done the Mark Ronson / Amy Winehouse version of Valerie, and Bruce Springsteen’s Hungry Heart.
Who’s your crew? Your most dedicated friends who you sing along with?
I have a crew of friends that all come out to sing at Bay Club including Alex Mitchell, Dominic (from DC Pie/Lucali), Oren Alexander, and Tony Merenda. At Casa Tua and Faena, Suzy Buckley, Carol Iacovelli and David Aaron meet up. And of course, my girlfriend Twiga. All my friends can sing. Like sing sing.
What’s your favorite karaoke spot?
I mostly frequent the Bay Club karaoke. It’s really the best karaoke party I’ve ever been to, but I also pop into Casa Tua and Faena Theatre.
Is it mandatory that people drink before they sing to loosen themselves up, and if so, how much should they drink?
For me, it’s mandatory to have at least 2 tequilas before I get up on the sofa. There’s a lot of things I don’t do when I’m sober and singing is one of them. Twiga doesn’t drink at all but she can get up there and do Dancing Queen like a champ.
When exactly did you realize you possessed the uncommon gift of karaoke?
I got the bug like 4 years ago at Bay Club and that’s the first karaoke I’d ever been to. I always thought karaoke was kinda sad and embarrassing and I still kinda do but it’s just fun. I started getting up on furniture when I sang and it just became a thing. And I’ll turn any situation into a sing along. I force wedding DJs to become karaoke DJs all the time – basically any place there’s a microphone!
Do you have groupies?
I don’t know if I have groupies but a woman at Trader Joe’s recently asked to take a picture with me and said she loved my work. Wasn’t sure if she meant my architecture or last night’s version of Britney Spears’ ...Baby One More Time.
Do any particular performances stand out?
I sang at Hanae and Drew Leeman’s wedding, and most recently at Kaitlin and David Weisser’s wedding. I actually got 100 people to sing We Are The World!