- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 24, 2007

Each week the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free interactive sounds and action.

Sing a cyber-song

It had to happen sooner or later in an “American Idol”-driven world, and usually, in the case of the Web, it is sooner.

Such is the case with a trio of Web sites that enable their members to break out the flop sweat rags and sing their hearts out in hopes of becoming online stars.

The best of the bunch, SingShot (www.singshot .com) has been around about six months and beautifully integrates a karaoke presentation in its embedded recorder-player. The community-based site enables thousands of songs to be performed and kept for posterity, to be judged and even used for auditions.

Singers first need the preferred USB-connected, unidirectional microphone to record and must register on the site to set up their MyStudio area and interact with their new online friends.

Members can browse by artists and genres to find a song or look up the most recorded tunes by fellow crooners. For the record, the Beatles’ “Yesterday” is the most popular. Once a likely candidate is found, they can practice and then record the song or listen to how others have butchered it.

Each selection has the words appear (conveniently highlighted when it’s time to sing them and when to take an extended break for solos) and the performer gets respectable reproduction values of the original instrumentation as well as harmonized background vocals.

An eclectic set of songs includes a blistering take of Van Halen’s version of “You Really Got Me,” the Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop” and Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were.” Artists’ catalogs range from 75 tunes from the Beatles to 36 songs from Alabama to 13 from Hootie & the Blowfish to one from the Partridge Family.

Members and visitors can listen to the wide range of talent found among the singers, who will offer a laugh as well as a tear in the eye for some of their performances.

Surprisingly, member feedback to the singers is almost always very positive, be that because he who judges will be judged eventually or because no Simon Cowell types are there to egg on anyone.

Additionally, singers can link their performances to other social networking sites, such as MySpace, and can use the image hoster Photobucket (www.photobucket.com) to enhance a song with a slide show of personal photos or video.

The entire easy-to-use experience is free and can be used fully, as is the case with some members who already have recorded more than 200 songs each.

Life is not so simple for the KSolo.com member. This site (www.ksolo.com), owned by Fox Interactive Media, competes with SingShot in comparable song availability, but the singer must download the record interface, and it is only compatible with a Windows XP, 2000 or ME PC.

Most important, it is only free for a seven-day trial, and then it costs $7.95 to $9.95 a month for the package purchased.

The latest entry to singing online, Midomi (www.midomi.com), is free to members and has a long way to go to compete with the others. It offers no type of karaoke interface, and singers basically emote a cappella. It appears to be more about downloading songs (for 99 cents each) than giving the performer a virtual stage. However, its one trick is a dandy: Visitors can use a voice-sensitive search engine to find songs.

It actually works. I sang a bit of “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” and it pulled it up immediately. My version of Elvis Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” also was found but amid 30 potential candidates. So much for a crooning career.

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail to jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).

Mr. Szadkowski also writes a Web-exclusive column for the Washington Times Web site where he reviews educational software and family-friendly video games. Check it out at www.washingtontimes. com/familytimes/romper room.htm.

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