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Karaoke. It’s as Chinese as xiaolongbao and herbal foot massages. And it’s huge here. Every KTV joint in town has the standard mando-, canto-, k and j pop, but you’ll have to dig deeper to find your own karaoke gems.
Here’s a rundown of the top five places to belt it out in Shanghai. First, the Big Three: Shanghai Gecheng, Haoledi, and Party World. Most of their locations are 24-hours and take reservations, so it’s a good idea to call and reserve a room, especially if you intend on singing on weekend nights of public holidays
Note: all Karaoke chains charge different rates depending on the hour in the day and the size of the room. You might want to consider warming up your vocal chords early— prices are much cheaper in the morning.
Haoledi: The best Chinese song selection of the three chains. However, if you select an older English song, don’t expect to see the actual music video, but rather a blonde, buxom girl prancing in a sea of tulips. Getting a VIP card offers a considerable discount and the chain offers special promotions and member coupons periodically. You are not allowed to bring outside food and drinks in (though people smuggle in their munchies anyway), but Haoledi does have its own supermarket that you can order from. Average spending: RMB50 per person
Party World: Boasts the best selection of English songs of the three big chains, especially for oldies, classics, and show tunes. Bathrooms are located in or next to the KTV rooms, which is convenient for those long sessions. For an extra RMB40 or so, you can run to load up your plate at their buffet between songs (the buffet goes until 9pm, but they also have an a la carte menu). On average, Party World is more expensive than other KTV chains, but their sound system is a few notches above the rest. Average Spending: RMB85 per person
Shanghai Gecheng: It’s called “Song City” for a reason. Out of all the KTV places we’ve been to, Shanghai Gecheng has the craziest winding tunnels that twist and turn without end. The entire place is decked out in glass, black leather, and geometric lines to give a futuristic feel to your singing experience. If you’re lucky, you may be able to sing in a room equipped with a spinning disco ball and manually-controlled lighting effects. So-so sound system overall, but Shanghai Gecheng has a decent buffet. We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to call ahead to book a room on weekends, especially if you’re going to the one in New Century Plaza at People’s Square. Average Spending: RMB50 per person
J.C. Billiards & Club: As the J.C.’s head designer told us, J.C. is mainly a pool place. But calling it a “pool place” doesn’t really cover it— it’s huge, almost cavernous, with plushy sofas dotting the premises, a fully stocked bar, and two swanky private rooms with their own karaoke machines plus pool and games tables. The rooms are perfect for those who like to multitask—you can belt out a ballad and play a round of pool at the same time. J.C.’s hardware and service are excellent—the owner Jennifer will mix and mingle with customers whenever she’s free. Consider it if you want to splurge on a RSVP-only private party; but be warned, the minimum spending for the small private room is RMB2000, plus added hourly charges. Average Spending: RMB184 per person
Fame Karaoke Club: We saved the poshest, most exclusive place (with a price tag to match) for last. Unlike the Party Worlds of Shanghai, there will be no hour-long waiting lines here. Fame’s brochure describes the décor as “full of personalized and perverse yet mysterious.” Language incoherence aside, that does well summarize this crème de la crème of karaoke clubs quite nicely. From the Dali-esque paintings on the walls to the polished, gold chrome decorations and velvet sofas, Fame channels a mixture of Shanghai bling, Victorian-era vibe, and unbridled high-tech opulence. Their smallest standard room can accommodate 8-10 people, and every private room in Fame features its own design and furnishings. The deluxe room and Grand Salle feature a bar area, high tables, a DJ podium, stages and dance floors with checkerboard flooring and get this — fog machines. Every room also comes with its own personal “butler.” Their catalog of songs is impressive — last time our editors managed to dig up some classic tracks by Black Sabbath, Bob Dylan, and the Kinks.Average Spending: RMB278 per person
Also, remember to check in with the bars you frequent for karaoke and open mic nights as well as one-night-only KTV events.