Smule has 15 million active users across its line of iOS music-making apps. The reason for this popularity isn’t hard to fathom: they create apps that turn the untrained into decent-sounding keyboardists (Magic Piano), guitarists (Magic Guitar) and rappers (I Am T-Pain 2.0 and AutoRap). The company turned its attention once before to aspiring singers with Glee Karaoke, and last week they upped the ante with their latest freemium title, Sing! Join the global karaoke party! The app has an inviting UI, a solid and growing catalog of songs, and even voice enhancers. There’s something here for any songster of any level, from would-be rock stars to budding Broadway divas.
The home screen sports a globe with graphic indicators showing where all the crooning is happening. From there you decide if you want to sing a solo – which, if you like copyrighted tunes, cost $0.99 each – or to join an existing karaoke party for free. Whichever you choose, the app then shows a large lyrics pane and below it are indicators that look like the sort you find in rhythm games like Tap Tap Revenge Tour. They tell you when to start singing and whether the next notes rise or fall as they cross the playline. As you warble, you are scored. I assume its based on pitch and getting the lyrics synced to the melody. But, even the tone deaf can sound good with effects not unlike those used in photo editing apps. They include SupaTune to keep you pitch-perfect(ish) and options like Pop Star and Vintage with which to toy. Once the vocals are laid down and edited, they are uploaded so others can listen or join.
The song selections cross many genres and if you are willing to pay, you can get some really cool sounding results from the solo mode, even if the overall sound quality isn’t great. The group mode, however, is hit or miss: I jumped into a quintet of pop prodigies for Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic;” a lone male vocalist with pitch problem on the Indigo Girls’ “Closer to Fine;” and when I jumped into “Oh Canada” (my national anthem), I could hardly make out the key for all the caterwauling. It was still very enjoyable. I could tell I was uniting with my proud post-Olympic fevered country-mates to share our national pride despite geographic divides.
That’s the beauty of Sing! It may or may or may not yield a Beyoncé, Snoop Dog, Idina Menzel, John Mayer or even a Rebecca Black, but it is a wonderful way for singers the world over to unite and make a joyful communal sound.