A KTV room with a view

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Patrons at Wain Wain enjoy the cafe-bar's views. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/William Wang]




People who've been in China a while know what to expect when it comes to KTV bars: flash is cash. From cheap joints to luxurious, the goal is to impress. And in China the Bigger is Better maxim rings as true in KTV as it does in projections of growth. But flashing lights and glitter shouldn't be the only KTV scoop, and thankfully a few places offer something just a little bit different.

In fact, calling a joint like Wain Wain a KTV at all leans toward the fallacious. It's more like a bar that incidentally has a karaoke room. One. The entire place has just a handful of intimate tables, each one situated to take in the highlight of the space: the view.

On days with good visibility, daytime views of Changan Avenue stretching west and the mountains beyond are spectacular. One glance from here of the CBD and beyond defines Beijing as a world class metropolis. And as the sun fades behind the Xishan Mountains the neon glow of Beijing's newest high-rises come into sharp focus. This is a Beijing bearing little relation to the hidden hutongs below.

Even before visitors note the bar's sake and shochu selection or its library of Manga comics, many feel that the 35th floor bar somehow feels Japanese. The owner is indeed from the land of the rising sun and the aesthetic here is accordingly one without clutter.

The sparsely decorated karaoke room pays direct homage to Japan in its tatami style layout. Up to 15 guests will take off their shoes before sitting down on the padded floor. A low table is centered between the TV screen and a glass-paned wall.

Unlike typical KTVs in China, Wain Wain offers a telephone book filled with songs to sing. Like a telephone book, it's organized alphabetically according to song or artist, a feat somehow impossible for Chinese KTV computers to properly manage.

Artists such as David Bowie or even the Rolling Stones are sadly absent from most KTV's listings, but at Wain Wain they and many obscure artists appear in full glory. Management claims to offer a whopping 75,000 English songs, and there's no doubt that they have the biggest and best selection of tracks in Beijing.

One shortcoming of this huge variety is that many of the tracks supply midi-approximated songs as opposed to original scores. The accompanying music videos probably won't be for the actual songs, more likely to show a woman gazing forlornly out of a train window or a blonde man water skiing.

A separate computerized song ordering system is like what you'd find in a typical Beijing KTV. Annoyingly, guests have a second procedure to master, but the songs available on this second system can be more current than what's printed in the book.

Supposedly, its songs are updated every month. But contrary to this claim, the top Billboard single of 2012 (LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It") wasn't in the system. At Wain Wain, singing the hit tracks of today could be as difficult as finding the ghost in the shell.

At any rate, the two systems don't seem too hard to master, though some people will require basic instruction. For anyone who can't hit Mariah Carey's highs, options such as pitch shift or tempo adjustment can make any song performance-worthy.

Those interested in singing here are advised to book ahead. There is, after all, only one room to sing in. The price for the room is 150 yuan per hour, with drinks starting at 25 yuan each. A couple deals are available, though they're not exactly cheap: two hours of singing, food, and unlimited drinks goes for 1500 yuan (for 12 people). A slightly smaller private room has no KTV, but offers an Apple TV and sound system.

Wain Wain – Room #3512, Building A, Soho New Town, 88 Jianguo Lu. From (subway line 1) Dawanglu station exit C, walk around back to Building A.

 

William Wang's top English karaoke tracks: love 'em or hate 'em, every KTV should have these karaoke essentials. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/William Wang] 



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