Laura Carrizales and Mel Arizpe, aka Mi Diva Loca, head to Helsinki later this month to compete in the world finals of karaoke. (Arnold Wayne Jones)
Local divas (and Divas Loca) Mel Arizpe and Laura Carrizales prepare to go international at the world finals of karaoke
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Executive Editor
Mel Arizpe and Laura Carrizales are widely known in the Dallas club scene by their group name Mi Diva Loca. But before too long, the entire world may know who they are. And they are as surprised by that possibility as anyone.
Six months ago, neither Arizpe nor Carrizales were really aware of the international singing competition known as the Karaoke World Championship, though they probably should have been. Their lives — separately and together — have been inextricable linked to music.
The two first met 11 years ago, when both made it to the final round of the Voice of Pride competition. On the night they arrived at rehearsal, they realized that they were both singing the same number.
“I was like, ‘Who is that bitch singin’ my song?’” Arizpe now laughs. “But she was very good and cute, though we both had girlfriends at the time.”
That eventually changed. Within a few years, they were up against each other at Voice of Pride 2010, but also working in tandem, as that year the rules permitted a duet category. Arizpe came in first place; Carrizales took home second; and together, they won the duets. It was a total sweep.
But it also transformed their performing life.
“A few days after we won, Anton Shaw called us and said, ‘If you wanna get some musicians together, we have a spot for you [at the old] Sue Ellen’s. If you want, you came come to build off that,’” Carrizales recalls. “That’s how Mi Diva Loca came about — they made us choose a group name. It had never occurred to us in our own world. We both have full-time jobs. We would have never come up with that idea” to turn singing into a side gig.
Arizpe now hosts karaoke at the Round-Up Saloon, and they continue to perform several times a month around town, often at Alexandre’s. But taking it to the next level was — once again — something someone else had to foist upon them.
Robert Olivas, another karaoke host and VOP contestant, told them this summer about auditions for the Dallas level of Karaoke World Championship (KWC), and suggested they try out. At that level, duets aren’t permitted, so Arizpe and Carrizales both entered… again facing off against each other.
“We like to compete, and we’re very competitive with each other,” Arizpe says. (Adds Carrizales: “I like to compete whenever money is involved.”)
Before they knew it, both had advanced — Carrizales by winning first place, Arizpe second.
“I remember it clearly, because it never happens that I beat Mel,” Carrizales laughs. At the Texas state championships in Plano later in July, Arizpe won, and was flown to nationals in Las Vegas in August. Carrizales accompanied her, with the plan that Arizpe would try to be the top female vocalist and together they could try for top duet. Arizpe lost the soloist set, but the pair became, once again, the top duetists in the land. And that meant a trip to the world finals in Helsinki, Finland from Dec. 19–21.
The prospect of singing north of the Arctic Circle in December didn’t exactly thrill them at first — the event was originally going to be held in Spain — but they figured out a compromise: Fly to Barcelona for four days, then go on the Helsinki.
There are 26 teams, representing 26 countries, and the competition is what you’d expect for people on the world stage. They’ve heard that the pair from Brazil is the favorite, but they aren’t focusing too much on the other teams (“you mean like karaoke warfare?” Carrizales asks), only on themselves.
“The trick is not to make any unforced errors,” Carrizales says. That means, finding outfits to perform in that are comfortable and eye-catching (they are looking for something white to stand out against the many black gowns they anticipate from other contestants), good song choice and most of all minimizing the ways things can get screwed up.
Because it is a karaoke event, there will be projected lyrics for all the singers (though most, of course, will have committed the words to memory). But there is still room for mess-ups on the pre-recorded tracks, where the wrong version of a song is used, or it is set in a different key or arrangement than they expect. (That plagued Arizpe during one of her solos at nationals in Vegas.)
They will get to sing at least two songs, with the top five cumulative scores going on to the final round and a third, deciding performance. And frankly, the number of duets written for two women are few and far between. So they went with one of their go-to selections: “Does He Love You,” popularized by Reba McIntire with several co-stars (Linda Davis, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson). “We’ve used it before. We wanted something we’re super comfortable with, and it’s already a duet,” Carrizales says. They will also do a version of Adele’s “All I Ask.”
If they make it into the top 5, they have made the conscious decision to go with Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High.”
“We decided, everyone’s gonna be singing ballads — what will make us stand out. So let’s do something upbeat,” Arizpe says. They considered leading off with that one, actually, but decided to save it for the close… if they make it there.
Which, in the end, makes it all come down to a bit of luck: Will their voices sound OK in the cold air? Will they follow the Brazil team — or some other unknown frontrunner — and be psyched out? Carrizales says all these factors turn it into something akin to Survivor Karaoke.
“Ultimately, we are facing the best singers in the world,” she says. “The people are from all over the world, and many will be singing in English because most pop songs are in English. So even if we don’t win, we’ve already won. It sure would be nice, but this will be an adventure from beginning to end. And hey, if we lose, we have four days to hang out and enjoy ourselves!”