30 Chicagoans Respond to the Most Unrealistic Moment From “The Bear”

And it has nothing to do with a sandwich

June 30, 2023 6:54 am
Jeremy Allen White as "Carmy" in "The Bear" writing on a box in a kitchen
Here's how Chicagoans really feel about a very particular scene

The Bear has once again captured the interest of the TV viewing and streaming public. Since the show returned for its second season last week, we’ve seen a plethora of takes on Italian beef sandwiches, whether or not real-life Chicago chefs like the show, Carmy’s shirts, Carmy’s (unrealistic?) hot bod, the instant-classic episode six and more. 

Largely unexamined, thus far, is season two’s most unrealistic moment, which comes halfway through episode five. In this episode, “Pop,” we’re treated to two Replacements songs, some background chatter about The Replacements, an R.E.M. song and a karaoke performance of Freddy Fender’s “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” by stalwart chef Tina (played by Liza Colón-Zayas) It’s another fantastic episode in a fantastic series, with yet another 30 minutes or so of soundtrack perfection. However, Tina performs the Fender song at Alice’s, a great dive bar on Belmont in Avondale. Before she takes the mic, we hear two women in their 20s wrapping up their rendition of “Tonight, Tonight” by The Smashing Pumpkins. 

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I would like to argue that this has, in fact, never happened at a Chicago karaoke bar. Maybe because we, as Chicagoans, know better — after all, Billy Corgan and James Iha first played together in 1988 at Chicago 21. Does anyone perform the Smashing Pumpkins at karaoke? Does anyone in Chicago perform the Smashing Pumpkins at karaoke? Does anyone perform one of the most vocally difficult, quite long Smashing Pumpkins songs at karaoke? 

No, absolutely not. According to 30 Chicagoans who live or have lived in Chicago since the release of the massive hit (read: 1995), no one has sung “Tonight, Tonight” by The Smashing Pumpkins at karaoke. I reached out to these Chicagoans — all between the ages of 21 and 55, and the people most likely to be at Alice’s — because something felt off. I asked them a very simple question. Have you, or has anyone you’ve ever known, sang “Tonight, Tonight” by the Smashing Pumpkins at a karaoke night in Chicago? 

Jill gave the most definitive answer: “I’m 100% certain the answer is no.” 

Dan gave the most violent answer: “I would have murdered them on the spot.”

Afriti gave the most informative answer: “Not yet and I go to karaoke every Sunday with a group of Chicago folks.”

I received a simple no from Amy, Colin, Jessica, Joe, Lindsey, Mary and two different Michael Gs.

Josh, Michael and Stephanie responded with: “I have not, nor have I known anyone to do it.”

Seth was also a strong no. “I asked my wife about this because she does even more karaoke than me, and she has never heard of anyone doing it, and neither have I.”

Daniel hasn’t heard it, either: “I highly doubt that it’s a popular choice among the karaoke circuit.“ 

Harold, Luke, Scott and Sophie did not perform it themselves but think they maybe heard someone do it. But it could have been a different Pumpkins song. Some of the respondents admit they have performed Pumpkins songs at karaoke. “‘Tonight, Tonight’ — no, not myself, nor can I remember ever seeing anyone do it. I’m tempted to try now,” Brian told me. “I have done “Bullet With Butterfly Wings.”” That’s a fun karaoke song! Everyone can laugh and sing the vampire lines and scream along at the end. 

“I haven’t and I don’t think I know anyone that has, but I have karaoked ‘Today’ on multiple occasions,” Al responded. That’s an even better pick! It’s not as screamy and you may even get more people to sing along! 

“No on ‘Tonight, Tonight,’” Max told me. “As much of a Smashing Pumpkins fan as I am, I’d never sing one of their songs at karaoke. His voice just wouldn’t work.” Max is absolutely right. And it makes Andrew’s answer even more interesting.

“Not me or anyone that I know, and I can’t even speculate how it would go,” he says. It’s 20 to one odds but could be a sleeper hit.” 

“Tonight, Tonight” is a great song — maybe the Pumpkins’ greatest song. It’s beautiful, both sonically and lyrically, but beauty doesn’t always translate well in a dive bar karaoke setting. In addition to its sincerity, it’s difficult to sing. While it makes sense that The Bear is attempting to telegraph the Chicagoness of it all (“The city by the lake”) and the belief Tina has found in herself (“Believe in me because I believe in you”), it’s not realistic. “Disarm” would have worked, both as a Pumpkins-Chicago connection, sonically and lyrically (“The killer in me is the killer in you” relates to Carmy and his brother; “Send this smile over to you” ties into what’s going on with Tina and Ebra).

Another Chicago-friendly song that would have made more sense is the Smoking Popes’ 1997 single “I Know That You Love Me,” a regional hit that garnered regular airplay in the late ’90s. An even more realistic and nearly as cringey choice as “Tonight, Tonight” is Wilco’s “Jesus, etc.,” one of the easiest songs to sing and something I’ve heard at karaoke many times. The most realistic Chicago-based guitar song that would technically fit the episode is Fall Out Boy’s 2005 “Sugar, We’re Going Down.” While FOB probably doesn’t exist in The Bear universe, it’s way more likely the two 20-somethings would be belting out a song released when they were actually alive. 

Though it’s not common, people do perform Smashing Pumpkins songs at karaoke, just not “Tonight, Tonight.” “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and “Today” are good options, and songs like “Disarm,” “Zero” and “1979” are even better. 
All that said, it’s safe to assume that the city’s karaoke bars will now ring out with singers of all ages really going for it on “The impossible is possible tonight.” Will The Bear inspire karaoke renditions of “Tonight, Tonight?” According to Tommy, yes. “Ha! I have not done it but, dammit, I should!”

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