The Top 10 Karaoke Tunes of All Time (According to Us)
by Allie Firestone
How is it that humans everywhere—from Japan to Brazil, and the four corners of the USA—can’t get enough of listening to vocally challenged singers create their own renditions of perfectly good songs? While I could take an uneducated stab at karaoke’s sociological appeal, I decided it would be a little more fun (and certainly more useful) to compile a list of songs that connoisseurs of this pastime swear by as crowd pleasers.
Journey, “Don’t Stop Believin’”
Despite some high notes, this power ballad is a perennial favorite. There’s a reason bars always play this song: it gets people excited and dancing, and we all know the words about that girl from South Detroit. Plus, since everyone in the audience will be singing along, this song is a natural choice for singers who aren’t totally keen on soloing.
Gloria Gaynor, “I Will Survive”
Since its release in the late ’70s, Ms. Gaynor’s powerful and upbeat song about leaving an ex in the dust has been a breakup anthem to live by. And it’s perfect for karaoke, because the secret to succeeding onstage is fully committing—not hiding behind the microphone—and who can resist belting out the soulful lyrics “Weren’t you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye? Did you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die? Oh no, not I!”
Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean”
Limiting this list to just one song from the King of Pop was the real challenge here, since so many of Jackson’s songs have singable lyrics and predictable beats and garner huge excitement from just about everyone. But “Billie Jean” stands because the lyrics repeat fairly often and there are musical breaks during which singers can do a few Michael-esque moves and catch their breath. Plus, just about everyone in the bar will know the words.
Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
True: this song is harder than the others on the list, since it has a few rhythm and harmony changes, along with lyrics made up partially of invented words. The good news? We’ve all heard the song so many times that most of us could sing it with our eyes closed. (And who cares if we’re saying scottaboosh when the real lyrics read scaramouche?) The song’s a little long, but there aren’t really that many lyrics. I say if you’re feeling brave, go for it—the crowd will reward you.
Def Leppard, “Pour Some Sugar on Me”
Ah, this one takes me back to my college days (and who doesn’t like a little trip back in time when we’re in the mood for dancing?). Karaoke crowds can’t get enough of treasured ’80s songs, and who can resist singing along when this Def Leppard classic comes on? So sing it: “Pour some sugar on me, in the name of love”—but just reserve this one for non-work-related karaoke events.
Ace of Base, “The Sign”
There’s just something about empowering breakup songs that makes them beg to be sung. Grab a group of friends and hit the stage for this one—a song that everyone (deep down) enjoys. The beat is slow and pretty regular, so even if you go up there without knowing all the words, it won’t be too tough to glance at the lyrics screen without missing a beat.
Kelly Clarkson, “Since U Been Gone”
This girl anthem screams female empowerment—and the brokenhearted lyrics are easy to remember, belt out, and jump around to while doing so. We’ve all been there, so why not sing about it together? Everyone wants to come out stronger on the other side of a breakup—and every karaoke singer wants to choose something that’ll get people excited. That makes this choice a win-win.
Since U Been Gone
Pat Benatar, “Hit Me with Your Best Shot”
Speaking of girl anthems, this ’80s version set the bar high when it came to putting an ex in his place. Ms. Benatar put it best when she sang, “Knock me down, it’s all in vain. I’ll get right back up again.” Extra points if your ex is actually in the bar when you belt this one out.
ABBA, “Dancing Queen”
ABBA equals dancing music. When people hear it, they get out of their seats and they dance. Period. This Swedish pop group’s enduring song is actually one of the most popular karaoke selections in the world, according to an index the UK’s PRS for Music compiled. I believe the band put it best: “You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life.” Admit it or not, but there’s a little ABBA waiting to come out in all of us.
Kid Rock, “All Summer Long”
One of the few from the 2000s that makes the list, this easy-to-sing tune with a country twang serves as a fresh replacement for the way overdone “Sweet Home Alabama.” Instead of provoking eye rolls with yet another rendition of the old-school classic-rock song, belt out Kid Rock’s easy-to-sing-along-to ode to summer lovin’.