The Perfect Karaoke Song for Every Mood

As far as I’m concerned, karaoke is the most fun a human can have while coming dangerously close to humiliating oneself.

On the one hand, you get to live your dreams of being a subpar American Idol contestant. On the other, you get to live through your worst nightmare of being judged by a room full of drunk people. (As we know, drunk people are especially judgmental because alcohol makes people more certain that everything they think needs to be said out loud. It can be brutal.)

Here’s the big secret about karaoke that no one tells you: it’s not about your singing voice. It’s about your song choice. Here are some bonafide karaoke hits that you can choose with confidence:

When you want to impress people with your fun, bubbly, girly, (possibly non-existent) sexiness: ‘Toxic’, by Britney Spears

Britney Spears songs are great for karaoke. Firstly, she has no range as a singer, meaning you don’t need range as a singer. Secondly, her songs are upbeat and catchy. Drunk people love those things. Thirdly, if in doubt, just dance. Dancing is 90% of how Britney Spears sings anyway, so if you dance, you nail it. People will be impressed.

When you want everyone in the bar to be your best friend because you’re super cool: ‘Kids In America’, by Kim Wilde

It’s the song that starts the movie Clueless, and I have sung it to get parties started. The reason this song is great for karaoke is because its chorus has a call-and-response element. There’s a famous “Whoa-oh!” part that everyone will feel compelled to join in on. The thing about karaoke is that everyone there is only there because they want to sing. They aren’t actually judging you on your singing–they’re judging you because you’re singing and they’re not. If you give them a chance to join in, they will LOVE you. Also, ‘Kids in America’ is an oft-forgotten hit. Meaning, it sounds obscure, but everyone still recognizes it. Instant cool points for you!

When you want to impress everyone in the bar with either your incredible pipes or your incredible courage: ‘Alone’, by Heart

‘Alone’ is one of the hardest songs to sing in karaoke. You need an amazing voice. I mean, there’s a reason it’s the song that made Carrie Underwood steal the race in her season of American Idol. If you have the talent, I say flaunt it. People will be in awe of you and after the song give you compliments like, “You should try out for X-Factor. You might actually have a shot.” If you don’t have the right voice for it but you love the song, sing it anyway! If Cameron Diaz taught us anything with her character in my Best Friend’s Wedding, it’s that it’s important to be nice. If she taught us two things, it’s that the key to winning at karaoke is to be brave and have fun. Bravery will often get you farther in karaoke–and in life–than a good voice*.

When you are not having fun and you are broken-hearted and dramatic and want everyone to know it: ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, by Sinead O’Connor

I have never sung this at karaoke because when I am at karaoke, my heart is happy and free, but I imagine that I could one day be so depressed that I need to bring it to the mic. I would sing this song and I would milk every painful note. Note to aspiring funny people: try being completely serious. It’s hilarious and entertaining and harder than you would think. If you commit enough to this song (I mean, shave your head on stage and shed a single tear levels of commitment), it will still be entertaining for the audience and cathartic for you.

When you have lost your voice (and your mind) and you just want to have fun: ‘I Believe In a Thing Called Love’, by the Darkness

This is a feel-good song that you don’t need to be able to sing. You just have to be able to squeal with delight. Because it’s all falsetto, just put on the highest, silliest voice you have and have a blast. Like ‘Kids in America’, there’s a huge, catchy, call-and-response element to this song’s chorus. I have never sung this song and not had a crowd of people start singing and dancing along in excitement. I have also never sung this song particularly well. But that’s the point of this song–and karaoke–it’s about having fun!

Okay, so the title is a bit of a misnomer. These aren’t perfect and they aren’t for every mood. Still, I think this covers the bases.

Have fun. Be brave. Have more fun.

Oh, and the biggest secret to karaoke: only sing a song you already know all the words to. The lyrics are guide posts on your way to awesome. You should already kind of know the way, because lets face it, you are awesome and you can rock out any karaoke song you want.

*There is nothing more boring at karaoke than someone with a pitch perfect voice singing a sleepy, safe Mariah Carey ballad. It’s like…why? You’re not even trying. This is boring. I’m going to get another gin and tonic.

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  • Lorehorrible Ciora

    dude, “don’t stop believin'” by journey is definitely the #1 karaoke song one could sing where everyone in the bar will sing along, because it makes everyone love each other in that environment.

    • Meghan O’Keefe

      Sure. Yes. But EVERYONE does it. Someone will probably already have it in when you go to the bar.

    • Meg Eli S

      Noooooo!!!! Don’t stop believing is the BIGGEST karaoke faux pas!
      It’s like paradise by the dashboard light, sure we all LOVE to sing it with our bf but EVERYONE in that bar will hate you for it.

  • Sugar Agbones

    everybody loves karaoke in Asia…somebody gets stabbed singing “My Way” by Frank Sinatra (most of the time), we don’t know why…

    karaoke staple: Britney Spears’ “One More Time” =) and ballad rock tunes such as Heart’s “Alone” and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (good for a duet)

  • Natalie Borriello

    For when you are heartbroken, but in your drunken haze convinced you are fine “Young hearts, Run free’

  • Marcelle Ruby Karp

    please organize a NY karaoke night!!!

  • Elisabeth Miller

    I have only done karaoke a few times because I have a pretty bad voice. But my go-to song is Madonna’s Like a Prayer. It has practically no range and I like to dance along with it and get the room singing. It’s all about the presentation!

  • Meg Eli S

    Personally… Rich girl by Hall & Oates and here comes your man by the pixies.

  • Ana Raquel Romão

    I go with Valerie, usually the Mark Ronson + Amy Winehouse version. It gets everybody in the mood for a fun night!

  • Erin Elizabeth Davis

    Whatever you do…don’t EVER sing Zombie by The Cranberries….lol just leave it for your car when driving

    • Lindsay Ann

      I can picture that being an awful karaoke song hahaha

  • Mary Frances Shutes

    I just went to karaoke Friday night! My go to song is Stay (I Missed You) by Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories. I think it fits in that Kids In America catergory where people go.. OHHH, I remember that song! Love it! I’m seriously considering tackling R.E.M.’s It’s The End Of The World As We Know It, but I fear it may be karaoke suicide. I know all the words and can usually get them out properly, but have I tried in front of an audience? Nope.

  • Laura Stuart

    My favorite drunk-as-hell-end-of-the-night-goof-off song is “Separate Ways” by Journey. I like to go all out on the crazy fun melodrama.

  • Deidre Brill

    I totally agree that you already need to know all (or at least 90%) of the words to the song, otherwise you’re just a karaoke disaster waiting to happen! Also, biggest faux pas is picking a song that is too long, i.e. over 4 mins (I’m looking at you, “Tiny Dancer”)! Unless you picked “I Would Do Anything for Love” by Meatloaf…in which case, I greatly admire your cajones and sense of humor.

  • Tracee Alar

    You missed “Bohemian Rhapsody ” by Queen! It’s fun to sing/murder it on drunken karaoke nights with all the fun voices to do!

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