10 awesome karaoke songs for people who think they can't sing
Last Saturday, a friend’s surprise party migrated from one of our usual bars to a nearby Irish pub that was having a karaoke night. It was my suggestion—I love karaoke—and I was thrilled that the birthday girl was gung-ho. But whenever karaoke is proposed, there’s always at least one person in the group who protests.
“I hate karaoke,” said this particular night’s protester, who shall remain nameless.
“Why?” I asked, already having a good idea of what the answer would be, based on the reasons I’d heard from other protesters in the past.
“I can’t sing,” she said.
“That doesn’t matter,” I replied, and I meant it.
“That’s easy to say when you can sing,” she said.
I get that a lot from karaoke-reluctant friends. It’s true that I can sing, but karaoke isn’t about talent; it may sound corny, but in my opinion, it’s about the exhilaration of being brave in a supportive atmosphere. Every karaoke experience I’ve ever had has involved an encouraging audience that’s ready to cheer and sing along, no matter the skill level of the person holding the mic.
I’m actually really nervous when I do karaoke, especially my first song of the night and especially if I haven’t finished a drink yet. Case in point: the only known video of me doing karaoke, below. Although I was audacious enough to attempt Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” as my first song that evening, my insecurity (and non-tipsiness) clearly manifests in repeatedly pulling at my shirt. What even is that? (Other things to note before playing the video: The sound is slightly ahead of the visual, making it look like I don’t have rhythm, which I do, and I have ombré hair, making it look like 2011, which it was.)
Back to 2014: Even though the protester was very harrumph-y, she set aside her misgivings for the birthday girl, and we partook in the joys of karaoke. In fact, even though she’d sworn she wouldn’t do a song, she did! Everyone from our group gathered around the stage to support her while I stayed back at our table to hold onto our seats.
It was at this point that Saturday Night Live cast member Kyle Mooney and two of his friends walked in, came over, and asked to look through our table’s songbook. They asked me if there was a long wait to sing, and I told them I’d heard there were 27 people on deck. They made scrunched-up disappointment faces and left.
The protester-turned-superstar came triumphantly skipping back to the table, and I said, “You know Kyle Mooney? He was just here while you were singing. He just left.”
“What?! I love him,” and out the door she ran, presumably to find him and make a really frightening impression on him by tackling him from behind, but to no avail—he had disappeared into the night. (I had no idea she felt that way about him.)
The moral of the story: If you think you can’t sing but you give karaoke a shot, you’ll miss your chance to meet the comedian you have a huge crush on, but in that moment before you find out you just missed him, you’ll feel really proud of yourself for doing something that scares you, and feel celebrated by a crowd of friends and strangers.
If you’re a self-proclaimed bad singer who’s ready to conquer your karaoke hesitation, don’t be that person who goes through the songbook page by page, waiting for something to jump out at you as familiar or easy. For your convenience, and so as not to annoy the hell out of everyone else who wants to look at the songbook, I’ve put together a list of 10 crowd-pleasing songs that even the actually-worst singer can kill.
Like, good kill, not bad kill.
1 “I Know What Boys Like” by The Waitresses
Patty Donahue proved you can have the most nasal, deadpan voice and still come across as super-confident and sexy.
2 “Yellow Submarine” by The Beatles
Got a really plain singing voice? So does Ringo Starr, but that didn’t stop him from singing one of the most whimsical Beatles songs ever. Bonus: Everyone will sing along with the chorus, so you won’t even be heard for much of the song.
3 “How Bizarre” by OMC
This is probably my all-time least-favorite song, but it’s perfect for the tone-deaf karaoke participant.
4 “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan
Ideal for when you’ve reached the drunk-and-shouty portion of your evening.
5 “Tom’s Diner” by Suzanne Vega
If you’ve got a shy, vibrato-less voice, it’ll be a great fit for this hypnotic throwback. And if you mess up, just break into some Kid ‘n Play-style dance moves like the guys in the video.
6 “Fly” by Sugar Ray
Mark McGrath cannot sing. In “Fly,” he clearly fails to hit relatively easy-to-hit notes, but those flat takes made the track, which became a number-one hit. Channel McGrath’s cockiness and own this song. Most of the audience will be too drunk to remember to be embarrassed about how much they liked it back in 1997.
7 “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Joan Jett
If you don’t sing so much as snarl and scream, Joan Jett has generously opened the door to badass karaoke glory for you. Be forewarned, the song does go almost a cappella for one of the choruses, but everyone’s gonna be singing along with you, so don’t worry about it.
8 “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones
Slippery and growly and borderline-belligerent, there are no real rules to follow to sing this song. Some pouty Mick lips and sassy pointing couldn’t hurt, though.
9 “These Days” by Nico
Sometimes you have to switch things up and bring down the mood a bit, and this is the perfect song for that, especially if you have the benzodiazepine equivalent of a singing voice, like Nico.
10 “Lean On Me” by Club Nouveau
This song is a great way for two friends — one who “can’t” sing and one who can — to do a duet. Do as Club Nouveau did and let the… um… not-as-strong singer take the verses, while the seasoned vocalist handles the chorus. The whole bar will undoubtedly join in for the “We be jammin'” part, against everyone’s better judgment.
This article originally appeared on xoJane by Marci Robin.