The holidays are in full swing, you’re probably going home for a few days, and, thanks to every romantic comedy ever, your friends will surely be dragging your sorry self to the local bar for some involuntary sing-a-longs.
Luckily, karaoke is to singing as bowling is to sports. (55% of it is about being with your friends, 65% is about drinking White Russians, and 30% is about the actual activity, adding up to approximately 150% of awesome.) If you’re a small girl, you wouldn’t bowl with a 12lb ball, so, similarly, if you’re tone-deaf, maybe you should consider leaving Lady Gaga to the experts. That being said, skill-wise, karaoke is pretty equal opportunity. No one will ever put you in a corner if you can’t hold a tune.
So here are just a few karaoke songs you don’t have to be able to sing to, well, sing.
The Safety Dance by Men Without Hats
This song is everything the 80s has to offer. It’s instructional: “You can dance. You can dance. Everybody look at your hands.” There’s spelling. “S-A-F-E-T-Y Safety Dance!” It’s chock-full-o-synths. It’s vaguely threatening: “‘Cause your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance then they’re no friends of mine.” There’s a ridiculous arm-flailing dance that goes with it (thanks to Kylie Minogue, Pauly Shore, and Stephen Baldwin from 1996’s Bio-Dome). And if you’re lucky enough to catch the video, you’ll be inspired by little people and large blondes in period garb frolicking around a May pole. Win.
Somebody Told Me by The Killers
That Brandon Flowers; he’s so witty and subversive (and mormon, believe it or not). And all that with a 4-note vocal range! “Somebody told me that you had a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year. It’s not confidential. I’ve got potential. Rushin’ n’ rushin’ around!”
1, 2, 3, 4 by Feist
The queen of nonchalant, Feist just rolls this song off the tongue. It’s also accompanied by an awesome, low tech music video where Feist—surprise, surprise—mostly just walks around and snaps her fingers instead of dancing. Want to play it on guitar? You can, with only 4 chords. Ah, simplicity.
Harder, Better, Faster Stronger by Daft Punk
Want to dance while rocking out your karaoke chops? Well then, how about doing the robot? Daft Punk is ALL about the robot. Or, you can be modern and choose to perform the updated Kanye West version of the song. (No one ever accused him of being a singer, so you don’t have to be, either!)
Celebrity Skin by Hole
This classic chick-rock anthem is all about the attitude. Ripped up clothes, smudgy red lipstick, short hair, don’t care. Belt it out: “Heyyyyy! So glad you could make it. Yeahhhh! Now you’ve really made it. Heyyyy! There’s only us left now.”
Once in a Lifetime by The Talking Heads
More synths please! And shoulder pads. It’s time for some 80s gloriousness + existential crisis a la David Byrne. “And you may ask yourself, how do I work this? And you may ask yourself, where is that large automobile? And you may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house! And you may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful wife!”
Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash
Want to be an old school badass? An original cowboy? How ’bout covering a Johnny Cash song? Any Johnny Cash song will do, and the grungier the bar you’re in, the larger the selection should be. Plus, if you can get away with singing a line like “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die,” do it. Who says karaoke needs to be a stereotypically “girly” activity?
Date Rape by Sublime
A 90s ska, power-punk, heavy-handed revenge fantasy where the bad guy gets exactly what he deserves??? #YesAllWomen, please!! Make this one loud. “Moral of the date rape story: it does not pay to be drunk and horny. That’s the way it had to be. They locked him up and threw away the key.”
Are You Gonna Be My Girl? by Jet
Totally done with nuance? I know I am. Try this epic straight-forward pick up line of a song: “1, 2, 3; take my hand and come with me, because you look so fine and I really wanna make you mine. I say you LOOK SO FINE that I really wanna make you mine!”
Clint Eastwood by Gorillaz
Who doesn’t want sunshine in a bag? This song is laid-back badass with a promise of more: “I’m useless, but not for long. The future is coming on.” It has the coolest anime video from the only fully animated rock band and you know ONE unassuming person in your group secretly memorized every lyric to the rap and is going to bust out with “Finally! Someone let me out of my cage!”
Perfect Day by Lou Read
Every great workout has a great cool down. “Perfect Day” is the ultimate cool down of karaoke evenings. Grab your friends by the shoulders, get your sway on, and say “It’s such a perfect day! I’m glad I spent it with you! Oh, such a perfect day! You just keep me hanging on. (You just keep me hanging on.)”
Think of this list as your musical bumpers. These songs are all pretty limited when it comes to vocal range, but unstoppable when it comes to just performing the heck out of them. They may not guarantee you a whole night of strikes, but they’ll definitely earn you a spare or two; and, most importantly, they’ll save you from all those potential gutter balls.