Singing karaoke can be a tricky proposition. Pick the right song, and you can be a huge hit, but if you come off like an off-key mess, you might have an entire club of people averting their eyes when you walk towards them. It can be a high-pressure situation, that’s why we’re looking at 15 classic karaoke tunes that always get the crowd going. These songs are fun enough that even if you embarrass yourself, at least you’ll do so entertainingly.
1. Journey – “Don’t Stop Believin'”
Sure, it’s a cliche, but it’s the ultimate cliche. Plenty of arena rock tunes from early ’80s have fizzled out over the years, but this one has held up remarkably well. Plus, few songs are more relatable to a crowd setting. Hey, we’re all just a small town girl livin’ in a lonely world, right?
2. Pulp – “Common People”
There’s two options you can go with here, the original, where it’s pretty much impossible not to adapt a fake British accent, or the Shatner version. Shatner impressions are almost easy as Jack Nicholson impressions, but when everyone is good and drunk, they’ll be having too much fun to give much of a critique.
3. Salt N Pepa – “Shoop”
This one has been a classic forever, but its recent usage in Deadpool brought it back into the public conscious. If you go to a karaoke bar, and a girl is singing this one, just pray you’re not the one she looks at during the “no…not you” part. That can be tough to come back from.
4. Missy Elliott – “Work It”
This one brings up an interesting conundrum: what do you do when you get to the chorus? Do you try to imitate the elephant noise, or do you just say some variation of the word we all know she means? That’s at your discretion, but either way, this one is pretty much always a hit.
5. Kanye West – “Gold Digger”
To get the super-obvious part out of the way, if you’re white, keep the N-bomb out of it. That said, this is an all-timer that pretty much everyone knows all the words to. Bonus points if you can get the entire crowd to shout “WE WANT PRENUP!”
6. The B-52’s – “Love Shack”
You need a group for this one, but it’s pretty much guaranteed to go over well. One thing I’ve learned from experience: doing a Fred Schneider impression is actually really easy. Maybe even easier than doing Shatner.
7. Outkast – “Hey Ya”
Fun songs are fun. Nobody does fun better than Outkast, and well, nobody does most things as well as Outkast. When you get to “Shake it like a Polaroid pictuuuuure,” don’t be surprised if everyone around you has stopped paying attention to your singing and has begun to do just that.
8. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps”
But sad songs can be fun, too, in the right mood. This one is the rare indie jam that has fully crossed over. After a breakup, belting this one out can be quite cathartic. Just don’t be surprised if by the end, the whole crowd is singing along with you.
9. Def Leppard – “Pour Some Sugar on Me”
We’ve already covered the quintessential arena rock karaoke tune; this is the all-time classic for hair metal. There’s just something about the line “do you take sugar/one lump or two?” that always gets a crowd riled up.
10. Beastie Boys – “Fight for Your Right”
Everyone loves (and misses) the Beastie Boys, and while one could argue that their later work holds more artistic value, there’s a reason why people keep coming back to this one: it’s just really, really fun. Plus, this one is a perfect opportunity to try out your best ultra-nasally Ad-Rock impression.
11. Kid Rock – “Cowboy”
Alright look, no one wants to admit they like Kid Rock; he hasn’t been cool since…ever. But deep down, whether you want to admit it or not, you know this song is pretty awesome. More importantly, it translates perfectly to the karaoke stage. It’s not particularly hard to rap, and chances are, you’ll get a bunch of people to join who will swear they did so ironically, but come on, we know better.
12. Quad City DJs – “Come on N Ride It (The Train)”
I can’t empirically prove that this is the best song of all-time, I just know it to be true. Michelle, Tamika, and Tanya wanna ride this train, and who can blame them?
13. Taylor Swift – “Shake It Off”
Sure, this is a painfully obvious choice, but come on, this song was made for karaoke. There’s no particularly high notes, so it’s really hard to screw up, and there’s so many opportunities to get the crowd to chant along. If a bunch of scientists got together in a lab and tried to create the perfect karaoke song, this is what they’d come up with. Actually, I think that really is how this song came to be…
14. The Proclaimers – “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”
Because deep down, we all just want to do our best fake Scottish accent. Why do you think there were so many Shrek sequels?
15. Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle”
Let’s be honest; none of us would have made it through middle school without this one. And hey, what better way to relive some repressed teen angst than singing in front of dozens of people who went through the same thing?