Random Pop Culture Question of the Week
Ideal Karaoke Songs
the Staff
Random Pop Culture Question of the Week is a bi-weekly journey into the headspace of the Review to Be Named gang, in which a pop-culture question is posed, answers are sought, and discussions are generated about issues and hypotheticals from throughout the realm of pop culture.

This week's question comes from our own Rachel, who asked,
It's Friday night. You're surrounded by friends, all glowy in the amber haze of some heavy drinking. And suddenly you find yourself up on stage at a delightfully stereotypical dive karaoke bar. Assuming that the catalog has everything you could ever dream of and that you're actually capable of carrying a tune, what song do you choose for your moment in the spotlight?


This question could not come at a more perfect time for me. By the time this article runs on Saturday, I will be on my way to my cousin's birthday party, where we will be karaoke-ing. So I should already have an answer in place. But its me, so I don't. When perusing a catalogue for the available songs, I tend to be disappointed with the selection; ideally I enjoy picking a deep cut from a favorite artist, both because many of my favorite songs are deep cuts and because the fewer people in the bar that know the song, the less likely it is that anyone will recognize how badly I'm butchering it.

I'm a lyrics man by trade, and if I'm drunk enough to be singing karaoke (I love singing, but I'm terrible at it, so I only do so in public when I have been drinking fairly heavily) chances are I'm going to be looking for a more introspective or even morose selection. Last time I went karaoke-ing, I tried to find Jackson Browne's "The Pretender." That didn't work out so well, and I ended up doing a pretty decent version of "Doctor My Eyes" instead (that song serves as one of my unofficial theme songs, as I am incapable of crying. Clever, right?). Failing that, I always love to belt out Elton John's vastly underrated classic "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters." If that didn't work out, there's always Elvis Costello's "Satellite," which contains some of my favorite lyrics of all time (but is too obscure to ever be found outside of this ideal karaoke bar Rachel has dreamed up, so maybe "She" is more realistic). Maybe I'd even take a stab at Talking Heads' "Heaven," a personal favorite that would also characterize the ideal mood to be singing karaoke in.

If I happen to be in an incredibly upbeat mood, which seems like a less fun way to go karaoke-ing to my mind, and we assume as Rachel suggested that I can carry a tune, I would probably pick the place up with The Who's "Baba O'Reilly" (I defy you to not get pumped listening to that song), Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" (which is a great soundtrack to the beginning of an evening), or, if I'm feeling particularly ambitious R.E.M.'s "It's The End of The World As We Know It" (a song I actually do know all the words to, but can rarely do justice unless I have somehow consumed the perfect mixture of liquors). Also, because COME ON, let's throw in Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love" for good measure. Because "White Rabbit" is probably making someone jump off a roof, thinking they're on acid.


Jesus-Karaoke-singing-Christ Jordan that's a long answer. I wish you hadn't picked a million songs and left some for the rest of us. I'll give two answers because one exists purely in a dream world where I have the memory of Raymond from "Rain Man". Yes, the lyrics are provided in karaoke, but with my dream song they would be of no help as the words would fly across the screen at an impossible rate. I am of course describing Outkast's masterpiece "B.O.B." also known by it's catchy chorus "Bombs Over Baghdad". Besides having awesome lyrics it's got a great hook with the chorus and it would be damn impressive to perform live. If I could pull it off I'd win karaoke. It's not a competition, but I'd still win. Also it has an awesome video:

But when talking about the real-world karaoke options the absolute pick for me is The Darkness' one hit wonder, "I Believe in a Thing Called Love." It passes the catchiness test and it has an insane vocal range which would be fun to drunkenly attempt. Shouting "Good Time!" before breaking out into an air guitar solo would make for the best/worst time one can imagine. It has to be bigger and bolder with karaoke. There's no place for sad bastard music in my book and "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" is pure catchy, wacky fun.


I am unabashedly going to pull a Jordan on this one, because every time I think I've come up with a definitive answer, I think of ten other options (props on "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters," Jordan....but if I tried to sing that in a karaoke setting I'd probably just start weeping).

Not so surprisingly, my karaoke go-tos correspond pretty well with my favorite songs in general. For instance, Tom Petty's "American Girl," because it is one of the greatest songs ever and everyone can get nice and rowdy during the chorus. Here I'm taking the opposite approach of Jordan. I lean towards songs that everyone knows, so that my drunken butchering is masked by the out of tune accompaniment of a bar full of my new best friends.

Another great option would be "P.Y.T" by Michael Jackson, because it's fun as hell and catchy as all get-up. And if I still had the vocal stamina I had in my junior high musical theater days (yes, that is indeed a thing that happened) I'd go with Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" or Florence + the Machine's "Dog Day's Are Over" for many of the same reasons. Or anything Disney, for that matter, particularly "I'll Make a Man Out of You" from Mulan. My sentimental pick would be "Spoonful" by Etta James, but I don't think that my drunken self would have the ability to really be that smart.

But, because my 20th birthday actually looked surprisingly like this hypothetical question, my final answer would probably have to be "Living on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi. Who doesn't love that song? I mean, come on, the belting on the chorus, the earnest crooning of the verses. This proves, of course, that you can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can't take the Jersey out of the girl.


I agree with Rachel on this one, I definitely want a song that everyone knows. I am not the singing in public type, I think the last time I did was during high school choir class. I need a song everyone will sing. And therefore drown out my terrible voice, or at least keep people too busy to laugh at me. Some of my first choices have already been listed, "American Girl" "Rolling in the Deep" and "Baba O'Riley" are definitely high up on the list.

I think, though, that in any drunken state I would choose "Faith" by George Michael. I love that song. Its the song that I start preforming in my living room while pretending my life is a movie. And trust me, it is as epic a dance number as Tom Cruise dancing in his socks to "Old Time Rock and Roll" in Risky Business, at least in my mind. (It is also similar to when they break out in song in 500 Days of Summer) "Faith" is a great karaoke song. Not only does everyone know it, but it has lots of fun stops and pauses allowing you to act it out and croon it dramatically. Any time I have a drink in me, I want to dance on stages, bar tops, tables, couches, really anything. And "Faith" is a good song to dance to.

The only other song I can think of picking is "Edge of Glory" by Lady Gaga, or "Hair" or really any of her songs. I love Lady Gaga, I think she is amazing. Whenever I put on an outfit that may be a little too scandalous, I always think of her crazy get-ups. Lady Gaga will definitely get my girls and my gays to sing along, even if the straight men in the room are slightly left out. I definitely think Gaga needs to be represented in this fantasy karaoke concert we are putting on.

If this were a true fantasy, then I definitely choose a Broadway song. "Out Tonight" from Rent has been my getting ready, dance-around-in-my-heels song for years. And "Defying Gravity" is equally amazing, but would be impossible for me to sing well, even in this fantasy. I don't think they would be my choice in a bar, but they are definitely my go to shower song. Which isn't singing in the shower basically just a private karaoke session?


Unlike Jordan, I tend to not want to make the audience introspective and uncomfortable, and tend toward a more upbeat choice of song. Morose just isn't the first that crosses my mind when stepping up in front of a crowd that I can only assume is hostile (or will be after one more Jaeger shot). I would rather keep the mob happy and pacified. Sue me, I'm weird like that.

I love Karaoke. I'm not claiming I can sing, but I love karaoke none the less. My usual go tos are any of the singles of the Killers' Hot Fuss, as they seem to be slightly in the area code of my admittedly limited vocal range. However if there is enough of a young crowd in the bar, I will bust out my standby: Sum 41's "Fat Lip." I am unashamed to say that I am a huge Sum 41 fan, and their insolent, in your face, catchy as hell anthem of summer could not be more fun to shout into a microphone. On the right night, with the right crowd, this song gets people moving and slurring out the lyrics right along with you, to say nothing of a very satisfying adrenaline rush.

However in a dream world with a dream catalogue and dreamy pipes, I might opt for something by the quirky, all too self aware Matches, perhaps "Between Halloweens" or "To Build A Mountain." Manfred Mann's "Blinded By The Light" would be fun just to see how long it would take the crowd to flip from bemusement to boredom during what is a very long song. I would love to try to get the whole bar shouting and fist pumping during the chorus of Eddie Money's "Take Me Home Tonight." But I think given the right place and a hefty amount of alcohol already consumed, I might attempt a rendition of Miley Cyrus's "Party In the USA." The song is both catchy and ridiculous enough to be fun, and who doesn't love a good spectacle (trust me, it will be when I throw in my pre-choreographed dance moves, and scream the last chorus death metal style),


First of all this is an absolute nightmare for me. I often wake up in cold sweats from having a dream that even remotely relates to me having to sing on stage. I'm getting nervous just typing this right now. There is really not much more that I loathe than having to sing karaoke.

However, I do quite enjoy watching karaoke. And by watching karaoke I mean I like drinking, and often the type of establishments that help me accomplish that goal also tend to have karaoke going on at some point in the night. So I guess you can call me a kind of de facto karaoke viewer, and not really an aficionado. But I think I am not alone in this category and I would venture a guess that quite a few, if not the majority, of the people listening to karaoke are there just to drink and have a good time. So from this perspective, no one wants to see you sing some "introspective or morose" selection. Save that for when you are in a more intimate setting and trying a last ditch effort to get laid. Even then I'm sure you can think of something better to do. Karaoke is about getting the crowd excited and involved. Its about camaraderie and nostalgia. It's not a time to show off your deep knowledge of music that no one has ever heard of. It's a time to stand next to a complete stranger and forming eternal bonds belting out "Hit Me Baby One More Time." So go sing "Bye, Bye, Bye", "Party In The USA", and "Don't Stop Believin'", and sing it like you mean it, because that's what we all came to see.

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Note from Rachel: Unfortunately, my brilliance is sometimes a finite resource. Send us your ideas for future installments of Random Pop Culture Question of the Week on twitter @reviewtobenamed (follow us here), or shoot us an e-mail at reviewtobenamed@gmail.com.
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