Karaoke: a word that strikes joy and terror equally in people's hearts. It can wake the rock star within, make loved ones cringe, and cause people to hide under the table for fear of getting dragged up onstage.
But picking the right song is just as important as being able to sing it. "A great karaoke song must have three components," said David Jacobson, founder and CEO of live entertainment provider TrivWorks.
"One, the entire audience — not just the performer — must know it," he said. "Two, it must be a fun or interesting song — upbeat is great, but it doesn't have to be. And three, it must resonate emotionally with those in the room — preferably by evoking joy, laughter or what takes us nostalgically back to our youth."
And so, to hopefully get you grabbing the mic in no time, here are five ideal karaoke tunes that should fit any room, courtesy of the experts. Don't stop believin'!
"Don't Stop Believin'," Journey
"Hugely popular, everyone knows it, ideal for full-room singing," said Jacobson. "Also nostalgic, emotive and just a blast to sing!"
"Conga," Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine
"People like familiarity, so a great karaoke song is a well-known classic or a current Top 40 tune," said Martise Moore, an author and regular at Backstage, her local Culver City, California karaoke bar. "It's about creating and sharing an experience."
"Careless Whisper," by Wham! featuring George Michael
"I love 'Careless Whisper' because from the very first note people know what song it is," says Kyle Monson, partner at marketing agency Codeword, who hits up his New York City karaoke bars on Thursday nights. "The song should be fun to listen to, or if it's a sad song it needs to be so over-the-top dramatic that it becomes a fun song."
"I Love You Always Forever," Donna Lewis
"It's the perfect combination of a good, once-omnipresent hit song that people have kind of forgotten about," says Brad Nelson, producer of Queens, New York club QED's "Every Now and Then I Fall Apart," a reading series that features karaoke. "I personally can't hit any of the notes in the bridge, but everyone sings along so it doesn't matter."
"It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)," R.E.M
"It's upbeat, fast-paced, most people know and like it, everyone can sing the chorus but not everyone can sing the rest," says Jacobson. "If you've got somebody who's memorized the lyrics, like me, it can make it a truly fun and unique experience for the whole room."
Finally, a few general words of advice: Look for a big chorus with harmonies, and a call-and-response from the audience. And avoid torch ballads, sad country tunes and rap, which rarely work, advises Monson.
"And let someone else sing 'Summer of '69' and 'Total Eclipse of the Heart,'" he adds. "You're better than that."
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