Author and karaoke extraordinare Harold Taw was kind enough to compile a selection of his karaoke favorites (from Beck to Van Morrison to Kool and The Gang) for every occasion--and a few to be sure to avoid. You can read Harold's comments on select tracks below, or use our custom MP3 playlist to sample and download your favorite tracks, and read Harold's notes on even more karaoke classics.
If you follow a few, simple rules--don’t scream into the mic; don’t get all Janet Jackson "The Pleasure Principle" with a chair; don’t shove your scribbled request slip at the KJ’s backside while s/he’s cuing up a song--you’ll find that no crowd welcomes newcomers more warmly than the one at a neighborhood karaoke bar. Yes, soused but discriminating karaoke audiences will always go wild for the next Ella Fitzgerald, but they also adore the next Kermit the Frog. Earnestness counts. Here are a few a few songs for your next karaoke adventure, whether your aims are amatory or celebratory. --Harold Taw
Best Songs for Newcomers
"Don’t You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds
You’d have to be tone deaf and suffering from auditory hallucinations to screw this song up. The sheet music for the vocals reads, “monotone.” But it’s a great song and gets extra credit for its association with Molly Ringwald.
"With or Without You" by U2
Any pre-Fly U2 song is a winner, but most demand a vocal range that trips up newbies. This song is the exception. Like Bono swinging the guitar in the music video, you don’t have to do much to look good here. It’s as complex as an Adam Clayton bass line (dum-dum-dum-DUM-DUM-DUM).
"Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison
This song’s so well-written that Krusty the Clown could sing lead vocals and it would still sound great. The only real downside is that you’re likely to hear it several times before the night is through.
Best Karaoke Pick-Up Songs
"Honesty" by Billy Joel
Let’s face it, if you’re in a karaoke bar late on a weeknight, even with a group of friends, you’ve got no one to spoon at home. Then a guy or gal ascends the stage to explain why you’re both so darned lonely: “Everyone is so untrue” (except for the two of you).
"Constant Craving" by k.d. lang
If you’ve ever been to a k.d. lang concert and feared you would be trampled by women with really big key chains, you know this song is a favorite with the ladies. She’s debonair and profound... maybe her coolness can, through association, rub off on you.
"Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac
A hat tip to Brian Raftery, author of Don’t Stop Believin’: How Karaoke Conquered the World and Changed My Life, because I was skeptical about this selection. I’m an enormous Stevie Nicks fan--a "Night Of A Thousand Stevies," Welsh-witch-level fanatic--so the thought of a karaoke performer attempting to replace the 20th Century’s sexiest voice and hair with his or her own kind of pissed me off. Then I tried it. The startled looks and spontaneous applause meant Brian was right.