From its humble origins in the hostess clubs and snack bars of 1970s Japan to the $10 billion industry it’s become, karaoke has gained a legion of devotees hooked on the fun of singing on stage. And while singing along in the shower is fine when no one’s there to hear you, it’s tough to be discovered — or torture your friends — depending on goals.
But to wow the crowd with karaoke, it helps to know what songs work best in the format. So we put together a few things to look out for when it’s your turn to take the stage and pick the song that’ll make you a star, even if it’s just for a few minutes in a local bar.
Sing-ability is Key
Many amateurs taking the stage in a karaoke bar — that’s you — have, shall we say, limited vocal range. So, it’s probably best to choose a song that won’t challenge your voice box too much. Sure, we all love Whitney Houston, but there’s a reason she’s considered one of the greats, and that’s because she can actually hit those long, high notes on “I Will Always Love You.” Unless you’re confident in your commensurate abilities, you may wish to choose something a little less challenging. If you aren’t sure you can pull off Orville Peck‘s soaring vocals on “The Curse of the Blackened Eye,” try a song like “Ring of Fire” from country legend Johnny Cash instead, who Peck cites as a key influence, and whose deep timbre will flatter even the most limited of ranges.
Singers known for their voices often choose songs that challenge their abilities and show off their talent. Instead of choosing a Freddy Mercury hit like “We Are the Champions,” with its soaring phrases and elongated notes, consider artists known more for their songwriting. The Beatles, Bon Jovi, Lizzo, KC and the Sunshine Band, ABBA, and Madonna all are artists known more for their songcraft than their vocal prowess.
Energy is Essential
Another key feature of the perfect karaoke song is energy, both in the song itself and in the singer’s performance. A slower, more intimate song will have a harder time exciting the audience, while a song with a lively beat and dynamic rhythm will have a better chance at success. So if there’s a choice, going for raucous barn burners or party tunes over soft, slow ballads is a good rule of thumb. That means maybe try One Direction‘s “What Makes You Beautiful” over their more subdued “Little Things.” Other good examples of fun karaoke tunes that most anyone will know include Pink‘s “Get the Party Started,” Beyoncé‘s “Break My Soul,” and The Weeknd‘s “Blinding Lights.”
But emphasizing energy also means that you want to bring energy to your own performance. A half-hearted performance is guaranteed to underwhelm, so once on stage, go ahead and belt it out. Your audience will love the boldness.
Audience Engagement for the Win
Another surefire way to leave your karaoke audience wanting more is to choose songs that everyone knows and loves. And while it’s easy enough to look for recent hits, sometimes bringing out a lost classic can be a good strategy. And don’t be shy about leaning into the goofiness of some songs — you’d be surprised at how many people might actually start singing “Livin’ La Vida Loca” right alongside you. One-hit wonders like Psy‘s “Gangnam Style” and Los Del Rio‘s “Macarena” are also legends of the genre, and we’ll bet more people will remember these earworms than even hit songs from last year.
Another way to earn some audience engagement is to bring the audience up on stage with you! Whether it’s your best friend lending moral support or a whole group of you recreating the Backstreet Boys, turning your performance into a duet or group sing-along can take the pressure off you and provide a chance for some crowd-pleasing interplay. The Sonny and Cher ’70s classic duet, “I Got You Babe,” is a standard for this kind of interaction, while BLACKPINK‘s “Lovesick Girls” is a great choice for a group singalong.
Check Out a Playlist
On Deezer you’ll find playlists of top karaoke hits, so you can warm up and try out some numbers at home. You can even choose to show lyrics to your song selections right there onscreen, so you’ll never miss a word.
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