As far as we are here at painting Missed live music in the midst of the pandemic has been another devastating cultural loss to our daily lives: the shutdown of karaoke. Concerts were the best way for us to connect with our favorite artists, but karaoke is the way we really relate to our favorite songs. Whether at a solo mic on stage in a quaint, sparsely populated bar or packed into a room with dozens of our closest and liveliest of friends, karaoke has given pop fans the opportunity not only to celebrate these tunes but to crawl inside, becoming an essential part of them. Throw in an uninterrupted music video on the cheap, a pitcher of local beer and a tambourine, and any random Thursday night downtown can turn into the most sublime music experience of the entire year.
With karaoke finally back in full effect – and please, keep practicing safe singing, all of you – painting I wanted to celebrate an art form that has given us countless examples of incomparable joy and similarly unparalleled hangovers over the years. Today, we present our list of the 100 best karaoke songs of all time, a compilation of road-tested classics that you can find in most karaoke songbooks that are guaranteed to set the room on fire. (And if not, that’s almost certainly the room’s fault.) In addition to our staff’s hard-earned wisdom, gleaned through decades of trial and error in the empty orchestra, we’ve called on some of the ring owners – karaoke knights, bartenders, and landlords from all over the world. Country – for their expert reviews that heard it all, which you’ll find scattered throughout our list.
So what makes a great karaoke song? Well, there certainly is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question – classical singing for some is a forced bathroom break for others, and top performers can make a controversial choice seem as easily inspired as a lackluster performer does. Flop with a choice not to be missed. Moreover, the most beloved pop artists aren’t always the safest to go karaoke: our list contains plenty of single-hit wonders and top 40 curiosities, but no songs for obvious icons like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Prince and Maria Carey, Justin Bieber, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Christina Aguilera, Guns N’ Roses or Rihanna. Some are missing because their vocals are too difficult or incomparable, some because they don’t have that karaoke song that beats the rest, others just because 100 is a small number and I felt it would be more appropriate to use the room for artists like 4 Non Blondes and Biz Markie, who still His presence in karaoke is eternal despite being associated with one song.
Anyway, look at our list and similar characteristics will emerge: for the most part, our favorite karaoke songs are familiar, accessible, simple without being predictable, and remind us of a specific time and place without being hopelessly stuck there. Most importantly, they all sound great in high volume and questionable tone, and they all invite you to join in the fun with them. Here are our picks for 100 real timers—with a little help from our friends in the industry—and please, feel free to pick up that spare mic still sitting on your speaker. We can always use help with harmonies and support vocals.
Additional reporting by Katie Atkinson, Katie Payne, Hannah Dailey Johnson, Jessica Nicholson, Danielle Pascual, Jessica Ruiz and Kristen Werthman.