If you're brave enough to step up to the mic, you're already doing great, but picking the right karaoke song could make the night even more memorable. You don't need a great voice to knock it out of the park (though it helps), so try selecting something funny (“Love Shack”), romantic (“Let's Stay Together”), heart-warming (“Stand by Me”), epic, joyous or sentimental to sing—either by yourself or with a duet partner. We've assembled a list of the best karaoke songs ever, from raucous party songs you can sing while tipsy to tender love songs for serenading your boo. Find a karaoke bar, grab the mic, knock back your drink and prepare to belt out one of these surefire hits.
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1. “Purple Rain” by Prince
Now that our patron saint of frilly-bloused, pan-erotic, disco-rock-sex-funk has sadly shuffled off this mortal coil, his signature slow jam can serve as much as a tribute as a “let's-slow-things-down” showpiece in your karaoke rep. If it's not too lofty to put that pressure on what is—let's face it—a mostly frivolous activity, a karaoke run at “Purple Rain” might even lift some spirits. Sung in a gracious middle key (Eb, as the preview screen, helpfully reminds you) rather than Prince's frequent falsetto squeal, it should allow you to bare your soul without any embarrassing high-register mishaps.
2. “Like a Prayer” by Madonna
Madonna takes sex to the church in the title track of her 1988 album. Even stripped of its cross-burning video, the song is plenty inflammatory enough in its conflation of religious fervor and fellatio. (“When you call my name it’s like a little prayer / I’m down on my knees, I wanna take you there.”) Whatever mix of piety and lust you bring to your own version, the important thing is to get the whole room to sing and clap along as your choir at the end, as you preach the passion of Madge.
3. “Private Eyes” by Hall & Oates
While the Philadelphia duo has been retroactively, ironically embraced for their perceived cheesiness, the strength of Hall & Oates's diamond-sharp songwriting remains unassailable. The group's successful blend of R&B, Soul, and New Wave, plus a knack for lithe, buoyant melodies led to massive commercial and critical success during the '70s and '80s. They racked up six number-one singles during their glory days, giving us a lot to choose from, but the insistent, bouncy groove, smooth-as-silk harmonies and indispensable handclaps make “Private Eyes” the clear favorite.
4. “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye
Nothing gets a room all worked up like Marvin Gaye's quintessential call to—and for—action. The arrangement throws some curveballs, eschewing a traditional verse-chorus structure in favor of a relaxed jam where Marvin can let loose with sultry riffs and primal howls, but a brave performer can use that to their advantage. Impress by inhabiting every provocative coo and rasp as they were recorded, or throw caution where your three sheets are and take off in your own direction. Either way, your chances of leaving the bar alone just decreased by 100%.
5. “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
It’s easy to see why this tune from the 2018 remake of A Star Is Born quickly became a karaoke staple. For one, it’s a rare contemporary duet, allowing you and a friend (or lover) to channel your inner Bradley Cooper or Lady Gaga. The country-tinged ballad is also packed with enough romantic melodrama that you can perform it earnestly or ironically. Before you grab the mic, don’t forget to turn to your partner and say, “All you gotta do is trust me.”
6. “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys
Lurking behind the shimmery Nordic production of this megahit is a great soul ballad. The lyrics are famously nonsensical, owing to Swedish producer and songwriter Max Martin's tenuous grasp of English, but poetry's beside the point when you've got one of pop music's catchiest choruses. Kevin Richardson—BSB's “The Old One”—perceptively nailed the song's appeal with his assessment: "There are a lot of songs out there that don't make sense but make you feel good when you sing along to them, and that's one of them." Couldn't think of a better karaoke endorsement than that.
7. “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen
There’s something about an Americana ode to blue-collar youth that makes for a surefire karaoke classic, and no one knows this better than the Boss. Released in 1975, this song was his first charting single, the one that laid the foundation for decades of battered blue jeans and working-class anthems. And all these years later, a well-delivered “Tramps like us / Baby we were born to run” will still slay a crowd.
8. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston
Whitney's 1987 smash remains an invigorating blast of lovelorn pop glory, her powerful, agile voice soaring effortlessly over spritely synths and funk-syncopated guitar. The whole thing makes the achingly lonely search for a dance floor soulmate sound like the best Friday night ever. Of course, nobody's alone at karaoke. Especially if you nail that third-act key change.
9. “Love Shack” by the B-52’s
There is a great tradition in pop of pairing seductive female voices with weird dudes who just talk. It dates back to Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, and Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, running to its acrobatic and strange extreme with the Sugarcubes. I suppose you could throw "Drunk in Love" in that category, too. The B-52s are the ultimate example of this. All those who can't carry a tune in a wheelbarrow, you should thank your drunk stars for the karaoke salvation of Fred Schneider's sprechstimme. You might need a couple of ringers on stage to help with the Kate and Cindy parts of this 1989 chorus, but they'll never steal the spotlight from your sassy barking.
10. “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson
The simple chord progression and the restrained vocals at the beginning of Clarkson’s 2004 hit make for one of the greatest buildups to a powerhouse chorus is pop music. Sing this in front of a room full of strangers and the whole lot will be scream-belting, “But since you’ve been gone, I can breathe for the first time!” Don’t worry though—you’ll likely get your chance to shine solo again come to the verses.