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Thirteen Song Recommendations For Anyone Singing Karaoke
The first song I ever sang at karaoke was Matchbox 20’s “Push.” In the years since I’ve—with varying degrees of success—performed songs by Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Frank Sinatra, Queen, and beyond. Certain songs were flops—such as “Steal My Kisses” by Ben Harper—whereas others I performed frequently enough to attain a degree of mastery and innovation while performing them. Many songs on this list fall into this category; however, a few of them—most notably “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes—I haven’t performed nearly as often. There is, unfortunately, only so much time to sing karaoke, as well as only so much singing I can do in a single night.
As relayed in a previous hub, I have a low voice. I’m definitely an alto, and, since I don’t have a large vocal range, there are many songs which I cannot sing effectively. I’ve always admired any karaoke singer who is able to pull off songs by Mariah Carey or Carrie Underwood, but, alas, I have avoided singing songs by these and many other artists.
Every song on this list is traditionally performed solo. This doesn’t mean you cannot sing this song with another person or persons. In fact, some of my favorite moments from listening to karaoke have involved groups of people singing songs which weren’t officially duets. Years ago I remember being divinely entertained by a trio of young men who sang the song “Man Of Constant Sorrow.” In addition, I’ve enjoyed joining people for their songs or being joined by someone else in the middle of my song. Part of what I love about karaoke is how such moments occur spontaneously and typically enhance the experience.
I strongly suggest that you practice the song you want to sing before reaching your karaoke bar of choice. I’ve failed to do this on a number of occasions, and the results were often abominable (or, depending on the audience, vaguely amusing). Typically you can find videos on YouTube with song lyrics. If this fails, many songs lyrics can be found on the internet.
One example of a YouTube video with accompanying song lyrics
This list inevitably reflects my bias toward older songs. I grew up listening to oldies such as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and James Taylor. Also, as a teenager I thought Queen was one of the best bands on the planet. For these reasons and others—in some cases the latest Billboard hits weren’t available to sing—I have often performed older songs.
The first song I recommend is “All That Jazz” from the musical “Chicago.” I generally love show tunes, and I was delighted to discover that this song fits my vocal range almost perfectly. Also, it is a song which requires a lot of sass, and is therefore best sung when I have the most moxie. The one main drawback of this song is that it has a long instrumental introduction. At such moments I often don’t know what to do with myself while I am holding the microphone, yet this song is such a winner overall I am willing to endure the period of silence.
Patsy Cline’s “Walkin' After Midnight” is another song I recommend. I’ve performed her song “Crazy” more often than this one, yet this song holds a special place in my heart because I performed it after spending the better part of an afternoon singing it to my young niece while babysitting. This song is fairly straightforward and easy to follow; also, it has the benefit of not being overly long.
As a teenager one of my favorite songs was “We Are The Champions” by Queen. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I have mightily enjoyed performing this tune. This song I typically sing when I am feeling too mellow to belt out “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen. Curiously, I have never tried to sing Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” even though I have watched others perform this classic tune numerous times.
I really like this cover of "Imagine"
John Lennon’s “Imagine” is an excellent song to sing if I want a song which is average length, low-key, and affecting. Under normal circumstance, I am likely to choose at the beginning of an evening at my karaoke bar of choice. Also, it is a song the audiences I’ve performed for generally respond favorably to. While I don’t select my song options based solely on whether or not I think the audience will appreciate my selection, I like to keep them in mind when deciding what to sing.
Jeff Buckley’s version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is another song I like to perform when I am in a more relaxed mood. This song, while longer than most songs on this list, suits my vocal range. Also, it is typically well-received by the audiences I have performed for, and this inspires me to sing it adeptly.
“Don’t Pull Your Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank, & Reynolds is a song I first discovered at karaoke when someone else performed it. Immediately I knew I wanted to learn to sing this song, and, in due time, I was able to provide a decent performance of this song. This song is one which I often sing when I am in an even-keel, yet not overly relaxed, mood.
“Walking In Memphis” by Marc Cohn is a favorite song of mine to sing along to in my car. Since it suits my vocal range decently well, it’s not surprising that I’ve performed this at karaoke. I like the faster pace of this song. Also, since it was a hit in 1991, this song is often familiar to at least a few members of the audience.
Cher's cover of "Walking In Memphis"
I enjoy this cover of "Me and Bobby McGee"
Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” is a song I’ve performed on numerous occasions. This song, if I am to perform it well, requires that I am feeling spunky and even feisty. In addition, my voice must be relatively fresh. Not surprisingly, this is virtually always a crowd pleaser which I love to sing. I also, as it were, appreciate watching other singers attempt this song.
Nickel Creek is a bluegrass band I’ve enjoyed for many years. Twice I’ve seen them perform live, and I own many of their songs. Their song “The Lighthouse’s Tale” is one I’ve performed at karaoke. This song is relatively slow paced, and this is one reason I favor this over many of their other songs. Also, this song is high enough that it poses a moderate challenge. In other words, it compels me to stretch vocally. Finally, I think the message of this song is beautiful, and this is an added bonus.
I’ve enjoyed listening to (and singing along to) songs by The Eagles for years. As noted in a previous hub, I have performed their hit “Desperado” many times. I’ve also performed their song “Seven Bridges Road” several times. This song is more vocally challenging than “Desperado” overall; however, the inviting lyrics and extra challenge is one reason I will occasionally sing this song instead of “Desperado.”
“You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes is one of the faster-paced songs in this list. Depending on my mood, I like songs which I must stay on my toes in order to perform well. Also, the fact that this song is average length without any significant breaks between the lyrics are two added perks.
I like the Dixie Chick's cover of "You Can't Hurry Love"
Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away” is a song worth performing. This song is fairly accessible; in other words, it doesn’t require overly fast singing or a large vocal range. I like the fact this song requires a touch of soul to sing properly; I also appreciate the fact it isn’t overly long and can be sung effectively when I am in a variety of moods.
Finally, “What’s Up” by 4 non blondes is a song I recommend singing at karaoke. This song includes the refrain “What’s Going On,” and you may think this is what the song is called since this line appears numerous times. I’m drawn to this song because it suits my voice; moreover, it has a philosophical, existentially angst-ridden quality. Because of this particular quality, I find I perform this song best when I am feeling at odds with life.