Skip to content

The 36 Best Karaoke Songs for Totally Owning the Stage

Unsure what track to claim when it's your turn to hold the mic? Try out some of these tunes.

Few group activities are better than a raucous karaoke night with your friends, with everyone taking turns singing their hearts out, preferably while enjoying some snacks and perhaps a beverage or two. The only tricky part is looking through the giant book of songs or scrolling through page after page of digital codes and trying to decide what you should sing the next time it's your turn on the mic.

There are some general ground rules that any good karaoke singer should follow. Don't pick a song that's too long. "American Pie" is a great track, but does everyone really want to hear you and you alone cover Don McLean for almost 10 minutes? Similarly, you've got to keep an eye on the vibe. Jumping from genre to genre as each reveler sings whatever song they've chosen is part of the fun of karaoke, but if your friends are riding high after a bunch of upbeat pop songs, maybe don't pick a depressing dirge for the next track. Stick to pop music. It's all about reading the room.

But, as long as you follow some common-sense guidelines, it's hard to go too wrong with any karaoke performance, as long as your heart is in it. Still, deciding exactly what to pick can be tough, so with that in mind, here are 36 fantastic songs that will be surefire hits at your next karaoke experience. There are pop songs, classic rock anthems, hip-hop tracks, and even a few dazzling disco numbers in the mix. We've also broken the suggestions up into four categories, but don't let those categories dictate your choices too much. The most important thing about karaoke is having a good time.

RELATED: 22 Hit Songs Musicians Hate Playing Live.

The Best Karaoke Songs for Bad Singers

The best thing about Karaoke is also the worst thing about karaoke: Everybody needs to get up there and take a turn at the mic regardless of whether or not they're a good singer. Luckily, half of the trick is to be a confident singer—talent is secondary when it comes to a crowd-pleasing performance. Even so, some songs lend themselves to being sung by the pitch-challenged during a karaoke night. Here are some songs that just about anyone can belt out.

"I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by the Proclaimers

This 1988 track is a karaoke classic, and it's not actually that hard to cover, in large part because the Scottish duo behind the song are doing more of a fun chant than they are singing complex melodies. It's the sort of song one proclaims rather than sings. (Hey! That's the name of the group!) It's really easy and fun to get a little weird with "I'm Gonna Be" when you're performing it at a karaoke night, especially during the "da-da da da (da-da da da)" chorus.

"Short Skirt/Long Jacket" by Cake

"Short Skirt/Long Jacket" is another song that lends itself to being sung by singers of any level of talent because the lyrics, where Cake frontman John McCrea lays out what he's looking for in a dream girl, are almost spoken. It's hard to get "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" wrong as long as one commits to Cake's intense-but-silly bit.

"Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond

There are parts of Neil Diamond's 1969 rock classic that require some actual singing. But, the strongest argument for "Sweet Caroline" is that odds are that it won't matter. The song has become so ubiquitous at sporting events and weddings that it would almost sound wrong if a bunch of people weren't belting out the lyrics and screaming "BA BA BA" while being wildly, joyously off-key.

"Sweet Caroline" is the type of song where it's safe to bet that any mistakes you make will be covered up by the volume of everybody else singing along. It's a crowd favorite for a reason.

"Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen

"Bohemian Rhapsody" is another song that, as originally sung by Freddie Mercury, is complex. However, it's so well-known and features so many different styles within itself that you'd be hard-pressed to mess it up too badly while singing it at a karaoke night. You just gotta throw yourself into it with gusto, relishing at the parts where you can be a little silly, like chanting "HE'S JUST A POOR BOY FROM A POOR FAMILY."

"I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" by Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston was an immensely talented singer, but her 1987 song is such an infectiously exuberant classic that you don't need to have her pipes so long as you can give off even a fraction of the unbridled joy behind "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)."

"Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams

Sometimes the key to covering a song for karaoke night when you're not a good singer is to sidestep any attempt to show off non-existent musical chops and instead try to embody a persona. Bryan Adams' 1985 track "Summer of '69" is a great excuse to put a bunch of energy into being an over-the-top version of a classic rock icon. Really go for it—enthusiasm goes a long way.

RELATED: 11 "Romantic" Songs That Are Actually Offensive.

"Psycho Killer" by Talking Heads

There's an intentionally stilted manner to Talking Heads frontman David Byrne's delivery when he sings "Psycho Killer," and that detached, halting affect makes the 1977 song easier to cover on karaoke night. As with a lot of sneakily easy karaoke songs, it's more of an impression than a musical performance.

"Just a Friend" by Biz Markie

If we're being honest, Biz Markie, the late, great Clown Prince of Hip-Hop, isn't exactly doing a "good" job singing himself in his 1989 song "Just a Friend." He's warbling when he forces out the phrase "Oh baby youuuuu… You got what I neeEEeddd," which means you shouldn't care if your own voice cracks.

"Tequila" by The Champs

This is a karaoke trick that will work exactly one (1) time with any group of friends, and it's such an old gag, at least someone in your group will have surely seen it done before. But the full lyrics to The Champs' 1958 song "Tequila" consist of the word "tequila" three times. That's it. That's the whole song. Note that if you do choose to sing "Tequila" for karaoke night, you gotta make sure that you absolutely nail those three "Tequilas." They're the only words—you can't be coming in a beat late for them.

Best Karaoke Songs for Men

Karaoke song choices should never be limited by gender. Karaoke is as much about reinvention as it is about faithfully covering iconic songs (if not more so), so a gender-swapped karaoke song should be seen as an opportunity. That said, some songs naturally lend themselves to be covered by dudes. Here are a few of the best karaoke songs for men.

"Purple Rain" by Prince

Nobody—nobody—has the swagger that Prince had in his prime, but the fun part about karaoke is that you can pretend we do. Should you choose to sing his 1987 power ballad, you might seriously think about changing your own name to a symbol.

RELATED: Michael Jackson Said That Prince Was "Mean and Nasty" to Him.

"Sympathy for the Devil" by The Rolling Stones

One of the best parts of "Sympathy for the Devil," a cut from the Stones' 1968 album Beggars Banquet, is how devilishly (pun intended) it builds. There's an entire narrative arc in the way the delivery of the lyrics goes from coy to fiery and boastful, and if you think you've got moves like Jagger, chances are you can take your karaoke audience on one heck of a ride.

"Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard

Unleash your inner '80s rock god by selecting "Pour Some Sugar on Me," Def Leppard's 1987 song, the next time it's your turn at karaoke night. The chorus of this track is an all-timer, and it lends itself well to being belted out while friends cheer you on.

"Margaritaville" by Jimmy Buffett

So many popular karaoke songs are high-energy. Even the go-to ballads tend to be power ballads. Why not take things down a relaxing notch or two and waste away in Margaritaville by choosing to cover Jimmy Buffett's 1977 tropical soft-rock classic? (This is an even better choice if the karaoke bar serves margaritas, of course.)

"Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees

It takes a confident man with a confident (and high) voice to tackle the Bee Gees' seminal disco hit. It's mandatory to do your best impression of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever while performing "Stayin' Alive." Just singing the 1977 track is not enough.

"Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash

Short and sweet, Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" is an excellent choice to show off one's baritone pipes. The Man in Black's 1963 recording of the song was the biggest hit of his career, and it will be a hit at your next karaoke night, too.

RELATED: The 75 Best Songs with a Number in the Title.

"Mr. Brightside" by The Killers

The Killer's debut single, released in 2004, might just be the perfect karaoke song (though it is admittedly a bit more difficult to sing than many a wannabe would hope). With an iconic chorus and a fantastically strong opening ("Comin' out of my cage and I've been doin' just fine"), "Mr. Brightside" is a karaoke staple for a reason.

"Monster" by Kanye West, ft. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Bon Iver, and Nicki Minaj

Of all the Kanye West songs that could be chosen for a karaoke night, "Monster," from the album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, might be the best because it's the one with the most opportunities for crowd participation and it caters to a bunch of different styles. Ye's verse is bold and boasting, Jay-Z's verse is corny and silly, and Niki Minaj's verse is fire. (Yes, this song is in the section for "Best Karaoke Songs for Men," but that verse is too good to not shout out.)

Best Karaoke Songs for Women

Again, there's nothing wrong with a gender-swapped cover for karaoke, but there are some songs that more naturally lend themselves to a female vocalist.

"Dancing Queen" by ABBA

Experience all the lush joys of Europop at its finest by singing ABBA's 1976 disco song. It's a choice that won't have your friends saying "Mamma Mia, here we go again." (Although, come to think of it, that's a pretty good karaoke choice, too.)

"I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor

In addition to being a classic, powerful disco anthem, Gloria Gaynor's 1978 hit "I Will Survive" also tracks the feelings of being a little nervous to go up on stage and perform it for a karaoke night. At first, you might be afraid—you're petrified. But, then the music gets going and you'll realize you'll do more than just survive while proudly singing the lyrics. You'll be thriving.

RELATED: 7 Hit '70s Songs That Are Offensive by Today's Standards.

"Love Story" by Taylor Swift

Turn the karaoke machine into your own personal Eras Tour by singing "Love Story," the lead single from Taylor Swift's second album, Fearless. Your mileage may vary on whether or not it's her best single, but give or take a few 1989 cuts, it's probably the one best suited to being scream-sung during an exuberant karaoke session. "BABY JUST SAY YES!"

"Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson

Is "Since You've Been Gone" a near-perfect pop song? Yes. Can you sing it better than Kelly Clarkson did in 2004? Well, probably not, but that doesn't mean you won't bring down the house if you decide to cover this '00s classic at your next karaoke night.

RELATED: 7 Hit 2000s Songs That Are Offensive by Today's Standards.

"Party in the USA" by Miley Cyrus

It was a close call between "Wrecking Ball" or this 2009 banger as Miley Cyrus representation on this list, but the former really peaks with its powerful chorus, whereas "Party in the USA" has a great chorus and lots of fun singalong vignettes about "hopping out the plane at LAX" and references to other great artists. All it takes is singing this song to turn an average karaoke night into a party (in the USA).

"Downtown" by Petula Clark

Petula Clark sang the definitive version of "Downtown" in 1964, but the beauty of this oft-covered song is that its meaning can totally change depending on how the singer delivers the lyrics. Is going downtown, where "you can forget all your troubles," a wonderful escape or a sad illusion? Depending on the day you've had before karaoke night, the way you sing will decide what this song's really about.

"These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" by Nancy Sinatra

Ideally, you'd be wearing boots when you step onto the stage to cover Nancy Sinatra's 1965 classic, but it really doesn't matter what your footwear is, so long as you're exuding confidence when you sing.

"Rolling in the Deep" by Adele

Choosing to sing a song by Adele takes a certain amount of hubris, as the English singer's pipes are famously powerful. Picking "Rolling in the Deep," her 2001 breakout song, as your karaoke selection is setting a challenge for yourself, and if you live up to the assignment it will be a karaoke night to remember.

"Let It Go" by Idina Menzel

It's hard to go wrong with a Disney song. Yes, it's a childish throwback, but everybody knows them, and everybody (who has a heart) loves them. "Let It Go," the show-stopping number from Frozen, is one of the more vocally impressive Disney songs in recent memory, and it also works as a standalone song better than some other great Disney tracks. You can sing "Let It Go" and have people appreciate the song; if you're singing "Friend Like Me," people are going to be thinking about Aladdin. Not that there's a problem with that, but "Let It Go" slots better into a karaoke playlist.

"A Thousand Miles" by Vanessa Carlton

Everyone at your karaoke party will lose their minds before you even sing a note when Vanessa Carlton starts tickling the ivories on the iconic opening piano riff of "A Thousand Miles."

(This track is also a great choice if you want to one-up somebody else's choice of The Pretenders' "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)," which we saw earlier on this list. It's twice as many miles!)

Best '90s Karaoke Songs

Here are some karaoke songs that '90s kids will remember—and everyone will love. Enjoy throwbacks to the last halcyon days of the 20th century with these songs that are all that and a bag of chips.

"I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys

Unless you've got four friends you can perfectly harmonize with while you're up there on the karaoke stage, the original Backstreet Boys will probably have the edge on you. But, if you really put your heart into it, the crowd will go nuts anyway. They'll think that Backstreet's back. (Alright!)

"Wannabe" by the Spice Girls

"Wannabe," the Spice Girls' 1996 hit, is a fantastic karaoke song, especially if you can get your friends to sing it with you. You'll just have to decide amongst yourselves who is Scary Spice, who is Sporty Spice, and so on.

"…Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears

Britney Spears' debut single made her a mega-star, and it will do the same for you if you crush "…Baby One More Time" up there behind the mic. For extra points, try to mimic as many of Spears' moves from the iconic music video as you can when you're up there.

RELATED: The 65 Best Cover Songs of All Time.

"Genie in a Bottle" by Christina Aguilera

There's a lot going on in Christina Aguilera's breakout single in a way that's just so '90s, meaning any ambitious singer will have a lot of opportunities to put little flourishes on "Genie in a Bottle." (Gen-Zers might also know this song from Dove Cameron's popular 2016 cover that she did for The Descendants.)

"Wonderwall" by Oasis

Though perhaps better known as a song that some guy with a guitar will start playing around any bonfire, Oasis' 1995 single "Wonderwall" is a karaoke classic, too. If you nail the memorable opening lyric—"Today is gonna be the day that they're gonna throw it back to you"—then you're gonna be in great shape for the rest of the performance.

"All Star" by Smash Mouth

Smash Mouth's big hit was made even more famous (or infamous, your mileage may vary) by its use in Shrek, and the key to knocking it out of the park comes down to how much of yourself you throw into the delivery of "someBODY once told me…" as the song kicks off. Just remember: all that glitters is gold, and only shooting stars break the mold.

"Barbie Girl" by Aqua

With love and respect to Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig, Barbie was a pop sensation in the '90s before she was the biggest movie of 2023. "Barbie Girl" is an incredible chance to have fun behind the karaoke mic—especially if you invite a friend or two to back you up on vocals for the "come on Barbie let's go party" refrain.

"Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of…)" by Lou Bega

"Mambo No. 5" is a perfect karaoke song, because having the lyrics up there on the screen frees you from having to memorize all of Lou Bega's various women. (For the record: Monica, Erica, Rita, Tina, Sandra, Mary, and Jessica.) In addition to being a '90s classic, "Mambo No. 5" isn't especially hard to sing, making it a decent choice for the vocally challenged and shy.

"Will You Be There" by Michael Jackson

There are other, better-known songs by the King of Pop that would be hits at any karaoke night, but if you're going for a '90s throwback, it's basically impossible to beat "Will You Be There," also known as "the Free Willy theme song." Choose it, and watch everybody you're with suddenly flash back to that lovable killer whale while you go nuts with all of MJ's little vocal flourishes and tics.

James Grebey
James has been an entertainment journalist for more than a decade, writing and editing for outlets like Vulture, Inverse, Polygon, TIME, The Daily Beast, SPIN Magazine, Fatherly, and more. Read more
Filed Under