DJs Dish on the Best Karaoke Songs for Women and Men
The spotlight is on. The band starts to play. With the audience sitting in rapt attention, you hold up the microphone and start to sing . . . a special 12-minute cut of Hanson's "Mmmbop." The audience groans, because it's karaoke night at the bar, and that wasn't exactly the song they wanted to hear.
But what are the best karaoke songs for women or men to sing? To answer this and a few other curious questions, we surveyed 16 karaoke purveyors from around the country, including Brooklyn's Kings of Karaoke, Portland's Baby Ketten Karaoke, and Chicago's Trader Todd's. Below, we've listed some of the most-interesting results:
What are the best karaoke songs for women?
We asked "What karaoke songs that are typically sung by women get the best crowd reaction?" The answers were all over the board, but the most-common songs were "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morsette, "Just a Girl" by No Doubt, "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" by Whitney Houston, and "Shoop" by Salt-N-Pepa. Another common answer: "anything by Beyonce."
Kings of Karaoke DJ "The Wolf," who hosts heavy-metal karaoke at Brooklyn's Bar Matchless, had a slightly different take than the rest, recommending "anything Iron Maiden."
Other songs chosen: "You and I," Lady Gaga; "Call Your Girlfriend," Robyn; "Torn," Natalie Imbruglia; "Man, I Feel Like a Woman," Shania Twain
What are the best karaoke songs for men?
For the guys, two songs were mentioned multiple times. Four DJs highlighted R. Kelly's 2002 single "Ignition (Remix)." Precious Gorgeous from Brooklyn's Cobra Club called it "a staple," while DJ Thrillhaus of the Kings of Karaoke opined that "I might be sick to death of this song, but it will get a crowd going after some drinks."
Three DJs mentioned "Say It Ain't So" by Weezer, the second-most vote-getter and a song with a chorus that you can shout. Baby Ketten Karaoke's John Brophy didn't single out a specific song, but pointed to rap music and "Anything out of the ordinary done with enthusiasm i.e. opera, musicals, gender bending, etc."
Other songs chosen: "Everlong," Foo Fighters; "Mr. Brightside," The Killers; "Bye Bye Bye," NSYNC
What songs are you tired of hearing?
Then, we presented the DJs with a list of about 30 popular karaoke songs and asked which tunes they are tired of hearing. By far, the top song chosen (by 80% of respondents) was "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen. Apparently when that song comes on, the DJs feel like they're caught in a landslide, with no escape from reality.
Coming in second was Neil Diamond's sloppy sing-a-long anthem "Sweet Caroline," which was picked by slightly more than half of the DJs. In a tie for third, catching the ire of 47% of respondents, was the John Travolta–Olivia Newton John duet "Summer Nights" from Grease and Garth Brooks' bar anthem "Friends in Low Places. Perhaps those DJs are more into Chris Gaines?
The top-10 songs DJs are most tired of hearing:
1. "Bohemian Rhapsody," Queen
2. "Sweet Caroline," Neil Diamond
3. "Summer Nights," Grease
4. "Friends in Low Places," Garth Brooks
5. "Love Shack," B-52s
6. "What's Up," 4 Non Blondes
7. "I Want It That Way," Backstreet Boys
8. "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)," Backstreet Boys
9. "My Heart Will Go On," Celine Dion
10. "Islands in the Stream," Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton
What do the best karaoke performers do for love from the audience?
For this question, we presented the DJs with a list of tactics, gimmicks, and other strategies that we've seen from hotshot karaoke singers. We wanted to know which moves karaoke superstars use to get the crowd on their side. Dancing landed the top spot, with 75% of DJs admitting that cutting a rug on-stage was a suave move. Overly dramatic singing was close behind, and tied for second was asking the crowd to tip their bartenders, a savvy way to prove you're a total pro.
Some DJs wrote in their own answer. One entered "Energetic performances that are done with confidence," noting that this is "way more important than actual singing talent." And a few wrote that singers who play their own instruments tend to get great feedback from the audience.
What song tends to backfire on the singer?
Several DJs answered this with some form of "nothing, really," or didn't answer this questions at all. One DJ picked the bombastic Journey classic "Don't Stop Believin'," another said you might want to stay away from ballads in general, and DJ Thrillhaus highlighted "Semi-Charmed Life" by Third Eye Blind, saying, "usually some drunk bro thinks he knows the whole song and falls apart on the verses and embarrasses themselves." So if you're looking for easy karaoke songs for beginners, maybe stay away from those tunes.
Another common answer was that you have to get a feel for whether your audience wants to hear that song. "Not every dive bar wants to hear your musical track," DJ Thrillhaus said. DJ Tigerlilly of the Kings of Karaoke seemed to agree, saying, "If it's a metal bar, they get pissed if someone sings hip-hop or pop usually. If it's a hip-hop room, then metal is usually undesirable for people."
Other songs chosen: "Born in the USA," Bruce Springsteen; "Arms Wide Open," Creed; "Lose Yourself," Eminem; "anything Limp Bizkit"