Few among us were born to be music stars, but every one of us has the power to deliver an arresting stage performance – whether by a surprisingly apt voice, a passionate (if talentless) delivery or an actual arrest for doing something lewd and illegal. Such is the power of karaoke. But you shouldn’t have to thumb through some obscenely long book for 45 minutes to decide what to croon. Here are five hit selections that will ignite your legend at almost any karaoke bar you can find.
Live – ‘Lightning Crashes’
Live started the unfortunate tradition of 90’s post-grunge bands with long-haired, muscular singers who always sound like they’re lifting an armoire (see: Scott Stapp of Creed). This should make them unforgivable, but ‘Lightning Crashes’ is still an excellent karaoke song. Why? Because it creeps up on an audience. One second you’re nursing a warm PBR and talking about Degrassi over some light murmuring in the background and the next, you whip your head around to hear someone screaming about a placenta. It’s a magic moment.
George Michael – ‘Careless Whisper’
Nowhere in the realm of cheesy pop ballads will you find a sax solo that speaks to a crowd of inebriates better than this one. And it’s really the only part that everyone cares about anyway, so if you completely bomb the vocal portion, you’ll still be off the hook. There is a bonus for emerging flustered from a public restroom before your performance, but it is not required. Be advised, this works much better around closing time than it does with the after-work crowd.
Bon Jovi — ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’
Inevitably, this is going to attract a group of douchebags who pass the mike back and forth, including Guy Who Just Drinks in the Background. But it’s still goddamn charming, and I don’t know why. It might be because the chorus – “On a steeeeel horse I riiiiiiiiiiide” – is such an exquisite blend of Doc Holliday and Yoda.
Heart – ‘Magic Man’
If you’re going to try this as a dude, make sure there’s nobody in the bar that you could even conceivably want to sleep with at some point in your life. I once had to live through an 8 a.m. capstone class knowing at least 15 people in attendance had witnessed me implode on this song the night before – hoping all of them were too hammered to remember, but realizing in the depths of my soul that this was statistically improbable, even for journalists.
My argument in favor? People love a meltdown. If you’re feeling generous, do this for the sake of everyone else’s good time.
Will Smith – ‘Wild Wild West’
My personal favorite. I like to forget that the movie ever existed, and I assume Will Smith and Kenneth Branagh feel the same. But the song – while stretching the definition of “sampling” – was the monster radio hit of Summer 1999, according to my “Summer ’99” cassette tape. If you can navigate a treacherous cluster of “wicky wicky” noises at the beginning, it’s not difficult to rap on. Sisqo’s backing vocals? An entirely different story.
Extra points if you act out “Ten paces and turn just for fun, SON.” Not with a real gun though.