Show-Stopping Karaoke Jams
April 15, 2013 9:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm a semi-finalist in a karaoke contest and I'm looking for a crowd-pleasing karaoke song that meets the following requirements:

1) Not overplayed (no "Don't Stop Believing" or "Rolling in the Deep"), but not too obscure
2) Preferably performed by male singer (I'm female, but I prefer to sing songs by dudes because no one expects me to sound like the dude
3) Opportunities for audience participation are a plus
4) I have a fondness for classic rock, but any genre will do.

I won the qualifying round by singing "Why Don't We Get Drunk" by Jimmy Buffet, which is a perfect example of what I'm looking for. It's not overdone, it's sort of edgy, and it's just fun!
posted by chara to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Those are some pretty broad requirements, by my first thought was something by Queen. My favorites for karaoke would be:

Bicycle Race, Don't Stop Me Now, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Fat Bottomed Girls, I Want to Break Free, Killer Queen, Somebody to Love.
posted by 3FLryan at 9:35 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I see that you did well with a Buffet song which is what I was coming in to suggest. In my limited experience as a bad-to-mediocre singer, karoake crowds love Buffet songs. I attribute that to drunk people loving songs that having drinking and drug related references. I think almost any of his popular songs would treat you well.
posted by mmascolino at 9:38 AM on April 15, 2013

Came in to 2nd Fat Bottomed Girls.
posted by bfranklin at 9:41 AM on April 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

I like to pick songs that don't have long musical breaks, so my go-to picks are Journey's "Faithfully," Pat Benatar's "Shadows of the Night," and Alannah Myles' "Black Velvet."
posted by evoque at 9:44 AM on April 15, 2013

I came in to say Fat Bottomed Girls, but also Werewolves of London has been a fun surprise I've whipped out sometimes.
posted by knile at 9:48 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Why don't you do a more softly sung version of "My Generation"? In its original form it's a very male song but there's no thing in the lyrics that stops it being equally well sung by a woman. The contrast between the hectic backing track and a feminised cover would be quite arresting.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:50 AM on April 15, 2013

"Fat Bottomed Girls" as above is a good choice. Others:

"Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi
"Born to Be Wild" by Steppenwolf
"Livin' la Vida Loca" by Ricky Martin is HILARIOUS when done by a woman.
"Jenny (867-5309)" by Tommy Tutone
"Kiss" by Prince
"Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club
"Sweet Child o' Mine" by Guns n' Roses
"Man In the Mirror" by Michael Jackson
"Roxanne" by the Police
"Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake

I love it when women sing songs with original male vocalists. It adds a certain something. Good luck!
posted by juniperesque at 9:58 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's not a male vocalist but White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane would fit the bill.
posted by sacrifix at 10:20 AM on April 15, 2013

My go-to in this situation is Sister Christian by Night Ranger. Karaoke crowds seem to love it, and it has oddball lyrics that are fun to sing.
posted by bedhead at 10:47 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've also had good luck with Werewolves of London. (I'm a woman.)

The one that got the whole bar grooving and dancing, including the frat boys, was Do Ya Think I'm Sexy? by Rod Stewart.
posted by immlass at 11:24 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

You want guilty-pleasure songs that are familiar, a bit cheesy, but haven't been done to death. So my two top choices are:

"Against All Odds" -- Phil Collins
"Take Me Home" -- Phil Collins
posted by chowflap at 11:28 AM on April 15, 2013

"Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora)" by Harry Belafonte. It's old-timey and people can clap when the song claps. Lydia dances to it at the end of Beetlejuice, with the ghosts.
posted by hellomina at 11:39 AM on April 15, 2013

I once sang "Family Tradition" by Hank Jr. and it almost started a riot (in a good way). Apparently it's the Texas kareoke national anthem.

The most beautiful serious male voiced songs I've heard sung kareoke by a woman were "Walking in Memphis" and "Drift Away".

But since you want fun instead of teary-eyed, in addition to the excellent already-suggested "Jump in the Line" and "Fat Bottomed Girls", I would add "Oh Lord, It's Hard to Be Humble" by Mac Davis.

Oh Lord, it's hard to be humble
When you're perfect in every way.
I can't wait to look in the mirror,
Cause I get better looking each day.
To know me is to love me,
I must be a hell of a man.
Oh Lord, it's hard to be humble,
But we're doing the best that we can.

(Some gender swapping of lyrics needed, or not, your call)
posted by BeeDo at 1:35 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh please sing "Lola" by the Kinks. Best ever song for a woman who prefers to sing a man's part since singing it without changing the pronouns takes an already pronoun-confused song to a whole nother level.
posted by town of cats at 3:11 PM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Folsom Prison Blues!
posted by justonegirl at 6:49 PM on April 15, 2013

Best answer: I am a girl.

Short version:
My A++ winning song, my capper to the evening, has always been Tenacious D's Fuck Her Gently. But you have to work up to that. You also need to get those high notes at the end.

Backup: First of May by Jonathan Coulton. The audience doesn't need to know it. They'll love it.

Long version:
Look through the Rock Band songs and see what you like. Some of those were super fun to sing but not really crowd-pleasing; I count "Reptilia" in those. But others were awesome:
Sweet: Ballroom Blitz
Beastie Boys: Sabotage (oh yessss, you can have SO much fun with this one)
Judas Priest: You Got Another Thing Coming -- nice wail in the bridge and tons of great chances for snarling, but the end goes on forever.
My big winners are Blondie songs: Call Me is a power trip, but One Way Or Another is also a total kick. Once I lay down on my stomach and did some sort of... i don't know, idle kicking while doing the "I walk down the hall, where I can see it all..." bit. They loved it. (Might have also been the guitarist straddling me. tee hee.)

How about something GnR -- Welcome to the Jungle, perhaps. Especially if you can do any of the Axl dance.

Rap songs are always fun. Here's the thing about Baby Got Back: a ton of people TRY to do it, but very few actually get it right. You have to get the rhythms of the whole damn song down.

Country songs are always super popular, but I haven't managed to find a good one. (My husband just chimed in to say, "People were going nuts at the piano bar the other night when someone did Thank God I'm A Country Boy.") Maybe Red Solo Cup (I didn't even know this existed...) or Friends in Low Places.

Stay away from Queen. You probably know this, but because Freddie multitracked himself, and had a rather improvisatory style, karaoke arrangements rarely have a single through-line that sounds like the way you sing along with the radio. Which is a shame, because Freddie is my GUY.

The one exception to that rule is We are the Champions. That is ALWAYS an excellent choice.

Also, if you know a guy in a contest, have him sing Just A Girl by No Doubt.
posted by Madamina at 9:28 PM on April 15, 2013

The best song I have ever seen performed in a karaoke contest by a woman was Chocolate Salty Balls.
posted by peagood at 10:28 PM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've never failed to own the room with Wanted (Dead or Alive) by Bon Jovi, or Every Rose by Poison.

Recently I found a place that had Birdhouse in your Soul, and that was all good times.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:06 AM on April 16, 2013

What did you sing??? What did you sing???
posted by Madamina at 11:09 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Too late to this thread, but my hits are Talking Heads - Psycho Killer and Pulp - Common People.
posted by philosophistry at 4:13 PM on April 30, 2013

Response by poster: I sang Tenacious D's F her Gently and I knocked it out of the park, if I may toot my own horn. I didn't win (maybe it was too risque for the judges?), but lots of people came up to me afterwards and complimented me. It's definitely going to be a standard from now on.
posted by chara at 6:20 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Unless explicitly specified, there is no such thing as "too risqué" in karaoke. It's basically "how drunk do I need to get before referring to ZZ Top's 'Sharp Dressed Man' as 'Well Hung Man' -- over and over and OVER and OVER..." territory.

But the real meaning of karaoke is to bring joy to the universe, and clearly you accomplished that :)
posted by Madamina at 4:59 PM on May 1, 2013

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