Sing, Sing Out Loud!
It's no secret that I adore karaoke (my many hubs on the subject ought to give you a clue). I'm especially lucky because I live in New York City, which after Japan -- karaoke's mother country -- probably has the greatest number of karaoke bars and lounges.
I've never had any problems when it came to singing in front of a large group (I'm not the best singer, but I enjoy making an ass out of myself), but over the past 10 years or so, more "karaoke boxes" have popped up in Manhattan. These small lounges are awesome because you and a dozen friends or so can rent a room for a few hours and have full access to your own private karaoke system.
Doing karaoke with a small group, however, tends to be different than when a bunch of strangers are singing in front of each other at a bar. At a bar, generally one or two people get the microphone at a time and everyone else hangs back and listens. If they're singing along, the person with the mic is still the one ultimately in the spotlight.
But when you're in a small room, the mic isn't really necessary (though rooms usually come with two or three). If people sing with you, EVERYONE will be heard.
That said, whenever I've had karaoke parties in private lounges, they've been more like sing-a-longs than solo affairs. It's especially enjoyable when I'm out with a group of game friends who totally get into it and sing and dance to every song chosen.
After having done karaoke with a group like this for years, I've come to know which songs work best in this "sing-a-long" environment (at least for my pals), which I've listed below. I could probably make a list of hundreds, but to keep things simple, I've chosen 10 faves. So the next time you're out with friends, encourage them to ALL get involved! You won't regret it!
Day-O Dance In Beetlejuice
Great Karaoke Songs To Get You Moving
1. COPACABANA: Barry Manilow's famous tune is always a hit at weddings and bar mitzvahs -- and I've found that it's equally popular at karaoke parties. The trick is to get everyone involved. Assign people to play the parts of Lola, Rico and Tony ... and of course, there has to be a conga line during the lengthy instrumental break!
2. WE WILL ROCK YOU: Queen's anthems are great for sports events, but are also perfect for getting your friends into the spirit of doing karaoke. For one thing, EVERYONE knows these pieces. And well, if you've been living under a rock and don't, it's pretty easy to catch on to the chorus, "We will, we will rock you!" Then there are the all-important movements that must be done during the song. You know the ones -- where you slap your knees (or stomp your feet) twice and then clap in time to the heavy beats of the song. Come on, try it with me: STOMP, STOMP, CLAP! STOMP, STOMP, CLAP! For even more laughs, don't be shy about doing an air guitar during the end of the song when there's some loud strumming.
3. DAY-O (THE BANANA BOAT SONG): Harry Belafonte's classic is fun to sing because it's so upbeat and the lyrics are easy. And let's face it -- there's just something very satisfying about belting out, "Day-O!" Plus, it's really fun when people have had a bit too much to drink and attempt to do that goofy butt-wiggling dance to DAY-O that was featured in the awesome movie Beetlejuice. It was a funny scene in the movie, but it's even more amusing when you watch a bunch of your buddies willingly sacrifice their dignity in order to truly get into the spirit of this memorable song.
4. NEW YORK, NEW YORK: Perhaps it's because we live in New York, but my group of friends LOVES Sinatra's song! It's a classic feel-good tune that gets you up on your feet -- literally. The best part is toward the end when the music slows down and everyone stands to form a kick-line. The Rockettes don't have anything on us! Just make sure that there's actually room to dance -- I learned this the hard way when I kicked just a little too high and stubbed my toe in the process.
5. MAMMA MIA: ABBA tunes are always a riot to sing, but MAMMA MIA frequently wins out over DANCING QUEEN in my crowd. For one thing, it's easier to sing because the range isn't as high as the DQ. I also just think it's fun to say, "Mamma Mia!" over and over again.
6. WE GO TOGETHER: Songs from the movie Grease are usually a hit and this one is a nice alternative is you're getting sick of SUMMER NIGHTS. Since it was written as an ensemble piece, anyway, it's ideal for a large crowd. My favorite part is when everyone attempts to keep up with the nonsense lyrics that are toward the middle. On most days, my crowd doesn't, but that doesn't stop us -- we just plow through, laughing the entire time, which is fine since karaoke is meant to make you smile. Once you master those lyrics, though, feel free to add in a hand jive or two!
Seasons Of Love
Great Karaoke Songs For A Mellow Crowd
7. PIANO MAN: Billy Joel may have been in the moment at 9 o'clock on a Saturday, but for us, that;s when the karaoke party is usually getting started. By say, 11 o'clock, everyone's been drinking and singing for a while (and did I mention drinking) and that's about the point when you need something quieter to help clear your head. This is why PIANO MAN is a great choice. Everyone knows it, loves it, it's easy to sing ... and when in doubt, just go "La, la, la, la...." Even someone who's had a few too many can keep up with that! Of course, the idea way to sing this one is for everyone to sway in unison while holding up a mug of beer.
8. SEASONS OF LOVE: OK, I'll admit that this one took me by surprise. Originally, I'd planned to sing this song from the musical Rent as a duet with my friend Scott. However, once we started, everyone else joined in and they were really getting into it. Our friends were clapping their hands to the beat, snapping their fingers -- some of us even did harmony! I suppose it makes sense since it was written for the entire cast of Rent to perform, but I'd never realized that it was such a beloved tune -- and so awesome to sing with a crowd.
9. AMERICAN PIE: A long, long time ago ... there was a song that it seems no one can resist singing along to. Yeah, it's a little long, but dang it -- it's impossible NOT to belt one out when you get to that famous chorus, "Bye, bye, Miss American pie..." Of course, when you get to that refrain for the last time (when it's slowed down slightly), it's time for your crowd to mime holding up a lighter at a concert while singing at the tops of their lungs.
10. THAT'S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR: This is a fantastic piece with which to finish off your karaoke evening. You figure that after several hours of drinks and karaoke, not to mention good company, that you and your buds are feeling quite sentimental. Why not express your feelings through this schmoopy, feel-good tune? If you're daring, you can have several different people take on the various parts (I believe that there are four parts altogether), though we've learned through experience that this is tough. Our prefered method is to sing it loudly and proudly ... and then call it a night with a big group hug. Awwww.....
J. Willie Williams on April 06, 2012:
I am working on a group karaoke program using a live band with folk, bluegrass, country and pop-jazz tunes. Since we don't want to be stuck with playing at given tempo we use power-point slides for the lyrics.
Are you aware of other musicians, outside of churches, doing something similar?
M. Rose from Orange County, CA on October 24, 2010:
This is an amazing list. Mamma Mia is one of my new favorite karaoke songs, and I love your suggestion of Copacabana too. Awesome. You rock!