As much as we here at Billboard Missed live music during the pandemic, another cultural loss was just as devastating to our daily lives: the abandonment of karaoke. Concerts were the best way we connected with our favorite artists, but karaoke is how we really felt connected to our favorite songs. Whether on a solo mic on stage in a strange and sparsely populated bar or packed into a room with a dozen of our closest and most animated friends, karaoke gave us pop music lovers a chance to not only celebrate those tunes, but to to crawl into it, to become an essential part of it. Add to that a cheaply made non-sequitur music video, a pitcher of house beer and a tambourine, and any Thursday night downtown can become the most transcendent musical experience of your entire year.
Now that karaoke is finally back in full force – and please keep practicing singing safely, everyone – Billboard wanted to celebrate the art form that has given us countless examples of incomparable joy and equally matchless hangovers over the years. Today we present our list of the 100 best karaoke songs of all time, a tried and true set of classics found in most karaoke songbooks that are guaranteed to set the room on fire. (And if not, it’s certainly the venue’s fault.) In addition to our own staff’s hard-earned wisdom, gathered through decades of trial and error with empty orchestras, we called in some ringers—karaoke jockeys, bartenders and owners from all over the country – for their own expert commentary, which you’ll find all over our list.
So what makes a great karaoke song? Well, there’s certainly no one-size-fits-all answer to that question — a classic sing-along is a mandatory bathroom break for some, and a great performer can make a controversial choice seem inspired just as easily as a lackluster performer can. flop with an unmissable choice. Plus, the best-loved pop artists aren’t always the safest karaoke go-tos: our list includes plenty of one-hit wonders and other top 40 curiosities, but no songs from such obvious icons as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Prince , Mariah Carey, Justin Bieber, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Christina Aguilera, Guns N’ Roses or Rihanna. Some are missing because their vocals are too challenging or inimitable, some because they don’t have that one karaoke number above the rest, some simply because 100 is a small number and it seemed more appropriate to use the space for artists like 4 Non Blondes and Biz Markie, whose karaoke presence lasts forever despite being tied to a single song.
Anyway, look at our list and similar characteristics will emerge: more often than not, our favorite karaoke songs are familiar, accessible, simple without being predictable, and are reminiscent of a specific time and place without being hopeless. getting stuck. Most importantly, they all sound great at high volume and questionable pitch, and they all invite you to join in. Here’s our picks for the 100 true all-timers – with a little help from our friends in the industry – and don’t hesitate to pick up that spare mic left on the speaker. We can always use the help for harmonies and backing vocals.
Additional reporting by Katie Atkinson, Katie Bain, Hannah Dailey Johnson, Jessica Nicholson, Danielle Pascual, Jessica Roiz and Christine Werthman.