You and your buds are out on the town tying one on, and there in front of you, like a majestic sign from the gods themselves, appears an electric sign. You look up as the electric love shines down upon your face, and as it comes into focus, you see a microphone, and underneath that, those two exhilarating words: “KARAOKE BAR.”
You enter the bar, order another round, sign up for the mic., but then realize something important: You don’t know what to sing. Can you even sing? What was that one song from that one movie you really like? Shit. It’s gotta be fun enough to keep the party going, definitely not sad, and simple enough to (hopefully) get everyone singing along. It’s gotta be well known enough to the point where folks will recognize it, but if one more asshole sings that one song by The Killers again, you swear you’re gonna jump off the roof.
Well, bub, don’t you worry, because we know a couple things about good music. Here are 10 karaoke songs for every guy:
Joe Cocker – With a Little Help from My Friends
This wonderful classic from The Beatles takes on a whole new tone when sung through the pipes of the late great Joe Cocker, and the minute the DJ puts it on, you’re guaranteed to get a good cheer-on from the rest of the bar. Everybody knows the words, and while it’s melodic, it’s not complex enough to escape the range of even the most inexperienced karaoke stars—especially if you can convince everyone to sing that angelic female chorus.
Oasis – Wonderwall
It’s a known scientific fact that one of the preferred pastimes of drunk Americans is trying to put on our best British accents. So, before you even sing a word of this classic hit by ‘90s English rock outfit Oasis, you’ve won half the battle. And because it was such a widely known song throughout the mid to late ‘90s (and beyond), the odds of everyone in the bar knowing enough of it to join in with a drunken chorus is pretty damn good. Frankly, the only way you’re striking out with this one is if the bar is empty and you’ve got to sing it by your lonesome. And even then, that’s tragically funny.
Beastie Boys – Sabotage
Look at any roundup of the best songs of the ‘90s, and you’ll be hard-pressed not to find this rap-rock anthem near the top. “Sabotage” is an excellent strategic choice because that choppy guitar riff and drawn out “IIIIIIIII!” before the opening verse is distinguishable anywhere (See, you just sung it in your head, didn’t you?). And if you’re too drunk to rap the lyrics as Ad-Rock intended, you can always just slur whatever the hell you want because everyone’ll be head banging anyway. No matter how you cut it, there’s no way you won’t receive a standing ovation for this one.
Ray Charles – I’ve Got a Woman
Selecting the perfect karaoke song is a careful yin and yang between picking something recognizable and enjoyable, but also something with accessible range for every type of singer. “I’ve Got a Woman” by Ray Charles is a perfect mixing of the two, because it’s an upbeat little diddy with a very well-known hook and a couple flashy parts for some vocal show-offery, but with a melody that’s neutral and mostly easy to sing. So long as you put your whole diaphragm into it, you should be alright!
The Clash – Should I Stay or Should I Go
Oh, come on. You knew there was no way in hell we were putting together a “best karaoke songs for guys” round up and not including this punk rock classic from The Clash. The party anthem to end all party anthems, “Should I Stay or Should I Go” is the kind of song people play at the very beginning of the night, right when things are still feeling wild and crazy. Bring the magic of 10 p.m. back into 1:30 a.m. with this high-energy, low-skill tune that’ll get shots poured and beers bottomed. Plus, there’re those little Spanish bits between the choruses to help you dust off those four years of Spanish you took in high school and college. Nothing like a little refresher every now and again, eh?
Frank Sinatra – My Way
Full disclosure: You’re probably not going to do this song the justice The Sultan of Swoon deserves, but that’s kind of the point of karaoke. Nevertheless, “My Way” is one of those songs that every man—young and old—will eventually mutter under his breath to himself, because it’s a beautiful old school song about men living our lives the way we want, and not by the conventional standards chalked up for us by our parents, teachers or our wives. Giving it a shot at the karaoke bar won’t just get you an appreciative nod from the old heads in the room, but it might just get you a couple beers for a job well done.
The Pogues – Body of an American
There is nothing—and we mean nothing—that’ll turn an Irish barroom on its head faster than a hearty rendition of “Body of an American” by The Pogues. If cadence and tune don’t matter to you and all you want is a rise out of the room, put this one on and let everyone have at it, because if re-telling the story of Big Jim Dwyer and his drunken brawl of a wake doesn’t result in at least one bloody smile or a broken pool cue, you’re at the wrong damn bar. And if you think that one is too old for the men in the room to remember, you can always give “No Loot, No Booze, No Fun” by The Tossers a try (it’s easy enough to get a singalong going with), or “What’s Left of the Flag” by Flogging Molly. Either way, Godspeed, and look out for flying pint glasses.
Foo Fighters – Everlong
Foo Fighters are an iconic American band with an iconic American catalog, but perhaps no song of theirs is more iconic than “Everlong.” First released in 1997, it has become a classic rock and roll anthem, sung in cars by people all over the free (and probably not-so-free) world. In fact, if your friends don’t emphatically and aggressively sing along when Dave Grohl yells, “Annnnddd IIIIII wonderrrr…!” they aren’t really your friends (in fact, they’re probably robots), and you should leave them immediately. We try not to play favorites, but there’s no denying that this particular number is our favorite on this list.
Johnny Cash – Cocaine Blues
Controversial? Edgy? Eh, maybe a little. But damn catchy? Abso-fricking-lutely! Johnny Cash has a very interesting range that’s easily sang by all types of singers (and non-singers) because even though he himself was a deep baritone, the grand majority of his songs are mellow and mid-range, making them accessible and easy to imitate. “Cocaine Blues” is a melodically fun tune that’ll get people clapping, but just keep this quick pro-tip in mind: It is a song about a guy who rails blow, shoots his girlfriend, evades police, and then goes to prison, so you may want to know your audience.
Wu Tang Clan – Bring Da Ruckus
A karaoke playlist isn’t complete without at least one hip-hop track, and for us, there was no better fitting entry than Wu Tang Clan’s pinnacle classic, “Bring Da Ruckus.” First of all, aside from having what is probably one of the most memorable hooks in hip-hop history (“Bring the mother fuckin’ ruckus, bring the mother fuckin’ ruckus!”), it’s also great for a small group. There are verses by Ghostface, Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, and GZA, or you can just go all out and mob vocal everything like the drunk bastards you are. Either way, there isn’t a karaoke bar in the country that’d turn its nose up at a “tasteful” rendition of one of hip-hop’s prodigal sons’ most well-known songs.
Tom Waits – Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis
Since this list got us feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, we wanted to throw a bonus in here for the particularly ballsy among you. “Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis” is one of Tom Waits’ most famous and well-regarded tunes, and no one will take you seriously if you put it on, because no one would take it seriously if Waits stood up there and sang it his own damn self. Toss this one on, tell the story as best you can, and let the room erupt in confused, awkward laughter for four minutes and thirty-three seconds.