Rock n' Roll Wannabe: The best (and worst) karaoke jams ever
Inspired by a comment made during our visit to San Francisco last week, we’ve decided to throw together a list of eight amazing karaoke jams – four amazingly good, and four amazingly (and often awkwardly) bad.
Yes, finding your own karaoke gem and polishing it to a brilliance never before seen on an amateur stage is a process that takes time and much hard work in the vocal dojo, but for those in need of an instant classic, read on.
A bit cliché, perhaps, but for those of us with a limited vocal range it’s pretty doable. Also, it tells an interesting tale of mistaken identity, shall we say, that’ll keep people interested long after you’ve butchered the genius of Kinks mastermind Ray Davies. Overall, the perfect balance of loud and soft, with a nice little “guitar interlude” thrown in for good measure.
Clocking in at a svelte 2:16, this musically upbeat tale of domestic woe gets in and gets out fast, leaving people wanting more – and that hostile regular happy that he’ll be up that much quicker to sing “Son of a Sailor” for the third time in four nights. The “See how they run” line takes a bit of practice, but all in all, a solid number to keep in your back pocket.
Be warned: If you think you can sing this song, you can’t – you’ve got to feel it in your Bowie bones, man (which, according to Wikipedia, are located somewhere between the third and fourth rib). Yes, this is far from an easy song to sing well, but pull it off and enjoy basking in the glittery, stardust-y praise that’ll float your way. Do it for Bowie – he can hear you.
With rhymes like “I like to sport ‘em that's why I bought ‘em /A sucker tried to steal ‘em so I caught ‘em and I thwart ‘em,” this bit of gold from 1986 will strike the right balance between nostalgic and unexpected when people see the title (in hot pink Times New Roman) flash across the screen of the TV/VCR combo at your local karaoke dive of choice. Don’t call it “Dad Rap.”
Sweet Jesus, any song but this song. Someone’s going to sing it (there’s simply no avoiding it), but use all the willpower left in your sangria-addled brain to make it anyone but you. You don’t want to wake up in 10 years and find yourself slipping into a suede fringe jacket, giving your beard a quick once over and winking at yourself in the mirror before heading out to sing “The Gambler” again. I’ve seen people go down that road, and man, it ain’t pretty. “Know when to walk away and know when to run.” Indeed.
As pointed out on numerous occasions by radio host and comedian Tom Scharpling, this is one of the creepiest songs ever written, and the creepiest love song ever sung to a horse by quite a wide margin (though admittedly it’s a pretty short list). What could make this song worse? Singing lines like “I'm going to catch that horse if I can/ And when I do I'll give her my brand,” to a roomful of judgmental (and let’s face it, probably drunk) strangers waiting to sing equally bad songs badly. Just to be clear though, The Byrds are great.
The real tragedy of this song is the overzealousness and outright hostility it inspires in others – a classic victim of its own success. Whenever I hear this tune, I can’t help but picture 12 sweaty dudes onstage at 3am sharing one microphone and violently filling in the “DA, DA, DA” after the “Sweeeeeet Caroline” tease. Truly the stuff of nightmares.
If you’re wearing leather pants, are full of bourbon and can find a karaoke DJ willing to let you do this song, then you’re well on your way to alienating yourself from a fairly large cross-section of the population. This is dark stuff (with lots of silly rhyming) and definitely not one for a Mother’s Day jam. Also, it’s 11 minutes and 40 seconds long. Be warned.
Agree? Disagree? Dying to defend the honour of Kenny Rogers? Let us know in the comments.