Let’s talk about a universal truth. No matter who you are or where you’re from, there’s a solid chance you’ve belted out a tune or two at a karaoke session. Here, we’re breaking down the ultimate playlist of the Top 30 most popular karaoke songs of all time.
Some are wild, some are tender, some are downright explosive, but all of them are iconic. So grab your (virtual) stage outfit and get ready to explore the hits that made karaoke the global love affair it is today!
- 1. “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
- 2. “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton
- 3. “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi
- 4. “Y.M.C.A.” by Village People
- 5. “Dancing Queen” by ABBA
- 6. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston
- 7. “Ironic” by Alanis Morrisette
- 8. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John & Kiki Dee
- 9. “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers
- 10. “Ebony & Ivory” by Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder
- 11. “She Bangs” by Ricky Martin
- 12. “Stayin’ Alive” by Bee Gees
- 13. “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia
- 14. “Don’t Stop Believin” by Journey
- 15. “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” by Kylie Minogue
- 16. “Hit Me Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears
- 17. “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire
- 18. “Lucky” by Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat
- 19. “I Want It That Way” by Backstreet Boys
- 20. “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross
- 21. “Cruisin” by Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow
- 22. “Wonderwall” by Oasis
- 23. “Like a Virgin” by Madonna
- 24. “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley
- 25. “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum
- 26. “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus
- 27. “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
- 28. “Single Ladies” by Beyoncé
- 29. “No Scrubs” by TLC
- 30. “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.
- Final Thoughts
1. “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
It’s rare to not hear Gloria Gaynor’s popular track “I Will Survive” being belted out during karaoke nights. After a bad relationship, this female empowerment anthem is all about pulling yourself up and moving on.
However, during the last few decades, this song has come to symbolize everyone who has triumphed through adversity or personal struggle, making it relatable for just about everyone out there.
2. “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton
“A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton is another karaoke super track – being sung by men and women alike (check out Terry Crews’ rendition of this song, it’s hilarious).
This song describes the feelings that can consume us when we’ve lost someone we loved immensely. Carlton belts out heartfelt lyrics about doing anything she can to be with that person or even just see them for a moment.
3. “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi
Some may argue that “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi is the most popular karaoke track in existence. This song is essentially an expression or an idea of living by faith.
It tells the story of Tommy and Gina, a couple who are really down on their luck in life and struggling. While not your typical love song, this should certainly be considered one because it heavily features a couple that refuses to give up on their relationship, even with having every economic or financial reason to do so.
4. “Y.M.C.A.” by Village People
While we may not know all of the lyrics, we certainly know what to do with our arms when we hear “it’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A”. The acronym stands for Young Men’s Christian Association, which was commonly associated with both gyms and temporary housing for men.
The Village People highlighted that this was a place to “hang out with all the boys”. While the lyrics don’t necessarily scream gay references, this song became a gay anthem and implied a place for men to interact worry-free.
5. “Dancing Queen” by ABBA
“Dancing Queen” by ABBA has always been a fan favorite, whether sung individually or by a group of friends. The song was intended to be a dance track and the original title was “Boogaloo” but the manager, Stig Anderson, came up with the title “Dancing Queen”.
The band found inspiration from the George McCrae disco hit “Rock Your Baby” and the track took months to complete. It became the first Europop disco hit and has been famous ever since.
6. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston sang this song that was originally written by George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam. While the song sounds quite upbeat, the lyrics themselves are very emotionally driven.
This is the exact reason (Who Loves Me) was added to the title. This song highlights the plight of people who can’t stand to be alone again tonight and want to find somebody to love them.
7. “Ironic” by Alanis Morrisette
Alanis Morrisette was once asked if she actually understood the meaning of irony, as the situations in this song don’t allude to the true meaning. However, Morisette clapped back that dictionary definitions evolve with time and that she may be the “smartest stupid person” people could meet. Regardless, this track has been a karaoke hit for over two decades.
8. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John & Kiki Dee
Arguably one of the most famous karaoke duets of all time, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee has some great harmonies in the chorus. This swooning love song is all about sharing love, without the fear of it ending poorly because “I couldn’t if I tried”. The song was intended as an affection imitation of music style similar to duets by Motown.
9. “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers
“Mr. Brightside” by The Killers is another karaoke song that’s a constant choice by crowds around the world. The song was written by guitarist, David Keuning who used his own experience with a cheating girlfriend to come up with this passionate track. He even admits the song was born at the very pub where he discovered her cheating on him.
10. “Ebony & Ivory” by Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder
This beautiful duet by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder is all about racial harmony and love. The pair used piano keys – black being ebony and white as ivory – as a lovely metaphor. This song poses the question of why the world cannot live in harmony like the keys of a piano, despite being different in color.
11. “She Bangs” by Ricky Martin
“She Bangs” by Ricky Martin is a fast-paced and fun track, that’s been selected by karaoke singers for decades. While many folks would assume that this song is all about a woman and sex, Martin claims that he uses this song as a metaphor for the Big Bang Theory.
12. “Stayin’ Alive” by Bee Gees
“Stayin’ Alive” by Bee Gees is a disco track that every avid karaoke participant has grooved to. This song was written for the movie ‘Saturday Night Fever’, which surrounds the disco era. However, it is about far more than merely dancing and partying. It’s all about making your way out of struggles, especially when the world is seemingly trying to kick you back down.
13. “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia
This heartfelt track has been sung by many a karaoke-goer, especially those who truly connect with Natalie Imbruglia’s lyrics. This song is about a woman who was convinced she had found the perfect man but was clearly very wrong. She’s taken the breakup incredibly hard, which leads her to be “cold, shamed and lying naked on the floor”.
14. “Don’t Stop Believin” by Journey
“Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey is a song that the entire crowd will gladly belt out, any time it is chosen by a karaoke singer. The song was written by keyboard player Jonathon Cain, who got the idea from his own experiences while attempting to pursue his career. His father told him to continue on, not give up on his dreams, and Jonathon passes on this strong message through an iconic tune.
15. “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” by Kylie Minogue
“Can’t Get You Outta My Head” is a love song performed by Kylie Minogue and an absolute hit with karaoke lovers. This track leaves no question or metaphorical guesses as to what it is about. It’s about falling in love and being obsessed with the thought of someone – to the point where they’re stuck in your head.
16. “Hit Me Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears
Everyone knows this tune. Contrary to popular belief, this iconic track isn’t about abusive relationships but a linguistic mix-up by the Swedish songwriters who mistook ‘hit’ for ‘call’. So really, it’s about the agony of heartbreak and longing for one more chance. No wonder it resonates so deeply in karaoke sessions!
17. “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire
The reason behind “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire being such a karaoke staple is much of the same reason behind the song being written in the first place. It’s the kind of song that transforms an ordinary karaoke night into an epic dance party. Just like its creation, the tune captures the essence of joy and universal love, making it a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
18. “Lucky” by Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat
For those in the mood for a laid-back duet, “Lucky” is a top pick. This sweet serenade by Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat, penned via email exchange, explores the magic of falling in love with your best friend. It’s a heartwarming gem that lends itself perfectly to those chill karaoke nights.
19. “I Want It That Way” by Backstreet Boys
Cue the nostalgia! “I Want It That Way” might be a linguistic riddle thanks to its Swedish creators, but that doesn’t take away from its status as a definitive 90s anthem. This Backstreet Boys hit, despite its ambiguous lyrics, strikes a chord with those longing for lost love. It’s a karaoke favorite that triggers an instant sing-along!
20. “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross
A gay anthem for decades, “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross is another widely popular karaoke selection. This empowering tune has been a revered anthem in the LGBTQ+ community. The inspiration came to Nile Rodgers in a New York City gay club, after seeing three Diana Ross lookalikes. Its message of pride and self-acceptance is sure to elevate any karaoke night.
21. “Cruisin” by Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow
Cruisin’ was originally written and performed by Smokey Robinson and later redone and covered by Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow in the 2000s for the movie ‘Duets’. The meaning of this song is mostly left up to the individual listener’s interpretation. However, it’s meant to showcase that when you’re happily in love and spending time with that person, you’re cruisin’.
22. “Wonderwall” by Oasis
The ultimate indie anthem, “Wonderwall” by Oasis, has echoed through countless karaoke bars worldwide. Its origins tell the tale of Noel Gallagher’s ex-girlfriend, Meg Mathews, who supposedly was the muse behind this iconic tune. Despite Gallagher retracting the claim, the song has become a timeless symbol of hope and saving grace, making it a karaoke classic.
23. “Like a Virgin” by Madonna
Stepping up to the mic with Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” is an unforgettable karaoke experience. This electrifying pop classic, crafted by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg amidst California vineyards, carries the feeling of emerging renewed from the ashes of a tumultuous relationship. Whether sung with theatrical flair or tongue-in-cheek humor, it’s a karaoke crowd-pleaser.
24. “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley
The king of the Internet prank, Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”, is a karaoke sensation. Born from a tense love triangle involving songwriter Waterman, this infectious tune shines a light on vulnerability in love. An undeniable hit, this song transforms any karaoke night into a nostalgic singalong.
25. “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum
Who hasn’t felt the twinge of late-night loneliness that Lady A’s “Need You Now” encapsulates so poignantly? This emotional country tune speaks to the human condition, exploring love, loss, and the need for connection. Whether you’re a country fan or not, belting this one out in a karaoke session is pure catharsis.
26. “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus
And then, there’s “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus. A much-loved karaoke staple with an undercurrent of darkness, inspired by a tragic event from Brendan Brown’s youth. The song serves as a tribute to all the misunderstood souls out there. Karaoke nights resonate with its raw, relatable lyrics, turning a somber backstory into a universal shout of defiance.
27. “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
“Empire State of Mind” is yet another fantastically popular duet for karaoke-goers to choose from. This song is performed by New Yorkers, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys and takes on multiple meanings. More than a love letter to New York, it’s a gritty tale of Jay-Z’s journey from Marcy Projects to stardom.
28. “Single Ladies” by Beyoncé
“Single Ladies by Beyoncé” has become an anthem for women around the world. In this song, she encourages all women to dump their boyfriends who don’t propose or don’t add value to their lives. The specific dance in this song’s music video is yet another reason why so many will select it as their karaoke track of choice.
29. “No Scrubs” by TLC
Squash those deadbeat blues with TLC’s defiant “No Scrubs”. Chosen by many a karaoke-goer, this song’s message is timeless: ditch the man who offers nothing but expects everything. Giving birth to the term “scrub” to label such men, this track is a cathartic release on karaoke nights, particularly for those with less-than-stellar relationship experiences.
30. “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.
Rounding off our list is the enigmatic “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. Far from a song about faith, this tune delves into the depths of unrequited love and obsession. Penned by Michael Stipe, its thought-provoking lyrics make for a karaoke experience that’s equal parts catharsis and reflection.
As we can see, popular karaoke songs have come from a wide range of genres and artists. Some are meant to be joyous and filled with laughter or dancing, while others are meant to make us think or tap into our emotions.
Karaoke is meant to be a fun and freeing experience, one without the pressure or expectation of singers to be the best. So regardless of which of these songs someone may choose, it’s clear that the crowd would more than likely be singing along in unison and enjoying to the max!