Well, I don’t have a go-to karaoke song as much as a go-to karaoke set list that I inflict upon whichever unlucky group of people I’ve successfully convinced to be my audience, so I’ll give you my whole list.
I like to start with something slow, yet powerful, to gain my audience’s trust, but also to establish vocal dominance, so everybody is prepared to feel inferior. I usually go with “Alone” by Heart, because everybody loves a good female-driven power ballad. There’s also a particularly difficult scream at the end of it that I never hit, so it lets everybody know that they should be excited, but keep their expectations relatively low for the rest of the night.
Then, to make things fun, “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen, usually because they show her music video and the guy cutting the lawn in it is still a babe and turns out to be gay. Also, everybody loves this song, even if they hate it.
Then back-to-back Taylor Swift with “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” It’s usually during this time that I’ve finished my first Long Island Iced Tea and have taken the first of many shots of vodka. Taylor is good music to drink to.
Then, because everybody’s gotten too happy, I hit them with Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” I hold nothing back, and hope that the crowd will be in tears by the end of this performance.
(Take another shot.)
Then, because everybody will need cheering up from the emotional disaster you’ve left with Whitney, hit them with a bit of Kelly Clarkson. “Stronger” will get them excited again, and “Since U Been Gone” will give them a healthy sense of confidence, while reminding us all that we’re at the violent whims of our own emotions.
(Finish second Long Island Iced Tea.)
Beyoncé, of course, is notoriously difficult to sing, and I typically consider it offensive to even try. But, if necessary, I go with “Work It Out” from Her Austin Power days. And, if I have a willing companion able to cover Jay Z’s verse, I’ll attempt “Drunk In Love,” but it never goes well.
Barbra Streisand’s “Don’t Rain On My Parade” is a necessary, confidence-boosting number, usually because I get to kick my feet like I’m leading a marching band, and everybody is encouraged to employ jazz hands throughout.
(Finish third Long Island Iced Tea.)
At this point in the evening, the audience should be blisteringly, offensively drunk. It’s vital that you establish this before proceeding. If you need to stall while someone buys more shots, fall back on another Taylor Swift song like “You Belong With Me.” Do whatever you can to make sure your audience is ready.
Then you stand up. You center yourself on the karaoke floor with your back to the audience, your head bowed, the microphone just at your chest. And you let out the first near-silent notes of Jennifer Hudson’s “And I Am Telling You” from the six-time Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Dreamgirls, adapted into the two-time Oscar-winning movie starring Beyoncé Knowles as Deena Jones. And you sing, letting your voice rise and fall with the words as they pass through you. You are no longer a karaoke singer. You are a vessel through which the lyrics of the best song of all time flow. You are sending a message, demanding your audience and anyone who has ever loved you and left you that you are going nowhere, you are HERE, you are LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE, and you will be loved. By the end of the song, you should be on the ground, in a pile of your own tears, surrounded by empty shot glasses and — if your audience came prepared — bouquets of wild roses. Stand up and reap your applause.
Then, of course, you end the night with “Best Song Ever.” Gotta give the crowd what they want.