CoS Exclusive FeaturesHotList 'Em Carefully

101 Best Alternative Karaoke Songs

on April 18, 2012, 12:00pm
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I worship at the church of karaoke. The parishoners and I are there to confess and meditate, to feel welcomed by a community, to hear a good sermon or two, to perchance see someone speak in tongues and have the words of the Lord Bon Jovi be channeled through a mere mortal. And, of course, to have some drinks and venture to make complete fools out of ourselves.

Karaoke exists in a vacuum of taste, where anomalies and exceptions always seem to arise and mess with my preconceptions. Maybe, like me, this is the only time you can really tolerate a Billy Joel song. Maybe those two dudes doing Sum 41’s “Fat Lip” actually sound kinda good, or that girl who’s really giving it the old college try on “Since U Been Gone” elicits all this empathy, and dammit you can’t be mad because she’s having fun!

This list — boiled down, mind you, from literally hundreds of runner-ups — is an extension of that feeling that happens when you flip through the entire karaoke book and you don’t see one song you want to sing. After polling the staff and consulting some of my long-time karaoke buddies, these are the songs we all wish would be added to the karaoke canon that we personally have never seen before (we are excluding the deep cuts in Austin’s Karaoke Underground book).

And if it’s one thing most of these songs have in common, they’re totally depressing. Sorry. To make up for that, and in contrast to a lot of karaoke standards, a whole grip of these songs don’t require you to have a good voice. In fact, you could be totally tone-deaf and still do an absolutely kick-ass version of  The Fall’s “Totally Wired” because the song isn’t about impressing Cee-Lo and Adam Levine with pitch and tone, it’s about the performance. There’s plenty more like that on the list that I felt would always be fun — songs that don’t focus on notes as much as they do putting on a great show.

Don’t fret, choir nerds, it’s not all post-punk pogo-dance chant standards. There’s plenty of new vocal challenges all over the list, from tUnE-yArDs to Jeff Buckley to Dirty Projectors to Hasil Adkins. There’s a lot more. Who knows, there may even be another list further down the road. What songs would you like to sing at Karaoke that are never in the books? Let us know in the comments.

You can access the entire list on SpotifyEnjoy!

-Jeremy D. Larson
Managing Editor

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Bobsled Overdrive
October 17, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Fantastic. I feel like I’d get along with the writer of this list. Then we’d fight when I made an argument for DLZ as best TVOTR song.

April 10, 2013 at 8:49 am

Jeff Buckley – Grace and Joy Division – Transmission are on karaoke by a company called Sunfly.

April 25, 2012 at 2:49 pm

No Radiohead… What a joke of a list.

Dave Ryan
April 18, 2012 at 10:28 pm

always wanted to do keep the car running. my go-tos when i can’t decide: prince’s ‘kiss’, elton john’s ‘benny and the jets’ and jay-z’s ’99 problems’.

Frank Lombardo
April 18, 2012 at 2:24 pm

You are incredibly opinionated for someone who is musically illiterate. 
And dissing Billy Joel only verifies your ignorance.

April 18, 2012 at 1:45 pm

i shamefully must post this, seeing as it’s an article about Karaoke. And what’s more alternative than semi nude karaoke.

April 18, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Wish there was someplace in Chicago that had all these songs on their song list. Best we have is Trader Todd’s. If you know a place… 

Daniel Garza
May 14, 2013 at 12:28 pm

I’m in Houston, but visited Chicago recently and Blue Frog’s Local 22 has all of these and runs karaoke on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.


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