101 Best Alternative Karaoke Songs
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 Spotify. Enjoy!
-Jeremy D. Larson
Andrew Bird, Animal Collective, Arcade Fire, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Azealia Banks, Beat Happening, Best Coast, Black Lips, Bon Iver, Bright Eyes, Built to Spill, Cibo Matto, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, College, Das Racist, Dent May, Destroyer, Dirty Projectors, Dismemberment Plan, Electric Youth, Elliott Smith, Free Energy, Frightened Rabbit, Fugazi, Girls, Gogol Bordello, Grinderman, Guided By Voices, Hasil Adkins, Hunx and His Punx, Interpol, Janelle Monáe, Jay Reatard, Jeff Buckley, Jens Lekman, Joanna Newsom, Joy Division, Kurt Vile, Lana Del Rey, LCD Soundsystem, Lush, Mission of Burma, My Morning Jacket, Neutral Milk Hotel, Nick Lowe, of Montreal, Okkervil River, OutKast, Patti Smith, Pavement, Peaches, Pixies, PJ Harvey, R Kelly, Regina Spektor, Rilo Kiley, Rufus Wainwright, Ryan Adams, Scott Walker, Silver Jews, Sleater-Kinney, Sleigh Bells, Spoon, St. Vincent, Supergrass, Television, The Black Keys, The Breeders, The Decemberists, The Fall, The Flaming Lips, The Hold Steady, The Jesus Lizard, The Knife, The Mountain Goats, The National, The New Pornographers, The Rapture, The Replacements, The Shins, The Strokes, The Weeknd, The-Dream, Tom Waits, tUnE-yArDs, TV on the Radio, Why?, Wilco, Wild Flag, Wire, Wolf Parade