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Turn Around, Bright Eyes: 7 Songs That Should Be BANNED from Karaoke Night Forever!

October 28, 2010

The best karaoke performances aren’t from folks who possess a preternatural command of voice and song. Strong, enjoyable karaoke performances are a successful marriage of entertainer and appropriate song choice. Ironic performances of Celine Dion need not apply. I love me some karaoke. And I’m good too. We’re not talking great pipes; I’m more a vocal stylist who is kind enough to stick to what works with my limited range. That said, there are some songs – oh some songs – people should just LEAVE THE HELL ALONE. I’m not even talking about bad singing, but rather I’m tired of hearing these songs. However, the bad singing and shoddy performances do not add value either.1

My girls gleefully butcher “I am Woman”. But Sam’s outfit is killing it. Still, this is easily better than 90% of performances you’ll find at the average karaoke bar, or club on karaoke night. That said n o b o d y should be singing freaking “I am Women” regardless if their rendition is ironic and definitely NOT if it is at all earnest. The worst offenders are usually drunken frat guys who think they’re being clever. Was that isht in a movie or something? Perhaps a gross-out comedy. It’s too original for a group of guys who spent all their time with other dudes, yet are hell bent on proving in rather problematic ways they aren’t momos.

• Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler

Any song that finds its way onto an episode of Glee should immediately pulled from Karaoke rotation. Anyone who watches Glee on purpose can’t be assumed to be in possession of one lick of sense, therefore someone probably needs to limit their ability to clear a bar with their clichéd song selection. That said this song’s been annoying folks in karaoke bars longer than Glee‘s been annoying folks on TV. Also don’t let your car-e-oke fool you; you do not know all the words to this song. You also can’t hit that, “Turn around, bright eyes” note and the audience will hate you when they find this out. The bartender will also start watering down your drinks.

• I Touch Myself – The Divinyls.

Dude, nobody wants to watch you drunkenly crawl across a filthy karaoke stage, jacking up the words of this one hit wonder in a shrill, shaky voice while picturing the ex who won’t call you back feeling moved by your supposedly transgressive and sexy performance to rethink their position. Keep it klassy, just like the Michael Bay helmed video!

• American Pie – Don Mclean

The music dies a little more each time some earnest chowderhead gets on stage and holds the audience hostage for eight minutes working their way through the events of La Bamba, which I’m pretty sure has shorter running time than this song.

• I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) – Meatloaf

I don’t care of you’re a fat guy. I don’t care if you look like Meatloaf. I don’t even care if you can shut down a song just like Meatloaf or played Eddie for several years in a RHPS shadow cast. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of those things. Those are all GREAT, awesome, enviable things. However… No. No. No. No. Save this song for your bathroom mirror. The notable exception is if you are in fact Meatloaf. That goes for pretty much anything by Meatloaf.

• Summer Nights – Olivia & John

Hey, I think it’s great you got the whole Crisis Diversion team out to blow off some steam and I really appreciate the work you do, but really, we’re not filming MSWs Gone Wild here, and no, that singing and dancing yourselves back to the booth is not a nice touch.

• Don’t Cry Out Loud – Melissa Manchester

Yeah, I saw that movie too. And you know what, it has never compelled me to butcher one of Melissa Manchester’s finest songs. Sawdust and glitter do not describe the conditions under which this song should be performed. Okay, so maybe “Looking Through The Eyes of Love” is actually the better song. And no, you can’t sing that either.

___________________________________
1 by everyone I mean everyone except me and Raymondj.

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37 Comments leave one →
  1. October 28, 2010 8:12 am

    But what if I can hit the “turn around bright eyes” note?

  2. October 28, 2010 8:18 am

    The bars I frequent tend to boo professional singers; it goes against the spirit of karaoke. I can hit it too, but I wouldn’t sing the song a karaoke, because it’s tired and because karaoke is not about singing.

  3. October 28, 2010 8:19 am

    I personally think that most musical theater fare should be left out of karaoke as well. I don’t need to see you living out your failed dreams of Broadway glory by trying to sing “On My Own” from Les Miserables or “Memory” from Cats, okay?

    However, I did once witness a moment of karaoke magic when my friend’s boyfriend-at-the-time did a solo rendition of Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” and managed to do almost all of the vocals by himself. It was astonishing.

  4. October 28, 2010 8:20 am

    However, I did once witness a moment of karaoke magic when my friend’s boyfriend-at-the-time did a solo rendition of Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” and managed to do almost all of the vocals by himself. It was astonishing.

    That’s what I’m talking about. I would pay cashmoney to see that. That’s a performance!

  5. October 28, 2010 8:23 am

    I love Big-n-Rich but I’m tired of drunk, creepy dudes singing that song and expecting all the ladies to compile.

  6. October 28, 2010 8:30 am

    Don’t Cry Out Loud is my new standard!!! I will retire it before we sing. I’ve wanted to do the Under Pressure solo version, but I need to practice a bit more. I used to do a solo version of Forget About Dre where I did both Dr. Dre and Eminem’s parts.

    Songs I Here Every Time At Karaoke, EVERY TIME, and Wouldn’t Mind a Break From:

    Black Velvet – Alannah Myles
    Vacation – Go-Go’s
    Don’t Stop Believin – Journey (and this was before Glee even, it’s only gotten worse)
    ….and Summer Nights, as you mentioned.

    There was a two year period where every time I went to karaoke, there was a bacherlorette party and they would inevitably do a big group version of Lil Jon’s Get Low. I kinda miss that period, now that it’s done.

  7. October 28, 2010 8:38 am

    @Raymond – there’s a Ray Ray/Snarky clause. We can sing Melissa. We are properly trained!

    If I never hear “Black Velvet” it’ll be a miracle. Why does everyone like singing this song???

    also, “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child makes me stabby too. It’s always decidedly unbad ass up there singing all nervously and botching the words, except that one line about compromising Christianity, which is usually the only lines they know.

  8. evmaroon permalink
    October 28, 2010 8:50 am

    I did make the mistake once, in a fit of whimsy while drunk, to sing my way through Your Body is a Wonderland. And I sincerely hope I never hear that song again in whatever days I have remaining in my life.

  9. October 28, 2010 8:50 am

    hahaha. there should also be a warning on The Boy Is Mine — everyone thinks they know that song, but they don’t. I have fallen prey to this myself, sadly.

    at the karaoke bar I frequent, if someone is a really good singer, they get some warm attention and applause, but only at first. by song three or four, people start grumbling about showing off.

  10. October 28, 2010 8:57 am

    at the karaoke bar I frequent, if someone is a really good singer, they get some warm attention and applause, but only at first. by song three or four, people start grumbling about showing off.

    LOL. So true. Sometimes they don’t even get through their first song before the grumbling starts. My friends – we’ll call them Shell and Bren – got BOOED off the stage during their faithful and award winning performance of Tell Him! Booed in face and all the way back to their seats.

    Meanwhile my “I know you feel me, even though I can’t sang for straw” version of “I’ve Got a Rock and Roll Heart” shut it down and won the $100!!!

  11. October 28, 2010 9:00 am

    ev, sometimes late in the night after many many rounds, I threaten to sing such 90s classics as these.

    I have done Hey Jealousy and Sister Hazel in this state before. Yeah, I said Sister Hazel, what?

  12. October 28, 2010 9:01 am

    Besides, this is the Melissa Manchester song to sing at Karaoke. She puts training wheels on her monster pipes.

  13. October 28, 2010 9:02 am

    This song is in the catalog at my local place, and it just seems so wrong. I’ve never heard it done, but i want it pre-banned to ensure I never will.

  14. October 28, 2010 9:04 am

    this was also on my ban list, until I heard my friend AJ do it recently in the style of Cher. he can keep doing that. but just him!!

  15. October 28, 2010 9:07 am

    @raymondj and everett.

    Omg. I have had a bout of the early 90s too!!


    pissing off whatever chunkerbutt dude had planned his evening around singing it.

    I had great hand motions to the “me and cinderella” part, involving miming putting on a glass slipper!

    Omg, you couldn’t tell me nothing. RABBIT, WHERE’D PUT THE KEEEEEYS, GIRL!!

  16. evmaroon permalink
    October 28, 2010 9:22 am

    Personally, I would die happy if I saw a decent rendition of any Kate Bush song.
    Violin, violin, violiiiiiiin…….

  17. Alyx Vesey permalink
    October 28, 2010 9:29 am

    A friend of mine would crutch real hard on Bon Jovi’s “Bed of Roses.” Miss the guy, but not that song. I can do without hearing Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979” as well. I second raymondj and would add any Journey song as needed to be banned. I heard Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” and P!nk’s “Get This Party Started” a lot for a while, but I love those songs so they get a pass.

    My go-to karaoke jams are Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love To You,” Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” Blur’s “Girls and Boys,” Spandau Ballet’s “True,” and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” which other friends might want taken out of rotation, but I love them.

  18. October 28, 2010 9:34 am

    @Alyx. Billy Joel is perfect for karaoke. He’s great for a range of musical abilities and his songs are generally crowd pleasing. I like to do “We Didn’t Start The Fire” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me”.

    I’m kind of itching to do:

  19. Karen permalink
    October 28, 2010 9:34 am

    PIANO MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. October 28, 2010 9:44 am

    If it’s a hipster bar, someone will inevitably do “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” and the answer is well, you should get your sorry ass out and choose something else. Another hipster favorite, anything by the Pixies. But I’ve never seen anyone get close to either making it awesome, or nailing that Frank Black snarl. My lean-on is “She Bop” by Cyndi Lauper and “In Your Room” by the Bangles. I’ve made people blush with both.

  21. October 28, 2010 9:45 am

    Xena, help me! No more Van Morrison (Unless it’s Everyone or Domino)

  22. October 28, 2010 9:46 am

    Songs I never want to hear at karaoke again:

    -Livin on a Prayer
    -What’s Up
    -Like a Prayer

    and no offense Cyndi Lauper cuz you’re awesome

    -Girls Just Want to Have Fun

    I’ve just been subjected to these songs WAY too many times that I can’t even listen to the originals any more.

    Songs I’ll perform any time someone has the misfortune to hand me a mike:

    -U2’s Stay
    -Nearly anything by Queen
    -And um, sometimes, Total Eclipse of the Heart (ducking now)

  23. October 28, 2010 9:47 am

    If it’s a hipster bar, someone will inevitably do “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” and the answer is well, you should get your sorry ass out and choose something else. Another hipster favorite, anything by the Pixies. But I’ve never seen anyone get close to either making it awesome, or nailing that Frank Black snarl. My lean-on is “She Bop” by Cyndi Lauper and “In Your Room” by the Bangles. I’ve made people blush with both.

    Oh god. I have seen such a performance of “Should I Stay or Should I go?” and people booed! It was awesome. Same dude previously tortured us with the Art of Noise/Tom Jones version of “Kiss” , which could have been metal if he hadn’t been so smug.

  24. October 28, 2010 9:48 am

    oh yes, I would add “Wanted Dead or Alive” to the do-not-play list as well; I’ve now heard that at karaoke more times then I did in the late 80s.

  25. October 28, 2010 9:49 am

    @Ev, I have attempted Wuthering Heights. It didn’t go down well.

  26. October 28, 2010 9:52 am

    -What’s Up

    This song is so popular at Karaoke. It’s like Black Velvet for lesbians! I don’t know when “What’s Up” replaced “Come to my Window”, but I’m kind of sad it did.

  27. October 28, 2010 9:55 am

    -And um, sometimes, Total Eclipse of the Heart (ducking now)

    Believe me I understand the allure for us Spaceagers. Forget Cher, Bonnie Tyler is the real survivor. She had a medical issues that nearly ended her career and came back FIERCE in 1983!

    I do love that song. Wow, was that video always so bizarre?

    @pop scrib – I also love singing Queen, but mostly “Killer Queen”

  28. October 28, 2010 10:03 am

    More no no’s:

    Nobody wants to hear your empowerment screeched through a tinny PA system.

    I hated this song back in the 90s and I hate it at karaoke. Usually accompanied by some fake harmonica playing and an awful Ashley Simpson inspired jig

    Oh sigh. A pretty great song forever ruined.

    omg, please, I beg you.

  29. unscrambled permalink
    October 28, 2010 10:36 am

    I think there should be a discussion of less drunk/more drunk songs to choose in this context.

    As an example, I totally know the words to “Turn Off The Lights”–but, uh, not the last time I tried to sing it at karaoke. Maude, it was ugly.

    The banning of Bon Jovi has already been discussed, but Raymond has a friend who is a Bon Jovi expert and maintains that if you can shut down the songs that aren’t hits, you get a pass. I totally agree. Additionally, I think when “Don’t Stop Believing” became a problem was after the Soprano’s finale.

    However, having heard Bill Clinton on the radio the other day, I think “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” might be a decent replacement for the karaoke masses. Similarly, a song that gets sung all the time (and naturally, which I have sung) that I don’t get sick of is “Hold On.”

  30. October 28, 2010 10:47 am

    The banning of Bon Jovi has already been discussed, but Raymond has a friend who is a Bon Jovi expert and maintains that if you can shut down the songs that aren’t hits, you get a pass. I totally agree. Additionally, I think when “Don’t Stop Believing” became a problem was after the Soprano’s finale.

    Saw a powerful performance of “Never Say Goodbye”. it was the perfect final song of the night. The singer was very good. He found the enviable sweet spot between overwrought and smug irony. The song is wannabe Springsteen (the most obvious of Bon Jovi’s wannabe heavy catalog) but still made with love and awesome.

    I wish more people did Aerosmith. I am the bad person who does their cheesy Diane Warren hit. I’m really really good. Because I love Aerosmith, Diane Warren, Bruce Willis and action movies.

  31. October 28, 2010 11:58 am

    I think any song with an instrumental break that lasts longer than 8 bars should be banned. This may be a bit draconian considering some people have moves but think of all the drunken air guitar solos we’ll be eliminating.

  32. October 28, 2010 12:05 pm

    Agreed, Redlami

    Also no more Mustang Sally. I don’t care how good the performance is.

  33. Mickey permalink
    October 28, 2010 12:42 pm

    Why does every whitecap frat boy suddenly become tortured the second they hit a plywood riser and belt into a mic? “Creep” (the Radiohead version, not the STP) needs to be banned for life. It brings all the frat boys to the yard. In the worst possible way.

  34. October 28, 2010 12:47 pm

    Why does every whitecap frat boy suddenly become tortured the second they hit a plywood riser and belt into a mic? “Creep” (the Radiohead version, not the STP) needs to be banned for life. It brings all the frat boys to the yard. In the worst possible way.

    hahahah oh isht. Very true.

  35. October 28, 2010 6:32 pm

    Here are more No-no’s:

    Rock your Body (Backstreet Boys)
    We Will Rock You (Queen- fun, but overdone)
    Bohemian Rhapsody (please see “We Will Rock You”)
    Friends in Low Places (once I watched six guys act a bit tipsy, drinking while singing this)
    Blame It on the Rain (Milli Vanilli- should I explain?)

    …and the list goes on…..

  36. October 28, 2010 8:57 pm

    One of my favorites that gets the male-does-duet treatment is “The Time of My Life” (from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack)- a number which takes quick changes of vocal in tune and time. As the DJ introduced me with the song, he added, “he will do it with himself.”

  37. Q.V. permalink
    October 28, 2010 10:54 pm

    The best karaoke performances aren’t from folks who possess a preternatural command of voice and song.

    Thank you for putting that right up front. I love going to karaoke but have a fuck of a time trying to get to people except other Pac-Rim folks to go with me, they seem to understand that music students are set up to fail. Our curriculum didn’t include Bonnie Tyler and my teacher certainly never approved Patsy Cline on the repertoire list. The microphones are difficult to get used to, the recording doesn’t cover your mistakes like an accompanist does (they skip pages, slow down, speed up, prompt you!), classical music audiences are often not yet drunk, and they certainly don’t talk back to you (except that one time, but that Gollem lady was, like, a hundred years old).

    . . . karaoke is not about singing.

    That! Karaoke singing is an art apart from what can be taught, and I love watching even more than I love those minutes of anticipation between getting my name called and the first bars of “Cabaret” hitting the monitor. I like watching even horrible performances, though more in a Bones-type anthropological way, and I’m guilty of joining my new best friends for the night, the hockey-jersey-clad strangers, in an occasional group-sing of “Wanted Dead or Alive” or “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”. The single older men who sit alone and do earnest, note-perfect, and boringly self-interested versions of “Turn the Page” are fascinating.

    I wouldn’t last five bars in the karaoke bars you all go to (or the Hawaiian bar in Anchorage, for that matter). But it would be fun to try.

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