From Garth Brooks to Neil Diamond — here’s the most overrated karaoke songs assembled
A list of this nature is long overdue. And that’s because in virtually every pocket of America, inside any karaoke juke joint, there’s a pile of karaoke favorites on speed dial. We’re not mad at their fame and popularity. That would be plain old hating. What we are outrageously bothered by are just how these songs have become so irritating over the years. There’s plenty of reasons behind their dilapidating mystique. And in no precise order it may include the murderous singers, excessive spins, weak songcraft and/or over-exaggerated fandom. But we’re here to set the record straight about these twenty overrated karaoke selections. We hope you agree with the math and science of it all.
Friends in Low Places
by Garth Brooks
Nothing like singing a drunken song on a night of drunken scaryoke. It never fails. Going into a country bar and this totally overrated Garth Brooks anthem is bound to pop out. Usually handled by some Southern-loving apprentice.
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
by Elton John
It’s actually a beautiful song. And the updated ’90’s duet with George Michael has its charms. But addicted karaoke crooners don’t know how to say no when they’ve had too much of a good thing. Usually karaoke outtakes of this Elton gem usually range from faux soul to excessively self-indulgent.
by Jeff Buckley/Rufus Wainwright/Leonard Cohen
A drawn-out ballad with minimalist instrumentation, melancholy verses and a chorus fit for a contemporary worship service. Sadly, someone usually pulls this one out when the room is crowded and usually lit, which is why KJ’s ban ballads like these on busy nights.
Every Rose Has Its Thorn
Hair rock goes bland country. It’s not hideous, but at karaoke it’s as cheap as hearing “God Bless the USA” at a Fourth of July fireworks show. Predictable and oh-so-bland.
Feel Like a Woman
by Shania Twain
A fun country hoopla that usually lures the worst singers on the planet to the mic and often makes you feel like you’re dying.
I’m the Only One
by Melissa Etheridge
Combining the grit of George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” with cheesy repetitive chick rock shouldn’t be a bad thing, but this Melissa Etheridge overplayed standard has become the bane of karaoke setlists. Usually, some fly-by country girl pulls this out in order to win over her rock-loving pals. Find another song to play with. If only the chorus had more lyrical meat and didn’t feel so incomplete.
Of all of Billy Joel’s big hits, you actually choose to sing the longest loungiest one of them all. And yeah, some versions come with that long ass piano and harmonica intro on it. Ugh! This selection calls for a smoke break.
Killing Me Softly
by The Fugees
No offense to the Fugees, but this isn’t exactly their best moment in musical history. This Roberta Flack remake, dressed up in the simplest of hip-hop beats and “one time, one time” emcee adlibs, is so overrated that the mainstream struggles to recall another Fugees, Wyclef Jean or Lauryn Hill song. That’s saying a lot.
by 4 Non Blondes
It’s the other “What’s Going On” song. The one where it doesn’t take much of a singer to get through a six-minute song without feeling like they need to get signed to a label.
From Grease motion picture soundtrack, performed by Olivia Newton-John & John Travolta
Tell me less. Tell me less. Another drugged-through-the-mud Broadway singalong that’s been abused like an Abba dancing queen. It doesn’t matter how many pleasant memories come with this song, or how many times we want to reminisce the unusual pairing of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in the motion picture version, it’s still a dorky ditty.
by The Proclaimers
I get it. It’s a trusty infectious singalong. But when you’re forced to go from spirited bar singing to chaotic over-the-top yelling, you’re now stepping into the realm of the obnoxious.
by Chris Stapleton
Every city-bred country lover wants to hit it big like Chris Stapleton. And yes, this bluesy song, an update over the Dixie country pride version by George Jones, is usually the dependent breadwinner. But if only they knew that the melody was ripped off from a much better song, the Etta James classic “I’d Rather Go Blind.” Now sing that if you got the balls.
Yes, you are a weirdo. For singing one of the most melancholic self-deprecating, low self-esteem popular rock songs of all time. Especially on how whack your A-game is at getting laid. Karaoke is about having a fun time, not a cheap alternative to avoiding your local shrink. If you can reinvent this song, cool. But please don’t drown us in a pit of deep depression, like most do when executed.
by Ike & Tina Turner
John Fogerty wrote a classic whipped with Tom Sawyer adages; Ike and Tina turned it into performance gold. But avid karaoke patrons have marred this with the ink of King Bezelbulb. Usually the rhythm and timing of the drunk soloist is fractured into hundreds of pieces. And the role of Tina is reduced to an embarrassing minstrel act. And it only exaggerates the notion most artists have about karaoke — it’s the hellspawn of music parody.
by The Eagles
How does a lengthy ballad with a string of instrumental breaks turn into karaoke gold? There’s no vocal ad-libs on those breaks. Just more and more West Coast guitar. The only reason why someone wants to perform this derivative song is that they happen to be one of the zillions who own a copy of their parents’ Hotel California and are that hungry to hear the crowd overpower their vocals.
by Michael Buble
Michael Buble, the cotton candy crooner of pop-jazz, found a way to turn an Eartha Kitt sex den into a McDonald’s playground. And no matter how good or great the singer is, this overdone karaoke offering almost always comes across as being G-rated come-hither overkill.
When the male part sounds like a robotic Right Fred Said and the girl part sounds like Paula Abdul sped up two times, you really are grinding our nerves. The song was painful enough. A bar performance version is tipping the iceberg.
by Spice Girls
Okay, we all want to see another Spice Girls reunion in our lifetime, but summoning your intoxicated girls’ night out gang to the stage on one of the cheesiest pop songs of the 20th century isn’t going to make that happen anytime soon.
Erykah Badu’s most popular song isn’t exactly a challenge. Talk-sing a little, make sure you put emphasis on the profanity (“ass,” “shit”) and do it with a little drunken magic and you’re well on your way to pulling off one of the most overrated songs in karaoke-dom.
by R. Kelly
In the era of #metoo, the criminally raunchy R Kelly hasn’t been giving the cold blow of backlash as Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer. And that shouldn’t stop us from appreciating the good that dwells inside his exhaustive music catalog. But Kelz’ “Ignition” needs serious break pads. Firstly, it’s sing-rap routine feels like Will Smith on reggaeton. Making matters worse, it’s often performed by preppy white boys looking to get laid. And with this being a pre-made R. Kelly workout, it should be a red flag for the lurking ladies.
A Whole New World
From Disney’s Aladdin, performed by Lea Salonga, Brad Kane
Disney called. They want their easiest, simplest and cheesiest adult contemporary duet back. Sadly, it’ll never be returned because so many faux-Broadway queens think the world of this song.
When desperate-for-bar-fame singers want to feed their ego and want an instant boost of karaoke cred, this is typically the final answer. But explain how an already challenging song performed like a rock symphony can be passably executed by a bundle of sloppy drunk 20-somethings.
From Rocky Horror Picture Show motion picture soundtrack
Sometimes a cult classic needs to stay underground with its cult, where it is warmly appreciated. Because this awkward genderfuck rock anthem from “Transalvania” originally performed by Tim Curry as the cocky Dr. Frank N. Furter is as brutally campy as it’s gonna get for karaoke. It’s just as hideous when the chosen singer tries to mimic Curry but comes off channeling their best impression of Michigan J. Frog.
All of Me
by John Legend
It was “Ordinary People” in the beginning, but karaoke goers got the memo to retire it. Now John Legend’s best follow-up, ironically cut from the same cloth of love lullaby, is in heavy rotation. And it’s so laughable to hear some of the most elementary Valentine lyrics being pulled off as serious: “You’re my down fall, you’re my muse/my worst distraction, my rhythm and blues.”
by Neil Diamond
It never fails. The Neil Diamond fan favorite almost always drops into the rotation of karaoke dojos all over. Because of its mighty sing-a-long factor. But this bubbly memento from the ’70’s is starting to wreak with the partly cloudy bubblegum pop overcast of the Brady/Partridge/Osmond families. And that “wha-wha-wha” and “so good, so good, so good” crowd ad-lib just adds even more angst to the experience.