The 50 best karaoke songs

Go on, sing your heart out
CEO Neway
Photo: David Ong/Blink Studio
By Time Out KL editors |

We’ve road-tested (and butchered) more than a hundred songs, sang them both sober and not, to bring you this ultimate list of best karaoke hits. Get your mic on… and, to borrow the words of André 3000, ‘Shake it, shake it like a Polaroid picture!’

Need a good place to sing these hits? See our list of the best karaoke joints in town

Best karaoke songs

'Stayin Alive' - Bee Gees

Throw in some falsetto as well as tambourine action and you’ll get yourself a disco shindig. Quick tip: pretend to hyperventilate in between verses to achieve that tremulous, Barry Gibb effect. Kong Wai Yeng

Best karaoke songs

'Beauty and the Beast' - Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson

Sneak in a bit of Disney with this duet. Bonus points if you get the music video with the original movie scenes. Joyce Koh

Best karaoke songs

'Sk8er Boi' - Avril Lavigne

The ultimate high school anthem to tell us that opposites do attract and if you don’t make your move, someone else will (ps: We have to thank Avril Lavigne for allowing girls to look cool in neckties). Alison Khong

Best karaoke songs

'You Were Meant For Me' - Jewel

Every karaoke playlist needs a lull in between those dance numbers and our pick is this country song about heartbreak. Plus, lyrics include ‘eggs and pancakes’. Joyce Koh

Best karaoke songs

'Fantastic Baby' - Big Bang

It’s a K-pop-EDM banger glossed with the requisite rapping and a high-note climax. And when the chorus hits ‘Wow… Fantastic Baby’, the karaoke room explodes into an instant mini clubbing session. Kong Wai Yeng

Best karaoke songs

'Lady Marmalade' - Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya and Pink

If you’ve got a friend who wants to rap and another who needs to bring out her inner diva, this retake on the 1975 classic covers all those areas. Alison Khong

Best karaoke songs

'Forever Love - Lee Hom

Way before Lee Hom embarked on his experimental hip hop East-meets-West ‘Chinked Out’ phase, there are his acoustic ballads, perfect for heartfelt sing-alongs in darkened karaoke rooms. Start with ‘Forever Love’. Joyce Koh

Best karaoke songs

'What's Up' - 4 Non Blondes

Consistently on alltime worst songs lists, freak hit ‘What’s Up’ from the San Francisco band’s (only) album is still a really fun karaoke song. ‘And I say…’ Joyce Koh

Best karaoke songs

'The Real Slim Shady' - Eminem

It’s avowedly offensive, which gives you the perfect license to spew expletives and live out that fantasy rap-star moment in front of an appreciative crowd. Kong Wai Yeng

Best karaoke songs

'Lovefool' - The Cardigans

Tune the ’90s nostalgia way, way up with this dancey, vaguely disco, funk pop hit from Swedish rock outfit The Cardigans. Even better if your crush is in the room. Joyce Koh

Best karaoke songs

'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai' - Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

This is the time to double check and see if Shah Rukh Khan is really singing ‘tumpah se-air’. Don’t forget your twirls and ‘twist the light bulb’ dance move. Alison Khong

Best karaoke songs

'Goodbye Kiss' - Jacky Cheung

We think Michael Learn(ed) to Rock by adapting this iconic Canto-pop ballad by Jacky Cheung to ‘Take Me To Your Heart’. Google the pinyin and sing your heart out. Joyce Koh

Best karaoke songs

'End of the Road' - Boyz II Men

The ultimate jiwang karaoke tune that lets you belt it all out and improvise with harmonisations. If Justin Bieber and James Corden can do it, so can you. Alison Khong

Best karaoke songs

'In the End' - Linkin Park

Linkin Park should have been one of your first rock concerts in KL, and the only way to sing it is to imitate Chester Bennington’s throat screams. Alison Khong

Best karaoke songs

'Sinaran' - Sheila Majid

One of the best Malaysian songs of all time, ‘Sinaran’ is the ageless answer to your pop music prayers. Warning: this song will make you want to dance. Ng Su Ann

Best karaoke songs

'I Try' - Macy Gray

A stirring soul-pop evergreen, ‘I Try’ is an underrated but sure-fire karaoke hit; it’s certainly not too demanding vocally, and after all, Macy Gray was known for mumbling (you can too, if you must). Also, it’s an upbeat breakup song. Ng Su Ann

Best karaoke songs

'Isabella' - Search

The Malaysian answer to Bon Jovi, Search’s slow jam, rock kapak anthem ‘Isabella’ should inspire air headbanging while air guitaring. Ng Su Ann

Best karaoke songs

'Wannabe' - Spice Girls

You’re spending Friday night out singing and having a good time with your girlfriends. So tell me what ELSE you want, what you really, really want? Alison Khong

Best karaoke songs

'Kau Ilhamku' - Man Bai

One of the most identifiable local hits that found its way into the busking community and high school concerts in the ’90s. Kong Wai Yeng

Best karaoke songs

'Love Story' - Taylor Swift

It was impossible to nail down – what about ‘22’, or ‘You Belong With Me’, or her other number one hits? – but this track won out on account of how it’s inspired by ‘Romeo and Juliet’, except with a happy ending. Ng Su Ann

Best karaoke songs

'Silence' - Jay Chou

How did Jay Chou, once a poor, scrawny composer subsisting on just ramen and fried chicken, beat out the Jacky Cheungs and A-Meis in the late ’90s? This song, together with a slew of chart-toppers during his ‘Fantasy’ days. The chorus sweeps you into the desolate world of heartbreak – he’s hurt, he’s broken, and the fragile, love-deprived you, mourns along. ‘Silence' harks back to Jay’s most honest self. He didn’t redefine the meaning of pop; he pulverised it, creating a sound that only he, and he alone, can lay claim to. Kong Wai Yeng

Best karaoke songs

'Dancing Queen' - ABBA

Massive ABBA hit ‘Dancing Queen’ is practically the dance anthem of the ’70s, with its lyrics influencing party-hard songs of today. (See: ‘Night is young and the music’s high’. Ahem.) Those Scandinavians do know how to write songs to get karaoke-goers jiving on the couch. All together now: ‘See that girl, watch that scene, digging the dancing queen.’ Joyce Koh

Best karaoke songs

'That Thing You Do' - The Wonders

Lighthearted and likable, ‘That Thing You Do’ could have easily been a hit song in the ’60s – had it been an actual song by an actual band, instead of the title track of the Tom Hanks film. As far as perfect pop songs ala early-The Beatles are concerned, it ticks all the right boxes: joyous naïvete, hand claps and major-to-minor chord progressions. Ng Su Ann

Best karaoke songs

'Zombie' - The Cranberries

Making it into our Top 30 is the one song that no one but Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries can rock. The very thought of the ‘zombie-eh eh eh’ part is enough to make our eardrums bleed, but we have to admit that butchering this song is exactly what makes ‘Zombie’ so fun. Joyce Koh

Best karaoke songs

'Wild World' - Cat Stevens

The original singer-songwriter for this hit is in fact Cat Stevens. Mr. Big just did a really good cover. When we all need peace in this wild world, take it down a notch and just keep singing those woes away because baby, it will always be a wild world. Alison Khong

Best karaoke songs

'Survivor' - Destiny’s Child

Before she took over the pop and R&B throne with female-empowering chart-toppers, Queen Bey had a crew. It’s hard to choose one song from the entire Destiny’s Child catalogue but while their other hits are dance-heavy, this one lets you work on your girl power attitude. Also, the music video slays. Nadia Rosli

Best karaoke songs

'Summer Nights' - John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John

This Sandy and Danny duet is proof that love stories are best told when sung. This is a fun tune to sing to especially when there’s a good number of boys and girls in the room. Split them down and make sure everyone is on cue when it comes to ‘Tell me more, tell me more!’ Take that, ‘High School Musical’. Alison Khong

Best karaoke songs

'Rehab' - Amy Winehouse

It’s easy to turn this iconic gem into a pitiful warble when you don’t have the chops like Amy (or you can just do the ‘no, no, no’ part). The chorus sings like powerful statements, and this Grammy winner adds attitude to it with her deep, raspy, soulful voice. If you’re no Amy (there is only one Amy Winehouse, by the way), then amp up the sass and own it like you don’t give a damn. Because Amy didn’t too. Kong Wai Yeng

Best karaoke songs

'It's Gonna Be Me' - NSYNC

A karaoke guilty pleasure (come on, admit it!), NSYNC’s only Billboard number one single allows you to channel your inner ’90s boyband (see: heart-clutching and lots of finger pointing and head-shaking). It’s also the best opportunity to try out the band’s slick dance moves. ‘It’s gonna be mayyyy...!’ Syarifah Syazana

Best karaoke songs

'Billie Jean' - Michael Jackson

Of course you want to sing a song from the King Of Pop. When ‘Billie Jean’ begins, the drums kick in and you see your shoulders doing the shimmy to the tune. Your feet start shuffling, imitating the renowned moonwalk. Don’t think twice. Put on that imaginary shiny glove and get ready to screech the ‘heeeee-eeee’s and ‘oohh’s! Fun fact: Michael Jackson recorded this song all in one take. Alison Khong

Best karaoke songs

'I Want to Hold Your Hand' - The Beatles

If you need something to sing along to together, nothing beats this Beatles hit. Clocking in at around two and a half minutes, it’s the right length – considering that the lyrics are repetitive, it’s not too draggy. Plus points for it being a happy song, so save this for after your sappy ballads. Nadia Rosli

Best karaoke songs

'No Scrubs' - TLC

TLC is demanding respect flat-out in this danceable jam on female-empowerment, and it’s infectious. ‘No Scrubs’ is an education on how to treat a lady right as the power trio raps with swag in their Japanese cyber-punk-inspired music video. Y’all don’t talk about what you want, y’all don’t holler at the ladies, y’all don’t sit on your broke ass. Sing it with your posse – they’ll throw their hands up for that. Kong Wai Yeng

Best karaoke songs

'Like A Prayer' - Madonna

Forget Hozier preaching ‘amen’ with his religious flavor of a pop hit. Madonna brought the sass long before. Despite the Holy Grail Madonna searches for in the music video, only she can bring sex to a place of worship with lyrics like, ‘When you call my name it’s like a little prayer / I’m down on my knees, I wanna take you there’. Just embrace it and get everyone singing along like a choir. Alison Khong

Best karaoke songs

'Crazy in Love' - Beyoncé feat. Jay-Z

If you’re going to sing a Queen B song, it has to be ‘Crazy in Love’: it was her first number one single as a solo artist in the US, and marks her departure from Destiny’s Child (RIP) to a deity of R&B. This is The Beyoncé Show, from the hardcore horn blazes, to the harmonies (the trademark ‘uh oh, uh oh, uh oh, no no no’s should be accompanied with moves like Beyoncé). ‘You ready?’ You better be. Ng Su Ann

Best karaoke songs

'Always Be My Baby' - Mariah Carey

Read the lyrics on their own and they sound like a confession of a psychopathic girlfriend (‘I’m part of you indefinitely / Boy don’t you know you can’t escape me’) but this is a Mariah song, which means bring on the sultry melisma, the vocal acrobatics, the butterflies and the glitter. ‘Always Be My Baby’ is Mariah’s Houston-style balladry at its best, and you will no doubt have everyone singing along to the fun ‘do do doop’ on loop. Kong Wai Yeng

Best karaoke songs

'Quit Playing Games With My Heart' - Backstreet Boys

Why this is the best BSB music video to sing to: Five men singing in the rain in their silky pajamas, some furrowed brows, some topless chest-gyrating you cannot un-see (but so love), Howie D touching his nipples, the beat drops… and all shirt buttons break loose. ‘QPGWMY’ is one of those songs you must sing at the karaoke because the music video is great, so campy-great. Shame, they don’t make this kind of boyband anymore. Kong Wai Yeng

Best karaoke songs

'Hey Ya!' - Outkast

The 2003 smash hit is probably the easiest rap song to sing, and we recommend going all in with claps and shakes in time to André 3000. Make sure you get your friends to do the call-and-response (or you could do it yourself), but most importantly, you need to ‘shake it!’ Syarifah Syazana

Best karaoke songs

'I Will Always Love You' - Whitney Houston

If it hasn’t been sung yet, you should slay it – and we mean butcher, as in butcher this beloved ballad – because no karaoke night out is complete without a caterwauling, talent-show rendition of ‘I Will Always Love You’. If you can hold that one note like Whitney Houston (you know that one note), then go with the bombastic, operatic techniques. If not, no matter, because this has so much potential for playfulness, 99 percent of which is credited to the ‘I’s at the beginning and the ‘you’s at the end. Ng Su Ann

Best karaoke songs

'Kiss From A Rose' - Seal

Twenty years ago, a bare-chested Seal lit up by a Bat-Signal gave us ‘Kiss from a Rose’, re-released on the soundtrack of ‘Batman Forever’ – and it was so bad, it was good (oh, we also mean the film franchise). Daft and dramatic, it hits the nail squarely and sweetly with its metaphorical mixology: ‘But did you know that when it snows / My eyes become large and the light that you shine can be seen?’ Cue fist-clenching, knee dropping and T-shirt-ripping. Ng Su Ann

Best karaoke songs

'Killing Me Softly' - The Fugees

There are many, many reasons as to why ‘Killing Me Softly’ makes for class A karaoke. Firstly, the fact that it’s a slow, steady song that doesn’t entail vocal pyrotechnics means it’s a safe choice for the less showy singers. Secondly, the ‘la la la’s and ‘whoa’s three minutes in is genius: it’s airy enough that you can improvise, channel some plaintive pining, and truly make the song yours. Thirdly, The Fugees’s version is better simply because you can bring a friend up to do Wyclef Jean’s ‘one time / two time’ lines. Ng Su Ann

Axl Rose

'Sweet Child O' Mine' - Guns N’ Roses

Slash’s godly opening guitar riff – we could’ve ended our reason right there. But since we’re talking about karaoke, let’s see why this is such a quintessential hit: a) wailing; b) Axl Rose wailing about a girl; c) Axl Rose wailing about a girl that leads to a marriage with said girl, and a divorce 30 days later. Tick, tick, tick! And the abrupt drop off – the exchange between Slash’s licks and Rose’s lyrics – is a winning recipe to more air guitar moments. Get the booze and score crowd participation with this one. Kong Wai Yeng

Britney Spears

'Baby One More Time' - Britney Spears

Whether you’re 14 or 41, we’ve all sang into the hairbrush and danced to this bubblegum, prom staple like a naughty schoolgirl. Call Britney what you want – ‘Beautiful’, ‘Crazy’, ‘Toxic’ – but this poster girl for MTV is so kickass, damaged and fabulous she’s almost bad for your child. ‘Oops!…I Did It Again’ and ‘Womanizer’ are catchy, but they don’t hit you like BOMT – the candy-coated hooks, the saccharine voice and the suggestive MV have spawned countless covers. That’s the power of Britney, bitch. Kong Wai Yeng

Best karaoke songs

'Boundless Oceans, Vast Skies' - Beyond

There’s a reason why this two-decade old Cantonese ballad is used as the unofficial anthem of the Hong Kong umbrella protests. Written by Wong Ka Kui (the vocalist and soul of Beyond who passed away in an incident involving a faulty late night Japanese game show prop), this song about disillusionment with dreams and the longing for freedom still resonates today. Clear as a bell. Beyond rules. Joyce Koh


'Someone Like You' - Adele

The complete opposite of ‘Rolling in the Deep’s thumping piano rhythms and screw-you lyrics written by a spurned lover, ‘Someone Like You’ is a slow, quiet, deceptively understated work from Adele that hits all the right notes, pulling at our heartstrings with lyrics that just… geddit, you know? No wonder it’s become the torch song of this generation. We wish nothing but the best for you, Adele. Joyce Koh


'I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing' - Aerosmith

Heart-wrenching orchestra power chords, Liv Tyler, asteroids, and Steve Tyler at his hard rocker best. This theme song for ‘Armageddon’ is perfect when you want to scream your lungs right out. Just remember to pass out ear plugs before you get to the final chorus. Joyce Koh

Best karaoke songs

'Belaian Jiwa' - Innuendo

When choosing a jiwang Malay song to croon to, make it ‘Belaian Jiwa’ – arguably one of the most famous local love songs of the olden days. Great choice for when you need a cooling down session after belting out all your rock classics. Pro tip: Make sure you’re choosing the Innuendo version and not the original by the ’70s group Carefree. Nadia Rosli


'Don't Stop Believin' - Journey

It’s a blue-collar bar anthem: ‘Just a small town girl / Livin’ in a lonely world / She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere’. The thing about ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ is that it’s inescapable, and ‘it goes on and on and on and on’: whether people love it or hate it, they will sing along. It’s a power ballad that demands pipes, but so what if you can’t hit notes that high? This is a song about self-perseverance, so compensate with air guitar, cheese factor and sheer gusto. Ng Su Ann


'Bohemian Rhapsody' - Queen

You don’t pick this six-minute operatic suite to rival Freddie Mercury (don’t even try). You pick it to fail. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is a perfectly calibrated and vocally commanding piece of art – a ludicrous masterpiece unified with a cappella ballad, opera and hard rock, which is why the disparate parts in the song are ridiculously fun and easy to parody: the Scaramouche, the fandango, Bismillah and the pseudo-opera that illustrate the narrator’s descent into hell. All these culminate in a group headbang in the guitar riff section before the song fades into a dreamy, quiet ballad. You’re doomed to failure, but hey, here’s an ‘A’ for effort. Kong Wai Yeng

Bonnie Tyler

'Total Eclipse of the Heart' - Bonnie Tyler

There is no way this song can be improved upon – it’s so refined, so well-structured that every part plays a purpose. That purpose is karaoke. With each and every repeated refrain of ‘turn around’, the chest-beating, emotionally-exhausting song becomes a showpiece for your voice; it doesn’t matter if you can or cannot tackle the tune, you must belt, you must buy into the anguish. Sure, even the gayest man on earth would declare it over the top (you’ve seen the music video, featuring billowing cloths and ninjas), but forever’s going to start tonight. Ng Su Ann

Bon Jovi
Photo: David Bergman/

'Livin' on a Prayer' - Bon Jovi

What we really want for karaoke is an energetic rise-fall-rise track that puts everyone in a good mood and welcomes group singing (and air guitars). ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ wins on all counts: you have the (somewhat) easy-to-sing verse, an addictive bridge that can make any passive member actually stand up and sing, and a most triumphant, laryngitis-inducing chorus during which we’re mostly just shouting. Syarifah Syazana