Despite whatever may be happening in pop music right now – EDM, trap, future bass, or otherwise – rock remains one of the most important genres of our time.
Even if you primarily listen to hip-hop and R&B, there’s a good chance a couple of your favorite songs are rock. And if you already love rock, well, I probably don’t need to say a word more.
But if you’re headed out to karaoke night, consider the following best rock karaoke songs, won’t you?
“Creep” by Radiohead
Song Year: 1992
Back in the 90s, the best songs were all about being a loser, an outcast, a misfit (just look at Beck or Wheatus). But the crowning achievement of the time was almost certainly this alt-rock hit – Radiohead’s “Creep.”
Despite having a quieter, minimalist intro and verse section, the song builds into an explosive hook in the chorus that made it fodder for the radio. Some modern musicians would even consider Radiohead the roots from which they’ve built their careers upon.
“Desire” by U2
Song Year: 1988
Three chords, a good beat, and a simple melody. What is it? A recipe for a hit. U2 knocks it out of the park with “Desire,” which was seemingly tailor made for singalongs.
“Everlong” by Foo Fighters
Song Year: 1997
How do you express love for another in the abstract world of post-grunge and alt rock? Foo Fighters leads the way with “Everlong,” one of their catchiest and most memorable. This song even gets played at weddings!
“Gone Away” by The Offspring
Song Year: 1997
The Offspring’s “Gone Away” wasn’t entirely based on real events, but the song itself carries with it a grave impact. More punk rock attitude than finesse or skill, this song should prove an easy one to take on, even for the inexperienced singer.
If “Gone Away” is a little too serious, and you’re looking for more of a party rock singalong, then try The Offspring’s “Self-Esteem” instead.
“Hysteria” by Def Leppard
Song Year: 1987
Hysteria was Def Leppard’s biggest album, spawning seven singles, including this, the title track, “Hysteria.” I think it would be accurate to call this a “power ballad” and while the sappy songs don’t always win over the guys, they do tend to go over with the girls much of the time.
I don’t find Joe Elliott’s vocals the easiest to duplicate. You may have a different experience, but either way it would be wise to find your place in the song before bringing it to karaoke night.
“Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield
Song Year: 1981
As the story goes, Rick Springfield never got “Jessie’s Girl” (he only ever admired her from afar), but I’m betting he did quite alright for himself, especially since this song went on to become a massive hit and can still be heard on the radio most days.
Catchy, fun, and not at all “jealous,” “Jessie’s Girl” is guaranteed to raise the roof on karaoke night.
“More Than A Feeling” by Boston
Song Year: 1976
Boston was one of those bands that spent ages on their albums, perfecting every note. But when they did come out with new material, the extra coats of polish never went unnoticed. Even though “More Than A Feeling” came out in the mid-70s, for the most part, it doesn’t sound very dated at all.
But there’s one thing you should know before tackling this one at the karaoke bars – Brad Delp was an extraordinary singer. His pitch was impeccable, his ability to harmonize with himself near unmatched, and yes, he can hit those high notes too.
“Panama” by Van Halen
Song Year: 1984
Honestly, no best rock karaoke list should be considered complete without at least one song from the ultimate 70s, 80s, 90s (and beyond) party rockers, Van Halen. I mean… what were you thinking?!
And “Panama” has many of the ingredients necessary to make it a great singalong, especially since the chorus is simply repeating the name “Panama” over and over. Perfect opportunity for everyone at the bar to sing, or shout along, if they so wish.
“Rebel Rebel” by David Bowie
Song Year: 1974
David Bowie himself seems to have known he hit upon something special with the guitar riff to “Rebel Rebel,” a riff he wrote himself. While the main riff carries most of the song, it’s certainly up to task!
“Rebel Rebel” should certainly get the toes tapping and the heads bobbing at the club if it doesn’t get people up and dancing.
“Rock and Roll All Nite” by KISS
Song Year: 1975
I have good news for anyone who feels a little intimidated by rock. Most KISS songs are, by design, very easy to sing. Sure, there are some Paul Stanley parts that can be harder for the average singer to nail, but bassist Gene Simmons is the lead on “Rock And Roll All Nite,” and trust me when I say his range is very comfortable for most.
Just don’t get overenthusiastic and fall off a table while singing this party anthem!
“Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind
Song Year: 1997
In the late 90s, three-chord rock songs were making a serious comeback – just look at Matchbox Twenty, Goo Goo Dolls, Better Than Ezra, and of course, this – Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life,” which is especially fun thanks to the big falsetto jump on the lyric, “goodbye.”
I’ll be honest – a drunk, ornery crowd might respond badly to this tune, so be sure to bust it out early in the night when things are still happy go lucky.
“Song 2” by Blur
Song Year: 1997
“Woo-hoo!” Need I say more?
“Summer of ‘69” by Bryan Adams
Song Year: 1985
From the opening strums, everyone recognizes Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ‘69” when they hear it. And since everyone can relate to chasing their dreams and failing, falling in love, reminiscing on good times, and other themes covered in this tune, you can bet they will happily sing along to it too.
“Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith
Song Year: 1975
Steven Tyler isn’t exactly an easy vocalist to follow, but on “Sweet Emotion” he delivers what I would consider a relatively straightforward performance. So, even if you’re not the most skilled or confident vocalist out there, you shouldn’t look like a dummy belting this one out.
Best of all, the song is made up of a series of classic rock riffs, so you basically have one of the best rock backing tracks ever written.
“Two Princes” by Spin Doctors
Song Year: 1991
I’m not going to beat around the bush – you might be taking a chance with this polarizing, early 90s faux funk metal hit. Some will love it, others will cringe. But there is a reason why it became a hit, and that’s because “Two Princes” is impossibly catchy. Maybe wait to bust it out until everyone is good and drunk, though.
“Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi
Song Year: 1986
If there’s one thing Bon Jovi is masterful at, it’s writing amazing singalongs, and “Wanted Dead Or Alive” does not disappoint. This country rocker set the precedent for future creations from the band, who at times has gone full country too.
You might remember this as a slow burn, but the song has got a nice build to it and is sure to rock all the faces off in the room.
“Wonderwall” by Oasis
Song Year: 1995
This mid-90s phenomenon is an obligatory karaoke number. And in many ways, it epitomizes the sound that became so identified with 90s rock.
Most people know every lyric to “Wonderwall” (or at least the first verse, pre-chorus, and chorus sections), so if you like the idea of getting everyone in the room to sing along with you, this a good tune to turn to.
“Breakfast At Tiffany’s” by Deep Blue Something
Song Year: 1995
Yet another three-chord wonder from the 90s, Deep Blue Something’s “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” went on to become something of a hit.
The song is mostly about trying to hold onto a love that only has a surface level connection, but its catchy chorus will take your mind off such dramatic matters.
“Closing Time” by Semisonic
Song Year: 1998
Now 25 years old, Semisonic’s “Closing Time” holds the dubious distinction of riding the line between clever and overplayed. It was clever in its time, yes, but now it’s starting to feel like self-caricature.
Even so, it is still widely regarded a karaoke must, especially when performed at the end of the night. It’s always a little confusing when someone decides to sing it long before closing time though (watch the inebriated making their way to the exit…).
“Mr. Brightside” by The Killers
Song Year: 2004
I’ll be transparent and share that I’m not much of a fan of The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside.” But one thing I know about songs I don’t like is that drunk people seem to love them, and that goes double for this early 2000s hit featuring telephone vocals and interesting guitar chord voicings.
Likely, you’ll be regarded as royalty for pulling this one off on karaoke night.
“The Boys Are Back in Town” by Thin Lizzy
Song Year: 1976
If you’re going to be reuniting with old buddies for karaoke night, then the self-referential nature of “The Boys Are Back In Town” shouldn’t be lost on you.
The stereo panned vocals and twin guitar solos still hold up, though, and they don’t seem any worse for wear today.
“Rock The Casbah” by The Clash
Song Year: 1982
“Rock The Casbah” is a shoo-in for karaoke night, for some obvious reasons and for some less obvious reasons too. The obvious? The gang vocals. The less obvious? Its danceable groove, which can’t be anything other than disco / funk, when The Clash was predominantly a punk / new wave act. Don’t ask me how that works – it’s still a bit of a mystery to me. But it does work!
“Basket Case” by Green Day
Song Year: 1994
When I think of punk rock classics that are sure to be enjoyed by everyone at karaoke night, I can’t help but think of Green Day’s “Basket Case.” The chord progression has a great deal in common with Pachelbel’s Canon, though it isn’t a note for note recreation. And let’s be honest – Pachelbel was clearly on to something!
If the singer before you goes onstage to perform a boring ballad, blow the crowd out of the water with this high-octane hit off of Dookie.
“Stacy’s Mom” by Fountains Of Wayne
Song Year: 2003
Following in the footsteps of The Cars, Fountains of Wayne cranks out an obligatory pop rock hit. Singer Adam Schlesinger never seemed like he was much of a fan of the song, but there’s no denying that it put Fountains Of Wayne on the map, and it just so happens to be a karaoke banger too.
“Just What I Needed” by The Cars
Song Year: 1978
No one hit wonder, The Cars wrote hits too numerous to mention. The band always had a great sense of melody, cranking out tunes with highly infectious and singable phrases. “Just What I Needed” also has built-in call and response, something that should play well at karaoke night.
“Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor
Song Year: 1982
Rocky III star Sylvester Stallone was looking for a tune to use in the third installment of his popular sports drama. Allegedly, Queen did not give him permission to use “Another One Bites the Dust.” But it would be a very different world indeed, if “Eye of the Tiger” didn’t ultimately become the movie’s theme.
I mean, would they have really used the line “another one bites the dust” in the movie?
Either way, what Survivor came up with is one of hard rock’s greatest tunes (sans a guitar solo), and a fun one for karaoke too.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana
Song Year: 1991
Nirvana probably didn’t know what they had on their hands as they were first coming up with “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the definitive alt-rock anthem for the angsty youth of the 90s. Singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain himself thought of it as foolishness, drawing comparisons to Boston’s “More Than A Feeling.”
(Besides some minor rhythmic similarities, though, I don’t think the songs have much in common.)
The first time the band ever played the song in front of an audience, it went over like a firecracker in a small room. It was explosive! And with just four chords, Cobain somehow managed to change the course of pop music for decades to come.
If you’re ready to get the crowd on their feet at karaoke night, give this one a go. Just beware of wrecking your vocal cords while trying to emulate Cobain’s intense screams.
“Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf
Song Year: 1968
Steppenwolf played a big role in shaping the sound of hard rock and heavy metal in the decades to come. “Born to Be Wild” might be considered tame and maybe even “psychedelic” by today’s standards, but at the time, there were few songs as heavy as this one.
And it still holds up as a great classic rocker, even today.
“All Right Now” by Free
Song Year: 1970
Recognizing the need for a real barnburner to end their set list, “All Right Now” was written in mere minutes by the members of Free after a rather disappointing gig.
It’s very hard to imagine a world without this catchy song, and it should prove a fun one to dig out for karaoke night too.
“I Love Rock ‘N Roll” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Song Year: 1981
When you think of female rockers, you can’t even enter the conversation without the mention of Joan Jett. Her bold declaration? “I Love Rock ‘N Roll.”
The song still kicks some serious butt today, and is tailor made for gang vocals in the chorus. Almost everything about the song screams rock, except for the guitar solo, which has been called one of rock’s worst. It’s not terrible, I don’t think, but considering how good the main riff is, it certainly could have been a little less throwaway.
“Jump” by Van Halen
Song Year: 1984
It’s hard to think of one song that’s the meeting place of pop sensibilities and technical prowess. If there’s anyone who could do it, though, it would certainly be the immortal Van Halen.
The triumphant “Jump” serves up bubblegum synth riffs, shouted gang vocals, and back to back virtuosic guitar and synth solos on a platter. There’s no way not to win with this tune at karaoke night.
“Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi
Song Year: 1986
I probably shouldn’t have to tell you why Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” is a great karaoke song, but here goes anyway… It’s got huge 80s guitars, huge 80s synths, and huge 80s vocals. Enough said.
“Baba O’Riley” by The Who
Song Year: 1971
No doubt, classic rock has got a lot of great moments. But The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” is too good to be ignored. Long instrumental intro notwithstanding, the song is a ton of fun to sing once it gets going – especially the chorus.
Best Rock Karaoke Songs, Final Thoughts
If you can sing well, more power to you! But even if you’re not the best singer in the world, with the right attitude, you can pull off just about anything. So, when you get on stage to perform, bring every bit of enthusiasm you’ve got, dance around if you wish, and get the crowd involved. After all, karaoke is all about having fun with friends.
We hope you found a song or two to add to your repertoire for a forthcoming karaoke night. Let us know how it goes!
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Sometimes the timing feels more natural for some singers than others. But a poorly timed vocal performance just screams that you're an amateur and is one of the biggest signs of a poor karaoke performance. The best way to fix this, is by practicing using the original song.
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