A Guide to Karaoke Songs

With our Heartbreak Karaoke Party looming, the third floor Parkdale flat/head office is bustling with event planning. The invites have been dropped in select vintage shops, and our Karaoke host Teddy the K has been carefully combing through the silly love song canon for ditties that will fuel your lounge singer aspiration.

But dire help is needed! We recognize that the wider Worn coterie is a discerning lot, and might want to opine on appropriate selections that will showcase vocal talents within varying levels of inebriation. As a karaoke enthusiast myself, I have criteria honed in privately rented karaoke rooms and questionable bar-lit stages: music with a particularly epic quality that reflects the realities of my limited vocal range (one octave). Most importantly, the songs must accessorize whatever outfit I’m wearing (a stretch by all means, but something I think any drag queen/king would agree with).

Shall I elaborate further? Okay! But if I show you mine, you have to show yours (which means that we’d like suggestions in the comments).

Rea’s Top Five Drunken Karaoke Oldies
1.Bonnie Tyler – ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’
TORCH-O-METER: High. A 1980s power ballad high on heartbreak, “Total Eclipse” draws lyrical inspiration from Wuthering Heights of Wagnerian proportions. For most impact, save for the end of the night when everyone drowned their sorrows fully.
STAGE ATTIRE: Wild hair metal teased out to reflect the on-stage Sturm und Drang (think feathered bangs). 1980s black leather biker gear: heavy shoulder pads, trailing fringe that will fly in the air for body language emoting.

2.Toni Braxton – ‘You’re Making Me High’
TORCH-O-METER: Low, because I think we all know that Love doesn’t have to tear us apart the entire night. This is 90s R&B that captures the throes of courting – you’re just kicking it and you want to tell everyone about it. Braxton has a very low register, so you can channel your best Barry White and not wear yourself out with Mariah Carey histrionics. Another great low register singer (remember the one octave?) is Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie. Sure, Stevie Nicks had the Buckingham baggage and the gypsy platforms, but McVie had an ex-husband who lived on a boat and a Beach Boy (Dennis Wilson) who crashed her Rolls Royce. That’s pretty tragic to channel.
STAGE ATTIRE: Jane Fonda Klute wig with a white cat-suit. Why? Don’t ask that now mid-shimmy.

3.Shirley Bassey – ‘Diamonds Are Forever’
TORCH-O-METER: Mid-high. Ok, maybe a little high, but I can’t have three out of four high torch-o-meters! I’m also crap at measuring things. Anyways, yet another pro-heartbreak, since men are “mere mortals not worth going to your grave for” (which begs the question if you’re of the Sapphic persuasion: what does that make other females?)
STAGE ATTIRE: The dame does either diamonds, sequins and/or feathers. Think big!

4. Dolly Parton – “I Will Always Love You”
TORCH-O-METER: Goodbye, don’t cry, etc. Heartbreak that’s a little teary and muted. Can you love someone since you were 16? Well, if he were Burt Reynolds, yes (you did watch that moustache grow). Granted, we recognize that the Whitney Houston version is far more well-known, but we like recognizing original sources with country twang and, you know, Burt Reynolds.
STAGE ATTIRE: Harlow blonde piled high, red lips and stuffed bra. Sequined nudie suit is an added plus.
5. Diana Ross and the Supremes – “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
TORCH-O-METER: Once again, low but there’s a sense of separation that could make it possibly heartbreak post-song delivery. ‘If you need me, call me. No matter where you, no matter how far’: Spoken word introductions are absolutely fantastic – you can vary the camp level depending upon delivery. The re-imaging of the 1967 Gaye/Terrell duet is an opus, a Las Vegas showdown that let’s you belt, sway and then kick up a whirling dervish. This is a song worthy of diva behavior.
STAGE ATTIRE: Gleaming white Bob Mackie silk with voluminous sleeves, that strips off to reveal a shiny maillot. It helps if you have the assistant of Studio 54 dancers in lame (perhaps this is where your drunken friends will come in handy).
text by Rea McNamara
photography by Tristan Brand

2 thoughts on “A Guide to Karaoke Songs

  1. Yes! Total eclipse of the heart is my ALL TIME favourite. Also, does “I Will Survive” count as a heartbreak karaoke song? please say yes! These are the only 2 songs I actually know the lyrics to.

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