Thinking about heading out to karaoke night? Then song selection is the way to everyone’s heart. But choosing a song isn’t always easy, and it’s generally inadvisable to wade out into unfamiliar territory unprepared.
Occasionally, it’s nice to challenge yourself, though. So, if you’re looking for the hardest karaoke songs, you’ve found them.
In this guide, we’ll look at a variety of tunes in the genres of rock, metal, pop, R&B, punk, funk, and more. Let’s get into it.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
Song Year: 1975
The headbanging scene from 1992’s Wayne’s World is an absolute classic, and surely many a karaoke “rocker” has thought to themselves, “wouldn’t it be an epic night if I nailed ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in front of everyone at the bar?”
Yes, it would be because it’s virtually impossible. Singer Freddie Mercury’s vocals are considered among rock’s best, but it isn’t just that – Queen was in the habit of layering their vocals many times over in the studio, producing the wall of sound heard on a track like “Bohemian Rhapsody.” That’s not something you can imitate.
Not to mention the range that the three tenors demonstrate on this track – it’s out of this world.
Thanks to the fact that it’s a rock opera, it has a six-minute runtime and many changing sections to it too. Better pray the karaoke track has all the backing vocals in it.
“B.Y.O.B.” by System Of A Down
Song Year: 2005
If you’ve heard the song, then you know why System Of A Down’s “B.Y.O.B.” could present a challenge.
This Grammy winner features a rare heavy metal vocal performance combining intensity, aggression, and speed. You’d need two skilled vocalists to pull this one off, and even then, the screaming is sure to be an obstacle in masterfully pulling off this progressive metal-oriented banger.
“B.Y.O.B.” is not to be approached cavalierly.
“One Week” by Barenaked Ladies
Song Year: 1998
For a split second, you might think to yourself, “Barenaked Ladies’ ‘One Week’” couldn’t possibly be that hard to pull off. It’s catchy, it’s fun, everyone will love it!”
That is, until you realize the only lyrics you really know from this dizzying late 90s hit are “Chickity China, the Chinese chicken” and “’Cause that cartoon has got the boom anime babes / that make you think the wrong thing.”
Ed Robertson’s “rap” alone is sure to leave you breathless, and if you want to sing the chorus like Steven Page too… forget about it. The song features nearly 600 words worth of lyrics, which is close to a short essay.
Better team up with a talented partner and master your part if you hope to crush this one.
“Take On Me” by A-ha
Song Year: 1985
It’s a great mid-80s synthpop song, and it seems like it should be a shoo-in for a good night of karaoke, and yet closer observation shows “Take On Me” requires a skilled vocalist to pull off. If your vocal range is narrow and you don’t have much command over your falsetto, good luck with the “I’ll be gone / In a day or two” part.
Easy to laugh it off, hard to pull it off.
“Emotions” by Mariah Carey
Song Year: 1991
Debatably, every song by Mariah Carey is the hardest one to master. But “Emotions” is well known for its whistle notes, which seem to extend well beyond the logical limits of the staff. This gospel R&B oriented number is not for the faint hearted.
“Get Up” by Van Halen
Song Year: 1986
There’s simply no singer like Sammy Hagar, arguably one of rock’s greatest. His vocals are distinct and easily recognizable. Is his pitch and technique always perfect? Perhaps not, but he’s able to pull off some crazy melodies, as demonstrated by “Get Up,” where he sings some of the highest notes you’ve ever heard coming from him.
It isn’t just about high notes, though (you can hear some of the highest past the 4:00 mark in the song). It’s the fact that it’s hard to imagine anyone but Sammy pulling this one off with style and finesse.
“I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston
Song Year: 1992
Whitney Houston’s take on Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” is considered the definitive version, thanks to Houston’s ability to belt out those high notes and sustain them with control and grace. Just as Jimi Hendrix transformed Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” Houston made this song her own.
“Hurt” by Christina Aguilera
Song Year: 2006
No one who knows Christina Aguilera would argue with her singing abilities. But it’s not just the fact that she can sing or maintain pitch – she’s incredibly expressive, always thinking in terms of what the song needs from her for the meaning and message to come across. Pitch isn’t even her focus.
As you can imagine, Aguilera is all over the place in “Hurt,” and it will literally hurt your vocal cords if you aren’t careful in how you deliver it.
“Territorial Pissings” by Nirvana
Song Year: 1991
Much has been said about Kurt Cobain and his singing and guitar playing abilities. Perhaps he wasn’t the strongest in either, but as a songwriter, Cobain demonstrated repeatedly that he was an absolute genius. Try changing the trajectory of pop music for good with just four chords, as he did in “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It’s a near impossible task.
Something people sometimes forget, though, is just how heavy Nirvana could get. And in their heavier tunes, Cobain would often scream the entire thing. Good luck keeping up in a number like “Territorial Pissings.”
“My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion
Song Year: 1997
“My Heart Will Go On,” of Titanic fame, probably seems like a no brainer for karaoke night, yet if you enter this domain lightly, your heart may be saddened by your lackluster performance. And it may not go on, at least not until your pride is restored.
“Dream On” by Aerosmith
Song Year: 1973
Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler is one the hardest vocalists to emulate at the best of times, given his status as an untrained but incredibly talented rock vocalist.
“Dream On” may seem like a shoo-in due to its gentle ballad like qualities, but Tyler’s intensity continues to rise throughout the song, and so do the notes he sings. If you’re looking for an easier Aerosmith song to bring down the house with, you might want to try “Cryin’.”
“White Wedding” by Billy Idol
Song Year: 1982
We’re still not sure why Billy Idol was so angry about an idolatrous bride in “White Wedding.” But when the results are this aggressive and power packed, we have a tough time arguing with the inspiration.
Idol’s masterful blend of low and higher notes are tough enough to master on their own – trust me, I’ve tried. But so far as his rock screams and screeches are concerned? Forget about it.
“Barracuda” by Heart
Song Year: 1977
Okay, so the song is sung by a female rock singer. Naturally, it has a high register. But oh, you have no idea until you take a closer listen to the galloping “Barracuda.” Ann Wilson doesn’t just hit those high notes – her pitch is near perfect (if not perfect), and her sustains and vibratos are otherworldly besides.
And I know I said it before, but this is before auto-tune.
“Stairway To Heaven” by Led Zeppelin
Song Year: 1971
Throw a pebble in a room of male rock singers and you’ll probably hit a dozen or so who were heavily influenced by Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant.
Though all Zeppelin classics are bound to present a challenge, the eight-minute epic of “Stairway To Heaven” will take you through the paces, from gentle and melancholy balladry to hard rock intensity at the drop of a dime.
“Thriller” by Michael Jackson
Song Year: 1983
Michael Jackson is another one of those singers who is often imitated but rarely if ever duplicated.
Jackson’s disco oriented tunes seem like the perfect fit for the karaoke bar (Thriller was a deliberate move away from the sound Jackson had become known for), but Jackson is dynamic in his delivery of every line in “Thriller,” from forceful growl to smooth falsetto. Not easy.
“Purple Rain” by Prince
Song Year: 1984
Prince’s trademark ballad, “Purple Rain,” has somehow become an “easy” song through repeated analysis and cover versions. But as a vocalist, Prince used his falsetto masterfully, and this is evident on tunes like “Purple Rain.”
It’s one thing to be able to sing it all the way through, but adding all the right touches, the emotion, the flourishes, is probably where you’ll struggle.
“Game On” by Disciple
Song Year: 2006
Best known as HHH’s entrance theme in the WWE, Disciple’s “Game On” would be intensely satisfying to pull off at Karaoke, for a bit of mid-2000s hard rock fun.
And while arguably every song with screamed vocals is a tough one, Disciple singer Kevin Young doesn’t even come close to the recorded version when performing “Game On” live. What chance do you have?
“Jealousy” by Harem Scarem
Song Year: 1993
“What’s the big deal here? Any baritone should be able to knock this one right out of the park.”
You would think. But Harem Scarem’s lead vocalist Harry Hess somehow effortlessly weaves his way between baritone and tenor notes in the funk metal oriented “Jealousy.” It’ll drive you nuts whether you’re a baritone or a tenor.
“Best Of You” by Foo Fighters
Song Year: 2005
Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl obviously learned a thing or two from Kurt Cobain, and “Best Of You” showcases Grohl’s aggressive vocals from start to finish. The song doesn’t relent either – the singer rarely gets a break. Don’t forget to breathe if you don’t want to let this one get the best of you.
“Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake
Song Year: 1982
Whitesnake has basically been singer David Coverdale’s baby all along. That means the vocal duties have always fallen to him. And here he goes again nailing what is sure to be one of rock’s most memorable melodies.
Coverdale does hit some high notes with his falsetto, but the hardest part will surely be emulating his overall dynamics.
“Africa” by Toto
Song Year: 1982
Everybody loves Toto’s “Africa,” right? Well, of course! It’s so catchy. But singer David Paich’s smooth command of his entire register (silky lows to soaring highs) is rarely matched.
And to add insult to injury, it’s the backing vocals that truly make this number, a duty that was handled by Paich himself, alongside percussionist Bobby Kimball and guitarist Steve Lukather.
This is also before auto-tune, kids. You want to talk bands that can sing? Toto is up there with the best of them.
“Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey
Song Year: 1981
Everybody loves to bust out “Don’t Stop Believin’” at karaoke, and trust me, I understand why. This is the ultimate inspirational rock anthem, and audiences love to sing along to it.
But you should not underestimate Steve Parry’s vocals. No good could come of it. To say that he’s beyond imitation is a misnomer because he may well be one of rock’s most imitated voices. But it should prove a monumental undertaking for anyone who has no vocal training behind them.
“All I Wanted” by Paramore
Song Year: 2009
Paramore singer Hayley Williams is well known for her masterful command of vocal technique. And while she says she finds any song with high notes challenging, “All I Wanted” is not even in Paramore’s live set list because of how difficult she finds it.
A thorough listen of the song reveals a gradual move from lower notes to sustained high notes as the song keeps building.
“Back in Black” by AC/DC
Song Year: 1980
Let’s be real. Any song featuring Brian Johnson is bound to be a hard one to imitate. Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott seems to have nailed this style of singing, and comedian Jim Breuer appears to have found his inner Johnson as well. But you could easily injure your voice trying to sing as Johnson does, especially if you are untrained.
Let’s not forget those high notes either.
“Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles
Song Year: 1989
This passionate late 80s blues rocker is more dynamic than you remember it. Myles masterfully builds from a near whisper in the verse to a grittier lead in the chorus. It’s phenomenal, and velvety, and incredibly hard to copy.
“I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” by Meat Loaf
Song Year: 1993
There’s a reason why Meat Loaf is… well, Meat Loaf. His vocal style is articulate, operatic, and dramatic in “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).” Nailing this near eight-minute epic with the same passion, emotion, and control is sure to boggle even the best male singer.
You might be the type to try anything at karaoke night, but if this number comes on, you might want to respond with, “but I won’t do that.”
“Can You Feel The Love Tonight” by Elton John
Song Year: 1994
Elton John is considered a legend, and “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” demonstrates why. Many an innocuous karaoke goer has tried their hand at this Lion King classic and has almost instantly regretted it, due to the low notes. John seems to be able to deliver them with power and ease, but for the average singer it will prove no ordinary feat.
“Dream Weaver” by Gary Wright
Song Year: 1975
This funky, haunting, mid 70s ballad might seem like a fun song to sing to your significant other. That is, until you realize just how all over the map singer Gary Wright is, and how he seems to weave effortlessly and dynamically between falsetto and head voices.
Your best bet would be to commit to one or the other, instead of trying to do what pros do.
“Against The Law” by Stryper
Song Year: 1990
As the front man, vocalist, and guitarist of Christian metal outfit Stryper, Michael Sweet may not be the most well-known of rock singers. But one listen to his smooth, capable tenor voice should tell you everything you need to know.
The title track to their 1990 album “Against The Law” may seem very singable upon first brush. But listen closely to his rock scream beginning at 2:55 and ending around 3:12. That’s a 17 second scream, friend. Good luck with that unless you’ve got the lungs of a god.
I know that it would be a rare individual indeed to pick this song for karaoke, but I figured I’d have a bit of fun with this.
Hardest Karaoke Songs, Final Thoughts
At the end of the day, karaoke is meant to be enjoyed. Between the excessive reverb and low quality mics, singing karaoke is a skill almost entirely distinct from singing, and has more to do with having fun and letting the audience in on it.
But occasionally, it could be fun to bust out a number no one would expect and belt it out like you were destined for the arenas. Perhaps you won’t become the next rising star, but at least everyone in the bar will know you’re a true trooper.