If there's one truth about karaoke, it's that there really are no rules. Unlike, say, auditioning for American Idol, no one has the right to criticize your singing ability — probably because karaoke songs are way more fun when people borderline suck at it. You want to go H.A,M, on a Britney Spears tune? Go right ahead and belt out "I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman" as loud as you can — nobody is judging you for that. Same goes for pretty much anything Backstreet Boys, Madonna, or Beyonce — you'll never be as good as the original, but that's not why you're doing karaoke anyway, right?
Of course, just because there are no hard rules to karaoke doesn't mean that you should choose any song under the sun. Believe it or not, there are some songs that simply don't work very well for karaoke... so maybe don't write down their numbers next to your name at your next karaoke bar. You may adore these songs, but that doesn't mean other people want to hear you sing them. You have literally hundreds of other songs to choose from, so maybe avoid the few that will make the people around you wholly uncomfortable. (I mean, my God, they already have to hear you sing.)
Here are karaoke songs to avoid, and why they're best put on the back burner:
"White Houses," Vanessa Carlton
This song is essentially about the tragic collapse of a friend group, which is depressing as hell, especially considering you're probably singing karaoke alongside all of your friends. Also, if you can't do Calton's insane ballet choreography, you're going to feel inadequate.
"The Freshman," The Verve Pipe
So, this is your absolute favorite '90s song? That's cool. It's also about some subject matters that aren't really that appropriate for karaoke. Hard pass.
"Paint It Black," The Rolling Stones
This is a great song... and also a great song for your friends to give one another the side-eye and text each other about how concerned they are for you if you sing it at karaoke.
"My Heart Will Go On," Celine Dion
Just because Titanic is your absolute favorite movie ever doesn't mean that you should subject your friends to four minutes of this love ballad, which, FYI, is ridiculously depressing.
"Bad Touch," The Bloodhound Gang
So... who are you going to make eye contact with when you sing this one?
"Brick," Ben Folds
This is not a fun song. In fact, this is the exact opposite of a fun song. Karaoke is supposed to be fun. Avoid "Brick."
"American Pie," Don McLean
This is a fantastic song... which is also eight minutes long. Don't be that person.
"Smells Like Teen Spirit," Nirvana
Another excellent song, except that everyone who attempts to sing it for karaoke just ends up alternating between mumbling and screaming.
"Everybody Hurts," R.E.M.
This song is kind of downer, for obvious reasons. If you're deeply committed to singing an R.E.M. song for karaoke night, why not try "Losing My Religion" instead? (Fun fact: "Losing My Religion" is actually about love, and not religion.)
"Don't Cha," The Pussycat Dolls
The only way to sing "Don't Cha" for karaoke is to take yourself zero perfect seriously. If you're planning on singing this because you're just feeling yourself so much tonight, you're going to make everyone giggle nervously as they take too-long sips of their vodka tonics.
"The Star Spangled Banner"
Really, who even are you if you sing this?
You don't have to stick to the karaoke classics, but by avoiding these tunes, you're guaranteeing a much more comfortable night for you and your friends. Now get up there and belt your heart out.