The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

6 Perfect Karaoke Songs And Where To Sing Them In Chicago

By Sarah Gouda in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 21, 2016 7:13PM

Like a Tinder photo of a bespectacled man reading Feminism Is For Everybody, karaoke is both an act of self-expression and a game of calculated strategy. Our preferred strategy is to sing a song everyone loves so much, it's failproof. And because we love you, we've taken it upon ourselves to find the best songs at six of Chicago's top karaoke establishments, drawing on a mix of personal experience and interviews with the bartenders and owners. Whether you're karaoke-ing at Alice's Lounge or Local 22, we have a song that will transform the crowd into your adoring fanbase.

Karaoke at Trader Todd's (photo via Facebook)

At Trader Todd's: "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen

Trader Todd's is a seven-days-a-week karaoke place that often serves the Cubs post-game crowd, so they get a lot of crooners coming through. When we asked the bartenders what song got the best responses, they answered unanimously: "Bohemian Rhapsody. Without a doubt." They said it's always a hit because most people know the words and the performer can add their own goofy spin to it, making it the perfect song to mask less-than-Adele level vocals. If Freddie Mercury isn't your style, they also recommend basically every song by the Backstreet Boys.

Trader Todd's is located at 3216 N Sheffield Ave.

At Brando's Speakeasy: "Africa" by Toto (or for a wild time, "Jeremy" by Pearl Jam)

Former professional hockey player Dino Vulpitta owns this South Loop establishment, and told Chicagoist that the selection tends to skew a bit more old school. He expressed a sort of resigned confusion over the enduring popularity of Toto's "Africa" and Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'."

Vulpitta also shared a tale of that will go down in the book of karaoke legend. "The best thing ever... was when someone chose Pearl Jam's 'Jeremy' while the actual Eddie Vedder was in the bar," he said. "This guy was a terrible singer, but all of a sudden you hear Eddie Vedder's vocals singing along, joining in with the guy. It scared the crap out of him." (Due to Vulpitta's hockey background, even when Vedder's not on the premises, you can often run into a Blackhawks player at Brando's.)

Brando's Speakeasy is located at 343 South Dearborn St.

The interior at Sakura (photo via Facebook)

At Sakura Karaoke Bar: "Pony" by Ginuwine

This Chinatown gem is a favorite of both those living on the South Side and those simply stopping by for some dry chili chicken. Here, the late '90s and early aughts reign supreme. I can personally attest that the crowd loves to sing along to throwback jams like "Pony" or a "...Baby One More Time." The best part? They play music videos to accompany each song, though these videos often have no relation to the original artist or song playing. It all creates a sort of disorienting, otherworldly feel in the blue-lit club.

Sakura is located at 234 W Cermak Rd.

At Hidden Cove: "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor

"Anything from the 1970s to the 1990s plays here," the staff at Hidden Cove, a no-frills dive bar nestled in Lincoln Square, told Chicagoist. Throwbacks like "I Will Survive" and "Bohemian Rhapsody," when performed with heart, can get even the least musically-inclined a sweeping round of applause, the staff said.

Pro tip: Come with a sense of what song you want to sing. Rather than supplying a song book, Hidden Cove has karaoke goers look up their favorite tune on a computer, so you don't get search a huge list and wait for inspiration to strike.

Hidden Cove is located at 5338 N Lincoln Ave.

Karaoke at Alice's Lounge (photo via Facebook)

At Alice's Lounge: "What's Up" by 4 Non Blondes

If you're familiar with the karaoke at Alice's Lounge, you know the MC doesn't suffer any fools. Perform poorly, and he'll cut your song short. Appease him, and he'll release a plume of smoke as you walk off, giving you perhaps your only chance to feel like a glam-rocker. Either way, he'll accompany you with air guitar or drums, depending on your song.

We asked the bartenders what the most popular song was, but they wouldn't say. All we got was, "The most important thing is to be confident." Luckily, I know from experience that the crowd at Alice's go wild for 4 Non Blonde's "What's Up." It's the type of song everyone forgets they know all the words to, which makes for an irresistible mixture of nostalgia and surprise.

Alice's Lounge is located at 3556 W Belmont Avenue.

At Blue Frog's Local 22: "Love Shack" by The B-52s

Blue Frog's Local 22 offers karaoke Tuesday through Saturday starting at 10 p.m., a rarity in the Near North Side. A full-proof song here? "Love Shack" by the B-52s. It's a group song, so if you offer yourself up as a back-up singer and you'll reap all the glory with none of the stage panic. (Also, I've seen it kill at Local 22 firsthand.) The Kitchen cooks up burgers, Reuben sandwiches and plenty of fried potato creations, too, so you can celebrate your karaoke victory with seriously good (and affordable) grub.

Blue Frog's Local 22 is located at 22 E Hubbard Street.