When done right, karaoke can be an art unto itself, combining great singing with glorious stage presence. When done wrong, as it is most of the time, it’s painful and annoying. While Simon Cowell frequently uses “karaoke singer” as an insult, sometimes the best musical moments come from a person on stage with a microphone and words on a screen.
Karaoke can play a crucial role on television shows. Sometimes it’s there for a simple joke, sometimes it provides a chance to show off, and at its best, it’s used as a key moment in a character’s emotional development.
Here is my list for the five greatest uses of karaoke on TV. The songs run the gamut from hip hop to ballads to ’80s rock. Each one is unforgettable, and if you haven’t seen them, you must in order to see karaoke done the right way.
#5 “Afternoon Delight,” Arrested Development
Michael Bluth was just trying to be a fun boss, so he sang this song at a company party with his niece. It was one of those brilliant moments as Michael slowly started to realize that he was singing a song about having sex in the daytime with his niece. So note to all karaoke singers: think before you select your song.
#4 “Don’t Stop Believin’,” Family Guy
Mayor Adam West loves this song and he loves when amateurs sing it. Thanks to The Sopranos finale, Journey became cool again, and Peter and his friends did their best to prove that a little bit of alcohol and a karaoke machine can make anyone a rock star for a night.
#3 “Bust a Move,” One Tree Hill
On a double date, Nathan and Chase woo their women with an energetic rendition of this hip hop classic while Nathan’s son Jamie and his friend perform the same song. The kids outshine the men, and while the singing is off-key, the performances make it great.
#2 “One Way or Another,” Veronica Mars
First, no one can deny that Kristen Bell is a fantastic singer, actress and performer who commands the stage and rocks out to this song. But when you add in her double meaning, as she’s hoping to uncover the secrets of a secret society. You realize this performance works on multiple levels, and it is fantastic on every one.
#1 “I Will Always Love You,” Gilmore Girls
Lauren Graham was tragically overlooked year after year by the Emmys, and if you disagree, watch her heartbreaking performance of this song and tell me it isn’t some of the best acting you’ve ever seen. At first Lorelai just sings the song for her daughter. And it’s sweet, funny and with just enough talent to impress everyone in the bar.
But then Luke, the love of her life who she recently broke up with, enters the bar. And Lorelai must continue to sing about “bittersweet memories” and how “we both know I’m not what you need.” Her voice cracks at just the right moments, she alternates between singing and just melodically speaking the lines, and the performance is full of more emotion than any song you’ve ever heard. It’s great vocally and one-of-a-kind emotionally, making it not only TV’s greatest karaoke moments, but one of the best scenes on television in the past 20 years.
-John Kubicek, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image courtesy of the CW)