Rob Sheffield’s 10 Perfect Karaoke Jams

The author of a new karaoke-inspired memoir gives us his picks

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In his 2007 memoir Love Is a Mix Tape, rock journalist Rob Sheffield revisits love and heartbreak via a collection of music tapes. In his new book (and sequel of sorts) Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke, out today, he relates the curative powers of singing (often in front of strangers).

The perfect karaoke song is elusive, Sheffield tells TIME, but can be found: “You don’t want it to be too introverted, like a Belle and Sebastian song for listening to alone in your room,” he says. “You want a chorus where people who don’t already know the song will be able to join in.” 

In case that’s not enough guidance, Rob Sheffield shares 10 perfect karaoke jams:

(MORE: Read an Exclusive Excerpt from Turn Around Bright Eyes)

“The great thing about karaoke is that anybody can seize the chance to be a star for a moment. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous your voice is—all that matters is the passion and enthusiasm you bring to it. These are ten of the greatest karaoke jams ever, ten songs that can turn any sleazy bar into the most insanely cool place on earth for a few minutes. All you need to do is step to the mike, clear your throat, and let the song tell it to your heart.”

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“Total Eclipse of the Heart,” Bonnie Tyler

“Always the first pick of the night—it sets the tone for all the madness to follow. For karaoke fiends everywhere, ‘Total Eclipse’ is our curtain-raising anthem, our ‘On with the show, this is it’ theme song.”

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“Telephone Line,” ELO

“When you hear this one late at night by yourself, on the headphones, it sounds like the loneliest song in the world–but in any karaoke lounge, everybody joins in to sing the ‘doo wop, doobie doobie wop’ chorus and turns it into a celebration. That’s the karaoke experience in a nutshell.”

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“Tell Me Something Good,” Rufus featuring Chaka Khan

“If you’re on a date with someone, and you can’t tell if you’re taking them home later, try singing ‘Tell Me Something Good.’ One verse and you will know.”

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“Get Lucky,” Daft Punk

“God’s gift to karaoke bars, as far as this summer is concerned. I will sing ‘Get Lucky’ for the rest of my life whenever I want to remember the summer of 2013, which I will.”

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“Flagpole Sitta,” Harvey Danger

“Nineties pop-punk rage at its loudest. Even if you’ve spent the whole night numbing your tonsils with various liquid refreshments, you can still scream this one.”

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“I Am…I Said,” Neil Diamond

“His Neilness is the ultimate karaoke titan. I was always a fan, but ever since I started attempting his songs on the mike, I’ve gotten downright obsessive. At this point, he’s like my spirit guide, coaching me to be a louder, more awesomely obnoxious human. I love this man.”

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“Torn,” Natalie Imbruglia

“Sad-girl angst perfection. If there’s a woman in the room wailing ‘Torn,’ give her your attention, your respect, and plenty of space. She’s having One of Those Nights.”

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“Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing,” Stevie Wonder

“The most mood-elevating song ever. If you can’t bring down the house with this, you’re in the wrong house.”

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“Rio,” Duran Duran

“A sonic pheromone factory. The perfect example of the aphrodisiacal powers of the karaoke microphone.”

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“Party Crowd,” David Lee Murphy

“A left-field pick from the glory days of ’90s country radio. You can bust this out in a room full of strangers who have never heard it before, but every last one of them will be hollering along by the first chorus. Isn’t that what karaoke is all about?”

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