How do America’s karaoke selections compare to Japan’s?

Karaoke is pretty much a national pastime of Japan–along with nomikai drinking parties, of course, but those are usually followed by karaoke anyway. You can find karaoke places throughout big cities in Japan, and you can also enjoy it in unexpected places like cinemas, saunas, and even airplanes.

Though it isn’t nearly as popular in North America, karaoke does have its own niche market in the U.S too, thanks to those who love to get on stage at a bar in front of strangers, rent a private karaoke box with friends, or bust out the karaoke machine at home.

That leads us to wonder, though…do the songs that karaoke-goers like to sing differ between Japan and the U.S.? Obviously the songs themselves would probably be different, since Japan has its own, extremely profitable music industry, but what about the kinds of songs that people tend to choose?

In Japan, for example, the top karaoke songs come from all manner of genres, from anime theme songs to older hits to current pop and even vocaloid music. According to the Karatetsu monthly karaoke song ranking, the top twenty songs from April consisted of songs like pop singer Yuuri’s “Dry Flower”; the theme song to the Demon Slayer movie, “Homura” by LiSA; and the classic 90’s hit and Evangelion theme song, “Cruel Angel’s Thesis” by Megumi Hayashibara.

▼ “Homura” by LiSA was the fifth most popular karaoke song in April in Japan.

Which songs are the most popular for karaoke singers in the U.S. right now? Let’s check out karaoke machine company Singing Machine’s list of the top 20 most popular karaoke songs:

  1. “Let It Go” (from Frozen)
  2. “Dance Monkey” – Tones and I
  3. “Old Town Road” – Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus
  4. “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen
  5. “Shallow” – Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper (from A Star is Born)
  6. “Shake It Off” – Taylor Swift
  7. “Roar” – Katy Perry
  8. “Party in the U.S.A.” – Miley Cyrus
  9. “How Far I’ll Go” (from Moana)
  10. “Sweet Caroline” – Neil Diamond
  11. “Watermelon Sugar” – Harry Styles
  12. “Thunder” – Imagine Dragons
  13. “Hakuna Matata” (from The Lion King)
  14. “A Million Dreams” (from The Greatest Showman)
  15. “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” (from Frozen)
  16. “You’re Welcome” (from Moana)
  17. “A Whole New World” (from Aladdin)
  18. “This is Me” (from The Greatest Showman)
  19. “Under the Sea” (from The Little Mermaid)
  20. “Friends in Low Places” – Garth Brooks

▼ Somehow, eight years after its initial release, “Let It Go” is still the most popular karaoke choice.

Surprisingly, the U.S.’s top karaoke songs have a pretty similar level of variety to Japan’s. There are a lot of classics from the early 2000s, a decent amount of oldies, some contemporary pop, and a country song, but what stands out most is that the U.S. list has an overwhelming amount of Disney and musical songs, which don’t make an appearance on Japanese karaoke rankings.

Here’s what Japanese netizens think of the list:

“It’s all movie songs??”
“The hit songs are all hip-hop but no one sings hip-hop at karaoke, huh?”
“Where’s Bon Jovi?”
“Well American karaoke isn’t usually in private rooms…It’s usually in front of a lot of people, so…”
“What is this? I thought K-pop was taking over America?”
“No ‘Baby Shark’? I thought American kids would be singing it.”
“I thought songs with melodies like “Let It Go” wouldn’t be popular in America but I guess I was wrong…”

It seems like all in all, this list took Japanese karaoke fans by surprise. Apparently, they were not expecting to see quite so many musical songs. It’s not clear what, exactly, they were expecting–perhaps more Hot 100 songs? But as is made obvious by the list, American tastes in karaoke hits are different from their tastes in radio hits.

▼ “Dance Monkey” by Tones and I

Something to keep in mind, however, is that this list is formulated by selections made by users of Singing Machine products, which are primarily for private, at-home use, so these songs are more representative of songs often sung at house parties among family and friends, which might explain why there are so many Disney songs on the list. Had the list been from private karaoke boxes or bar karaoke machines, the results might have been very different!

But the list is a little surprising, isn’t it? That one netizen is right: where’s Bon Jovi?! And there must be at least one mistake, because “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey isn’t on there, and if there’s one song that everybody sings at karaoke in the U.S., it’s gotta be that, for better or worse. At least “Sweet Caroline” made the list, which makes it quite believable. There’s nothing that gets a karaoke party fired up like a room full of people singing “Ba ba baaa!” at the start of each “Sweet Caroline” verse.

Source: Billboard via Barks via Otacom, Singing Machine, Karatetsu
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pixabay

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