This year marks the 15th anniversary of the karaoke game that introduced an entire generation to the horrors of ‘Downtown’ by Petula Clark. Jordan Hamel ranks all 30 songs from SingStar v1, from worst to best.
Before my generation was old enough to get smashed on reasonably priced Merlot and wander down to our local karaoke joint, we had to find other ways to feel like a superstar. That is to say, a SingStar.
The 2004 PlayStation 2 game SingStar became an instant worldwide hit and continues to generate sequels to this day. It’s essentially like having your own karaoke machine, except for some reason its far more socially acceptable. With SingStar you could become a pop sensation in your own living room as you battled your adolescent mates on a Friday night, high on the fumes of Lynx Africa.
But not all SingStar songs are created equal. With these rankings you’ll know exactly what to sing if you’re ever feeling nostalgic and decide to dust off the old Playstation 2.
Note: I will only be ranking songs from the original game (UK version, so no ‘Egoista’ by Alexia sorry!), no sequels, because I’m not a Philistine.
30. Lemar – ’50/50′
I had never heard this song prior to the game and haven’t heard it since. Unsure if it was even in the game, honestly!
29. Carl Douglas – ‘Kung Fu Fighting’
Here we go, the springboard for so much good old fashioned middle-New Zealand racism. Trash song, just trash.
28. The Darkness – ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’
You know how you can sometimes hear pictures? When I see a photo of these long-haired neo-Zeppelin fuckwits all I can hear is the lead singer’s unfathomably high pitched voice and every little shithead who picked this song and tried to match it.
27. Petula Clark – ‘Downtown’
Is this what people sung in the 60s? Did they put this on SingStar as a joke? How was this song ever popular? I can’t imagine anyone actively choosing this, anyone except my grandmother – it was the only song she ever tried and my family paid the price. This is why no one wants to sit next to her at church.
26. Good Charlotte – ‘Girls & Boys’
Weird how we spent the late 90s with Good Charlotte as the leading popular music scholars on gender theory! Anyway, I’m sure the Maddens don’t care about being ranked this low: Joel is living that simple life with Nicole Richie while Benji is all loved up with Green Hornet star Cameron Diaz. Looks like they both got to live lifestyles of the rich and famous after all!
25./24. Rick Astley – ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ and Roy Orbison – ‘Pretty Woman’
Rick Astley and Roy Orbison are the same person. The only difference is one of these songs is about an incel staring at women as they go about their goddamn day and the other became the internet’s most famous bait-n-switch since Meatspin.
23. P!nk – ‘Get the Party Started’
Honestly, I don’t think this song lives up to the title at all. The lyrics suggest the start of a party but the tempo has different ideas. The verses meander along and the chorus never reaches the lofty heights (the literal loft in the music video) and it makes for super awkward karaoke.
22. Daniel Bedingfield – ‘If You’re Not the One’
Hot take: Daniel is the best Bedingfield. Sure, Natasha Bedingfield’s ‘Unwritten’ is a jam, but Daniel had that irrational, unearned, big brother confidence I love. Remember when both he and Natasha were on The X Factor? Wild times.
21. A-Ha – ‘Take on Me’
This song is…. Fine? Typical upbeat 80s synth, big dumb hair, simple lyrics. But that video… goddamn. It still blows me away. I now spend too much of my time loitering in American diners hoping some well-drawn dude in a pencil-leather jacket will pull me into his cartoon world for a series of adventures.
20. Blondie – ‘Heart of Glass’
You’ll notice a trend of songs that are typically sung in high keys doing poorly in this list because the failures of those who try are so much worse. It’s not that ‘Heart of Glass’ is a bad song, it’s just that none of you chumps have Debbie Harry’s pipes.
19. Motörhead – ‘Ace of Spades’
Also not a karaoke song! But I grew up in Timaru and lord knows, we were glad to have some bogan representation in the game.
18. Dido – ‘Thank You’
I love Dido but there are ten other songs of hers that would’ve been better suited for SingStar. If ‘Stan’ (ft. Eminem) or ‘Here With Me’ were on the game this list wouldn’t even be necessary, because they are my two favourite songs and my first choices at karaoke. Despite ‘Thank You’ not being my favourite Dido song and the fact it features a weird talk/sing part that’s impossible to nail in the game, I couldn’t justify putting her any lower on this list.
17. Madonna – ‘Like a Virgin’
Only sexually active, self-assured teens had the guts to choose this at a SingStar party. It was the ultimate 15 year old flex. It goes without saying I never chose this song.
16. Elvis Presley – ‘Suspicious Minds’
Every dad’s reluctant pick, when forced to try out ‘the sing star machine’ after a few Steinlagers and some peer pressure from mum. So many of us grew up on drunken out-of-tune Elvis impersonations, so ‘Suspicious Minds’ deserves its place in the middle of this list.
15. Busted – ‘Crashed the Wedding’
Busted were like a Wish.com version of Good Charlotte. They had the good grace to release one or two wholesome pop-punk early 2000s tunes (this and ‘What I Go To School For’) then disappear back into the ether. A quick Wikipedia search tells me Busted are still touring, good for you Busted, good for you.
14. Liberty X – ‘Just a Little’
An unorthodox choice for SingStar but it works. It’s sassy, funky, demands a better work ethic from any prospective lovers, it has it all. Also impossible to perform this without excessive hip gyration.
13. Dee-Lite – ‘Groove is in the Heart’
This song has no rightful place in karaoke. Surprise trills and pitch shifts make this a fucking minefield to pull off. Then there’s the video, oh boy the video, a fifteen second faux-French monologue followed by a good old fashioned, Timothy Leary, electric kool-aid acid trip and then… Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest? Sure.
12. S Club – ‘Don’t Stop Movin”
Anyone remember S Club 7’s TV show Miami 7? Where the group play fictionalised versions of themselves trying to make it in Miami? While their prestige television prowess wasn’t quite there, it’s hard to fault this catchy-as-hell song.
11. Village People – ‘Y.M.C.A.’
Being 27 and officially out of touch with youth culture, can someone tell me if the Village People have been cancelled yet? Do the Village People have enough current cultural clout to even warrant cancellation? Or did we collectively decide to look past everything and focus on the bangers (this and ‘In the Navy’), because if we don’t play Y.M.C.A at a bleak 25 year work anniversary how else do we get everybody up dancing?
10. Sugababes – ‘Round Round’
Sugababes sit pretty close to the top of the exclusive list of pop groups from the early-2000s that young boys were super horny for. They were a rotating trio of culturally diverse angels sent from heaven to make pop hits that still make Courtenay Place nightclubs pop off to this day. ‘Round Round’ is good, clean pop, with a weirdly soulful breakdown towards the end that you could really throw yourself into if you were feeling the energy of the divas moving through you at the time.
9. George Michael – ‘Careless Whisper’
George Michael doesn’t get the respect he deserves for his role in pop music and ‘Careless Whisper’ is dripping in heartbreak and angst. Back in 2002 this was perfect tune to belt out with the fellas after your girlfriend you never spoke to in school but texted 300 times a day dumped you because she had too much on her plate and NCEA Level 1 was only a year away. While relationships change, George’s whisper stays the same, this song is as timeless as heartbreak itself.
8. Westlife – ‘World of Our Own’
The perfect tune to belt out with the fellas once you’re over that stupid ex of yours and you’re ready to turn 15 and become the pimply, stubbly man she didn’t realise you could be (hypothetically). Boy bands used to be so wholesome, Westlife are evidence of that. Plus you know your mum was horny for at least two of them.
7. Atomic Kitten – ‘Eternal Flame’
Another early 2000s group most 12 year old boys were horny for, which distracts from the fact that this song rules and is perfect for SingStar. Atomic Kitten are eternal and I’d take an AK comeback tour over a Spice Girls one any day, don’t @ me.
6. Blue – ‘One Love’
Blue hold up just fine and this song rules. It’s got all the glory notes to make the fans melt, it has the appearance of being edgy without being edgy at all, and it was every 13 year old blonde streaked/flame shirt/board shorts/Dirty Dog™ wearing badboi’s anthem.
5. Mis-Teeq – ‘Scandalous’
This song has everything you need: intense synth strings, excessive airhorn, thirsty lyrics and a video that’s 3 minutes of hot people grindin in the club followed by an elaborate back alley dance off. Mis-Teeq really swung for the fences with ‘Scandalous’ and they made kids everywhere feel like powerful badasses when they sung it. Everyone needs more Mis-Teeq energy in their life.
4. Sophie Ellis-Bextor – ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’
This song could keep you warm at night, it could pack out a dance floor, it could even vaccinate your children for you (probably). It’s the perfect combination of an infectious beat, fun lyrics and the goddess herself: Sophie. Ellis. Bextor. Follow me through a Berlin nightclub and stab me repeatedly SEB you mid-2000s fever dream.
3. Ricky Martin – ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’
Everyone’s first introduction to the sex god Ricky Martin. You can’t not dance to this song. Everyone has that one persistent friend who repeatedly asks you to go to salsa lessons with them, and while deep down you know you’ll never say yes, in your head when you think of yourself in that class, you think of this video.
2. Avril Lavigne – ‘Complicated’
A song that lent itself to earnest, cathartic emotional preteen performances every time. It was angsty, it was shouty, it had a video filmed at a skatepark, it was 2004. There was a moment in time where Avril Lavigne perfectly captured the pop-cultural zeitgeist and she does not get enough credit for it.
1. Jamelia – ‘Superstar’
Was there any ever doubt? The song that would play on the load screen and burrow its way into your brain until it consumed you. This song sums up the essence of SingStar, unrestrained, joyous performances, dancing, flare, great scores every goddamn time. It was a surefire way to feel like a superstar and that’s what we were all searching for. So thank you Jamelia, are and will always be, the SingStar queen.