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Say what you want about karaoke but... wait you know what, don't say what you want. Say what we want: that karaoke, when you remove the ego and add some close friends, is a good time. Forget those soulless chains - we like our karaoke rough around the edges: in intimate basements or on the top floor of lively boozers where we can, for a few gloriously short hours, forget about life's worries and get carried away on an intoxicating tide of emotion, nostalgia and out-of-tune voices.
The owners at Dalston Superstore must've heard our prayers, because they opened our dream venue: a late-night karaoke bar hosted by drag queens. A Thursday-Saturday affair, it works like this: you book a table, show up with your least musically-talented friends (you can't risk anyone stealing your thunder), queue up your fave jam, and then perform to a captive audience of drag queens and drunkies.
Late-night karaoke-ers can just rock up without a booking, and spotlight-shy singers can hire a private room. Add in Voodoo Rays pizza and bubbly and you have yourself a thing of raucous beauty.
We probably shouldn't even be telling you about this one but we're just no good at keeping secrets. It's an authentically scuzzy BYOB Japanese place tucked at the back of a manga store on Brewer Street, where the songs come in English, Japanese and Chinese and all pretensions are checked in at the door. You can also bring your own food, along with all that confidence-inducing booze.
The Star of Kings is your jack of all trades type of boozer, and one of those trades is encouraging some amplified singing. It takes place in one of their function rooms on the first floor which can fit 20 hearts, souls and minds and comes with a Lucky Voice sing station featuring 10,000 tunes. There's got to be something there that you can hold a note to, surely?
What was once an 80s dive club in Stokey is now an intimate bunker of karaoke, where 40 bods can squeeze in and lose all sense of time, space, pretensions and marbles. There's a bar serving the singing fuel, cordless mics and around 4000 songs available - not the widest selection but it does the job. You can also order pizza in here if you're looking to make a night of it. Which you are!
This Victorian pub is one of our favourite Islington haunts, mainly down to its huge selection of beers and its aesthetically pleasing interiors. And for one other reason: karaoke baby, in a high-class room right at the top of the pub where you can leave the outside world behind. It will house 15 people and you can even have your own personal host if that's what you need to have a good time.
On the first Friday of the month, something slightly magical happens at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club. That's when their karaoke night occurs and all kinds of good natured-souls cram in to enjoy the sounds of another person's voice. All pretensions are left at the door and a rare spirit envelops everyone in the room. It's beautiful and about as welcoming, inclusive and fun a night out as you could hope for.
The sister venue to the Kings Cross place already mentioned, this is an unsurprisingly similar deal: an energetic 'quirky' boozer slightly rough around the edges and frequently full of beards and tats. The karaoke room here is a dark little sweat box that can fit 15 and comes with that iconic Lucky Voice machine with 10,000,000,000 songs (we may have added some zeros).
Rowans is the type of place where dreams can be made, and marbles just as easily lost. It's a Dojo favourite for the pure raucous funhouse vibes, plenty of which originate from their karaoke rooms, able to squeeze in 24 bods at a push. Be warned, forget any notions about self-image before heading in here. We've seen all kinds of cool cats broken.
The Chateau is a relative newbie to the Camberwell scene, providing an all-glamour LGBTQ+ bar and cultural space for SE London. Set under the Church Street Hotel, this subterranean speakeasy is filled to the brim with flamboyant events and queer folk getting social, with karaoke and drag karaoke lip-synching battles on the regs. Release your inner diva amongst glitzy streamers, bright lights and a whole host of friendly so and sos.
Beneath Tavistock Hotel you'll find Bloomsbury Lanes, a place to really relive the halcyon days of your youth with good honest entertainment in the shape of bowling, karaoke, and an American diner. Riffing heavily on that 50s Americana vibe, there are 4 rooms for karaoke which come with leather sofas, large TV screens and 'stylish' wallpaper.