There are many songs dedicated to the Moon. “Blue Moon.” “Black Moon.” “Moondance.” “Can’t Fight the Moonlight.” And there are plenty of songs that feature the Sun, too. But when it comes to eclipse-themed songs, there’s probably just one that comes to mind first.
It has to be “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”
Now, say, just say, you imagined celebrating the upcoming eclipse with a little karaoke. Do you go with “Total Eclipse”? Are there traps lurking in the song, waiting to throw you off your game? Is “Total Eclipse” a solid pick or a guaranteed flop? Is it a little too on the nose?
After consulting with karaoke experts, Atlas Obscura has a clear recommendation: Go for it.
“Everyone knows that song, and everyone can belt out the lyrics,” says Elsaida Alerta, the 2015 Karaoke World Champion. “It’s a crowd pleaser.”
Chris Goldteeth, of Karaoke Killed the Cat (“the infamous karaoke dance party for people who never thought they’d like karaoke”), agrees. “It is a good song to choose—it crosses over into the universal appeal category in karaoke,” he says. “The emotional level goes up and down quite a bit, which people always respond to.”
But how hard of a song is it to pull off? Bonnie Tyler, who topped the charts with the song in 1983, once told Dick Clark that “Total Eclipse” (written and produced by Jim Steinman) is a challenge. “I don’t like songs that anybody can sing,” she said. “I like songs that need a lot of energy. It’s such a passionate song, and it builds all the time, ’til it finally comes to a real climax. It’s incredible.”
Pulling this off is a question of confidence. There are some long notes to hold, but you can probably count on having the entire audience belting out backup vocals with you. But if you can navigate the emotional ups and downs, you should be fine.
“The challenge is the belting out,” says Alerta. “It’s pretty high. Going to a neutral place for ‘Once upon a time … ’ and then it goes BOOM. It’s all about the delivery.”
One important choice to make is which version of the song to perform. Bonnie Tyler’s album version is close to seven minutes long, which is not recommended. The music video version is about five and a half minutes, and the single is a tighter four and half. But there’s also the Nicki French dance cover from the ’90s—a popular choice in karaoke venues. Her take comes in two varieties, both faster and beat-heavier than the original. One starts slow, then speeds up. The other starts fast and stays fast.
Then there is the Dan Band version, made popular by the 2003 comedy film Old School. It is shorter than all the other versions, and includes a few of well-placed curses.
Think carefully before choosing this version; what are those off-color flourishes adding? Maybe you want to add your own, original flourishes, instead of copying someone else’s? But it can work, says Goldteeth. “I would watch people perform it, and watch the audience respond to it. And the audience was into it. If they get the reference, they’re doing it themselves. Enough people get the reference that it crosses over. It’s not the same universal appeal, but enough people get it that it works.”
No matter what version of the song you choose, this is one where you better know how it goes. “There’s nothing worse than picking one of these songs that everyone knows and not knowing it,” says Goldteeth. “If you dip into ‘Total Eclipse’ territory, you should know the song. It’s a bummer when you don’t.”
Of course, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is far from the only song that would make sense in an eclipse-themed karaoke jam. Here are some additional ideas, collected from the Atlas Obscura staff. In fact, why wait for the eclipse? Trust us, forever’s gonna start tonight.
The Official Atlas Obscura Eclipse Karaoke Playlist
- U2, “Staring at the Sun”
- Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Bad Moon Rising”
- Tegan and Sara, “Dark Come Soon”
- David Bowie, “Moonage Daydream”
- Amy Winehouse, “Back to Black”
- Klaus Nomi, “Total Eclipse”
- Bruce Springsteen, “Dancing in the Dark”
- Gloria Trevi, “La Luna & El Sol”
- Pink Floyd, “Eclipse”
- The Beatles, “Here Comes the Sun”
- Bruce Springsteen, “Blinded by the Light”
- Katrina & the Waves, “Walking on Sunshine”