11 Songs You’ll Hear at Every Bar

The most popular bar songs of all time — and why you’ll keep singing to them long after the bar is closed

Anyone with a pulse knows that a DJ can make or break your time at the bar; a couple of lackluster songs in a row and you’re out the door.

There’s obviously more than one reason to go out to a bar to drink — and we mean other than looking for the next love of your life. And usually, it has a lot to do with the music. Anyone with a pulse knows that a DJ can make or break your time at the bar; a couple of lackluster songs in a row and you’re out the door.

But then there are the songs that make us throw our hands up in the air (Miley Cyrus style) as if we’ve never heard a song before in our lives; the songs that, when fueled by liquor, sound that much better than they do sober. And while country-phobes may detest hearing a Garth Brooks song, and low-key drinkers hate the inevitable "Shots" tune that rings through every nightclub, the power of a good beat and catchy songs can’t be denied.

In fact, researchers have actually determined the best "sing-along" songs are; based on vocalists, beats, and atmospheres. Wired wrote on a study, published by musicologist Allison Bawley, last year:

"A prominent feature among the songs was a male vocalist with a loud, clear high-chest voice, without many vocal embellishments. Pawley suggested that singing along to these songs promotes a kind of ‘neotribal bonding’ among participants. As for why female vocalists’ songs weren’t popular, Pawley speculated that, whereas women will happily sing along to men, men may feel that voicing a woman’s words threatens their masculinity.

“More important than a song’s musical characteristics, though, was the context in which it was played. The most favorable conditions for sing-alongs were bigger venues with younger crowds, especially on weekends. Not surprisingly, these are all conditions associated with an atmosphere of revelry. Younger people are also more likely to be single, and ‘when you’re single there’s an added goal’ to singing, Pawley said. Most of the songs had been chart-toppers at some point, so familiarity was likely also a factor."

So now you know — hear a dude singing, and start dancing. Here are the bar songs you can’t stop dancing to, and where to hear them:

1.     Semisonic, "Closing Time"

This one is usually the signal to uh, wrap things up at the bar, Semisonic’s song usually evokes a certain sort of hugging, swaying, "ohmyGodthebarisclosingbutwe’rehavingsomuchfunwhyyyyyyyyyy" mentality.

Bars you’ll hear it in: The good ones, obviously — this one’s a classic not to be missed.

2.     Journey, "Don’t Stop Believing"

You’ll never hear such loud cheers, see such fist pumps, and witness such all-around terribly hilarious air guitar as you will to "Don’t Stop Believing."

Bars you’ll hear it in: The good ones, yet again — no matter whether it's a dive bar, bumpin’ night club, rooftop bar, or a dance-friendly bar, "Don’t Stop" is practically required in "How to Liven Up Any Bar 101" for DJs.

3.     Bon Jovi, "Livin’ on a Prayer"

There’s no better time to scream and shout than during "Livin’ on a Prayer." Since debuting in 1986, it’s become a staple in speakers and jukeboxes in just about any bar you’ll find.

Bars you’ll hear it in: Generally speaking, the bars where Journey, Bon Jovi, and AC/DC are the normal tunes.

4.     Neil Diamond, "Sweet Caroline"

Is there any song that evokes as much happiness as "Sweet Caroline"? The only way to sing "Sweet Caroline," obviously, is to wrap your arms around your loved ones (while balancing a beer, a difficult feat), and serenading/screaming the chorus. (And if you forgot to sing the "bah, hah, bah," after the song’s namesake, you’re doing it wrong — don’t make us show you how it’s done.)

Bars you’ll hear it in: Any bar worth its snuff — and occasionally, even a good baseball stadium.

5.     Def Leppard, "Pour Some Sugar on Me"

You’ve probably never even heard of the band responsible for quite possibly the most inappropriate song you’ll hear in a bar. Cue the gyrating that we wish to forget.

Bars you’ll hear it in: Bars that you don’t want to remember the next morning.

6.     Garth Brooks, "Friends in Low Places"

Any country bar worth its snuff better play some Brooks, no questions asked. And when you can’t hit the very low notes, you can still chant along to the chorus that’s engrained in our brains.

Bars you’ll hear it in: Country bars, preferably with lots of cowboys and cowgirls.

7.     Van Morrison, "Brown Eyed Girl"

A favorite among people of all eye colors, there’s no more nostalgic, feel-good, get-dancing song than "Brown Eyed Girl."

Bars you’ll hear it in: Bars with old-school jukeboxes, all-American beers, cheap wells, and peanut shells on the ground — in other words, bars that are great.

8.     LMFAO, "Shots"

For the love of everything dear in this world, DO NOT drink along to this song.

Bars you’ll hear it in: Bars that will drive you closer to deafness, and drunkenness.

9.     Lennard Skynnard, "Sweet Home Alabama"

This ‘Bama-classic is no longer relegated to country bars alone — if you can’t get down to some "Sweet Home," you just need to pack it up and go.

Bars you’ll hear it in: Country bars mostly, but any bar that plays the classics.

10.     AC/DC, "You Shook Me All Night Long"

Everyone knows the chorus to this oldie and goldie. Cue the air guitars!

Bars you’ll hear it in: Bars with fratty bros ready to jam, obviously.

11.     Miley Cyrus, “Party in the USA"

Any girl who claims that she doesn’t know the words to this Miley song is a liar. Hate to break it to you. And yes, it’s obnoxiously pop, and yes, the dudes around you will cringe, but eventually, everyone at the bar will put their hands up — they’re playing your song.


Bars you’ll hear it in: Bars with shot specials — look for a Dirty Girl Scout or Red Headed Slut and you’re golden.