From Zoom to the Tune

AI’s HR-Approved Karaoke Playlist for the New Normal

Tim Cynova
6 min readMar 27, 2023
a robot singing karaoke in an office
ChatGPT singing its heart out at company karaoke.

I used to work with someone who was a genius at creating the perfect music playlist for every occasion. Coworker’s birthday celebration who loved dry martinis, France, and fine chocolate: Done. Dance Business Bootcamp: Done. It was a wonder to behold each new playlist in a, wow, that song selection and order really does capture the energy and mood of this moment.

As someone who doesn’t possess those song curatorial abilities, and as an HR professional who has thought on more than one occasion during office karaoke sing-a-longs, uh, that’s kinda weird people are singing about *that* in the workplace, I decided to consult AI to curate an HR-approved karaoke playlist. Why? As companies bring many employees back into the physical workspace after years of being Zoom squares together, there’s a good chance that the culture-building classic of office karaoke will make a reappearance.

As a former musician who has worked with and for a lot of arts organizations, I’m all for the power of music to create connections and transcend differences. As an HR professional, I’m also all for not having my calendar packed with a bunch of meetings after a karaoke session as people want to discuss the impact of inappropriate song selection. This is a workplace, people, not an episode of Glee.

My question of ChatGPT: What’s a playlist and queueing of songs with HR-approved lyrics and themes that would be appropriate to sing in the workplace?

Below is that list, complete with a link to the playlist on YouTube if you’re ready to skip straight to the singing part. Even with this, it’s still important to consider the context and specific workplace culture when selecting karaoke songs, but hopefully this gets you headed in the right direction. After the playlist below, I include some thoughts on how to design this kind of culture-building activity in the “new normal” workplace.


  1. Pharrell Williams, “Happy” — This song has a catchy beat and uplifting lyrics, making it a great way to start the karaoke session and get everyone in a good mood.
  2. Katrina and the Waves, “Walking on Sunshine” — Another upbeat song that will keep the energy high and get people singing along.
  3. Whitney Houston, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” — This dance anthem is a fun song for getting people moving.
  4. Cyndi Lauper, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” — A classic karaoke song that’s always a hit.
  5. The Jackson 5, “I Want You Back” — A Motown classic that’s guaranteed to get people singing.
  6. The Beatles, “Hey Jude” — A timeless classic.
  7. Fleetwood Mac, “Don’t Stop” — A catchy, classic rock hit that’s perfect for karaoke.
  8. The B-52’s, “Love Shack” — A fun and funky song that’s great to sing with a group.
  9. The Monkees, “I’m a Believer” — A classic karaoke song that’s always a hit.
  10. Journey, “Don’t Stop Believin’” — One of the ultimate karaoke songs that nearly everyone knows.
  11. Bon Jovi, “Livin’ on a Prayer” — Another classic rock anthem that’s perfect for karaoke.
  12. Gloria Gaynor, “I Will Survive” — A classic disco hit that’s perfect for getting people moving again.
  13. Elton John, “Your Song” — A beautiful ballad that’s perfect for changing up the tempo and getting people singing along.
  14. Sister Sledge, “We Are Family” — Another classic disco hit that’s a fun song with a great message about unity and togetherness. (But also, the company is not a “family,” so maybe skip this one.)
  15. Neil Diamond, “Sweet Caroline” — A classic sing-along song that’s always a hit with a catchy chorus that everyone can sing along to.
  16. Aretha Franklin, “Respect” — A classic soul hit that’s perfect for getting people moving.
  17. Taylor Swift, “Shake It Off” — Another modern hit that’s upbeat, and has a great message about shaking off negativity and having fun.
  18. Queen, “We Will Rock You” — A classic rock anthem that’s perfect for karaoke. It’s a great song to sing with a group, and it’s guaranteed to get people stomping along. (Maybe forewarn your downstairs officemates.)
  19. Stevie Wonder, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” — A classic Motown hit, a fun and upbeat song that many people know.
  20. The Proclaimers, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” — Another song that has a memorable chorus everyone can join in on.
  21. Billy Joel, “Uptown Girl” — A classic 80s hit that’s an upbeat song perfect for karaoke.
  22. Dolly Parton, “9 to 5” — A classic country hit that’s a fun song with a great message about the joys of life outside of work.
  23. ABBA, “Dancing Queen” — A disco classic song with a great chorus that everyone can sing along to. (Are great choruses a key to group karaoke?)
  24. The Pointer Sisters, “I’m So Excited” — Another classic 80s hit that’s fun and upbeat, sure to get people moving.
  25. Earth, Wind & Fire, “September” — A classic disco hit that’s perfect for ending the karaoke session on a high note.

As organizations navigate the return for many employees to in-person work in the wake of the pandemic, fostering a strong and supportive workplace culture is more important than ever. When approached thoughtfully, karaoke events can promote team-building, boost morale, and help colleagues (re)connect. However, as we adjust to the new normal, it’s essential to consider several factors to ensure that office karaoke hits the right note with everyone.

  • Prioritize Health and Safety: Pre-pandemic, I never gave much thought that karaoke is an activity where people pass around a microphone that’s been held with sweaty palms and repeatedly breathed heavily upon. It’s an activity perhaps only rivaled by that birthday tradition of someone breathing all over food and then passing pieces out for coworkers to eat. As people return to the workplace, ensuring their health and safety needs to remain a top concern. When planning a karaoke event, consider implementing safety measures such as providing hand sanitizer, maintaining proper ventilation, and encouraging employees to give the singers a safe distance while singing. Additionally, consider using disposable microphone covers or regularly sanitizing shared equipment to minimize potential risks.
  • Consider Your Remote and Hybrid Team Member: The pandemic has reshaped the way we live and work, with many employees now working remotely or in hybrid arrangements. Don’t forget this when designing your activity. To create an inclusive event, consider incorporating virtual participation options for remote team members. Platforms like Zoom or these specialized karaoke apps can enable employees to join in the fun, regardless of their location.
  • Encourage Voluntary Participation: While office karaoke can be an excellent team-building activity, it’s essential to remember that not everyone enjoys singing in public or may feel comfortable participating. Create an environment where employees can choose to participate without feeling pressured, and ensure there are alternative ways for them to engage in the event, such as cheering on their colleagues or assisting with logistics.
  • Be Mindful of Mental Health and Stress: As employees return to the workplace, they likely are encountering at least some increased levels of stress and anxiety. Office karaoke can be a welcome distraction and a way to let loose. However, it’s important to strike a balance between fun and sensitivity, acknowledging that some employees may need time to adjust to the new normal. Don’t let karaoke be the only stress-relief or bonding activity you explore in your workplace.
  • Reflect on the Lessons of the Pandemic: The pandemic has highlighted the importance of empathy, resilience, and adaptability in the workplace. As employees return to the office and engage in team-building activities like karaoke, it’s crucial to keep these lessons in mind. Encourage a supportive and non-judgmental atmosphere, emphasizing that the event is about having fun, reconnecting with colleagues, and celebrating the resilience of the team.

Office karaoke can be a fun and effective way to strengthen workplace culture and promote team-building as employees return to the office after the pandemic. By prioritizing health and safety, catering to remote and hybrid teams, and being mindful of designing inclusive experiences, organizations can create an enjoyable and meaningful experience that helps employees reconnect and thrive in the post-pandemic workplace.

Tim Cynova is a leader, HR consultant, and educator dedicated to co-creating anti-racist and anti-oppressive workplaces through using human-centered organizational design. He is a certified Senior Professional in HR, trained mediator, principal at Work. Shouldn’t. Suck., on faculty at New York’s The New School and Minneapolis College of Art & Design, and for the past twelve years served as COO & Co-CEO of the largest association of artists, creatives, and makers in the U.S.