This trope is when a public karaoke performance spotlights the singer/s's relationships with the people in the room. It comes in two varieties:
- The first is when one party is singing alone, but for the benefit of another character in the audience. The song choice and staging will usually complement this. Given the karaoke setting, it may or may not be an embarrassing attempt.
- The second is when two or more people are singing together. This variation showcases the chemistry between the singers. They are usually reluctant to sing with each other at first, but slowly gain more confidence as they become more comfortable around each other. This is usually an example of Duet Bonding.
Usually, this is done between love interests as a form of Ship Tease, Serenade Your Lover, or Falling-in-Love Montage, and 'gratuitous karaoke' is fittingly considered a Romantic Comedy staple. However, it can also be done between other sets of people for other reasons, such as a call-out or a reconciliation.
This is done because although singing karaoke in front of a bunch of strangers (or worse, acquaintances) can often be awkward, uncomfortable or embarrassing, it can be fun given the right mindset. Fittingly, karaoke numbers that do this often start out reluctant before the singer/s has/have a breakthrough and become more confident. In addition to moving relationships forward, this trope adds a musical number to a work that otherwise lacks it. It also allows for The Cast Showoff to showcase their vocal chops, even if they might be Hollywood Tone-Deaf at the beginning.
Compare Karaoke Box, which is the main use of karaoke in Asian media. Unlike this trope, Karaoke Box takes place in an isolated room and usually serves to highlight the dynamics of a group instead of a couple. See also Gratuitous Rap.
- Variation in 27 Dresses, where it's not technically karaoke (rather, a singalong that the main characters lead a dive bar in). Jane and Kevin, initially at odds, belt out "Bennie and the Jets" at said dive bar and become closer to each other.
- (500) Days of Summer: At an office party, Tom sings The Pixies's "Here Comes Your Man" for the benefit of his crush on co-worker Summer.
- Boys Don't Cry: Lana and her friends awkwardly sing "The Bluest Eyes in Texas" at karaoke, which is a romantic interaction between Lana and Brandon (in the audience) as they make eye contact during the performance.
- In Bridget Jones' Diary, Bridget's drunken karaoke performance at the office Christmas party gets the attention of her suave boss Daniel.
- The Cable Guy has obsessive stalker Chip Douglas go all-out at karaoke with a rendition of "Somebody to Love" to try and impress his new "friend" and client Steven.
- High School Musical starts with a karaoke number ("The Start of Something New") between Troy and Gabriella at a ski resort. This is firmly the second type, as they're needled into singing with each other but make it work; sparks fly between the two of them that informs their later chemistry when Gabriella transfers to Troy's school.
- Done in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days when Andie and Ben, who are sort-of in a fake relationship (it's complicated), perform an inebriated rendition of "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon at karaoke, which signifies how they're slowly losing their cool with each other.
- Parodied in Isn't It Romantic when Natalie is asked to do karaoke at her good friend and potential love interest Josh's pre-wedding party. She starts out pitchy and unsure, but slowly gains confidence, backup dancers, and instrumentation; her rendition of "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" involves the entire bar and turns into an "I Want" Song about how she actually wants love. Note that this is parodied as the whole thing occurs in Natalie's comatose fantasy about her life as a romantic comedy; she herself is in awe at how it escalated into a Crowd Song.
- Invoked in Fingernails. One of the romantic exercises Amir has designed to help measure and strengthen a love connection is for the partners to do karaoke on stage. His exercises are explicitly patterned after romantic movies.
- In A Life Less Ordinary, Robert and Celine sing along to "Beyond the Sea" at a dive bar, which segues into them sleeping with each other.
- Familial example in Like Father, when Rachel and her estranged father Harry finally reconcile with a karaoke rendition of Styx's "Come Sail Away" (appropriately performed on a cruise ship).
- Love Hard: Natalie intends to seduce Tag through sexy karaoke. While he's initially appreciative of her song choice and body, he's shocked when she turns around and her face is swollen due to an allergic reaction.
- Variation in Never Rarely Sometimes Always. Autumn and Skylar are killing time at a karaoke booth in New York City, as Autumn is scheduled for a medical procedure in the early morning and the girls have no accommodations for the night. They are accompanied by Jasper, a boy who has taken an interest in Skylar. Autumn sings the song “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying”, which has lyrics about being hopeful about a new day and new beginnings. Autumn is not necessarily singing this song for an audience, but for herself as she is about to undergo a major experience: getting an abortion.
- Played with in My Best Friend's Wedding, when Jules tries to sabotage Michael's wedding to Kimmy by forcing Kimmy (who is a bad singer) to do karaoke. However, Kimmy powers through and charms the entire audience. The whole thing only serves to reinforce Michael's love for her, to Jules's disdain.
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: After a long day at work and an awkward dinner with some friends, Shang-Chi and Katy decide to spend the rest of the night at a karaoke bar singing "Old Town Road" together. During The Stinger they go back to the same karaoke bar but this time they bring Wong with them.
- Toni Erdmann: Wilfried badgers his daughter Ines into singing "The Greatest Love of All" (which after all is about parents and children) at a party. Subverted in that, after delivering a surprisingly spirited performance of the song, she stalks out without saying anything else to him.
- Undercover Brother. After the black Undercover Brother (in his Anton Jackson role) meets the white Penelope Snow, they spend the night at a karaoke restaurant where they sing the song "Ebony and Ivory" together as a sign of their growing love for each other.
- The titular characters of When Harry Met Sally... briefly perform karaoke in an electronics store, which is one of the many moments that showcase their chemistry. The fun moment is interrupted by Harry's ex Helen, arriving with a new man on her arm.
- In the Angel episode "Redefinition", Cordelia, Wesley, and Gunn are moping at a karaoke bar after Angel has fired them. They start blaming each other, but all three end up on stage drunkenly singing "We Are The Champions".
- On Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Detective Jake Peralta sings a duet with Doug Judy while waiting at a karaoke lounge. Judy is his criminal nemesis turned buddy, and both are the same flavor of wacky dude who would enjoy karaoke.
- Better Call Saul: The episode "Winner" begins with a flashback to a karaoke night, held in celebration of Jimmy's admission to the New Mexico State Bar. Jimmy spots his brother, then recently separated from his wife, looking sad and lonely. He hatches a plan to rope him into performing a duet of ''The Winner Takes It All'' in order to bring him out of his shell. It works.
- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: In "I'm Almost Over You", itself a Deconstructive Parody of the romantic comedy, this is parodied with the aptly-named number "Gratuitous Karaoke Moment". The lyrics are all about how a karaoke scene is usually an out-of-place moment that serves for the leads to be cutesy, and the number includes things like Maya cleaning up nicely when she appears, the camera spinning around them, and the love interests they're trying to make jealous frowning at their chemistry. The song is a Musical Pastiche of "The Start of Something New" from High School Musical, itself a karaoke number.
- The Flash (2014): In the first season, Caitlin gets drunk during her Not a Date with Barry. The result is that she ends up asking him to join her in a karaoke rendition of "Summer Nights" from Grease, which led to them becoming much closer friends.
- Forever: The gang go out to a karaoke bar together at the end of "Punk Is Dead." Hanson, who has been telling them all episode that he used to be in a band that played at the landmark punk bar of the story, kills it, to everyone's delight.
- Friends: Phoebe's boyfriend Mike takes Phoebe and her friend Monica to sing karaoke at the bar where he plays the piano to hang out. Phoebe enjoys the hell out of this, and Monica is convinced to overcome her shyness. She later finds out men cheer her up because she wears a see-through blouse. Her husband Chandler jumps in on the podium to save her from embarrassment but she keeps singing because the audience still loves her.
- Gilmore Girls, "Lorelai? Lorelai?": Lorelai does karaoke at Rory's sendoff with Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You". What begins as a cute, awkward farewell to her daughter turns into a Torch Song for Luke in the middle, making this an example that emphasizes two relationships.
- In episode 6 of The Good Place, Eleanor and Michael spend a day off and their Good-Times Montage includes a karaoke scene which draws them closer.
- Glee is a musical show and so characters frequently perform songs within the glee club for this purpose. However, karaoke is used in this way in "The Break-Up", where Finn invokes this by telling Rachel to sing with Brody onstage. As they belt "Give Your Heart a Break" together, he realizes that they have good chemistry and becomes concerned.
- How I Met Your Mother:
- "The Pineapple Incident": Ted gets drunk on a dare and then starts acting crazy on purpose to let go of his unrequited love for Robin. He sings a loud, embarrassing karaoke song at his favourite bar. He catches a look of another pretty girl Trudy who thinks he's cute and that his drunken performance is quite charming.
- The episode "Life Among the Gorillas", where Marshall and Lily make up by singing "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" at karaoke after Marshall falls in with a bad crowd at work.
- On The Inside Man, Mark and AJ do karaoke together in the premiere episode of the second season, "A Different Tune." Mark is reluctant to perform at first, but he takes the plunge and the two sing well together. It shows how far Mark has come since the first season, when he felt like he didn't have any friends in the world.
- In Lovesick, Evie and the group take part in the karaoke booking meant for her bachelorette party. They drink champagne and drunkenly sing to "Total Eclipse of the Heart". As Evie and Dylan sing 'and I need you more tonight', they keep their eyes on eachother. Evie's brother watches this, and suspects there is still unacknowledged feelings between them.
- When Jim has a party without inviting Michael in The Office (US), Michael crashes it anyway, making everyone uncomfortable and unable to be themselves. In one scene, everyone is having fun around the karaoke machine, when Michael gets up to do a song. He sings "Islands In The Stream" by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, beginning with Rogers' section. It moves to Parton's section and he uses an awkward falsetto voice, making him look like a fool. When Michael finally arrives at the chorus sung by both Rogers and Parton, Jim gets up and joins him, clearly pitying Michael but also forgiving him.
- Sense8 does this in the fourth episode, when the cluster's Psychic Link causes them to all start singing "What's Up" by Four Non Blondes (started by Riley cuing it up on her music player and Wolfgang simultaneously choosing it at karaoke). Not only is the group singalong a joyous moment where the clustermates all interact for the first time, the romantic aspect of it is also used when Wolfgang shares an intimate moment with Kala while singing it.
- Victorious: In "Tori and Jades Play Date", Tori and Jade are both having a miserable time on their forced "play date" and are trying really hard to get along despite their differences. Eventually, two obnoxious boys start to bother them, and won't take "no" for an answer. In a desperate attempt to drive them away, they agree to do some karaoke together, singing the song "Take a Hint"- not only does it (temporarily) fix their problem, but it also ends up being what makes them bond, with the last scene of the episode showing them getting along really well.
- Inverted in one Mary Worth storyline: shortly after their temporary break-up, Wilbur and Estelle find themselves in the same karaoke bar, and spend the night hurling increasingly vicious break-up songs at each other. Estelle was there with a date, who walked out long before they were finished. Somehow, they end up back together.
- In the Hey Arnold! episode "Principal Simmons", Principal Wartz leaves his job as school principal in frustration after teacher Mr. Simmons criticizes him for his strictness on the students. With Mr. Wartz's newfound independence, he goes to a karaoke session and sings "I Will Prevail", about the singer prevailing despite being apart from another. Mr. Simmons temporarily fills in as principal until he reconciles with Mr. Wartz, admitting that he wasn't suited for school principal. Mr. Wartz, after reclaiming his role as school president and bringing the school back in order, sings "I Will Prevail" at karaoke once again, but this time as a triumphant duet with Mr. Simmons.
- The Simpsons episode "Black Widower" had a scene with newly-engaged Selma and Sideshow Bob singing a karaoke duet of Frank and Nancy Sinatra's "Something Stupid".
- In Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts episode "To Catch a Deathstalker", Kipo tries to invoke this trope with Wolf, but fails and ends up singing the entire song "Heroes on Fire" by herself while the younger girl fondly watches. Wolf begrudgingly admits that the song is stuck in her head at the end of the episode, and in the season finale, she and the rest of Kipo's friends end up singing it to get Kipo out of Shapeshifter Mode Lock.