This story is part of an occasional series about New York nightlife.
After a co-worker brought up karaoke during a conversation last week, Molly Archuleta knew exactly where she wanted to spend her Friday night.
Ms. Archuleta, who lives in Bushwick, hopped on the subway to go to Planet Rose, an Alphabet City karaoke lounge she discovered 12 years ago.
“The best thing about it is that it’s an open karaoke experience, so you don’t know what’s coming through the door,” she said. “You have accountants who come to sing Metallica; you have people from out of town who want to sing Celine Dion, which we will always support.”
Even with the plethora of private karaoke rooms in New York City, there are plenty of people who prefer a more communal environment. At Planet Rose, they sing their favorite songs from zebra-print booths and dance along as strangers perform on faded checkered floors.
“People come in randomly to say, ‘It’s my mom’s birthday, I want to sing her favorite song’ or ‘My brother is getting married and I’m so excited,’” said Ms. Archuleta. “Everyone in life always needs some kind of safe space to get out of.”
Planet Rose isn’t the only bar of its kind, of course. Numerous New York venues host communal karaoke nights that are loved by guests and hosts alike.
Olive Oliver, 26, has been hosting karaoke on Sunday evenings for several weeks at Jade, a bar on the border between Bed-Stuy and Bushwick.
She usually starts by performing Sisqo’s “Thong Song” – “it’s so theatrical and it shows you really have a reach as a singer” – then tries to convince clients to sing their own songs.
†Of course I respect boundaries. If someone says, ‘I don’t want to sing,’ I’m fine with that,” she said. “But when a shy person is OK to go on stage to sing something, I will always be their number 1 hype man.”
Some nights she also hosts Rebecca’s, a Bushwick bar a stone’s throw from Jade, or Chino Grande, a new karaoke saloon in Williamsburg.
But wherever she is, her success depends on reading the energy of the room.
“If there’s a room full of white women, I’m probably going to do ‘You Oughta Know,'” she said of Alanis Morissette’s song. “If there are old aunts or people who have a mature and sexy vibe, I pick something from the 90s R&B catalog. And sometimes, when I feel like I belong to the family of queer people, I go maybe Whitney Houston or Shania Twain sing.”
Whatever happens, she will do her best to find common ground.
“If they don’t have any similarities at first glance, at least you can know they’re all in the same place at the same time,” said Ms. Oliver. “If you live in Bushwick in 2022, you must have heard one Charli XCX song.”
Jade Beyers, 36, co-owner and manager of Jade, said she’s experienced “enough karaoke for a lifetime” as she barts during Karaoke Sundays. But she still loves to see people embrace the chance to put on a persona or do something crazy.
“You can feel comfortable in such a space, where you can just be crazy or forget the words and not feel humiliated,” she said. “Because there’s just an undercurrent of love and care.”
Missy O’Reilly, 43, who has co-owned Planet Rose since 2007, said she doesn’t do karaoke often and prefers to dance along with others performing.
“I have to be a little drunk on lawyer and hear ‘Christmas Shoes’ to be motivated to sing,” she said.
But she fully understands the importance of creating a place where regulars can interact, a place where people can feel free to be vulnerable.
“It’s such a diverse group of people who are connected through this strange, tacky place and who just made this connection through karaoke,” she said. “Everyone always says it’s their church.”
Last Friday, Roy Marasigan – known to friends as Cowboy Roy – performed Tony Orlando and Dawn’s “Knock Three Times” on Planet Rose as the bar cheered him on.
Mr Marasigan, 44, works as a freelance video editor and said his odd schedule was one of the reasons he’s been coming to the bar since 2004.
“That’s the beauty of this place,” he said. “My weekends are sometimes like a Tuesday or Wednesday night, and I can stop here any night and there are always people here to hang out with.”
Later that evening, when he watched two people perform Florence + the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over,” Mr. Marasigan burst into tears.
“There’s something about singing a great song,” he said. “The joy is so beautiful.”
where to go
Check websites or contact venues to confirm karaoke hours; some only have karaoke certain nights of the week or month.
Planet Rose219 Avenue A, planetrosenyc.com
sing sing81 Avenue A, singsingaea.com
Sing Sing Karaoke St. Marks9 St Marks Place, karaokesingsing.com
161 Lafayette161 Lafayette Street, 161lafayettebar.com
Winnie’s58 East Broadway (2nd floor), instagram.com/winniesbar1987
Sid Gold’s Request Room165 W 26th Street, sidgolds.com
Mulberry Street BarMulberry Street 176
aboveCanal Street 59