Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Karaoke is a deadly business

As someone who is frequently observed hogging the mic at karaoke bars, this a sobering thought. Apparently singing badly can get people killed. Particularly if it's a certain Frank Sinatra song.

From the NY Times this week:

“I used to like ‘My Way,’ but after all the trouble, I stopped singing it,” he said. “You can get killed.”

The authorities do not know exactly how many people have been killed warbling “My Way” in karaoke bars over the years in the Philippines, or how many fatal fights it has fueled. But the news media have recorded at least half a dozen victims in the past decade and includes them in a subcategory of crime dubbed the “My Way Killings.”

The killings have produced urban legends about the song and left Filipinos groping for answers. Are the killings the natural byproduct of the country’s culture of violence, drinking and machismo? Or is there something inherently sinister in the song?

Whatever the reason, many karaoke bars have removed the song from their playbooks. And the country’s many Sinatra lovers, like Mr. Gregorio here in this city in the southernmost Philippines, are practicing self-censorship out of perceived self-preservation.

Karaoke-related killings are not limited to the Philippines. In the past two years alone, a Malaysian man was fatally stabbed for hogging the microphone at a bar and a Thai man killed eight of his neighbors in a rage after they sang John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Karaoke-related assaults have also occurred in the United States, including at a Seattle bar where a woman punched a man for singing Coldplay’s “Yellow” after criticizing his version.

Still, the odds of getting killed during karaoke may be higher in the Philippines, if only because of the ubiquity of the pastime. Social get-togethers invariably involve karaoke. Stand-alone karaoke machines can be found in the unlikeliest settings, including outdoors in rural areas where men can sometimes be seen singing early in the morning. And Filipinos, who pride themselves on their singing, may have a lower tolerance for bad singers.

Indeed, most of the “My Way” killings have reportedly occurred after the singer sang out of tune, causing other patrons to laugh or jeer.

“The trouble with ‘My Way,’ ” said Mr. Gregorio, “is that everyone knows it and everyone has an opinion.”

Full article here.

It's true that those Pinoys do freakin' LOVE their karaoke. The Japanese may have invented it, but only Filipinos have made it into a national pastime.

It does seem a strange thing to draw blood over. In Western countries, sitting around waiting to sing emotional ballads would seem like a strange thing for macho guys to do. Yet in Asia that is quite normal, and you can see even the toughest-looking thug Asian busting out a heartfelt rendition of Love is All Around in a karaoke bar without even having to be drunk first. I'd guess the phenomenon of karaoke-related killings relates more to the the role of the popular pastime in the Philippines more than anything else. The kind of aggressive macho morons who in another country would be doing burnouts in the carpark outside the pub, are hanging out in Filipino karaoke bars instead.

Of course, if you've ever hung out in a karaoke bar for any serious length of time and listened to the third drunken interpretation of Hey Jude for the night, it's quite likely that you have contemplated taking a life. Check out the following clip and tell me it didn't make you think murderous thoughts.

See also:

Dancing Filipino prisoners and their Michael Jackson tribute

Stuff Asian People Like: Cheesy Ballads

"Tuts my barreh"

Weird Vietnamese karaoke version of "Birthday Sex"


  1. hehehe. Recently I heard a young aussie girl do the same with japanese anime songs...for several hours. But as a minority all I could think was that it was cool somebody is interested in learning our language and songs. When I told another aussie friend about it, she looked at me and with a worried look (perhaps she thought a trip to the psychiatrist was needed?) and said, "Is that normal?" I assured her that Asians do it all the time with English, but I don't think she was fully convinced that if it's 'okay/normal' for Asians to do it, it's okay for Westerners to do it too. hehehhe

    btw, have you heard <a href=">this hunk</a> sing? He's hot.

  2. @ fromthetropics: thanks for that. Might have to post it! Very cute.

    Btw have you seen the two black sisters singing Mandarin songs?