Thursday, February 11, 2010

When karaoke kills

And now the end is near
And so I face the final curtain...

Botch that song and you could be dead in the Phillipines.

We have our feelings about karoake but, thankfully, it has never led to homicide, justifiable or not. I used to plan visits to certain bars by their karaoke schedules. In other words, if a certain bar was hosting Karaoke Night I would make sure I visited a different watering spot that night.

There are few things worse than having to endure a hacked up version of "My Way" while you're trying to enjoy a refreshing tap beer following a long day of job hunting. Now we learn that bad karaoke can get you killed in other parts of the world. Did you see the story? I stumbled across a headline on and followed the link. I was certain "Sinatra Song Often Strikes Deadly Chord" was some goofy parody hatched by the Onion. But no, it was a New York Times story so it had to be true. Here's an excerpt:

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.”

This has to be the Onion, right? Someone must be making this up. But, no, it's the Times. Read on, or follow this link to the complete story.

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.

I'm speechless, and that might be a good thing to remember when visiting the Phillipines.


  1. In Vietnam I can always tap into Six String, but Facebook and Google not so much.

    Karaoke is popular here, too, and four years ago I did the world's worst version of "Yellow Submarine" while standing on the banks of the Bac Lieu River. Surely I deserved to be shot, but there is no culture of machisemo here. I got something worse: embarrassed looks.

  2. As I plan each charted course, each careful step along the byway, I think I'll stick with the Six String strategem of avoiding karaoke, with my own long-standing rule:
    If I happen to get roped into a karaoke situation, the ONLY song I'll do is the theme from "Shaft."
    Both the "But I'm talkin' 'bout Shaft" and "Then we can dig it" parts.

  3. As someone who has heard Psycho's incomparable version of "Shaft" I say this: clear out of the way when he gets going. Any pub could and should charge admission for that. Two enthusiastic thumbs up!!!