Over the weekend, the New York Times ran an article about a disturbing trend: a series of murders in the Philippines over karaoke versions of Frank Sinatra's classic 'My Way'.
"I used to like 'My Way,' but after all the trouble, I stopped singing it," Rodolfo Gregorio tells the Times reporter after belting out 'safer' numbers from Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck in the city of Pasig, which is east of Manila, the capital.
"You can get killed," he says, grimly.
It may seem like an urban myth but violence in karaoke bars has been a documented trend for a while. In 2008, a Malaysian man was killed for hogging the microphone in Borneo. And in 2007, a man was shot dead in the Philippine city of San Mateo when he couldn't stay on key.
The articles reporting these karaoke murders both point out that 'My Way' has been known for its tendency to incite violence.
The Times attempts to shed some light on the subject matter, presenting a number of theories. The simplest, and perhaps most plausible, argues that the Philippines is a violent place, awash with more than a million illegal guns. It's also a society in love with karaoke, and 'My Way' is a hugely popular song. The combination of these factors means that it is statistically likely that violence will occur at some point during a performance of 'My Way.'
Another theory is that the song, with its somewhat swaggering, if not pompous, lyrics and attitude, leads to fights because of the atmosphere it creates. "'I did it my way' -- it's so arrogant," Butch Albarracin, the owner of Center for Pop, a Manila-based singing school tells the Times. "The lyrics evoke feelings of pride and arrogance in the singer, as if you're somebody when you're really nobody. It covers up your failures. That's why it leads to fights."
Either way, the karaoke-rage trend doesn't appear to be exclusive to 'My Way' or Southeast Asia.
Recent incidents have included a British man in Bulgaria who beat up a couple of singers and trashed a karaoke bar after he felt a version of 'We Are The Champions' by Queen didn't meet his standards.
The trend has hit America too. Lindsay Lawrence of Seattle beat up an unnamed singer after he tried to sing Coldplay's "Yellow." "Oh, no, not that song. I can't stand that song," she reportedly said before punching the singer twice in the face. It took three people to hold her down and in her karaoke-rage she allegedly headbutted a police officer.
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