In the lively karaoke culture of the Philippines, where singing and alcohol go hand in hand, a peculiar phenomenon emerged that sent shockwaves through the nation. A series of karaoke-related killings between 2002 and 2012, known as the “My Way” killings, shed light on the extreme reaction provoked by off-key performances of Frank Sinatra’s iconic song. With at least 12 deaths linked to singing “My Way,” the Philippines witnessed a disturbing and deadly connection between karaoke and violence.
Filipinos have a deep love for singing, and their passion for music is evident in every barangay with its multitude of karaoke bars. Singing off-key is considered a grave offense, and the pressure to perform well is immense. The faux pas of singing out of tune is deemed unforgivable and, shockingly, even worthy of death.
The Deadly Impact of “My Way”
Frank Sinatra’s timeless hit, “My Way,” popularized in 1969, holds a special place in the hearts of many. However, in the Philippines, singing this particular song came with a sinister consequence. Those who dared to sing “My Way” off-key, monopolize the microphone, or subject others to endless repetitions of the song found themselves at the center of fatal incidents. From a security guard shooting a man to a fatal stabbing at a birthday party, the violence associated with singing “My Way” left society in disbelief.
In an interview with the New York Times in 2010, University of the Philippines professor Roland Tolentino said:
“The Philippines is a very violent society, so karaoke only triggers what already exists here when certain social rules are broken.”
The deep-rooted violence within Philippine society exacerbated by social norms and expectations played a significant role in these killings. The Philippines is known for its machismo culture, and when social rules related to karaoke were broken, it often led to explosive reactions. The lyrics of “My Way” with their triumphalist and self-indulgent nature may have contributed to triggering violence.
Examining the Lyrics and Lessons Learned
The lyrics of “My Way” reflect a life lived without regrets and an unapologetic approach to personal choices. However, the song’s underlying message, combined with its association with arrogance, could have added fuel to the fire. Even Frank Sinatra himself had reservations about the song, considering it self-serving and self-indulgent.
His daughter, Tina, revealed:
“Self-serving and self-indulgent. He didn’t like it. That song stuck and he couldn’t get it off his shoe.”
And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve live a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way
Lessons for Karaoke Enthusiasts
The chilling lesson from the “My Way” killings is clear: hogging the microphone, especially with inadequate singing ability, can have dire consequences. In response to these incidents, some karaoke bar owners removed the song from their selection, while others opted for private rooms to avoid triggering violent reactions.
The “My Way” killings in the Philippines exposed a dark side of karaoke culture, where singing off-key and microphone dominance led to tragic outcomes. This series of incidents revealed the underlying violence in society and the significance placed on musical performance.