Music to incite the savage beast

‘My Way’ can kill you; Big money quashes ‘Big Money’; and a truly Soopah Bowl
By PHILLIPE AND JORGE  |  February 10, 2010

Although your superior correspondents try to avoid situations where we have no alternative but to be totally annoying, there have been times when P+J have agreed to karaoke performances. We know that this can be dangerous here in the Biggest Little but at least the danger is comprised mostly of being booed and hissed at. Or, perhaps, a few close friends will refuse to acknowledge your presence for a few months.

In the Philippines it appears that there is an entirely different level of danger. Reporting from the City of General Santos in Sunday's New York Times, Norimitsu Onishi reveals a new and pernicious category of crime, known throughout the Philippines as " 'My Way' Killings." In the past decade news media have recorded at least a half-dozen victims.

It goes like this: hard-working Filipino folk, unwinding after a day's labor creating shoes for Imelda (whoops, sorry, that was a few decades back) go to karaoke bars and try their hand at singing a few popular tunes. Someone selects the Frank Sinatra standard "My Way." Audience members take umbrage, someone whips out a knife, gun, or machete and . . . another one bites the dust.

It is not immediately obvious to law enforcement officials, sociologists or psychiatrists why this song has triggered such a wave of violence. In the report Onishi notes that karaoke-related violence is not unknown in the region, citing a man from Thailand who flew into a rage and killed eight of his neighbors after they sang John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads." (Well, that we can kinda understand.) In Malaysia another Idol wannabe was stabbed to death for "hogging the microphone."

But " 'My Way' Killings" seem to have taken on a life of their own to the extent that "many karaoke bars have removed the song from their playbooks." Among the theories about "My Way"-inspired violence: many Filipinos pride themselves on their singing and "may have a lower tolerance for bad singing."

One Filipino karaoke veteran quoted in the story noted that "everyone knows the song and everyone has an opinion." The owner of a singing school in Manila added that the song is "so arrogant . . . 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."

P+J suspect that the more than one million illegal guns available around the Philippines is not helping matters, nor is the fact that macho face-offs frequently break out when people look at others "the wrong way." We suggest that, if you want to listen to Frank, don't leave Olneyville.


MORE CONTENTIOUS MUSIC NEWS

If singing the wrong song can get you killed in Quezon City or Manila, in Aspen, Colorado, it can get you canned. The Los Angeles Times reported last week that Dan Sheridan, a popular folk singer and performer in that ski resort mecca, got fired when the vice president of the Aspen Skiing Company, which owns many of the recreational ski lodges, bars, and taverns in town, overheard him singing his locally popular tune "Big Money" at one of their tourist-filled bars. He also informed Sheridan that he was banned from performing at any of the company's other venues.

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