Meaning Behind the “My Way” Karaoke Curse

Some songs grate on our nerves. They could be today’s chart-toppers or age-old classics that everyone adores, but still, something within us snaps and we’re forced to turn the dial or tap the arrow next.

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There is a phenomenon that occurs, particularly in the Philippines, where Frank Sinatra’s classic hit “My Way” seems cursed. When chosen to soundtrack a karaoke performance, “My Way” has caused a surprising amount of deaths. An article from The New York Times estimated a near dozen killings have occurred as a result of the tune being sung at karaoke bars.

Unfortunately, karaoke killings are not unheard of, especially across East Asia where the sing-along sport is a favorite pastime. A man in Thailand reportedly shot eight people at a noisy karaoke party after they tunelessly belted out John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” A man was stabbed in Malaysia for hogging the mic at a karaoke coffeehouse. The “My Way” murders, however, are particularly baffling.

People began to take notice of the not-so-rare occurrences when a 29-year-old Filipino man singing the Sinatra standard was shot to death by a security guard at the karaoke establishment. According to a news clipping, the guard complained he belted the tune off-key.

The phenomenon could be chalked up to coincidence if it wasn’t for the reported numbers. They seem too extreme to simply shrug off. The Times article speculates several reasons for the violence in response to “My Way.” It could stem from the poor singing ability to an underlying message in the song that rubs people the wrong way.

“I used to like ‘My Way,’”a Filipino barber, Rodolfo Gregorio, told the outlet, “but after all the trouble, I stopped singing it. You can get killed.” He explained the trouble with the song is that “everyone knows it and everyone has an opinion.”

Butch Albarracin, the owner of a Manila-based vocal school, had his own theory, telling the Times, “‘I did it my way’ it’s 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.”

Whatever the reason, the violence behind “My Way” has led to a kind of superstition so much so that karaoke establishments throughout the country have removed the tune from the list of song options.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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