Look, as an introvert whose only acting credit to date is an elf in her second grade Christmas play, it’s safe to say I don’t do karaoke. I’ve gone with friends who’ve tried desperately to get me up there, but I figure I experience enough shame in my life on a daily basis, so why add more? Lucky for me, I live in a place that doesn’t rely solely on singing songs you don’t know in front of people, for fun. Karaoke was created in Japan and is a key source of entertainment all across Asia.
In the Philippines, it’s particularly popular because it’s cheap and affordable to the poor. Most nights the karaoke bars are filled with all types of people, including families with children, but something sinister lurks behind those scrolling screens and sticky floors. Something known as, the “My Way Killings” – as in the 1969 hit by Frank Sinatra. The song, itself, is an odd mish-mash of Frank’s crooning voice against the backdrop of a French pop song by the name of, “Comme d’habitude” that was released just a couple of years before Sinatra’s version was recorded.
This song is not the easiest of melodies to sing along with and has been covered by a few artists, most notably Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols. But regardless of its weird sound, the question remains: could it be cursed? In 2007, Reuters reported that the song had been taken off many playlists, but it doesn’t really seem to be doing much good.
An incident occurred in May of 2007 in which a 29-year-old victim was shot in the head by a bar security guard. Why? The guard wasn’t impressed and told the young man to stop, but when he wouldn’t, the guard took out his gun and shot the poor guy in the head. Another involved a police officer who became agitated when a group of people began laughing at his friend who was singing the infamous song. The officer pulled his revolver out and flashed it to the laughing group. The table stopped laughing, paid their bill, and left.
Some speculate that the emphasis on machismo in Philippine society could be to blame. The song, itself, has a sort of triumphalist message that can cause some singers to get cocky. Others think the song could actually be cursed. The idea of a cursed song isn’t at all uncommon, take “Gloomy Sunday” for example. In 1933, the Hungarian song was written as a response to the artist’s girlfriend who had committed suicide. Shortly after its release, there was a noticeable increase in suicides and the song was banned nationwide. It was re-released in 1941 when Billie Holiday covered it and again the number of suicides spiked frighteningly enough to also get her version banned by the BBC.
Whatever the reason, if you’re making a trip to the Philippines remember this story when your friends convince you to try karaoke. While I write this, I can’t help but think the idea of a karaoke curse would make a great idea for a flick. I’m thinking something like an ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 siege movie mashed with a supernatural Asian revenge horror. Call me, Hollywood.
*Header Photo: iStock