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Karaoke Rage
February 7, 2010 12:02 PM   Subscribe

"After a day of barbering, Rodolfo Gregorio went to his neighborhood karaoke bar still smelling of talcum powder. Putting aside his glass of Red Horse Extra Strong beer, he grasped a microphone with a habitué’s self-assuredness and [...] belted out crowd-pleasers by Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck. But Mr. Gregorio, 63, a witness to countless fistfights and occasional stabbings erupting from disputes over karaoke singing, did not dare choose one beloved classic: Frank Sinatra’s version of “My Way.” “I used to like ‘My Way,’ but after all the trouble, I stopped singing it,” he said. “You can get killed."

“My Way” has reportedly generated so many outbursts of hostility that some bars in the Philippines now do not offer it on the karaoke menu.

Is there something inherently provocative about "My Way" (YouTube link) that inspires violence among karaoke enthusiasts? Sources quoted in the NYT link suggest that the song's "'triumphalist' nature might contribute to [...] violence" as its "lyrics evoke feelings of pride and arrogance in the singer, as if you’re somebody when you’re really nobody." Or is "karaoke rage" a predictable consequence of the fact that karaoke bars may bring together several socially combustible elements?

Elsewhere in the world, karaoke song selections as varied as Dio's "Holy Diver" and John Denver's "Country Roads" have been implicated in rage-related crimes.
posted by applemeat (55 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
thank you for this important alert! friends of mine are going out karaoke singing tonight and I think I've warned them in time!!!
posted by supermedusa at 12:11 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've long said that karaoke was Japan's revenge upon the US for Hiroshima. The evidence continues to pile up.
posted by hippybear at 12:11 PM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I read the NYTimes link this morning and actually ended up discussing it with friends over lunch. I thought there were many amusing detours in the article that suggest some sort of larger study. The John Denver bit and the gender politics both were very interesting.
posted by Slothrop at 12:19 PM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Seattle bar where a woman punched a man for singing Coldplay’s “Yellow”

So the karaoke violence isn't all bad.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 12:19 PM on February 7, 2010 [16 favorites]


a Thai man killed eight of his neighbors in a rage after they sang John Denver’s "Take Me Home, Country Roads."

I would like to buy that man a beer.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:21 PM on February 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Regrets? They have a few.
posted by The Whelk at 12:22 PM on February 7, 2010 [19 favorites]


After you sing your lungs out in the shower every morning for ten minutes who has the spunk to go karaoke? Also: I love singing Take me home country roads in the shower.
posted by bukvich at 12:22 PM on February 7, 2010




Karaoke-related assaults have also occurred in the United States, including at a Seattle bar where a woman punched a man for singing Coldplay’s “Yellow” after criticizing his version.

He got off easy.
posted by clockzero at 12:26 PM on February 7, 2010


Is there something inherently provocative about "My Way" that inspires violence among karaoke enthusiasts?

Could be...
posted by DaDaDaDave at 12:27 PM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


My beloved football team had a problem with some of their prominent stars a few years back. Liverpool FC's John Arne Riise was famously assaulted with a golf club by then teammate Craig Bellamy for refusing to participate in a Karaoke competition. The local bar where I live now has a regular Karaoke night, and while lacking the violence, the people who turn up every. single. time. to perform take it very seriously indeed.
posted by Sk4n at 12:29 PM on February 7, 2010


There is no way I will sing My Way your way.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:30 PM on February 7, 2010


Metafilter Karaoke
posted by The Whelk at 12:32 PM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


a Thai man killed eight of his neighbors in a rage after they sang John Denver’s "Take Me Home, Country Roads."

I would like to buy that man a beer.


You've obviously never heards Jason & the Scorchers' cover of that.

As far as "My Way," goes...some people hear Sinatra and decide they're fucking La Cosa Nostra all of a sudden, I guess.
posted by jonmc at 12:37 PM on February 7, 2010


Karaoke-related assaults have also occurred in the United States, including at a Seattle bar where a woman punched a man for singing Coldplay’s “Yellow” after criticizing his version.

Violence after a coldplay song? Finally...a war I can get behind.

USA USA!
posted by hal_c_on at 12:41 PM on February 7, 2010


I, too, would like to see violence inflicted on people for performing songs that I dislike.
posted by empath at 12:43 PM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


You would think that people who go to karaoke bars on a regular basis would be used to bad singing, or be hardened to being laughed at... ah well.

The purposeful inclusion of a "nonthreatening" gay man (or men) in the crowd to defuse angry situations and soothe testosterone-inflated egos was interesting. I wonder if it's effective.
posted by zarq at 12:46 PM on February 7, 2010


To me the most interesting part of this article was that these bars employ gay men, who are seen as "neutral parties" since they aren't vying for the attention of women, to diffuse situations with humor and kindness. It's like we're animals, belting out our mating calls and clubbing other males who dare attempt to outdo our ritual performances. The gay men, as males outside of the contest for procreation are in a unique position to deescalate tensions.

My mating call is "Friend Is a Four Letter Word"
posted by cyphill at 12:47 PM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


After Gay Orientation Briefing over at Lavender Menace HQ, I was given training in how to diffuse tense crowds through music. Unfortunately my instructor was the resurrected rum-soaked spirit of a Scottish sailor, so all I learned was "All For Me Grog". Granted, I learned it very well.


I do a mean sad-sack version of "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" if you get me soaked in enough whiskey
posted by The Whelk at 12:53 PM on February 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


To me the most interesting part of this article was that these bars employ gay men, who are seen as "neutral parties" since they aren't vying for the attention of women, to diffuse situations with humor and kindness. It's like we're animals, belting out our mating calls and clubbing other males who dare attempt to outdo our ritual performances.

You know that they use attractive females as bartenders, since they sell more drinks? They use lesbian women as bouncers at (mostly male) gay bars? Hetero males as bouncers to bars that need a higher ratio of good looking females to drunk dudes.

We're all animals when it comes to working in a capitalistic society. Just ask that really pretty pharma female sales rep, or that really good looking dude with his hand on his hips at Barneys.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:55 PM on February 7, 2010


You should see what happens when I do my version of "Party in the USA"
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 12:58 PM on February 7, 2010


There is a party?
posted by The Whelk at 1:00 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


The only karaoke song I've ever partaken in was a duet of "White and Nerdy."

I knew all the words already.
posted by Scattercat at 1:04 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


hal_c_on: I guess the part that interested me most was actually thinking about how this currently wouldn't work in America. In the Philippines, where there appears to be a more open and accepted LGBT community this situation can work, just like it would work in the wild.

In America in most bars a gay diffuser would probably often succeed in only bringing violence (verbal or otherwise) upon himself. Here the men not only have to project their masculinity to the female population but also feel that they need to defend their sexuality from homosexual men. In that way our mating rituals refuse to mirror nature, where a male looking to procreate would be relieved to lose the competition. (I'm not saying that everywhere the bar community is unfriendly towards the LGBT community, mind you).
posted by cyphill at 1:06 PM on February 7, 2010


I do a pretty good rendition of 4'33
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:14 PM on February 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


It's like we're animals, belting out our mating calls and clubbing other males who dare attempt to outdo our ritual performances.

The word you're looking for is Lek.
posted by orthogonality at 1:29 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do a pretty good rendition of 4'33

For me, it gets too difficult after the intro.
posted by Anything at 1:31 PM on February 7, 2010


I've always said that karaoke is the 5th sign of the Apocalypse. Maybe Sinatra karaoke is the 6th, and I had an inkling that a gentleman I saw/was subjected to one night who called himself "Barryoke" and only sang Manilow songs (from a karaoke dvd he brought with him, natch) was the friggin Antichrist himself made flesh.

Also, nice job with this post...I thought about putting it here when I read it earlier, and knew someone else would do a much better job. And here you are!
posted by nevercalm at 1:38 PM on February 7, 2010


a gay diffuser

Just stick me knee-deep in liquid and I'll spread cheer for 6-8 hours.
posted by The Whelk at 1:42 PM on February 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Last year, Bernama reported that Malaysia’s information minister, Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin, had issued a public put-down of karaoke singers by likening them to another group of social misfits: bloggers. Both groups, Mr. Zainuddin said, “take pleasure in their own singing but have no influence.”
OHHH BURN
posted by hattifattener at 1:48 PM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


At least he didn't do the Sid Vicious cover.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:28 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would like to buy that man a beer.

"News of the weird" really gets people to take the strangest positions.
posted by setanor at 2:51 PM on February 7, 2010


I read this article with relief, knowing that, with the unveiling of "karaoke rage," the media had finally run out of threats with which to scare the general population.

...that's how it works, right?
posted by ilana at 2:51 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I mean, replace "unpopular song" with "unpopular race" or anything like that and watch the LULZ just dry right up.
posted by setanor at 2:53 PM on February 7, 2010


For me, it gets too difficult after the intro.

Pro tip: focus on getting your breathing right, and you should find that the rest will follow a lot more easily.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:57 PM on February 7, 2010


For god's sake the word is DEFUSE. Thank yPou.

And bouncers at gay bars have a pretty easy job. I have never seen someone throw a punch at a gay bar. And the wrestling is generally consensual.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 3:04 PM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


They laughed when I stepped onto the stage and picked up the microphone, but then I dialed up the Yoko Ono songs...
posted by LastOfHisKind at 3:05 PM on February 7, 2010


hearing sinatra makes me want to go on a killing spree as well. srsly, why is he popular? i just don't. get. it.
posted by sexyrobot at 3:31 PM on February 7, 2010


Frank could have returned the favor (returned fire?) and sung "Anarchy in the UK" but he didn't and we always have and alway will hunger for this ever after.
posted by wobh at 4:40 PM on February 7, 2010


This is the definitive cover of My Way. Though some would argue for Nina Hagen over the Pistols.
posted by wilful at 4:43 PM on February 7, 2010


Singing karaoke in Japan is such a weird thing. It's pretty much in every lounge, cabaret, and "hostess bar." You go with a group of your workmates to eat Korean BBQ. After that you mill around in front of the shop and wonder what to do next. Someone whips out a cell phone and phones a "mama he knows" at some "snack" or lounge, and everyone troops on over. You go in, and the late-40s mama welcomes everyone, and makes appreciative noises about the foreigner. Other patrons are already crooning "Yosaku" or something like that, so it's hard to hear. You sit a low tables in little booths and light up cigarettes. The decor is red velvet, chrome, glass tables and mirrored walls. Bowls of salty snacks are produced. Although there must be 50 different kinds of booze lined up on shelves behind the bar, whiskey-and-waters and distributed by a couple of "o-ne-chans" who may or may not be cute, or who may or may not be from the Philippines or Vietnam (it depends on how far you are from a big city).

The karaoke songbook gets hauled out. The most popular person in the group sings first, and people listen, laugh and clap, and sometimes sing along. The songbook gets passed to you. Could you sing a song by the Beatles or Elvis? Okay, you sing, people clap and laugh and listen.

After a few performances and a couple of rounds the group's interest in whoever's singing begins to decline. Soon, no one's listening, but people keep singing anyway, encouraged by the mama. You smoke and drink and flirt with the bar girls (Don't tell them we're teachers - we're all plumbers!) and maybe persuade one to sit on your lap, and then the oldest in the group pays the bill and you stumble on home, while a hard core go out for drinks at yet another, more elegant bar, for heart to heart conversations that reinforce their lifelong bonds, and maybe end in a promotion.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:54 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


..."barbering"?
posted by unregistered_animagus at 6:11 PM on February 7, 2010


When I was at a family reunion a year or so ago, the Caucasian from Mississippi (or Missouri, you south midwesterners all look alike to me) who married into our Filipino family got up during the speech section of the party and said that he was told when they were first dating, he was told that there'd be a lot of partying and a hell of a whole lot of karaoke. He then proceeded to break out his guitar and sing a very heartfelt cover of "Live Like You Were Dying" in honor of another family member who had passed just before the reunion and was scheduled to be there.

I think he's the official favorite Caucasian-Who-Married-In of that branch of my family.
posted by TrishaLynn at 6:16 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


But My Way is actually a cover of sorts. What would happen if you sang the Claude Francois classique Comme d'habitude?

(Clo-Clo himself had great success reworking US pop songs as Francophone hits. To wit: Cette année-là. Best music video dancing ever.)
posted by grounded at 6:47 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Having seen Sid Vicious' My Way makes me wish very fervently to see William Shatner do Anarchy in the UK. Bonus points if he rhymes "anarchist" with "antichrist."
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 6:53 PM on February 7, 2010


There is word for Sinatra Karaoke: Michael Bublé.
posted by ovvl at 7:09 PM on February 7, 2010


I once saw a man do unspeakable things to AC/DC's "Hells Bells". He was abusing it without mercy, treating it like some sort of jazz standard.

I should have called the cops.
posted by Remy at 8:05 PM on February 7, 2010


Remy, you've obviously never heard any Richard Cheese.
posted by drinkyclown at 8:49 PM on February 7, 2010


For two summers I slept on the shore of Echo Lake, fifteen miles west of Augusta, torturing children under the pretense of counseling campers. And indeed, the children of Camp W. were tortured souls indeed, children of over-committed newspaper editors, brain surgeons, anyone else who could regularly summon a prodigious amount of cash alongside a desire to be rid of their children for eight weeks at a stretch. For sixteen weeks in all, I taught the lessons of mud and grime and the torture of hiking to children who would not be trusted to walk as far as the corner store.

But for all the torture we inflicted on the youth of privilege, we counselors abused each other all the more. We abused out livers on the New Field after dark, drinking case after case of beer-flavored water, shredding all common decency as the horny-male three-quarters relentlessly pursued the unattached-female one-fifth.

And when the need for any kind of stranger, any kind of different face would become too great to contain, we would venture forth at night to the true home of torture; the Weathervane. Watering hole for an endless stream of camp counselors like ourselves for two months of summer, and home to whatever wandering souls should wander in from the wretched peaks and dismal forests of that quarter of Appalachia. And thus college students and mountain-people would cohabitate, eying each other suspiciously, fearing one another's class. And thus the two groups would only rarely actually strike up conversation, though we knew one another's voices quite well.

You see, at the Weathervane, every night was karaoke night, and it was every bit as bad as you can imagine. Every night also saw specials on Margaritas - sold by the bucket-full, I shit you not - which was perhaps correlated to the steady slide of the performances from the abysmal to the murderous. Each night the owner of the bar would get steadily sloshed for hours, before taking the stage himself and living out the dreams of country stardom that had long since replaced his liver, whilst his daughter poured the drinks that sent him star-ward. And all through the night, the songs would oscillate - Tim McGraw followed by Metallica followed by Willy Nelson followed by Nirvana - until the two am closing time turned into three and we all piled back into the company van to loathe one another privately for another day, nursing our broken egos and hangovers until the next night we could take the stage for five minutes and redeem ourselves and the entirety of our personal aesthetic, inviting and screaming that all present should pour some sugar on us. No one would ever know the glory of those moments but those as low as we had gone, and only a few would remember much of what happened after eleven o'clock. We lived for these brief fits of glory in an otherwise dismal summer.

It does not surprise me that people should be beaten, stabbed, or worse for profaning this most sacred tradition. And I assure you that when you lie dying on the floor, your still-beating heart still beating in my hand after a particularly blasphemous performance, I will indeed hit you baby one more time. But this time, I will do it my way.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:24 PM on February 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


The closest I've ever come to karaoke rage was in a bar adjoining the crappy bowling alley in Santa Fe. A seventy-year-old hispanic woman had chosen (God only knows why) the Red Hot Chili Peppers' tune "Give It Away," but seemed unable or unwilling to spit out the ridiculously repetitive chorus the right number of times. Over and over, she'd intone: "Give it away, give it... away now! Give it away, give, give, give, away now! Give, it... give it away, now!"

I looked down, and my knuckles had passed from white to a sort of pale incandescent gray. It was all I could do to keep from throwing chairs.
posted by koeselitz at 1:46 AM on February 8, 2010


Singing karaoke in Japan is such a weird thing. It's pretty much in every lounge, cabaret, and "hostess bar." You go with a group of your workmates to eat Korean BBQ. After that you mill around in front of the shop and wonder what to do next. Someone whips out a cell phone and phones a "mama he knows" at some "snack" or lounge, and everyone troops on over. You go in, and the late-40s mama welcomes everyone, and makes appreciative noises about the foreigner. Other patrons are already crooning "Yosaku" or something like that, so it's hard to hear. You sit a low tables in little booths and light up cigarettes. The decor...

Wait a minute. You get to SMOKE? In PUBLIC?

Score one for karaoke, I guess.
posted by spoobnooble at 4:06 AM on February 8, 2010


kokuryu, I've got to dispute that. Hostess Karaoke does exist, and I don't doubt that (it's what the hostesses do to distract you/get you to drink more/stop pawing at them) but standard Japanese karaoke is a thing of beauty, at least compared to the States. My first experience with it was following the sorority girlfriend of a friend to a bar "because they have kary yokee!" It was hell, a single stage monopolized by tuneless warblers of bad country music followed by Britney Spears or Spice Girls from women old enough to be my grandmother.

In Japan, though, at Shidax, or Uta-Hiroba, you get a private room, just you and your friends. You can get the, ahem, ALL YOU CAN DRINK/NO TIME LIMIT special (go after midnight, it's about $30 until 5am) and they give you the book of foreign songs. If you've got a large group of foreigners, ask for two (prevents brutal karaoke violence). Rock out.

Fun variations involve choosing songs by proxy: picking a song and making your friend sing it. Personally, my absolute show stoppers? Wanted, Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi, Every Rose Has its Thorn by Poison, and last, but definitely loudest, Gold Finger, by Shirley Bassy...
posted by Ghidorah at 6:48 AM on February 8, 2010


So, at every public karaoke bar I've ever been to (as opposed to the private-room-style ones) there's been something like a DJ or MC who calls people up one at a time to sing the songs they want. This article makes it sound like somehow one guy can monopolize the mike in Filipino karaoke. So if you're in a bar full of hard drinkers who are there to sing, and you're coming up on song four or five, everyone's a little hammered, they're yelling at you to give the mike to the next guy like a grown-up, and instead you start up with "My Way?"

I'm not saying I'd kill a man, but I could see rushing the stage...

(Not Sinatra-ist)
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 8:28 AM on February 8, 2010


Elsewhere in the world, karaoke song selections as varied as Dio's "Holy Diver" and John Denver's "Country Roads" have been implicated in rage-related crimes.

what can I say? those songs drive me fucking nuts.
posted by shmegegge at 8:47 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's an academic study of Karaoke in bars: Karaoke Nights (hilarious)
posted by yoHighness at 9:03 AM on February 8, 2010


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