Mar. 3rd, 2009

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For those of you who don't want to drag yourself through my musical ramblings (and who can blame you), please feel free to skip to the last video. That's the reason I'm posting really.

I remember very clearly my Mother telling me that The Beatles had recorded 'She Loves You' and 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' in German. I must've been about 8 or 9 at the time, and since that fateful day, I've been ever so slightly obsessed with songs in different languages.

My teenage years were particularly Teutonic. Firstly thanks to Peter Gabriel - aged about 15 I found a copy of 'Shock The Monkey' sung in German (or 'Schock den Affen' to be precise) at the local record fair. It fascinated me, and thanks to knowing the English version inside out, I'm sure this helped with my German 'O' Level. Just so long as the oral exam asked about the consequences of primates with electricity, of course.

It was also as a teenager that I discovered the joys of songs in other languages that didn't have an English counterpart. 'Rock Me Amadeus' was a huge influence - at the time I was spending a lot of time in Germany with my teenage girlfriend (ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, young love etc. etc.). I can still recite most of the German lyrics from the album Falco 3 to this day.

Slightly later I also became a big fan of 'Die Ärzte' who sang exclusively in German. Their lyrics were full of jokes and wordplay which, when learning German really did inspire me to pick up more of the language.

Even though I only understood maybe half of the lyrics, there was still something special about the music. I think now that the joy of listening to songs in languages you don't understand is that you get to hear the music of the language. A great example of this is 'Bonito' by Jarabe de Palo. I was in a French motorway service station when I first heard this. I can honestly say I don't understand a word of it, but the musicality of the lyrics is beautiful. The words (if you can forgive my pretension for a moment) become another instrument. Well, see for yourself...

Oh, I can sing along all right, but the words mean nothing to me. Not a clue. I just love the sound of them.

When the internet started offering up opportunities to listen to music from around the world, I was in heaven. I have reverted pretty much to listening to songs translated into other languages. It all started when I found a cover of Barry Ryan's / The Damned's 'Eloise'. In what was a most cheesy 'Hi-NRG' re-imagining of the gothic classic, Tino Casal brought a flamboyant Iberian mood to the song...

It seems that 'Eloise' is a popular choice for foreign language interpretations. The drama of the song is well served by 'Die Jungen Tenore' (Spotify link), and the open vowels of the Finnish 50s throwback Marko Lämsä are a thing of wonder.

Actually, before Spotify had its recent purge, one of my favourite discoveries there was the Danish Soundtrack of the 60s musical 'Hair'. Or Hår as it seems to be in Denmark. Hair is one of the few musical soundtracks that I love, and to hear it speeded up, funked up, and in Danish was a wonderful experience. I feel quite lost without it, and can only hope that if anyone is going to Denmark they might be able to pick me up a copy. [ profile] lurpak?

Anyway, the whole point of telling you all of this was because there is an unfortunate downside to the splendour of foreign language songs. That is, people from other countries singing songs in English, badly. I'm sure that you've seen the Ken Lee video which goes to prove my point.

This was driven home to me by Spotify again this week when I got curious to see if anyone had done a cover version of Bowie's 'Life On Mars'. Well, they have. And I found, to my horror, that it was my old friend 'Tino Casal' - he of the inappropriate Eloise cover.

Except this time he was singing in English. Well, I say English.... clearly he's not a native speaker, but I don't even think he understands what he's singing - I'm sure this was learnt phonetically, and not very well at that. If you're going to undertake such an iconic song, you think you'd want to make sure you were doing it well.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you the worst thing you will hear today. I'm afraid the video is quite quiet and out of synch, but you still get the majesty of the delivery. If you still want more, and could do with a good quality version, the spotify link is here.


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