The concept of covers in music is something we're all familiar with. It's practiced with music of all languages, by artists of all nationalities, as they seek to pay tribute to the original singer of a given song. Generally, this all takes place within the context of a single language, months or years after the original piece was recorded.
What happens sometimes, though, is that the original artist himself will record a version of his own song in another language. The song is marketed at the same time as the one in the original language, allowing the singer to make a crossover into another language's market.
Quite often, the crossover will take place with an English-speaking singer recording in Spanish, or, a Spanish-speaking one singing in English to capture a new audience. Indeed, Spanish is a very common target for singers trying to make a crossover, as we will see below. This is oftentimes the case with Americans as well as Italians, as they're able to market themselves even more in the markets of Latin America and Spain. For Spanish-language artists, we see that they tend to record in English, but, also, in Portuguese, for the Brazilian market.
While a couple of the artists reviewed for this list also recorded in Japanese, we are concerned here with Romance languages. To qualify, the singer had to have recorded the versions in both languages himself, with at least one of the languages being a Romance one. Popularity, and overall success were also looked at, more than just about the songs, this is about the artists.
With that said, here are the top ten Romance language crossovers.
Each song is accompanied with a short segment from the lyrics, for
Click on each picture to listen to the song. If you have trouble loading the videos, try opening them in a new window or tab.
#10. Jennifer Lopez
Languages: English, Spanish
Born in New York and of Puerto Rican descent, Jennifer Lopez has recorded many of her songs in Spanish; she even released a full album in this language in 2007. When speaking, Jennifer's accent is, as expected, mainly Puerto Rican.
"Love is paid with love" is the literal translation of the song's Spanish version.
Languages: Spanish, Portuguese
The Mexican teen sensation that made its way around the world. And they made it to Brazil too (one of their interviews in Brazil discussed before).
Their Portuguese translations follow the Spanish very closely, almost word by word quite often. A peculiarity here is that they recorded with a Brazilian pronunciation, though they retained the tu verbal forms in Portuguese, which is otherwise a feature of European Portuguese.
Brazilians welcomed the Portuguese versions, but many still preferred the Spanish originals because: one, they could already understand the Spanish songs; and, two, RBD sings with a thick accent in Portuguese. The band learned the songs with the help of a tutor who taught them the pronunciation in the recording studio, as they admitted in an interview, and, other than that, they don't speak Portuguese.
#8. Christina Aguilera
Languages: English, Spanish
Born in the US to an Ecuadorian father, Christina's Spanish pronunciation is impeccable. However, she is not fluent in Spanish, having to resort to an earpiece for simultaneous translation in interviews with the Spanish-speaking media. Nonetheless, she has taken advantage of her Hispanic ancestry to promote various works recorded in Spanish throughout her music career. Like Jennifer Lopez, Christina has also released Spanish-only albums.
#7. Tiziano Ferro
Languages: Italian, Spanish
The Italian who, in 2006, shared with the Italian public how he felt about Mexican women: "It's impossible to say that, in Mexico, you'll find the world's most beautiful women, with all due respect — they have mustaches", adding that, perhaps, Salma Hayek was one exception to that rule. His claim was not taken lightly by the Mexican media, and he was heavily criticized. His career certainly started to suffer, which caused Tiziano later to admit that he was simply joking. With Mexico being the bridge to the Latin American market, the damage caused in his Spanish-speaking audience would take time to heal.
Linguistically, Tiziano often changes his accent from Latin American to European, depending on where he's being interviewed. The same goes for his songs: some use a European pronunciation (with distinción), while in other albums he's heard using seseo.
Languages: English, Spanish
Another American singer who doesn't speak Spanish, but whose pronunciation when singing is near flawless. Beyoncé has released several of her English songs in Spanish as well, including one in a norteño style remix.
One thing's for sure: nothing beats hearing Beyoncé utter the words Él es un perro (He's a dog) in perfect Spanish in her own Spanish version of Beautiful Liar, below. The English version is done in collaboration with Shakira, while the Spanish one is sung by Beyoncé alone.
#5. Laura Pausini
From the Emilia-Romagna region, this Italian singer has found success in the Spanish-speaking markets as well. Her earlier work shows a less polished pronunciation in Spanish, and with each recording, she has gotten progressively better to the point where she could be mistaken for a native when singing, just like her fellow countryman, Tiziano Ferro. Like Tiziano as well, she shows a variance in her Spanish, both in speech and in songs — sometimes using a more Latin American accent with seseo, other times using the more European feature of distinción, i.e. distinguishing between s and z (for example, in the piece Víveme).
The Italian and Spanish translation are very similar, word by word. Just like with Portuguese translations from and into Spanish, quite often only simple changes need to be made in order to maintain meter and rhyme.
The Spanish version of the song heard below was also used as the theme for Mexican soap opera La Madastra.
Languages: Spanish, French
Jeanette's ancestry is anything but simple. As her Wikipedia article says: she is "a half-Belgian,
singer who has resided in Spain since the age of 12". She does have a slight, noticeable (foreign) accent when singing in Spanish, a stronger one when speaking. Interestingly enough, she sings her songs with a Latin American pronunciation, but, today, she speaks with distinción, as heard on this current video.
Throughout her career, she has recorded in quite a few languages, besides just the Romance ones presented here. The French version of the song below differs quite a lot from the Spanish because the lyrics content has been changed. The title in Spanish translates to "Because you're leaving", and the French one to "Why you live".
This Colombian requires no introduction to an English-speaking audience since she's just as famous to Spanish speakers as she is in the US and overseas. Having recorded most of her work in both languages, she tends to keep the content about the same, as we see from the song "Shewolf" — Loba in Spanish.
Languages: English, Spanish
While not the only Spanish song ABBA recorded, it remains as one of the most popular Spanish-language pieces in current times, having being covered by many artists throughout the years (the most recent remake in 2010 by the Spaniard Amaia Montero). According to some sources, ABBA learned the Spanish songs "phonetically", and, therefore, did not speak the language themselves. Their pronunciation is good, but, a foreign accent is easily detectable.
Chiquitita is Spanish for "little girl", which is the title for both versions of the song.
Spanish, Italian, French
In the number one spot is the musical group whose hit baptized the author of this blog with the name Filius Lunae: Mecano. This group of Spaniards reached fame in Latin America and around the world, singing mostly in Spanish, but recording a few of their songs in other languages. The song showcased here is the one with the most remakes ever out of all the songs considered for this list; covers exist in all kinds of rhythms, from pop to heavy metal to ranchera, even remade in Serbian by one artist.
Here we have Mecano performing the song in three Romance languages: French, Italian, and, of course, their native Spanish. Hijo de la Luna tells the story of a gypsy woman who asks the moon for a partner; the moon gives her this man in exchange for the gypsy's first-born child.