Friday, January 28

Top 10 (Romance) Language Crossovers

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 comparison purposes.
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.
Love Don't Cost A Thing
You think you gotta keep me iced, you know
You think I'm gonna spend your cash, I won't
Even if you were broke, my love don't cost a thing
Think I wanna drive your Benz, I don't
If I wanna floss I've got my own
Even if you were broke, my love don't cost a thing

Amor Se Paga Con Amor
Piensas que me tienes y ya voy
No le pongas precio a lo que soy
El amor que te doy se paga con amor
Todo para ti tiene un valor
Mira de una vez soy como soy
El amor que te doy se paga con amor
#9. RBD
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.
Ser o Parecer
Pero tú en mis sueños siempre has de estar
Como una luz que me ilumina y al despertar
Quiero volverlo a intentar
Sé que el corazón late más fuerte,
más que un motor
Y aunque no sabes nada de mí
Que un día te habré de alcanzar, amor.

Ser o parecer quien te imaginas
Ser o parecer quien te imaginas
Ser ou Parecer
Mas aqui em meus sonhos sempre estarás
Como uma luz que me ilumina e ao despertar
Quero te ver me abraçar...
Sei que o coração bate mais forte,
Mais que um motor
Sei que não sabes nada de mim
Mas ainda vou te alcançar, amor...

Ser ou parecer quem te imaginas
Ser ou parecer quem te imaginas

#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.
Genie in a Bottle
My body's saying let's go,
But my heart is saying no.

If you wanna be with me,
baby, there's a price to pay.
I'm a genie in a bottle,
you gotta rub me the right way.
If you wanna be with me,
I can make your wish come true.
You gotta make a big impression,
I gotta like what you do.
Genio Atrapado
Mi cuerpo dice quiero,
Pero mi alma tiene miedo.

Si me quieres junto a ti
Frota bien y ya verás
Como un genio liberado
Haré tus sueños realidad.
Si me quieres junto a ti
Gánate mi corazón
Tres deseos te concedo
Si me juras tu amor

#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.

Sere Nere
Ripenserai agli angeli
Al caffè caldo svegliandoti
Mentre passa distratta la notizia di noi due
Dicono che mi servirà
Se non uccide fortifica
Mentre passa distratta la tua voce alla tv
Tra la radio e il telefono
risuonerà il tuo addio

Di sere nere
Che non c'è tempo
Non c'è spazio
E mai nessuno capirà

Tardes Negras
Y volverán los ángeles
al despertarse con tu café
pasará distraida la noticia de nosotros.
Y dicen que me servirá
lo que no mata, fuerza te da
mientras pasa el sonido de tu voz por la T.V.
por la radio y el telefono
resonará tu adiós.

De tardes negras
que no hay tiempo
ni espacio
y nadie nunca entenderá.
#6. Beyoncé
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.

Beautiful Liar
You never know
Why are we the ones to suffer
Have to let go
He won't be the one to cry.

Let’s not kill the karma
Let’s not start a fight
It’s not worth the drama
For a beautiful liar.
Can we laugh about it
It’s not worth our time
We can live without him
Just a beautiful liar
Bello Embustero
A mi tambien
Siempre quiere verme sola
No hay que caer
En su trampa una vez más.

No nos pelearemos
No nos va a engañar
No terminaremos
Por un bello embustero.
No nos va dividir
No, no nos va a exitar
No vamos a sufrir
Por un bello embustero.
#5. Laura Pausini
Languages: Italian, Spanish

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.

Vivimi senza paura
Che sia una vita o che sia un’ora
Non lasciare libero o disperso
Questo mio spazio adesso aperto, ti prego.

Vivimi senza vergogna
Anche se hai tutto il mondo contro
Lascia l’apparenza e prendi il senso
E ascolta quello che ho qui dentro.

Così diventi un grande quadro che dentro me
Ricopre una parete bianca un po’ anche stanca
Víveme sin miedo ahora
Que sea una vida o sea una hora
No me dejes libre aquí desnudo
Mi nuevo espacio que ahora es tuyo, te ruego.

Víveme sin más vergüenza
Aunque esté todo el mundo en contra
Deja la apariencia y toma el sentido
Y siente lo que llevo dentro.

Y te transformas en un cuadro dentro de mí
Que cubre mis paredes blancas y cansadas.

#4. Jeanette
Languages: Spanish, French

Jeanette's ancestry is anything but simple. As her Wikipedia article says: she is "a half-Belgian, half-Spanish, English-born, American-raised 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".

Porque Te Vas
Hoy en mi ventana
brilla el sol
Y un corazón se pone triste
contemplando la ciudad
Porque te vas
Como en cada noche desperté
Pensando en ti
Y en mi reloj todas las horas vi pasar
Porque te vas
Todas las promesas de mi amor se irán contigo
Me olvidarás, me olvidarás
Junto a la estación yo lloraré igual que un niño
Porque te vas, porque te vas
Pourquoi Tu Vis
On t'a fait un monde trop petit
pour tes idées
Pour la petite
des grands yeux écarquillés
Sur l'infinie
Tu es prisonnière de ta maison
De tes parents
De cet adulte qui te dit qu'il a raison
Et qui te ment.
Toi, tu es née pour la folie, pour la lumière
Pour des pays peuplés de rois
Et tu te demandes dans ta nuit de prisonnière
Porquoi tu vis et où tu vas
#3. Shakira
Languages: Spanish, English

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.

Una loba en el armario
Tiene ganas de salir
Deja que se coma el barrio
Antes de irte a dormir

Tengo tacones de aguja magnética
Para dejar a la manada frenética
La luna llena como una fruta
No da consejos ni los escucha

Llevo conmigo un radar especial
para localizar solteros
Si acaso me meto en aprietos
también llevo el número de los bomberos
Ni tipos muy lindos ni divos
ni niños ricos,
yo sé lo que quiero
Pasarla muy bien y portarme muy mal
en los brazos de algún caballero.
There's a she wolf in the closet
Open up and set her free
There's a she wolf in your closet
Let it out so it can breathe

Sitting across a bar staring right at her prey
It's going well so far, she's gonna get her way
Nocturnal creatures are not so prudent
The moon's my teacher, and I'm her student

To locate the single man,
I've got on me a special radar
And the fire department hotline
in case I get in trouble later
Not looking for cute little divos
or rich city guys,
I just want to enjoy
By having a very good time and behave very bad
in the arms of a boy.
#2. ABBA
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.

Chiquitita, you and I know
How the heartaches come and they go
And the scars they're leaving
You'll be dancing once again
And the pain will end
You will have no time for grieving
Chiquitita, you and I cry
But the sun is still in the sky and shining above you
Let me hear you sing once more
Like you did before
Sing a new song, chiquitita
Try once more
Like you did before
Sing a new song, chiquitita
Chiquitita, sabes muy bien

Que las penas vienen y van 

Y desaparecen  
Otra vez vas a bailar 
Y serás feliz  
Como flores que florecen  
Chiquitita, no hay que llorar 
Las estrellas brillan por ti allá en lo alto 
Quiero verte sonreír 
Para compartir  
Tu alegría, chiquitita  
Otra vez 
Quiero compartir 
Tu alegría, chiquitita
#1. Mecano
Languages: 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.
Hijo de la Luna
Tonto el que no entienda
cuenta una leyenda
que una hembra gitana
conjuró a la luna
hasta el amanecer.
Llorando pedía
al llegar el día
desposar un calé.

"Tendrás a tu hombre,
piel morena,"
desde el cielo habló
la luna llena
"pero a cambio quiero
el hijo primero
que le engendres a él.
Que quien su hijo
para no estar sola,
poco le iba a querer."

quieres ser madre
y no encuentras querer
que te haga mujer.
Dime, luna de plata
qué pretendes hacer
con un niño de piel.
Hijo de la luna
Figlio della Luna
Per chi non fraintenda
narra la leggenda
di quella gitana
che pregò la luna
bianca ed alta nel ciel.
Mentre sorrideva
lei la supplicava
«fa che torni da me».

«Tu riavrai quell'uomo,
pelle scura.
Con il suo perdono
donna impura
però in cambio voglio
che il tuo primo figlio
venga a stare con me.
Chi suo figlio
per non stare sola
non è degna di un re.»

adesso sei madre
ma chi fece di te
una donna non c'è.
Dimmi, luna d'argento
come lo cullerai
se le braccia non hai
Figlio della luna
Fils de la Lune
Idiot qui ne comprend pas,
la légende qui comme ça
dit qu'une gitane
implora la lune
jusqu'au levé du jour.
Pleurant elle demandait
un gitan qui voudrait
l'épouser par amour.

''Tu auras ton homme,
femme brune'',
du ciel répondit
la pleine lune.
''Mais il faudra donner
ton enfant le premier
dès qu'il te sera né.'
Celle qui
pour un homme
son enfant immole,
bien peu l'auraient aimé".

tu veux être mère,
tu ne trouves pas l'amour
aui exhausse ta prière.
Dis-moi, lune d'argent,
toi qui n'as pas de bras,
comment bercer l'enfant ?
Hijo de la luna.


John Cowan said...

It would be interesting to see your own Romanian version of the #1 song.

Paolo said...

You are probably too young to remember Raffaella Carrà. For a laugh, try comparing the lyrics of Tanti auguri and Hay Que Venir Al Sur...

Filius Lunae said...

@John: Yes, I started working on a Latin translation of the song, which I've yet to finish. Unfortunately, I don't sing, but I have talked to a few singer friends about a potential project. So, we'll see in the future.

A Romanian version would sure add depth to the piece. :)

alfaqui said...

"Las estrellas brillan por ti ALLÁ en lo alto" ¿no?. Don't know the lyrics of the song but otherwise it wouldn't make sense. Btw, you should write about yeísmo some time.

Filius Lunae said...

@alfaqui: Se me escapó ese errorcillo entre las revisiones. Jaja. Ya tengo algunas cosas pensadas sobre el yeísmo, así que pronto veras algo al respecto.

Anonymous said...

Good job Fil :) héhéhé

Anonymous said...

Roberto Carlos (por-espa) es uno de los cantantes mas conocidos que han cantanto tanto en su lengua materna como en castellano.

Domenico Modugno (ita-espa) tambien. Aunque claro hay muchos mas pero son los que mas me acuerdo (aunque no soy de su generacion, pero ¡esas voces!)

joaquim said...

A mi m'agrada molt la Dulce Pontes (Por) i acabo de descobrir que també ha cantat en anglès i castellà. Un exemple. No he trobat la versió original portuguesa al youtube, però al meu disc sona quasi igual que la castellana.

Sentada num camarim
vejo a minha história a passar por mim,
sentada num camarim,
perdidos na memória uns lábios de carmim...

A todos pensei amar,
ai de cada um, ai de cada qual,
mas nenhum me soube dar
esse verbo amar, que faz tanto mal!

E quando estava a passar
a marcha popular, ao pé da tua porta
fui teus olhos encontrar,
perdi-me nesse olhar e...caí como morta!

Ai meu Deus, que desvario,
ai andar ao frio, ai perder o sono!
Oh Maria, que fastio, andei fio a pavío
e o homem já tem dono!...

trisha said...

Nice post.The importance of a technical translation being accurate and efficient can indeed not be overstated. Especially in the ever faster moving world of globalized business, successful information and technology transfer within multinational businesses can make the difference between win or lose

Anonymous said...

Jennifer Lopez's song its really different from english to spanish thought.

jake said...

Nice post.Music and translation is shown to be a fascinating area to explore, not only for specialized translators as well as for researchers in translation studies, cultural studies, media studies and musicology.I might say that having music translated on Spanish translation or in any languages is far good to be one of the samples that beginners on translation to be practiced.

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