The loose translation must have lost her...
August 30, 2012 5:33 PM   Subscribe

What are some good examples of popular English songs translated into another language?

I was watching Mulholland Drive recently and was blown away by the Spanish cover of Orbison's "Crying". This got me thinking; I know some artists record their own songs in foreign language versions, but I'd love to come across some new ones performed with different talent and/or cultural additions. Does anyone know of other English language songs translated into different languages?

(Extra points if it's more-or-less an adaptation of the English lyrics, and not just using the background tune. And EXTRA points if the cover is good).
posted by Paper rabies to Media & Arts (55 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Zé Ramalho has recorded multiple Bob Dylan songs, all or almost all translated into Portuguese.
posted by Forktine at 5:40 PM on August 30, 2012

Fairport Convention did Si Tu Dois Partir, a French version of Dylan's If You Gotta Go, Go Now.
posted by Crane Shot at 5:41 PM on August 30, 2012

I've always enjoyed Faye Wong performing The Cranberries' "Dreams". She did both Cantonese and Mandarin versions...I prefer the latter.
posted by squasha at 5:44 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Faye Wong covered Dreams by The Cranberries in both Mandarin and Cantonese. The lyrics were altered, although I'm not sure you can trust the translation provided in the first video.
posted by rhythm and booze at 5:46 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seu Jorge covered a lot of David Bowie songs on the Life Aquatic soundtrack, and again as a stand alone album.

Previously, previously
posted by hydrophonic at 5:53 PM on August 30, 2012 [8 favorites]

I was about to link to the Life Aquatic soundtrack / sessions also.
posted by TwoWordReview at 5:55 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is actually very, very common. A few Japanese examples off the top of my head:

Backstreet Boys - Larger Than Life

Janet Jackson - Doesn't Really Matter

Ricky Martin - Livin' La Vida Loca
posted by Tanizaki at 5:55 PM on August 30, 2012

Alta Marea by Antonello Venditti is an Italian language cover of Don't Dream It's Over by Crowded House, transformed into a super cheesy 80s movie-style schlock fest, with a music video that is a super cheesy paragon of 1991 cheesiness starring Angelina Jolie. Warning: It cannot be un-seen. Also, the lyrics are not really a translation of the original lyrics.
posted by The World Famous at 5:57 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Previously. «Ça plane pour moi» is definitely my favourite example, it seems like random bars here in Québec really like it.

Also on the blue right this moment.
posted by vasi at 5:58 PM on August 30, 2012

George Lam did a Cantopop version of Mungo Jerry's In the Summertime (extremely cheesy 70s-tastic vid preceded by an ad). Slightly embarrassed to recall that.
posted by Abiezer at 5:59 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Petula Clark recorded her hit "Downtown" in several other languages, including German.
posted by hermitosis at 5:59 PM on August 30, 2012

Hydrophonic has linked to a similar question I asked.

This is fairly frequent in Cantonese and Mandarin music.

Sam Hui did Oh Susanna (有酒今朝醉) and Rock Around the Clock (加價熱潮, this song is about inflation of all things) in Cantonese.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 5:59 PM on August 30, 2012

Oh, I misread the question, sorry.
posted by hermitosis at 6:00 PM on August 30, 2012

Here's Gal Costa covering Bob Dylan from one of my previous answers, just because I was motivated to listen to it again.
posted by hydrophonic at 6:01 PM on August 30, 2012

Marie Laforet did the Rolling Stones's "Paint It Black" in French.
posted by dayintoday at 6:09 PM on August 30, 2012

"Ça plane pour moi" isn't a cover of "Jet Boy, Jet Girl"--the producers just recorded two different songs with two different bands with the same backing tracks. They came out within weeks of each other, thus adding to the confusion.

"I Will Survive" has been covered many times in many languages; Celia Cruz and Beto Barbosa are two of the artists who've covered it (in Spanish and Portuguese, respectively).
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:09 PM on August 30, 2012

Hotel California - The Cat Empire (French done by Australians)

Sorrow - Los York's Spanish (Check out their other work, they did a few covers.)

Teresa Teng - El Condor Pasa (Mandarin I think... relying on Youtube description. She recorded in a lot of languages)

This list should keep you busy for a while too.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 6:11 PM on August 30, 2012

Anita Mui's 坏女孩 (Bad Girl), using a Madonna tune, was banned from the Mainland.

More on Cantopop and English songs.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 6:12 PM on August 30, 2012

The Finnish humppa band Eläkeläiset play lots of your favorites:
Mrs. Robinson
Beds Are Burning
Smoke On The Water
Smells Like Teen Spirit
The Riddle
and many, many more. They are all over youtube.

My definition of good may be very different from yours.
posted by otters walk among us at 6:24 PM on August 30, 2012

ABBA released a lot of their songs in Spanish as well as the English versions. Here's one example.

Also, Cypress Hill released a whole album of their "Grandes Exitos". For example No Entiendes La Onda.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:31 PM on August 30, 2012

As all good Lebowski-ites know the definitive example of this is Hotel California as covered by the Gypsy Kings. But that's just like, my opinion, man.
posted by gohabsgo at 6:33 PM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Another movie example - the recent Sasha Baron Cohen movie The Dictator featured middle eastern versions of some popular american songs, including Dr. Dre's Next Episode and REM's Everybody Hurts
(youtube is being weird atm so I hope those are the right versions)
posted by mannequito at 6:41 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Michael Jackson - Todo Mi Amor Eres Tu (I Just Can't Stop Loving You)
Michael Jackson - Todo Para Ti (What More Can I Give?)

The Beatles -Sie Liebt Dich & Komm (She Loves You)
The Beatles - Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand (I Want To Hold Your Hand)

Abba - Waterloo [Swedish | German | English | French]

Err, Lily Allen - Smile (In Simlish?)

Beyonce - Irreemplazable

Dusty Springfield - Auf Dich nur wart ich Immerzu (I Only Want To Be With You)

Spice Girls - 2 Become 1 (Spanish)

Christina Aguilera - Genio Atrapado (Genie In A Bottle)

Faith No More - Evidence [Spanish | Portuguese | Italian]

Queen - Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together)
Queen - Mustapha Ibrahim (I think these two might just incorporate lyrics from non-English languages rather than being re-recordings of songs originally in English.)

David Bowie - Space Oddity (Italian)

David Lee Roth did the entirety of Eat 'Em And Smile in Spanish. Here's ARMA DE CAZA MAYOR. It's awesome.

Peter Gabriel - Schock den Affen (Shock the Monkey), another artist who recorded entire albums in another language (German).

OK that's all I've got for now.

posted by carsonb at 6:44 PM on August 30, 2012

Oh man I totally misread your question. OK, well back to the YouTubes I go!
posted by carsonb at 6:45 PM on August 30, 2012

Did you know that there was a version of Monty Python's "Lumberjack" song done in German?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:48 PM on August 30, 2012

Wasis Diop's DéFaal Lu Wor is "Once in a Lifetime" in Wolof.
posted by scruss at 6:58 PM on August 30, 2012

The phenomenal Finn M. A. Numminen has done a number of Swedish covers of English songs. You could start with his versions of Rubber Ball and Hit me with your Rhythm Stick.
posted by pont at 7:11 PM on August 30, 2012

Joe Dassin did "City of New Orleans" as "La fleur aux dents"
posted by TheTingTangTong at 7:55 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here is a list of French ye ye songs that were covers of other hits (mostly English speaking). The site that hosts that page has a lot of other similar song-song comparisons.
posted by flug at 7:58 PM on August 30, 2012

Les Surfs - A présent tu peux t'en aller. Language: French. Nationality: Madagascar.
posted by gimonca at 8:10 PM on August 30, 2012

Also, much of the Johnny Hallyday catalog would fit what you're asking.

Quand je l'ai vu devant moi
Noir c'est noir
Le Pénitencier

There are many more.
posted by gimonca at 8:21 PM on August 30, 2012

Here's one of the more unexpected ones: the Swiss singer Sina did a version of "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" in a Swiss dialect of German: Där Papa Isch Äs Chorbi Gsi. (Sorry for the Spotify link; so far as I can tell it's not on YouTube.)
posted by asterix at 8:23 PM on August 30, 2012

Oh man, Johnny Hallayday's Noir C'est Noir came to mind the second I read your question.
posted by eelgrassman at 8:24 PM on August 30, 2012

I'm not sure if this is somewhere in Flug's link, but someone named Eileen recorded "Ces bottes sont faites pour marche", a cover for, you guessed it, "These Boots Are Made For Walking".

I'm amazed nobody has mentioned Nouvelle Vague yet.

Not sure if this counts (it's instrumental), but Rodrigo y Gabriela have classical Spanish guitar versions of several Metallica songs, as well as Stairway To Heaven.
posted by Sara C. at 8:28 PM on August 30, 2012

TheTingTangTong - can you elaborate? That song is not a cover of the "City Of New Orleans" I'm familiar with. (This is the only "City Of New Orleans" I've ever come across - I guess it could be one of those "Electric Layla" vs. "Acoustic Layla" things I'm not sophisticated enough to understand, but I don't think so?)
posted by Sara C. at 8:33 PM on August 30, 2012

hanoixan's mariachi cover of Radiohead's 'Subterranean Homesick Alien,' an entry in the August MeFi Music Challenge, earns those extra bonus points you mention.
posted by prinado at 8:42 PM on August 30, 2012

This was part of the theme of a MeFi Swap CD [with YouTube links] I did last winter!

One key source is the Motown Around The World compilation of Motown artists performing their songs in various other languages. Italian is always the best, like L'Amorre Verra by the Supremes.

There's a few others on my mix that I don't have time to copy the links over for that haven't been mentioned yet; the top two are Dengue Fever's fabulous Khmer cover of Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now and Joousama monogatari, which is the best thing.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:43 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mexico in the 60s was also a rich source of ye-ye, garage rock, etc. covers.

Los Rockin Devils - Bule Bule
Los Loud Jets - Agitese, Haga Ruido y Ruede (1/2 English, 1/2 Spanish)
Los Yaki - Diablo con Vestido Azul
posted by gimonca at 8:51 PM on August 30, 2012

Cornershop did "Norwegian Wood" in Punjabi.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:54 PM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Gipsy Kings did a Spanish cover of Hotel California.
posted by availablelight at 9:20 PM on August 30, 2012

Marie-Mai's Sans Cri Ni Haine is a pretty close translation of Robyn's Call Your Girlfriend
posted by hasna at 9:21 PM on August 30, 2012

The Beatles recorded some of their songs in German (and, I think, Spanish, but I've not heard those).
posted by hoyland at 9:23 PM on August 30, 2012

"La fleur aux dents" is absolutely not "City of New Orleans" by Steve Goodman (made famous by Arlo Guthrie), but it may be some other song with "New Orleans" in the title of the English original?

Another song from the same Joe Dassin record, "Au bout des rails," is Neil Diamond's "Cracklin' Rosie," but with completely different lyrics.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:50 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Aha! The Joe Dassin cover of "City of New Orleans" is called "Salut les amoreux.". It's on YouTube, but I am on my iPad and can't link.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:53 PM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Prince Royce covered Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" in a mix of Spanish and English.
Coverville occasionally has "Lost In Translation" episodes, which include many of the tracks folks have listed above and some others.
posted by knile at 1:02 AM on August 31, 2012

Here is "Salut les amoureux".

The only thing the songs have in common is the music; the lyrics are completely different.
posted by third word on a random page at 5:19 AM on August 31, 2012

There's a Japanese version of "Country Road", the lyrics don't mention West Virginia, though.
posted by nikkorizz at 6:25 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, that Japanese version of Country Roads was re-translated back into English when the film was dubbed by Disney. Interestingly, the lyrics are closer to the Japanese version than they are to John Denver's version.
posted by nikkorizz at 6:47 AM on August 31, 2012

It's not quite what you're asking, but there's the character of Major Tom showing up in David Bowie's Space Oddity (and two? other songs, but that's the one with the obvious connection) and Peter Schilling's Major Tom (Coming Home)/Major Tom (völlig losgelöst). (I think the two versions were pretty much simultaneous.)

Since I'm now on the computer: Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand. I want to say the Beatles did a whole album in German, but for some reason that's the song you hear.

I suspected Die Toten Hosen had probably covered a song or two in translation (I was kind of expecting You'll Never Walk Alone), but the only one I found was Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Honolulu Strand Bikini, which was a German cover/parody of Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. This doesn't sound like Die Toten Hosen, so I assume it was whoever did the German version they covered. (I did find that someone did an English version of Hier Kommt Alex, but that's the other direction.)
posted by hoyland at 7:00 AM on August 31, 2012

Oh major space out. its Salut les amoreux"
posted by TheTingTangTong at 7:48 AM on August 31, 2012

Seu Jorge and Ana Carolina recorded É Isso Aí, a Portuguese version of Damien Rice's The Blower's Daughter that surpasses the original.

And just for kicks, here is a version of Poison Ivy done by Chiclete com Banana. I love covers in different genres.
posted by wallaby at 10:58 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not exactly what you're asking for, but musicals under the Disney corp-brella tend to have meticulous, well-done translations. Some of them sound more natural in the dub than in English. YouTube's full of them. "This Is Halloween" in Russian.
posted by saturday_morning at 2:22 PM on August 31, 2012

Response by poster: Wow, thanks everyone! Also, thanks for linking the past questions... somehow, my google-fu failed me (I promise I did check!).

Keep 'em coming if you have more, although this will keep me busy for a long time.
posted by Paper rabies at 11:37 AM on September 1, 2012

This is a longshot, but worth mentioning I think. Laura Branigan's Self Control was originally recorded ( in English) by Italian artist RAF. I recommend it- it's on YouTube.
posted by wittgenstein at 6:24 PM on September 1, 2012

Here are some more Beatles songs from Brazil:

Ronnie Von - Meu bem (Girl)
Titãs - Balada para John e Yoko (Ballad of John and Yoko)
Raul Seixas - Você ainda pode sonhar (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds)
Ira! - Você ainda pode sonhar
Raulzito e Os Panteras - Você ainda pode sonhar
Verônica Sabino - Demais (Yes it Is)
Perla - Ontem / Deixe Estar (Yesterday / Let it Be)

More medleys to track down here. Brazilians love medleys.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:42 AM on September 2, 2012

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