Though English continues to dominate the global songwriting industry, other languages will always play a critical role in the world’s musical story. This week, we challenged ourselves to expand beyond an English-centric worldview, assembling a collection of fantastic songs written in foreign languages.
Michael’s Pick: Sigur Rós — “Hoppípolla”
From the distant volcanic wonderland of Iceland, Sigur Rós created an unlikely favorite for Madison Avenue advertising agencies with “Hoppípolla.” Softly gliding into a triumphant ascending melody, “Hoppípolla” brings with it images of peace, light, and whimsey. Even before the song was released, the hitherto underground band knew they had a readily syncable hit, as Sigur Rós nicknamed the track “The Money Song” before the lyrics were added. Brands as diverse as the BBC, Reuters, and Universal Pictures utilized the song in advertisements and trailers, and untold dozens of brands commissioned their own knock-off versions to be written for their commercials. When the dust settled, the sound of “Hoppípolla” became synonymous with advertising in the late 2000s.
Though most of the song was written in Icelandic, a small section around the song’s dynamic climax is written in the band’s own invented language, Hopelandic. A nonsense language similar to scat singing in jazz, Hopelandic uses syllables common in Icelandic to convey the emotion of human vocals without attaching concrete meaning to the vocalizations. In a way, this represents the pinnacle of marketability: an empty envelope passed off as a complete message.
Katie’s Pick: Radio Elvis — “Les moissons”
This week, my foreign language pick is “Les moissons” by Radio Elvis. Radio Elvis is a French Indie Pop trio consisting of Pierre Guénard, Colin Russeil, and Manu Ralambo. The track comes from the band’s 2016 release “Les conquêtes.”
“Les moissons” is everything a good mid-2010’s indie song has. It has a catchy easy-to-learn chorus, a great guitar solo, and some sick synth. It is reminiscent of fellow Frenchmen, Phoenix. However, Radio Elvis has their own particular Indie Pop sound. I have been listening to “Les moissons” while driving around town, and it makes for a great driving tune!
Mikayla’s Pick: DannyLux — “Nos Pertenecemos”
Classes in high school, a trip to Guatemala, and my fluent boyfriend have really helped me to learn and admire the Spanish language and Latin culture. Music, of course, has also been a very useful learning tool.
My pick this week is “Nos Percentenemos” by DannyLux. The song translates to “We Belong Together” and is a Spanish version of the original 1950s hit, made famous by Ritchie Valens. My boyfriend recently had this playing when he picked me up for a special date. The remake has added depth and romance than the original, with harmonies and an accompanying trumpet. These differing details were what really drew me in and made me fall in love with the song.