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Carl

Lyrics as a Foreign Language

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There have been some big hits in America by folks who never lived in an English-speaking country. Examples:

99 Red Balloons

New Soul

Rock You Like a Hurricane

Apparently, English is a pretty flexible language - we have a lot of words, and if we need to make one up, we'll do it (like Looptid, Confarculated or Craptastic).

What other popular songs are out there with English lyrics by people who learned it as a second (or third) language?

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Here are some songs that are in the SongFacts database already:

Europe (Sweden)

"The Final Countdown"

Golden Earring (Netherlands)

"Radar Love"

"Twilight Zone"

Roxette (Sweden)

"The Look"

"Listen To Your Heart"

Aqua (Denmark)

"Barbie Girl"

Abba (Sweden)

"Dancing Queen"

"Take A Chance On Me"

Frida (Norway) [Member of Abba]

"I Know There's Something Going On"

Shakira (Columbia)

"Hips Don't Lie"

Los Del Rio (Spain)

"Macarena"

Enrique Iglesias (Spain)

"Hero"

Bjork (Iceland)

"Human Behaviour"

"Big Time Sensuality"

t.A.T.u. (Russia)

"All The Things She Said"

Los Bravos (Spain)

"Black Is Black"

The following two artists were born in another country but moved to the U.S. to live while they were children and learned English as their second language. They started their music careers in the U.S.

Gloria Estefan (Cuba)

"Coming Out Of The Dark"

Jon Secada (Cuba)

"Just Another Day"

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Here are some songs that are not in the SongFacts database yet.

Xymox (Netherlands)

"Obsession" (#16 on U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart in 1989)

"Phoenix Of My Heart" (#16 on U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart in 1991)

The Sugarcubes (Iceland)

"Regina" (#2 on U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart in 1989)

"Hit" (#1 on U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart in 1992)

Julio Iglesias (Spain)

"To All The Girls I've Loved Before" (Duet with Willie Nelson) (#1 on U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in 1984)

Agnatha Faltskog (Sweden) [Member of Abba]

"Can't Shake Loose" (#29 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1983)

Rita Pavone (Italy)

"Remember Me" (#26 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1964)

The Panic Channel (Japan)

"Why Cry" (#33 on U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart in 2006)

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Röyksopp must have had a few hits, surely?

And Air?

Andreas Johnson had Glorious... right?

Shakira, Enrique Iglesias

"I grew up in Miami speaking Spanglish"
and Nelly Furtado
"Spanish is not Furtado's first language - she was brought up speaking English until the age of four, then introduced to her parents' native tongue, Portuguese. "
?

Do they count?

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Here's a few more from Sweden to add to my list above:

Ace Of Base (Sweden)

"All That She Wants" (#2 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1993)

"The Sign" (#1 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1994)

The Hives (Sweden)

"Hate To Say I Told You So" (#6 on U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart in 2002)

Blindside (Sweden)

"Pitiful" (#18 on U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart in 2002)

Robyn (Sweden)

"Be Mine" (#10 on UK Singles chart in 2008)

"Dancing On My Own" (#8 on UK Singles chart in 2010)

"Do You Know (What It Takes)" (# 7 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1997) (song not in SongFacts database)

"Show Me Love" (#7 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1997) (song not in SongFacts database)

Rednex (Sweden)

"Cotton Eye Joe" (#25 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1995)

*Note to Carl*

The above song by Rednex is in the database as "Cotton Eyed Joe.

It should be Cotton Eye Joe, without the letter "D".

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Going the other direction, are there any Americans who had hits in another language?

*No links for the songs below because none of them are in the SongFacts database.

The Sandpipers (from California)

"Guantanamera" (#9 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1966)

"Louie, Louie" (#30 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1966)

Lou Monte (from New Jersey)

"Lazy Mary (Luna Mezzo Mare)" (#12 on U.S. Billboard Top 100 in 1958)

Rene & Rene (from Texas)

"Lo Mucho Que Te Quiero (The More I Love You)" (#14 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1969)

N.O.R.E. (Noreaga) (from New York)

"Oye Mi Canto" (#12 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 2004)

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Going the other direction, are there any Americans who had hits in another language?

Matt Monro ("The Music Played" "Can't take my eyes out of you", etc) sings often in spanish.

Didn't Elvis sing in german?

I hace to look for other examples as I can't recall right now but there are plenty, I'm sure...

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Elvis did sing some German lines.

 

Can't you see

I love you

Please don't break my heart in two

That's not hard to do

'cause I don't have a wooden heart

And if you say goodbye

Then I know that I would cry

Maybe I would die

'cause I don't have a wooden heart

There's no strings upon this love of mine

It was always you from the start

Treat me nice

Treat me good

Treat me like you really should

'cause I'm not made of wood

And I don't have a wooden heart

 

Muss I denn, muss I denn

Zum Staedt'le hinaus

Staedt'le hinaus

Und du, mein Schatz, bleibst hier?

 

There's no strings upon this love of mine

It was always you from the start

Sei mir gut

Sei mir gut

Sei mir wie du wirklich sollst

Wie du wirklich sollst

Cause I don't have a wooden heart

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What other popular songs are out there with English lyrics by people who learned it as a second (or third) language?

Enigma (Germany)

"Return To Innocence" (#2 on U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart in 1994 and #4 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1994)

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Going the other direction, are there any Americans who had hits in another language?

Ritchie Valens (from California)

"La Bamba" (#22 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1959)

Pitbull (from Florida)

"The Anthem" (#36 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 2008)

Connie Francis (from New Jersey)

"Jealous Of You (Tango Della Gelosia)" (#19 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1960) (song not in SongFacts database)

Ray Barretto (from New York)

"El Watusi" (#17 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1963) (song not in SongFacts database)

Carole King (from New York)

"Corazon" (#37 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1973) (song not in SongFacts database)

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so... if I understand this thread correctly you really want a list of famous English songs sung by non-native English speakers?

That's going to be a *long* list - eg up until the mid to end 90s it wasn't considered 'cool' for a German band to sing in German (or anything else than English)

if I think alone of the one-hit wonders from these times...

Lemon Tree ~ Fool's Garden

Narcotic ~ Liquido

Rescue Me ~ Bell, Book and Candle

Supergirl ~ Reamonn

Alphaville (Big in Japan)

Boney M (Rivers of Babylon)

Rising High ~ H-Blockx

Guano Apes ~ Open Your Eyes (not really a OHW)

Modern Talking, Scooter... which brings us to all the House/Eurodance stuff

Snap! (The Power, Rythm is a Dancer)

Haddaway ~ What is Love

Technotronic ~ Pump Up The Jam (from Belgium, I think)

DJ Bobo, Dr. Alban, Culture Beat, E-Rotic, Mr.President, 2 Unlimited, Dune, Captain Hollywood... all not very good, but very popular*

Pretty much all the winners from these crappy "American Idol"-like shows are singing in English as well, just like Lena, the winner from last year's Eurovision Song Contest

back to better music:

The Notwist Consequence,

also Kraftwerk made pretty much all of their music at least bilingual in both German and English

the whole Krautrock bands... Tangerine Dream, Can, Faust, etc

Die Toten Hosen made some songs in English ("Pushed Again)

even Tocotronic, who were among the first Indie bands to start singing in German in the early 90s, released an album with translated versions Let There Be Rock (English version)... they're better in German though, imo :P

...and that's just the stuff I recalled instantly ;)

it's really not unusual at all for non-English speaking people to make English music

*which can be said for a majority of the examples I gave, really ;)

Edited by Guest
one typo and the whole sentence didn't make any sense

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...it's really not unusual at all for non-English speaking people to make English music...

Farin is right. Almost every English-speaking performer has sung in another language other than theirs...

And almost every non-English-speaking performer has sung in English.

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Almost every English-speaking performer has sung in another language other than theirs...

And almost every non-English-speaking performer has sung in English.

I wouldn't say "almost every" really - especially to the first sentence...

but quite a few probably did, yeah

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I wouldn't say "almost every" really - especially to the first sentence...

but quite a few probably did, yeah

I say "almost every" because the record business needed hits in many countries so The Beatles, The Stones, Neil Diamond or Sinatra (to mention only four) sung sometimes in another language.

As the for the non-English speaking performers, I still say "almost all of them"...

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