This is my own private Eurovision, a list of popular songs from (mostly) European countries, performed in an other-than-English language. I make no claim on having deep understanding of most of those countries’ pop scene, nor are the selected songs necessarily the best of, or representative of, their nations.
While we’re on the subject of music, reader Nikcrit recommends his former music biz colleague Ben Ratliff’s “Every Song Ever” and writes: “[the book] is a critic’s guide on how to enjoy pop music in this unprecedented age in which virtually every song of any time is damn-near instantly available at our fingertips; it’s a true ‘poverty of abundance.'”
Now on with this post’s international song selection. Links in song titles:
Bosnia: Bijelo Dugme, “Te noci kad umrem.” The title means “the night I die,” and the song is about different women’s reactions to the news. The guitarist (wearing a white shirt) in this 1987 slow-tempo, fan-participation live performance, Goran Bregović, is now highly respected in Europe as the Balkan folk-pop musician.
Brazil: Roberto Carlos, “A Montanha.” This is the earliest pop song I recall liking, which was in the very early 1970s. Its refrain, obrigado Senhor is a giving of thanks to God for life’s everyday miracles.
France: Les Brigandes, “Antifa.” One of two overtly political songs on this list. It’s no longer possible for the Left to do protest songs. Creativity and righteous rage now belong to nationalists. (English subtitles in the video).
Germany: Rammstein, “Ohne dich.” This song’s official music video is probably the most masculine ever produced. I wasn’t thinking about that video when writing the previous “Freedom” post but they would go together.
Greece: Maria Athanasopoulou, “Golden Dawn Song.” The second overtly political song on this list. Well done musically and inspiring in its visuals and lyrics. This artist knows the score. (English subtitles in the video).
Italy: Florent Pagny, “Caruso.” The singer is a Frenchman, but this operatic ballad is as Italian as it gets.
Latvia: Tumsa, “Lietus Dārzs.” An upbeat rainy day mediation. With their balance of crisp and melodious phonics and proto-European sounds, Latvian and Lithuanian languages are the most pleasing to the human ear, after French.
Lithuania: Marijonas Mikutavičius, “Trys Milijonai.” A celebration of the country of three million, featuring their basketball team’s highlight reels. The song is so infectious, I’d sing along if I spoke Lithuanian.
Poland: Budka Suflera, “Jolka, Jolka.“ This band’s dark, sweeping 1982 ballad includes love, loss, youth, booze, road-time, a baby sleeping in the other room, Merkel’s invasion (sort of), and a solar eclipse. “We’ll have the next one, maybe in one hundred years.”
Quebec: Mes Aïeux, “Dégénérations.” The closest you’ll get to 14/88 lyrics without the song being a right wing speech set to music. Judging by its live versions, it appears that the Québécois like getting down to this odd but very danceable tune. (English subtitles in the video).
Romania: Cargo, “Daca ploaia s-ar opri.“ I don’t know anything about this brooding power ballad or the band, but I really dig the song.
Serbia: Ceca, “Kukavica.“ In the video, a man who has it all is torn between his perfect family and his raven-haired vamp mistress. The singer Ceca (Svetlana Ražnatović) has had an interesting personal life, including marriage to a well-known Serbo-Croatian war figure Željko “Arkan” Ražnatović.
South Africa/Afrikaans: Bok van Blerk, “De la Rey.“ An invocation to the great Boer Wars general, now with new urgency. A powerful moment occurs in the video when the downtrodden overcome their fear and stand up. (English subtitles in the video).
Sweden: Mando Diao, “Gloria.“ This entry breaks my rule on showing solely non-English lyrics. Does the Swedish accent count? The video is a 60s retro-style intrigue featuring sleepyhead pretty-boys, a hardened detective, and a big-breasted femme fatale with lips made for…
So smokin’ I can’t contain it in a hyperlink: