Je ne comprends pas les paroles

Music is such a huge part of society. It is everywhere. We hear it in shops, on TV, in our leisure time, in clubs and bars and on the conventional radio. But how much of the music you listen to is not either English or American? For most of you that aren’t bilingual or from a multicultural household, the answer is probably very little, right?

Look at any World Singles chart like this one and you’ll see that music sung in English dominates the charts and traces of Europe and other languages besides English don’t surface until the late 40s and 50s. Sure, the artists may be multi-national, but the predominant language is English.

The dominance of western music over the sound waves is something that perplexes me. Some of the most beautiful music I have on my Spotify comes from international artists. Some of it is sung in English, some of it in other languages such as French and Dutch. But wait, how do I understand any of it right? I don’t. And that is the beauty of it.

It is so easy to get lost in the monotonous and repeated lyrics of songs in the English charts. This is partly due to the chronic lack of imaginative lyrics in a great proportion of the charts, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, due to the ultimate genius of the lyrics that you can’t help but belt them out at the top of your lungs. But, with international music sung in different languages, you really get the chance to focus on the song as a whole. There are no ‘distractions’ from the melodies meeting your ears, as such. You can listen to every aspect of the song and really take it in without being distracted by the repetitive “baby baby baby oh… love me like you do lalalove me like you do…. we can do this all night” chants.

Eurovision is a great advocate for the raising of awareness of international music, and I think that it is beautiful to hear songs sung in their original languages, even if you can’t understand what they’re saying, you’re bound to hear what they mean and feel.

Music doesn’t have to be understood to be enjoyed, heck, that’s the whole point of art, is it not? To appreciate and enjoy and feel things for pieces that you might not necessarily fully understand. Why coop yourself up in the realms of western music when you’ve got a plethora of international music to draw from too? Broaden your horizons and try out a few ‘foreign’ artists.

Besides enjoying international music, it can be great for background noise during revision and for relaxing, different music to calm your mind. Because you don’t have to focus on anything but the rise and fall of the melody and the combinations of sounds, music sung in a language other than your first language can be incredibly therapeutic.

So, I challenge you, go out and explore some international music! I particularly like Zaho, Louane (both French) and Kenny B (Dutch). Another fun thing you can do if you’re a Shakira fan is to check out the Spanish versions of her albums. It’s incredible to hear tunes you know sung in a different language. So, give it a try. Enlighten your ear buds!


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