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Speaking in Tongues: A Spotify playlist for every language

This 35-track playlist helps prove that music is truly a universal language. 


Chase Hoffberger


Posted on Feb 18, 2013   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 12:27 am CDT

They say that music is the universal language. They also probably thought to consider the lyrics.

Yes, though a 1-5-6-4 chord progression can create a melody that you could whistle to no matter whether you’re from England, Estonia, or El Salvador, the poignant sentiment of love that’s attached to Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour” can only be consumed if you’re adept enough at Western language to understand that even a blind man knows his lady’s as lovely as a summer’s day.

Which is why we’re lucky to have foreign language interpretations.

Some of the most popular songs in British and American history have been restructured to make their messages more universally appreciated and increasingly profitable. It’s something that sometimes happens at the artist’s discretion—The Beatles’ German renditions of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (“Komm gibmir deine Hand”) and “She Loves You” (“Sie liebt rich”) may be the most iconic—but also via covers by regional acts.

In either case, the foreign interpretation of the English language original is often pretty silly. You’re listening to the Supreme’s delectable “(Baby, Baby) Where Did Our Love Go,” except it’s not “(Baby, Baby) Where Did Our Love Go” at all. It’s “(Baby, Baby) Wo Ist Unsere Liebe,” and Diana Ross all of a sudden sounds like some woman named Anke Vrosstën, and she’s singing about some guy named Niklas.

“Wo Ist Unsere Liebe,” asked Anke. Uhn Anke, was über unseren Englisch?

Countless foreign language remakes have made their way from the studio onto radio waves throughout the world, but we selected a special 35 on Spotify. They run the gamut from Wilco’s self-performed “Me Avivé” cover of 2011’s “Dawned on Me” to Seu Jorge’s French remake of David Bowie’s “Oh! You Pretty Things.” There’s Beyoncé doing “Irremplazable,” Cypress Hill getting “Loco En El Coco,” the Flaming Lips using Japanese to fight the pink robots.

There’s something for everyone in every place and in almost every language.

Screengrab via White Stripes/YouTube

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*First Published: Feb 18, 2013, 1:00 pm CST