Worst ever Spanish covers of English-language songs?

I haven’t talked to any of the perpetrators, but I have little doubt that the principal cause of what we regard as fucked translation is a misunderstanding as to its function: whereas English-speakers expect to encounter a linguistic resource, the aim of Romance-dialect-speaking businesses, politicians and civil servants in providing English translation is often symbolic – to demonstrate modernity, professionalism and internationalism to domestic audiences that they imagine to be even more boorish than themselves.

The is of course not just a complaint about contemporary Iberian Anglicism. I recently came across an interesting piece by Esmat Babaii and Hasan Ansary on the failure of xenophobic restrictions on Iranian TV advertising to completely stamp out this powerful device:

unlike Arab countries where journalism is receptive to foreign neologisms and loanwords, particularly words originating from English (e.g., the case of Jordan as reported in 1993 by Hussein & Zughoul) and unlike Switzerland where abundant occurrence of English in advertisements is at the service of appropriation of English as a Swiss national identity symbol (cf. Cheshire & Moser 1994), in Iran, in line with language maintenance policies and revitalization plans sponsored by the Iranian Academy of sciences, using foreign words as brand names or in the body of ads is discouraged and forbidden. Although producers are not allowed to use foreign brand names, some local manufacturers attempt to evade this regulation by using brand names which have almost similar pronunciation to foreign words in order to keep the good name of suppliers or to (mis)use their good names to promote sales. For example, a local clutch and disc producer in Iran has used the name /Færavari væ Saxt/ (F+S) to connote the good name and good quality of Fischel & Sachs (F+S) which is a German brand name. Or, since the producer of Nichola heaters had to change the brand name into a Persian word, they use /Nik kala/ (meaning good product) which is phonologically similar to original brand name, Nichola.

Juan Ceñal’s list of covers-that-should-not-have-been is interesting to us English-speakers because his objection to linguistically-challenged buffoons in search of cheap status comes from a Spanish-speaking perspective.

Spanish artists using English is all about pleasing stupid domestic crowds, so some of Juan’s calls strike me as hard. For me El Príncipe Gitano singing Elvis’ In The Ghetto evokes the amused bemusement of Prince Philip on discovering the Vanuatuan cult dedicated to him:

Azúcar Moreno’s version of Paint It Black by the Stones (los Rolling) is a gas station classic:

However, Seguridad Social and Shakira, whatever they do, deserve whatever comes to them.

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Last updated 03/05/2018

This post pre-dates my organ-grinding days, and may be imported from elsewhere.

Barcelona (1399):

English language (462):

Föcked Translation (414): I posted to a light-hearted blog called Fucked Translation over on Blogger from 2007 to 2016, when I was often in Barcelona. Its original subtitle was "What happens when Spanish institutions and businesses give translation contracts to relatives or to some guy in a bar who once went to London and only charges 0.05€/word." I never actually did much Spanish-English translation (most of my work is from Dutch, French and German) but I was intrigued and amused by the hubristic Spanish belief, then common, that nepotism and quality went hand in hand, and by the nemeses that inevitably followed.

Spain (1881):

Spanish language (504):

Translation (788):


  1. Ana Belen's version of "Piano Man". Changed the lyrics so much it seems to have nothing to do with the original.

  2. In min 1:13 of In the Ghetto, when this Spanglish Prince is supposed to sing "and his hunger burns" there's actually laughter in the public.

    The version of Paint it Black is quite good, except for the singers.

    But one cannot say that Spaniards don't have a sense of self-irony, in the end we did get Aserejé.

  3. @Lee: I'm sure Ana's version is far superior, because she's far too intelligent to invent something simply because she couldn't understand the original.
    @Candide: I'm not that cosmopolitan myself, and I'm rather fond of it all.
    @MMa: What's the point of giving great Hispanic culture free to the Germans when they're lining up with their credit cards?
    @MMb: That's more Spanish than I've heard the mayor of Barcelona speak, ever.

  4. I think there's some variant of Godwin's law which applies to posting French singers in discussions about English pronunciation.

  5. Hello! I never imagined you riding on US-American bias.

    But to be serious, I think that it is harder for a Frenchman to muster English pronunciation than it is for a Spaniard.

    Or at least as difficult: The difference lies in making the effort. And that's a cultural difference, too. Work ethics.

  6. At first I heard "Es Cuba tu lugar", kind of strange for a Boston bar, instead of "Descubra tu lugar". I've always found his Spanish pronunciation weird and unclear – I think he or his trainer view it as part of Brand Martín. Or maybe I'm weird and unclear.

  7. Efectivamente, he sings "Es Cuba tu lugar". Maybe there's a "d" that's simply hard to hear, but there's certainly no "r" between the "b" and the "a".

    Anywho, worst cover ever.

  8. The Ana Belen's version of Piano Man changes the meaning of the lyrics, she even could sang about a lighthouse and it could be equally close to the original meaning.

    The "Paint it Black" version is atrocious. I just hope the americans are not using it as torture at Guantanamo.

  9. Worst Spanish language cover of an English language song?

    How about a whole album? Checkout David Lee Roth's absurd attempt at pandering to the Latin American audience; Sonrisa Salvaje. Diamond Dave sings the entire "Eat `Em and Smile" album in Spanish. Incredibly, the album has 4.5 Stars on Amazon…? If you are interested in Spanish language cover songs visit TheSpanishVersion.Org.

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