Back when releasing singles meant more than just posting a link, it was common for artists to record their songs in different languages. Most of them were region exclusive, making it a treasure trove for collectors. Plus, it was a nice treat for international fans. The practice isn’t as common today, but once in a while, contemporary artists will flex their language skills. Here are just a handful of artists who recorded songs in another language.
“Todo Mi Amore Ers Tu”/“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” – Michael Jackson
This duet between Michael Jackson and Siedah Garret was the debut single from 1987’s Bad and was the first in a string of five number one singles for the singer. A special edition 12” single featured a Spanish re-recording of the track dubbed “Todo Mi Amore Ers Tu.” The song sounds just as sappy as the English version, but with more cringe inducing pronunciations. While the hook sounds just as pretty as the original, Jackson and Garret sound a bit awkward on the rest of the song. Then again, it’s the first time Jackson recorded a song in Spanish. They also recorded a French version, which sounds much better. The song seems better suited for French than Spanish, but at least these versions aren’t terrible.
“Gone” – Nsync
Nsync fans may remember the Spanish version of “This I Promise You,” but this version of “Gone” flew under the radar. And it sounds just as good, if not better, than the original. While their vocal delivery is a bit stilted, you can tell they’re not comfortable with the language, their harmonies are on point. They actually sound great singing in Spanish. Justin still gives a powerful vocal delivery filled with all the hurt and anguish of the original. The Spanish version of “This I Promise You” is solid, but this version of “Gone” is far better. It’s a shame it wasn’t as popular as the former song. Though it makes you wonder how other Nsync songs would sound in Spanish. How about a Spanish version of “It’s Gonna Be Me?”
“Mickey” – Toni Basil
“Mickey” is one of those baffling one hit wonders. Why was this annoying song ever a hit? And why can’t you stop singing it? It’s one of those songs you hate but will get stuck in your head all day as soon as someone mentions it. For the alternate 12” single, Basil recorded the song in Spanish. And yes, it’s just as annoying. Admittedly, it’s not as aggravating as the English version, but something about it still gets under your skin. Maybe it’s the in-your-face pep rally vibe. Or how Basil keeps repeating Mickey throughout the song. Or because it’s just an awful song no matter what language it’s in.
“Nunca Te Haré Llorar”/“I’ll Never Break Your Heart” – Backstreet Boys
Boy bands recording their big hits in Spanish was a strange phenomenon. But when you think about it, it makes sense. They have fans all over the world, so why not do something special for their non-English followers? BSB added to the trend with a Spanish version of “I’ll Never Break Your Heart.” They actually don’t sound bad; their vocals still sound sweet and smooth. And it’s good to know the song is still sappy and cheesy in another language. They also recorded a Spanish version of “Anywhere for You,” but it’s not as good. Hearing Nick Carter trying so hard to enunciate is painful.
“My Cherie Amour” – Stevie Wonder
“My Cherie Amour” is one of those timeless love songs. It’s sweet, easy going, and has a simple, yet unforgettable hook. When it was released in 1969 it charted at number 4 on the Billboard Pop and R&B singles chart. Now, it’s one of Wonder’s most iconic songs. It was so popular, Wonder re-recorded it in Spanish and Italian. Wonder handles both versions well having a pretty good grasp on each language. Both versions still sound as sweet and beautiful as the original. Considering the title, you’d think he’d do a French version. It’s never too late for him to try.
“Veras”/“You’ll See” – Madonna
Madonna has always flirted with Spanish culture ever since her days of visiting “La Isla Bonita.” So it’s no surprise that she recorded her 1995 single “You’ll See” in Spanish. Translated by Argentine singer/songwriter Paz Martinez her voice sounds beautiful, yet haunting. This version of the song still has the chilling, heartbreaking tone as the original. The Spanish lyrics paired with the swirl of Latin guitars complete the bittersweet mood. It’s kind of romantic, but there’s still something sad about it. Madonna later recorded “What It Feels Like For a Girl” in Spanish along with a collaboration with Ricky Martin entitled “Be Careful with My Heart,” which sounds like a strange duet, but actually works quite well.
“Can’t Change Me” – Chris Cornell
The debut single from Chris Cornell’s solo album, Euphoria Morning, received a French version for Japanese, European, and deluxe versions of the record. While his French is a little spotty, his voice still has the same power, emotion, and drive found in the original. He sounds beautiful in this version and his voice will still give you chills. Though it is a bit weird that part of the bridge is in English. The song was translated by Alexis Lemoine, so maybe it was a style choice. It takes you out of the song for a bit, but overall it’s a fantastic reminder of why Cornell was one of rock’s best singers.
“Do Do Do De Da Da Da” – The Police
For a special 7” edition of this single, The Police recorded this song in both Spanish and Japanese. While the Spanish version isn’t bad, the Japanese recording stands out. Japanese can be a difficult language to learn, so a lot of artists opt for an easier language if they want to re-record their songs. Yet, Sting does a pretty decent job here. Sure, he sounds and a bit unnatural, like he’s a first year Japanese student, but he doesn’t sound terrible. Still, it’s better than his new album with Shaggy.
“Helden”/“Heroes” – David Bowie
David Bowie’s groundbreaking single “Heroes” was recorded in English, French, and German. Every version is fantastic, yet each one has a different feel to it. The original is filled with a sense of melancholy while the French version is beautiful and kind of romantic. The German version is bursting with emotion and finds Bowie practically shouting at the top of his lungs by the song’s end. Each version is exciting and has a timeless quality to it. It really shows off Bowie’s talent and how great his crossover appeal was.
“Mi Refljo”/“My Reflection”– Christina Aguilera
In 2000, Christina Aguilera released her second album and her first Spanish album dubbed Mi Reflejo. The record featured cuts from her debut album, like “I Turn To You” and “Genie in a Bottle” recorded in Spanish. But this single from the Mulan soundtrack is one of the best from the album. Whether it’s in Spanish or English, the song is still beautiful and heartbreaking. The way she hits her notes on this version still gives you chills. Even if you can’t understand Spanish, the power of her voice and the emotion she puts behind every word is enough to make you cry. But if you’re looking for another Spanish Aguilera song that won’t choke you up, “Ven Conmigo (Solamente Tú)” is a good choice.
“Boom Clap” – Charli XCX
For the Japanese edition of her second album, Sucker, Charli XCX re-recorded “Break the Rules” and her hit single “Boom Clap” in Japanese. Surprisingly, both songs translate very well and the former actually sounds like it could be by a J-pop girl group. Of course, her Japanese skills aren’t the strongest, but she does a fine job. The songs keep their upbeat vibe and the hook on “Boom Clap” is still so infectious, you’ll find yourself singing the Japanese version in no time, even if you don’t know what she’s saying. Since recording singles in another language isn’t as popular as it used to be, it’s cool to see an artist like Charli XCX do something like this for her fans, especially those in Japan.
“Llámame”/“Call Me” – Blondie
This iconic track received a Spanish recording for a special 12” single meant for release in Mexico and some South American countries. It was later released in the US and the UK and was featured on the 1993 compilation Blonde and Beyond. For the most part, this version is spot on, even Debbie Harry sounds decent singing in Spanish. But things get clunky around the hook which finds her repeating “call me” in English. It’s like the translators decided “Llámame” didn’t sound as catchy and stuck with the original.
“Héroe”/“Hero” – Mariah Carey
No matter what you think about Mariah Carey, she has a killer voice. Her powerful vocals and those impossible high notes she hits are enough to give you chills. She brings that same talent to the Spanish version of “Hero.” This version was recorded for the international release of her album, Music Box, and was translated by Jorge Luis Piloto. The song is gorgeous and Carey sounds confident while singing in Spanish. This version even charted on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs. She’d later record “Open Arms” and “My All” in Spanish, but after a mistranslation snafu with the latter song, it seems like we won’t be hearing sing in another language for a while.
There are a lot more artists who recorded in another language so which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!