Lyrically speaking…


The recent blast of hot weather coincided with a visit to my local Zumba class and combined to bring me straight back to our summer holiday. As I’ve mentioned before, my exercise regime seems to go to pot once the kids break up for school hols. But not this year – I actually moved my lazy butt and cha-cha-cha’d off to the Zumba classes that took place every morning on a sun-dappled ‘village’ square and felt very proud of myself for doing so!

Returning to my local class last week, I heard a couple of familiar tunes and couldn’t resist a smile. In their native Spanish, all these songs sound so captivating and make me want to sway rhythmically, whilst my mind takes me to Dreams-come-trueville, a sundrenched landscape full of bougainvillea and hope. My spattering of Spanish allows me to hazard a guess that the general theme of most of these tunes is something to do with ‘dancing’; ‘love’; ‘home’ and (inexplicably) ‘doors/exits’. The rest of the lyrics are an enigma to me so, as I listen to the lilting voices, I imagine they are warbling out a haunting love song, yearning for a lost lover perhaps, or eloping with a beautiful stranger to a far-off land (romantic retro fool that I am). I try to memorize the lyrics even if I don’t understand them, but they always become an Anglicised approximation, morphing into lines such as ‘Listen to my hair dance’ or ‘Follow the leader now’ followed by a staccato ‘chocca locca, tocca tocca tocca’ when I really can’t fathom what they’re saying.


So there I am, lost in a stupor of romantic gobbledegook, once again channelling my inner Latina, when suddenly the singer belts out a couple of lines in English and the magic is spoit. One moment it’s all ‘Mi gusta mi gusta, baile amor’, then suddenly some awful cheesy version butts in and bursts my bubble. I am no longer dancing along to what I think is ‘Carry me away on your wild horse, señor’ – suddenly I am swaying to lyrics along the lines of ‘You’re my sweetness and light, my sugar and spice’ – ugh! Or, I appear to be dancing along to a song about what sounds like a ‘Boiler Man’ who gets around a bit…Columbia, New York, Puerto Rica and Jamaica are all on his list apparently (turns out that song was Bailame – translation: Bailame…I imagine it’s something to do with dance!)

As if shuffling along to a tune about a utility lover wasn’t bad enough, it’s so much worse when the lyrics are in full-English, leaving nothing to my imagination. Am I the only person to feel a bit foolish shaking my booty to J’Lo’s ‘I ain’t your mama’.  She’s nagging her bloke about how he’s a good for nothing, playing video games all day, while she’s rushing off to work and basically having a whinge that she’s not going to do his laundry any more. Now, instead of galloping off into the sunset with my sombrero’d hero, I’m grooving along to someone’s domestic problems. What next? Songs arguing about who left the loo seat up, or complaining the dishwasher’s not been stacked correctly?! Come on! Worse are the ones given a grimy feel, where some random female is screeching that she just wants to get her ‘jiggedy… down to the floo-or’, or a deep-voiced ‘Shaggy’ wannabe urges his lover to ‘let me take you from behind…I won’t come until it’s time’ – eek! Given that on holiday these classes were attended by all ages, I wasn’t too comfortable watching eight-year-olds happily twerking along to that one! It wouldn’t be so bad if the woman swiped back at Shaggy – ‘F’God’s sake, will you leave off, I’ve just come back from a double night shift… leave me alone!!’ Surely that would be more of a strike for feminism? I don’t know, I could only hope the little girls didn’t understand English and just thought they were dancing along to a jolly tune, in much the same way I’m under a false impression when I’m moving along to what I imagine is a Latino love song.


It’s funny when you actually translate the lyrics of that amazing song you heard on holiday. A few years back I returned from Italy obsessed by a Portuguese number called Ai Se Eu Te Pego by Michel Teló (or the Nossa song…). I spent ages trying to track down what this catchy tune was – I finally found it on a holiday forum and discovered on translation it consisted of only about three lines, generally saying, ‘Oh, when I see you at the party… delicious, delicious… I’m gonna catch you, oh yes I am!’ Ha ha! (I still love it though…)

Maybe it’s because I grew up devouring song lyrics in the likes of music magazines like Smash Hits – whether it was love songs by Luther Vandross, clever storytelling by Madness or Squeeze, or more anarchic tunes by The Jam, the words had some sort of meaning or poetry behind them. Now? Well, maybe I’m just old but it seems that the lyrics on most mainstream songs are just a bit lazy these days (unfortunately I am forced to listen to them on most car journeys involving my kids…my parenting has gone badly off-track somewhere along the line). Sometimes they mash up old favourites and put new words on them. Or sometimes they just come up with a tune and stick a load of nonsense on and get a popular singer to back it. Take Rihanna’s recent hit ‘Work’: It wasn’t as if she had a lot of lines to remember, but at times she sounded like she just couldn’t be bothered. Work, work, work, work, work morphed into Ner ner ner ner ner. Come on, Rihanna, you can do better than that surely! Even the holiday dance class decided she just wasn’t making enough effort so thankfully that track wasn’t on the playlist.

Returning home after that recent Zumba class, I had the sounds of summer ringing in my head. I shall leave you with a link to my current favourite – the beautiful La Bicicleta by Shakira and some bloke called Carlos Vives… on translation, it seems to be just as cheesily romantic as I imagined… meeting your true love and pedalling off into the sunset with them on a push-bike (if you discover a less wholesome translation, I’d rather not know, thanks). I’ll let you samba off to it now… best enjoyed with a rose betwixt your teeth whilst adopting a dramatic pose and pained love-worn expression. ¡Olé!




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