I remember listening to popular music as a teenager. Sometimes the way lyrics were sung gave much leeway to misinterpretations. Some of the most famous misinterpretations have become almost legendary and many can be found on the website www.kissthisguy.com. The site is named after the popular Jimi Hendrix song Purple Haze in which the lyrics “’Scuse me while I kiss the sky” have often been misinterpreted as “’Scuse me while I kiss this guy”. Kind of funny. What happens, though, when the layer of a second language defines how an individual interprets the letras of a song? The results can be amusing, if not somewhat clever.
Growing up in the eighties, many rock groups were not exactly known for their enunciation of song lyrics. When the hard rock group AC/DC released the hit song “Dirty deeds done dirt cheap”, many listeners often heard: “Thirty thieves and the thunder chief.”
Go ahead, listen to it here.
Even among native speakers of a language, misinterpretations can be common. “Thirty thieves” is one of my favorites. What are some of yours?
I play in a local Grand Rapids rock group named Cabildo. Much of the band’s repertoire covers popular songs from the “rock en Español” movement of the early to mid nineties. Some of the band’s members grew up in Chile and Mexico and remember listening to popular songs from the U.S. They once related an anecdote about a song by the rock group Twisted Sister. The song became a well-known, albeit short lived, anthem of youth rebellion. The chorus is:
“We’re not ‘gonna take it. No, we ain’t ‘gonna take it. We’re not ‘gonna take it, anymore”.
Listen to it below (and share a laugh at what we once considered as “rebellious music”):
For a Spanish speaking teenager growing up, this is what you may have heard in the chorus:
“Huevos con aceite. Huevos con aceite. Huevos con aceite, y limón”.
Go ahead, listen to it again and try to place the misinterpreted Spanish in the song. Don’t believe me? Check out this short video of the band playing a Spanish festival few years ago:
A few months ago, a video of a Chilean bus passenger went viral. The music lover featured in the video was singing his interpretation of the Selena Gomez hit “Love you like a love song” out loud – very loud. The English lyrics are:
“I, I love you like a love song, baby. And I keep hittin’ re-peat-peat-peat-peat-peat.”
Here’s original song by Selena Gomez:
Check out the bus passenger’s interpretation here.
According to one YouTube user, this is what he was singing:
“A ai laviu, laca no son beibi. En maque mi pipipipipipipipip.”
I guess it could be up to interpretation. The comediante de micro has since become affectionately known in social media circles as “Seleno Gomez”.
Much more than misinterpreted lyrics, what I believe exists is an opportunity to deliver value. Really. When people interpret something as their own, such as a song, they are essentially defining a sense of ownership. To the Chilean bus passenger, those misinterpreted lyrics are uniquely his own. When the video went viral, his misinterpretation capitalized on the popularity of the original song and likewise increased its value to YouTube viewers – even if it was seen as comical. Imagine the brand value a record company could deliver to the thousands of YouTube viewers and potential buyers in Chile and Latin America who shared a laugh watching this video. Maybe “Seleno” should be invited to share the stage with Gomez during a concert tour through Latin America? Perhaps he could lead or judge a karaoke contest? What other creative possibilities exist?
I believe, what may be viewed as a humorous misinterpretation of music, can also deliver extended value. After all, many people in the U.S. still like to recall their own misheard lyrics of popular songs – and they share the same language. Imagine the hidden possibilities that exist between the fumbling of two languages. When we consider marketing to Latinos, can this “listening between the lines” approach help extend a brand’s value? Give a listen and decide for yourself.