Happy Bastille Day, friends! Today commemorates the day when a bunch of ragamuffins stormed the Bastille, upended traditional monarchy and paved the road for a better, newer, more Muslim-hating French government! So how can you celebrate? By brushing up on banal phrases like voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir and oui. Or by attempting to speak the language with trepidation usually reserved for hostage negotiation. It’s a bane non-French pop stars know all too well. Did you know that in order to preserve contemporary culture, radio stations in France are required to play at least 40% of their songs in French during prime time? This law has been something of a nuisance to non-French said pop stars who otherwise easily enjoy global success, although a few managed to break through by picking some stilted French, brutalizing the language of love in their cross-over attempt. Take a look at some of the more, err, ambitious, approaches to bilingualism.
At an Oscar telecast a few years ago, for some reason, Beyoncé was enlisted to sing “Look to Your Path” or “Vois Sur Ton Chemin” from Les Choristes, which was up for Best Foreign Flick and one of the Best Music achievements.
Meanwhile, Avril Lavigne found that in order to pimp “Girlfriend” out across the globe, she had to record the song in at least 412 languages. It was all rather cut-and-paste, as she just dubbed the chorus into a clunky brand of French that you might recall from high school. Timbaland, on the other hand, swapped out Keri Hilson for songbird Tyssem to make possible the French version of “The Way I Are” to avoid the pains of having to learn another language.
But one of the more brilliant ways of tackling this cultural barrier? How Girls Aloud went ten shades of meta with their single “Can’t Speak French” by re-recording it as Je Ne Parle Pas Français. But those seeking sweet, sweet music with their cross-cultural pop star may have more luck with Robbie Williams.
Although, when all’s sang and done, the desire to cross-over isn’t unique to just English-speakers. In fact, it goes both ways.