5 Hit Songs, Translated

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(via mental_floss) by Erik van Rheenen

Foreign language hits don’t often break onto Top 40 airwaves, but when they do, they’re usually loaded with earworms and make terrific karaoke fodder. But when we start singing along, what exactly are we saying? Probably not what you think. Here are five hit songs in other languages and what the heck they actually mean once they’re translated.

1. Nena, “99 Luftballons”

Run Nena’s chirpy 1983 pop song through a translator, and the cheery German hit gets pretty sinister, pretty quickly. Nena guitar slinger Carlos Karges drew inspiration for the anti-war protest tune when he watched an army of balloons get released at a 1982 Rolling Stones concert in West Berlin.

His musings on the balloons’ ascension over the Berlin Wall (“99 balloons on their way to the horizon / People think they’re UFOs from space”) and into the Soviet Bloc gave way to lyrics about war and paranoia—99 luftballons become 99 fighter jets, war ministers, and years of war as the hysterical overreactions in the lyrics escalate.

Nena recorded an English version, retitled “99 Red Balloons,” but argued that the satirical rewrite felt unfaithful to the German meaning. The less cutesy German cut became an American smash, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100

Read more: http://mentalfloss.com/article/50792/5-hit-songs-translated

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