16 songs you already know… but in Russian

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It wasn’t until I got to Russia that I realized how much pop culture really travels the world. Turn on the dorm TV and there was the 90s hit Married with Children… except, wait… everyone spoke Russian and lived Yekaterinburg. Watch an episode of Счастливы вместе, Happy Together.

A few weeks into the semester, students from the floor above ours decided to have a spontaneous dance party. This was in 2006, long enough ago that 50 Cent’s In da club still got a fair share of attention. But hey, this was Russia and instead of 50 Cent, well, we had 50 Kopeek. Behold this strange mix of languages:

Turns out there’s a Russian version of almost any show or song you can imagine. Let’s save the shows for another post and face the music. The Russian music, that is : )

Who’s your favorite pop star?

Lady Gaga…

Jennifer Lopez…

LMFAO…

Or perhaps you’re a fan of rap & hip-hop-

Eninem and Rihanna…

Nelly…

Pitbull…

Flo rida…

More Eminem…

Maybe you’re into other kinds of music? Let’s try Reggaeton.

Daddy Yankee…

Don Omar…

Something harder?

Rammstein…

Something softer?

Celine Dion…

Despite the change of language, a lot of the lyrics in the songs above remain more or less the same. But there are 2 songs that put their own twist on things and really stand out for me. They’ve both been transformed into drinking songs with amusing lyrics.

The 2004 megahit that you probably know as Numa Numa changes from a catchy Romanian love tune to a song with a chorus of молоко хорошо но а водка ещё лучше (milk is good but vodka is better):

Meanwhile in Flo rida’s hit Low, instead of Shawty getting “low low low“,  it’s all about bottle of hard liquor: а это что, а это что? Это бухло-о-о-о-о-о-о-о. (There’s no way to make this sound clever in English: What’s this? What’s this? It’s booze.)

This song in particular taught me several new tricks. Prior to discovering it, I’d only heard the textbook что это? (what is it?). Inverting the word order makes the phrase more casual, slightly less polite. I was surprised to hear it in use almost immediately as we cleaned out the garage with D’s parents a few days later. Это что? they’d ask each other as mysterious dusty objects were dug out of boxes. As for бухло, that was completely new. In Russian class you learn алкоголь, of course, but no one bothers to teach you the less formal words. After this I always made it a point to teach my Ukrainian students both booze and moonshine (самогон), which entertained everyone, drinkers or not.

I like listening to these Russian covers once in a while for the combo of familiar music and new words. As my Russian improves, I’ve gone from picking out words to understanding entire phrases.

Have you heard any good songs translated into foreign languages? How about a Russian song sung in English?

Here’s one more for the road-

We No Speak Americano… in Russian

2 Responses

  1. Akhmad Afendiyevich
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    Боже мой the Eminem covers are beyond awesome! Thanks for sharing this, I never even knew these existed!

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