Familiar Soundtrack, Foreign Lyrics

A show wants to both hit a familiar emotional note and reinforce the foreign nature of the setting or character. The solution? A cover of a song most people in the audience have heard, in a language that the characters know but the audience doesn't. The cover usually keeps the tempo and instrumentation of the original for maximum recognizability, and the singer mimics the intonation of the original as closely as possible as well.

Usually Played for Laughs, since the effect is a sort of auditory Uncanny Valley, and the disconnect can be hilarious to monolingual viewers even if the original song is a sad one.

Related to But Not Too Foreign. For translations of songs in general, see Translated Cover Version.


Examples

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    Film 
  • The Big Lebowski soundtrack has a Spanish version (by the Gipsy Kings) of the Eagles' "Hotel California".
  • The Dictator: An Arabic cover of MC Rai's "Everybody Hurts" plays as the lead wanders in despair.
  • Final Destination: The song "Rocky Mountain High" is the signal that Death is near, so when it is suddenly recognized that the busker at the end of the movie is singing a version of that song in his own language....
  • In Get Him to the Greek, a French-language version of the Turtles' "Happy Together" plays as Aldous and Aaron dance while high on drugs.
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom opens on a nightclub performance of Cole Porter's song "Anything Goes" in Mandarin (except for putting the Title Drop in Gratuitous English).
  • Kill Bill: The song "Woo Hoo" by the 5.6.7.8's is a cover of The Rock-A-Teens. There's barely any lyrics in the original, but it still plays on this trope by having it performed by a Japanese rock trio.
  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou: A Brazilian member of Zissou's crew performs bossa nova cover versions of several David Bowie songs, complete with Portuguese-translated lyrics.
  • The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming is a Cold War satire about the comic hijinx that ensue after a Soviet submarine runs aground off the shore of a small New England island. One scene has the sailors hiking down the road as "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" plays, with the lyrics in Russian.
  • The scene in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby that establishes Jean Girard as a badass driver, and a real threat to Ricky, is scored with Marie Laforet's French-language cover of "Paint It Black" by The Rolling Stones. The joke is that Jean Girard is a cartoony French stereotype.
  • At the beginning of To Be or Not to Be (1983) vaudeville entertainers Fredrick & Anna sing "Sweet Georgia Brown" in Polish before the movie switches to English.
  • Toy Story 3 has a plot point where Buzz develops a Latin Lover personality after being accidentally rebooted in Spanish-language mode. This leads to a scene where he dances a pasodoble with Jessie to the sound of a Spanish-language cover of "You've Got a Friend in Me" (performed by the Gipsy Kings).

    Live Action TV 
  • Defiance occasionally features Votan-language covers of popular songs. For example, the third-season finale features a cover of David Bowie's "Everyone Says Hi" with a verse in Votan.
  • The The Man in the High Castle episode "The End of the World" features singer in a nightclub in Japanese-occupied San Francisco singing Skeeter Davis's "The End of the World" (mostly) in Japanese.
  • M*A*S*H: Many early episodes had Japanese or Korean language versions of traditional American songs played over the PA in order to emphasize the fact that they're in Korea.
  • In the My Name Is Earl episode where they go to Mexico to bring back Catalina, Earl agrees to marry her to grant her citizenship. Earl tries to sort this out with Randy while the latter is being followed around by a mariachi singing a Spanish version of "Time After Time".
  • Orphan Black: Sarah's impersonation of Katja is set to a German-language cover of "These Boots Were Made For Walkin'".
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy and her Vietnamese friend Dong dance in front of the fountain from the Friends opening to a Vietnamese cover of the Friends theme song.

    Theatre 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons. In "Husbands and Knives" the comic book store owner sings along to a Korean version of "What's New Pussycat?", which is also played over the credits.

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http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FamiliarSoundtrackForeignLyrics