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Familiar Soundtrack, Foreign Lyrics

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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.


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  • A Taco Bell Super Bowl ad used a Spanish cover of fun.'s We Are Young
  • A Comcast Wi-fi ad featuring an American boy making friends with a Japanese exchange student used a bilingual Japanese-English version of The White Stripes' "We're Going to Be Friends".
  • A Panda Express ad used a Chinese cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire."
  • This ad for Corona beer, celebrating Latin American heritage, uses a Spanish-language cover of John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads".

    Film — Animated 
  • 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).

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Big Lebowski soundtrack has a Spanish version (by the Gipsy Kings) of the Eagles' "Hotel California".
  • The trailer for Bullet Train features a Japanese cover of Stayin' Alive by The Bee Gees.
  • Chan Is Missing is a film about the Chinese-American experience as seen through the eyes of a San Francisco taxi driver in Chinatown. It opens with a zippy cover of "Rock Around the Clock" with lyrics in Cantonese. What makes it even funnier is that in the Cantonese lyrics the singer is actually complaining about the rising cost of rice and soybeans.
  • Chungking Express features a lovely Cantonese cover of The Cranberries' "Dreams" by Faye Wong.
  • Crazy Rich Asians plays a Canto-pop of Madonna's "Material Girl", 200 Degrees by Sally Yeh, during its Costume-Test Montage. The proposal on the airplane is set to a Mandarin cover of the Coldplay song "Yellow" by Katherine Ho.
  • The Dictator: An Arabic cover of MC Rai's "Everybody Hurts" plays as the lead wanders in despair.
  • The Farewell has a Chinese-language cover of Badfinger's "Without You" play during its credits.
  • 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).
  • Jojo Rabbit uses German-language versions of English-language songs. The movie's opening credits use The Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" ("Komm, gib mir deine Hand"), a German version of David Bowie's "Heroes" is used later in the movie and a trailer used Jack White's "I'm a Believer" ("Mit all deiner Liebe").
  • Kill Bill: The song "Woo Hoo" by the'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.
  • Love in the Villa: This American film uses the occasional Italian cover of English songs to set the Verona mood. For example, Italian covers of Smash Mouth's "I'm A Believer" and Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" play over the prank war.
  • In Mulholland Dr., one of the acts Betty and Rita see at the surreal Club Silenco is Rebekah Del Rio singing a Spanish version of Roy Orbison's "Crying."
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Acapulco: The pool singers, Augusto and Adriana, are frequently singing Spanish-language covers of popular songs. Justified, as they're entertaining wealthy English-speaking tourists at a Mexican resort.
  • 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'" ("Die Stiefel Sind Zum Wandern" by Eileen).
  • 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.
  • A memorable moment from the movie From Dusk Till Dawn is Santanico Pandemonium's dance set to Tito & Tarantula's song After Dark. Said moment was recreated in the TV show From Dusk Till Dawn, this time set to a Spanish cover of the song by Robert Rodriguez' band Chingon. Said cover also serves as the show's title theme.

  • Jersey Boys opens with "Ces Soirees La", a rap song that samples "December, 1963 (Oh What A Night)" being played in French, establishing the popularity the Four Seasons would reach later in their careers.
  • In the Screen-to-Stage Adaptation of Thoroughly Modern Millie, the song "Muqin" performed by the two Chinese characters is a Mandarin translation of the Al Jolson number "Mammy (The Sun Shines East)."

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • A version of this is implied when the protagonist and title character of Melody go to a karaoke bar. There‚Äôs a minigame at this outing when the protagonist has to sing a song (the real song being by the Arctic Monkeys) with all the correct lyrics, simulated by three multiple choices during the song. However, the correct lyrics in the game are not the same as the actual real-world lyrics of the song.

    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.


Video Example(s):


"Anything Goes"

Willie's "Anything Goes" floor show in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (which of course wouldn't work as an actual floor show).

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

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