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What Song Was This Again?

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Dubbing is tricky business. You have to not only match translated dialogue to the mouth movements of the show's characters in a way that an actual person would naturally speak, but you also have to deal with matters like references from the original country that your audience won't get, puns and wordplay that only work in the original language (which becomes even worse if the pun is visualized as well as well as said, so you can't just change it to something else) and plenty more.

And if dubbing the spoken dialogue weren't tough enough, dubbing songs can be downright hellish. Not only do all the difficulties above carry over, but to get good lyrics in another language, dubbers have to account for the general meaning of the song, the intent of the song-writer, the grammar of the song's original language, the song's rhythm, scansion and meter, how slang and idiom are used in the dubbed language, where the stresses fall in the song due to rhythm/melody, the new language's rhyming schemes compared to the original language and how that will be perceived in the language, and also, you have to find a voice actor that not only sounds like/fits the looks of the character, but can also sing well, and so on and so forth.note 

Because of this, a literal translation of a song in a musical is almost always unthinkable, even if it were actually possible. Generally, a dubbed song stays relatively close to the original, with only a few tweaks and minor changes here and there, in which case we get a Translated Cover Version. However, in some cases, the dubbers wander so far from the original the song that results might as well be a completely different piece of music.

If the dub ditches the original theme, melody and all, for a completely different one, it's an Alternative Foreign Theme Song.

Not be confused with someone knowing a song but not its title or all of the lyrics; see Something Something Leonard Bernstein or Refrain from Assuming. If you're looking for a song you can't remember the name of, please visit You Know, that Song.


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  • The Spanish opening of 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother has the same melody as the Japanese version, but the instrumental, rhythm and lyrics are completely different.
  • The opening theme of Dragon Ball Harmony Gold dub uses the Japanese instrumental but the lyrics are different, possibly in an attempt to make the show more appealing and "cool" to American audiences.
  • The lyrics of the Galician opening of Dragon Ball Z have little or nothing to do with the original lyrics. You know it's a different lyric when the song talks about going into an wolf's mouth.note 
    • The Hindi dub is based on Funimation English dub and uses the music from Ocean dub, so they used "Rock the Dragon" as the opening theme, but in contrast to the original version which only repeats the same words over and over again, the Hindi opening has an real lyrics.
  • The Blue Water dub of Dragon Ball GT loosely adapts the melody of the original Japanese version ("Dan Dan Kokoro Hikareteku"), but with lyrics summarizing the plot (such as "We've got to find them all, gotta find those Dragon Balls").
  • Digimon:
    • The European Spanish versions up to season 5, and, subsequently, European Portuguese, as they were re-dubbed from the former, use completely new lyrics with the same melody and instrumentation as the original songs.
    • The Italian dubs of Digimon Tamers and Digimon Fusion use dubbed versions of their Japanese theme songs, with different lyrics that summarize what happen in the two series.
  • Many European fans believe the English versions for the Inuyasha songs are produced by The Ocean Group ("Change the World"). They are really made by the Italian dub, sung by Italians, and have only aired in Italy. Anyone who has seen the American TV broadcasts will quickly tell you the English dub uses the original Japanese ending themes, and the openings aren't broadcast at all due to time constraints (though they did air on Canadian TV and are on the DVDs and, yup, in Japanese).
  • The Latin American dub of the first series of Lupin III has an odd example of this. It has a much less upbeat melody and includes a lot of lyrics (in contrast to the original Japanese version which was basically "Lupin the 3rd" over and over), but a closer inspection will reveal that it has the same basic melody. That's because they used a piece of BGM from the show, which was a slower rendition of the opening theme, and sung lyrics over it.
  • The Arabic dub of Hunter × Hunter (1999) has an opening theme that turns "Kaze no Uta", the first Japanese ending theme, into a Bragging Theme Tune about Gon.
  • Similarly, the European Portuguese dub of Sailor Moon turns the first ending theme "Heart Moving" into an opening theme called "Luna Luna".
  • The Optimum (DiC/Cloverway) dub of Sailor Moon:
    • The dub features a "Moonlight Densetsu" cover with rewritten lyrics, called "(The One Named) Sailor Moon".
    • The song "Oh Starry Night" was supposedly a rewritten cover of Rei's Image Song from the second season- "Eien No Melody".
  • "Ai No Senshi" and "Sailor Team's Theme" both received this treatment, keeping the same tunes but with roughly-translated-into-English lyrics. Though neither song was given an official name, they were respectively called "Tear Our Hearts In Two" and "Let's Fight" by the fans.
  • The German dub also changed the meanings of the songs. Sometimes, this results in the songs not really fitting the scenes or sometimes resulting in the songs making not much sense.
  • The songs from the dub version of Nerima Daikon Brothers, while sticking to the spirit of the originals, are often very different lyrically.
  • Viz Video's Ranma 1/2 song subtitles, as well as dubbed versions of DoCo's OAV songs, were "translated" to fit the melody and the rough spirit of the original lyrics. Fans came to label these "Trishliterations" after Viz Media's Trish Ledoux.
  • While Pokémon largely deals with the Alternative Foreign Theme Song, there are a few cases of this:
    • "Chiisaki Mono" ("A Small Thing"), the ending theme to Pokémon: Jirachi: Wish Maker, was localized as "Make a Wish" with English lyrics completely unrelated to the Japanese song, except that halfway through the Japanese vocals kick in.
    • "Rocket-dan yo Eien Ni", an insert song sung by Team Rocket, was used a few times during the original series. The English version keeps the same musical base but has completely different lyrics, changing from a borderline nonsensical declaration of a "puppet show that brings light to darkness" to a slightly longer version of the classic Team Rocket motto with a fourth wall break towards the end.
  • The Speed Racer English dub has a rewritten cover of the theme song that changes the focus from the Mach 5 to Speed himself.
  • The American dub of Yo-kai Watch retains the Japanese opening and ending theme, but has the lyrics rewritten. However, there's an alternate opening theme that's completely new, that was used for the video game — and later began to alternate with the other opening after the game was released.
    • While the Italian dub translates faithfully the alternate opening theme, its version of the Japanese opening is not based on the English version but rather a borderline literal translation of the Japanese lyrics.
  • The European Portuguese dub of Captain Tsubasa: Road to 2002:
    • The opening's lyrics are set to the same rhythm as the Japanese original. That's about the only similarity between the two songs, as not only are the lyrics differentnote  but also because the instrumentation is absolutely unrecognizable to anyone familiar with the original theme. Had the lyrics been also timed differently, it would count as a whole new song.
    • The instrumentation for the ending theme is much more recognizablenote  but the lyrics are still quite different.
  • LUK International's English dub of Crayon Shin-Chan uses a remixed version of the third opening, "Ora Wa Ninkimono", with the lyrics being changed from Shinnosuke's personal thoughts on how to fall in love with a girl to an Expository Theme Tune about the premise of the show.
  • The version of Cardcaptor Sakura that aired in Australia and New Zealand made English versions of the Japanese themes. Their version of "Catch You Catch Me" is an Expository Theme Tune. "Platinum" still starts with "I'm a dreamer", but the song went from being about making dreams come true to being about escapism. "Fruits Candy" is mostly a faithful translation, albeit with less candy similes and adds a line about how too much candy is bad for your teeth.
  • The Nickelodeon version of Chibi Maruko-channote  does this with both the opening and the ending theme:
    • "Odoru Ponpokorin", which was about Maruko sharing interesting facts with mysterious beings that live in enchanted objects, is changed into a song called "Maruko, Maruko" that uses lyrics about how how Maruko is a special girl and how her friends love to dance.
    • "Yume Ippai", a song in which a girl describes her dreams, is changed into an Expository Theme Tune.
  • Tamagotchi:
    • Tamagotchi: The Movie contains an English translation of Kigurumi's "Tamagotchi" whose lyrics are very different from the original song. While the original song was about how all humans are the same regardless of where they came from, the English one has an underlying theme of "Let's have an exciting time together!"
    • The same "Let's have fun!" feel is used for the theme of the 2009 anime, Tamagotchi. In contrast, the image song "Every Lovely" uses a translation of the same lyrics as the original Japanese version.
  • The official English version of "Six Shame Faces" from Osomatsu-san is about a woman who goes on a shopping date with a boy and wants to confess her love to him. In comparison, the Japanese version has the Osomatsu brothers sing about their personalities.

    Asian Animation 
  • Downplayed for the English theme song for Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons. "Don't Think I'm Only a Goat", the series' original theme song, begins with a Theme Tune Roll Call of the characters in the original Chinese, but the English version used in Joys of Seasons begins with a different set of lyrics ("I look up, I look down, and everywhere I go/I'm happy there, I know, it's like a miracle"). Other than this, the English dub of the song is more like the Chinese version.

  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
    • "Out There" from gets this with the German translation. It is entitled "Einmal," meaning "Once" or "One time". The song repeats the phrase "Es War Einmal", literally translated means "It was once/one time" but is more similar in meaning to the English phrase "Once upon a time". It was retranslated for the stage version in Germany as "Draußen" ("Outside"), which is a great deal closer.
      • Likewise with the Japanese translation, which is entitled "Boku no negai", or "My Wish".
      • The title of the Swedish version translates to "Sunshine", while the title of the Finnish version translates to "[It] Opens", in the context "A new World opens to me".
    • The French translation of "Hellfire" changes Frollo's claims of "It's not my fault!" to him asking "Is it my fault?"
  • The Lion King (1994):
    • Scar's Villain Song, "Be Prepared", gets changed a lot. The most famous example is the Finnish version, which is entitled "Vallan Saan", meaning "The Power Will Be Mine".
      • In Italian it becomes "I'll be King".
      • In Polish it translates to "Time will come".
    • "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" becomes "Feel The Scent Of Love" in Swedish, no innuendo or mixed metaphors intended.
      • And in French it becomes "Love Shines Under The Stars".
      • In German it's "Could It Really Be Love?".
      • In Icelandic, it becomes "Love opens those bright eyes".
      • In Norwegian, it's "Fill your mind with love".
  • The Aristocats
    • The Greek version of "Ev'rybody Wants To Be A Cat" translates this to 'Many Cats Are Musical'.
      • In Italy it turns into "Everyone wants to play some Jazz".
      • In Germany it's "Cats need lots of music".
  • The Jungle Book (1967):
    • "Bear Necessities" obviously does not translate well in the Swedish version (the gist of the song is the same, but the pun is completely lost, although it was replaced by a different bear-related pun).
      • And the French version has no pun at all.
      • Same with the German version, which goes like "Let's try it the cozy way".
  • The French version of "I'm Still Here" from Treasure Planet is translated to "Un Homme Libre" ("A Free Man") and becomes less of a song about a boy telling off the universe to something more like 'if you feel like a reject, maybe you should run away'.
  • The Spanish version of "Pink Elephants on Parade" from Dumbo is called "Las Ánimas del terror" ("The Spirits of Terror"), and even calls them Satan's relatives.
  • Mulan's "I'll Make a Man Out of You":
    • The song became in Brazil "Não Vou Desistir de Nenhum" ("I Won't Give Up On Anyone"), with basically the same gist, but removing the ironic Sweet Polly Oliver reminders (aside from the "be a man!" chant).
    • In Portugal, it also left out the irony, but instead turned the meaning into "Um Terror Frio e Cru" ("A Cold and Raw Fright").
  • In the English version of "I Won't Say I'm in Love" from Hercules, Megara argues with the muses and refuses to admit that she is in love with Hercules. The Italian version, however, has her fully admit her feelings to the muses; she's refusing to confess them to Hercules.
  • The German and Italian translations of the "A Whole New World" from Aladdin are pretty far from the original, being called "Ein Traum wird wahr" ("A dream is coming true") and "Il mondo è mio" ("The world is mine") respectively. Both almost entirely change the meaning of the lyrics, leaving only the original overall meaning of "We're going to go away and start a new life together". The German translations of the other songs were much closer to the originals.
  • Downplayed with the French version of the duet between Anna and Hans in Frozen (2013), which keeps some of the verses similar to the original English meaning. However, it turns the song from "Love is an Open Door" into "L'amour est un Cadeau" ("Love is a Gift"), removing most of its references to the movie's door motif and changing the symbolism of the song so it no longer highlights Anna's belief that love is about connection.
  • Pixar had covers made for the original songs in Turning Red performed by boy bands such as Da-iCE for "Nobody Like U" in Japanese and W0LF(S) for "U Know What's Up" in Mandarin. The former has relatively faithful lyrics but the latter is almost completely different with the song being called "King's Pride" instead of "U Know What’s Up".

  • The Japanese version of Mumfie's Quest, released as a four-part VHS series and aired as 13 10-minute segments on NHK, has these changes to the songs:
    • The theme song is changed to be about how Mumfie has amazing friends and is going on an adventure. It is also sung by kids rather than adults.
    • The reprise to The Beginning of Things is changed to be about how Mumfie, Scarecrow and Pinkey are are going to leave for an adventure, with Scarecrow saying that the first steps he took make him want to sing a cheerful tune.
  • When Charles K. Feldman's Casino Royale (1967) was translated into French and German, it was considered a good idea to also record dubbed versions of Dusty Springfield's "The Look Of Love". Mireille Mathieu not only sang the French version "Les jeux d'amour", but also the German version "Ein Blick von dir". In 1970, she and Dusty re-recorded the English original, by the way.
  • The covers of David Bowie songs in Portuguese done for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou don't make any attempt at being faithful translations. Bowie still expressed his approval.

  • There are at least five different Chinese versions of the traditional hymn "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," none of which closely resemble the original.
  • Vietnamese covers of foreign-language songs almost always have different lyrics from the original. An example of this is the Japanese song "Rouge", which is about loneliness moving into a new city. When covered in Vietnamese, the title is changed to "Người Tình Mùa Đông" ("Winter Lovers"), and focuses on a woman who is too cold-hearted to her lover.
  • The Internationale, the international anthem of socialism, runs into this problem a lot. The original French lyrics are notoriously difficult to translate without breaking with the music, and/or devolving into the lyrical equivalent of Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness (which is hard to sing and understand—doubly bad for a song meant to be sung by angry factory workers at a protest). Translation into English has been particularly difficult—to the point that when Billy Bragg decided to cover it, he rewrote large chunks of it entirely—although it doesn't fare well in Chinese, either. The Russian version, on the other hand, has stood up fairly well.
  • The French lyrics of the Canadian national anthem "O Canada" are quite different from the English lyrics. The English is mostly a celebration of patriotism and brotherhood, while the French comes across as slightly martial (Car ton bras sait porter l'épée, Il sait porter la croix—"your arm can wield the sword, you can carry the cross"). However, the Maori lyrics of "God Defend New Zealand" are a decent approximation of the English lyrics.
  • Another famous example is "Comme d'habitude" ("As Usual") by Claude François, a song about a couple keeping the appearances while stuck in a loveless marriage. Paul Anka liked the melody and adapted it for his friend Frank Sinatra as a slightly sentimental "I Am" Song sung by a dying narrator. The resulting "My Way" was the hit that kept Sinatra from giving up on his music career, but ironically he came to loathe the lyrics as self-indulgent.
  • "Şımarık" by Tarkan, which is in Turkish, is a very popular song everywhere but in the United States. When Holly Valance of Australia translated it into English as "Kiss Kiss", the lyrics swapped the gender and person. "You're such a slut but I'm in love with you" turned into "I'm such a slut, aren't you in love with me?", thus turning the conflict and attraction in the original and mutilating it into a more wordy version of "Shut Up And Sleep With Me".
  • The Japanese translation of Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" makes the gist of the song less "I'm from a poor urban background and I thought marrying this guy would allow me to move up to better things but actually he's a good-for-nothing and I'm still just as stuck" and more "I'm an average girl and I thought marrying this guy would bring me excitement and adventure, but actually he works all day and then goes out drinking and I'm stuck at home with the kids." Culturally speaking, it's a pretty close approximation, but definitely not the same message.
  • "Jai Ho," from Slumdog Millionaire, originally celebrated a victory. The Pussycat Dolls cover turned it into a love song.
  • Basshunter does this at least once. The English version of "Camilla" is your typical Break-Up Song, with him obsessing over how he can't forget her and was wrong to dump her. In the Swedish version, he just wants to sleep with her.
  • Played With in Rammstein's English version of "Du hast". The pun with "hast" and "hasst" ("have" and "hate") is Lost in Translation so the English dub is stated not to be an explicit translation of the original German lyrics. Subverted as only the first chorus suffers from this; every other chorus is in German.
  • Nena's "99 Red Balloons", the English version of "99 Luftballons". Both are about a nuclear holocaust triggered by a stray bunch of balloons, but it's nothing like a line-for-line translation. The Spanish version of the song even changes the color of the SINGLE balloon in the song, and it's about having fantastic adventures.
  • Blümchen's "Ich bin wieder hier" note , a German-language remake of Rozalla's "Everybody's Free (To Feel Good)" note , has completely original lyrics.
  • For several years, especially during The '70s and The '80s, German lyricists and singers rewrote countless mostly English songs into German Schlagers with an entirely different meaning, sometimes even reusing the original backing tracks. Examples:
    • "Let Your Love Flow" by the Bellamy Brothers became the Cult Classic "Ein Bett im Kornfeld" by Jürgen Drews (with original backing tracks).
    • "The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down" by The Band became "Am Tag, als Conny Kramer starb" by Juliane Werding.
    • "Moonlight Shadow" by Mike Oldfield became "Nacht voll Schatten", again by Juliane Werding.
    • "City Of New Orleans" by Steve Goodman became "Wann wird's mal wieder richtig Sommer?" by Rudi Carrell.
    • "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath became "Der Hund von Baskerville" by Cindy & Bert. Yes, Heavy Metal gone Schlager.
    • The Melodians made "Rivers Of Babylon", an early, raw reggae song. Boney M. made a pop version which became "Die Legende von Babylon" by Bruce Low, sung upon Frank Farian's Boney M. backing tracks.
    • Frank Farian wrote German lyrics for "Rasputin" and "Belfast" to be performed by Gilla (he produced both her and Boney M.). Whereas German "Rasputin" is generally close to the English version, German lyrics of "Belfast" are much more detailed than English ones.
    • Die Strandjungs used to specialize in The Beach Boys covers with German lyrics, often with an radically different meaning.
    • Not to mention the many many parody translations (and parodies on already translated versions) by German comedians.
    • Some Schlager versions kept their original meanings. Examples:
      • Melanie sung "Look What They Done To My Song, Ma" in English and French. Daliah Lavi sang the German version "Wer hat mein Lied so zerstört?".
      • "Looking For Freedom" by Marc Seaberg became "Auf der Straße nach Süden" by Tony Marshall. Seaberg's, Marshall's, and David Hasselhoff's versions all use the same backing tracks.
      • Katja Ebstein's "Wein nicht um mich, Argentina" is a very faithful translation of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" from Evita.
    • Udo Lindenberg translated several English songs into German, not only keeping their general meaning, but also often staying as close to the original lyrics as possible while at the same time ditching the then-usual Schlager lyrics kitsch. "Ich sitz den ganzen Tag bei den Docks" ("(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding) is only one example. "Sympathie für den Teufel" translates the title of "Sympathy For The Devil" (The Rolling Stones) literally. On the other hand, he also rewrote The Beatles' "Penny Lane" into "Reeperbahn" which is about the demise of Hamburg's amusement quarter during The '70s.
    • And his "Sonderzug nach Pankow" is based on Glenn Millers Chattanooga Choo Choo.
  • Brazil also has a trend to translate foreign songs. At times it can fit. Others, The Cover Changes the Meaning ("Dragostea Din Tei" aka the Numa Numa song got a version about A Party, Also Known as an Orgy, and "Gangnam Style" got a version by the same artist that is about a bachelor party) or they do a phonetic translation with senseless lyrics (like this, based on David Bowie's "Starman").
  • In The '60s and The '70s, it was quite popular for singers to record German versions of their own hits.
    • The Beatles had "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" aka "Komm, gib mir deine Hand" and "She Loves You" aka "Sie liebt dich".
    • ABBA recorded their early hits "Ring, Ring" and "Waterloo" in German, too.
    • Cliff Richard covered and modified "Lucky Lips" by Ruth Brown in 1963, and while he was at it, he also recorded the German version "Rote Lippen soll man küssen".
    • Pussycat released English and German versions of "Mississippi" and "Georgie".
    • "One Way Wind" by the Cats (not to be confused with these or these Cats) is also known as "Sommerwind". Then again, the Cats were a German band.
  • "There's No Place Like Home" had a very popular translation into Japanese, keeping the domestic spirit but adding a more religious and vaguely nationalistic sentiment; it tends to turn up a lot in anime set in Japan in the early years of the 20th century (as on the phonograph in Grave of the Fireflies).
  • John Desire's translation of T.M.Revolution's "Hot Limit". What you get when an Italian lyricist tries to translate a Japanese song into English. In fact, just about any song that gets translated from Japanese to English or vice versa fits this trope.
  • Plastic Bertrand's Punk Rock novelty hit "Ça Plane Pour Moi" has the same backing track as "Jet Boy, Jet Girl" by the band Elton Motello, but it's not clear which set of lyrics for the track was the original and which was the cover. "Ça Plane Pour Moi" is in French and is a wacky, mostly nonsensical song about the slacker singer and his drunken misadventures. "Jet Boy, Jet Girl" is in English and is about a 15 year old boy in a sexual relationship with an older man. So, either way, someone really missed the point.
  • Latin pop star Thalia "translated" her own Spanish-language song Arrasando into English as It's My Party. They're essentially two unrelated lyrics set to the same music.
  • Anthrax reworked the song "Antisocial" by the French band Trust with lyrics in English. There is also another version in which the singers of both bands trade verses in their respective languages.
  • Many fans of the now ex-band t.A.T.u. agree that their Russian songs are better than their translated songs. The English versions are often semi-removed from their Russian counterparts. At times, the story the songs tell (especially from the first album) are a matter of In Name Only.
  • It's well-known that "Seasons in The Sun" is an English version of "Le Moribond" by Jacques Brel. When Rod McKuen did the translation he retained the lyrical concept (a dying man addresses family and friends) and the basic lyrical structure, but softened the lyrical tone. Brel's version has a complex stew of emotions (nostalgic, snarky, chipper, regretful) but is centered on the narrator revealing his awareness of his wife's infidelity. McKuen made the song more about reconciliation. For his hit version Terry Jacks eliminated two of McKuen's verses and added one of his own, which drove it deep into sappy territory.
  • Chthonic usually have songs with Taiwanese lyrics while international versions have English lyrics. Some English songs still have Taiwanese lyrics in them though, such as "Kaoru".
  • Eamon's "Fuck It (I Don't Want you back)" had an Italian cover named "Solo" ("Alone"), whose lyrics are not only profanity-free, but also describe a situation quite different from the one in the original song (albeit J-Ax, the Italian rapper who wrote the Italian lyrics, said that the Italian version is meant as a sequel to the English one, with the main character desperately trying to get his girlfriend back after he called her a whore).
  • Kate Ryan's "Scream for More" became "Mon cœur résiste encore" in French, which roughly translates to "My heart still stands".
  • A very odd example is ABBA's "Fernando". It exists in three versions (English, Spanish and Swedish), all written by Björn Ulvaeus; the English one seems to deal with the memories of an armed conflict involving Mexicans, the Spanish one is about the same but probably set in Spain, whereas the Swedish one is just about the consolation after a tough break-up.
  • Canadian singer Patsy Gallant's disco hit "From New York To LA" is set to the melody of Gilles Vigneault's ballad "Mon Pays" ("My Land"). Besides changing the tempo, Gallant also completely altered the original French lyrics (a sentimental ode to Quebec that's become an unofficial anthem there) into a different song about discos and nightlife. Gallant had done a disco version of "Mon Pays" and wanted to do an English version, but decided a straight translation wouldn't appeal to Anglophone listeners.
  • "Tu es foutu" ("You're screwed") by In-grid, who is actually Italian and not French, was redone in English as "You Promised Me".
  • The Greek version of "The Mr. Men Songs" changes some songs' subjects:
    • Mr. Snow's song is now about Mr. Busy and Mr. Slow.
    • Little Miss Neat's song talks about Mr. Daydream.
    • Little Miss Trouble's song's tune is used for a song about Little Miss Giggles.
    • Mr. Grumpy's song replaces him with Mr. No.
    • Mr. Clumsy's song is now about Mr. Messy.
    • Mr. Dizzy's song talks about Mr. Cheeful and Little Miss Fun.
    • The tune of Mr. Perfect's song is used for Little Miss Sunshine.
    • Mr. Nosey's song talks about Little Miss Naughty.
    • Mr. Uppity's song drops him in favor of a party theme.
    • Mr. Brave's song now talks about the Mr. Men being in a train.
    • Mr. Worry's song is about the Mr. Men on the beach.
  • The classic Italian song "Santa Lucia" is a celebration of Naples and its waterfront Santa Lucia district. The actual Saint Lucia has her feast day on the 13th of December, which in Scandinavia has become a popular pre-Christmas holiday. One of the usual customs is to sing a Nordic-language translation (there are a whole bunch) of "Santa Lucia" that instead focuses on the holiday, often talking about winter, the saint herself, and the custom of having a young girl wear a crown of candles (symbolizing a legend about Lucia).
  • After "Eres Tu" by Mocedades became a success as Spain's entry in the Eurovision Song Contest, the group recorded an English-language version called "Touch the Wind", which rather than a direct translation had totally different lyrical content; the original is a poetic Silly Love Song, while "Touch the Wind" is about The One That Got Away. In America, both versions were placed together on the same 45 RPM single, but, surprisingly, Top 40 radio ignored the English version and instead the Spanish version became a Top 10 hit. Eydie Gorme managed to score a minor hit with "Touch the Wind", however.
  • The 1906 hymn "Over in the Glory Land" went on a strange journey from Gospel Music into becoming a Jazz and Bluegrass standard, then jumped to Europe via a popular version by Skiffle pioneer Lonnie Donegan. From there, it became the Swedish pop song "Kärleksland" ("Love land"), taking what was originally an American hymn about going to Heaven and turning it into a song about falling in love. Then it got similar translations in other Scandinavian languages, then became an instrumental called "Lapland" (which, in turn, got an American Cover Version that became a minor hit), then became a popular Danish song called "Så går vi til enkebal" ("Let's go to a widow's ball").
  • "Those Were the Days", the Folk Music standard that became a big international hit for Mary Hopkin in 1968 (an Apple Records release produced by Paul McCartney) was essentially a fresh set of English lyrics by Columbia University professor Gene Raskin for "Dorogoi dlinnoyu" ("Дорогой длинною," "The long road"), a 1924 Russian song. Raskin's lyrics are completely different from the original content-wise (it's a song about The One That Got Away, based around sleigh riding imagery), but still keep close to the original's tone of regret and longing for the past (which was often taken to be a veiled critique of life after the 1917 Soviet revolution).
  • Masato Ibu's spoken word version of the Sammy Davis Jr. song "Don't Blame the Children" is, in Japanese, probably the complete opposite message. The original criticizes adults for blaming delinquent youth for how they turned out when they were the ones who provided those kids with the neglect and narcotics that fostered their rebellion. Meanwhile, Ibu's cover is much more comedic, instead telling the audience his contradictory feelings on children; that he hates them and thinks they're spoiled, too energetic, and insensitive, but also innocent.
  • Puffy AmiYumi has the song "Akai Buranko (Red Swing)", with the English version on the same album being known as "Planet Tokyo". "Akai Buranko" has somewhat solemn lyrics about two childhood friends longing for the happiness and endless possibilities of their youth, and desiring to reconnect with each other despite life dragging them in different directions. In contrast, "Planet Tokyo" is essentially an "I Am Great!" Song about how awesome listening to their music will make you feel.
  • Polish rock band Budka Suflera covered Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" as "Sen o Dolinie" ("Dream of a Valley"), with lyrics about nostalgia and being tired of day-to-day drudgery.
  • DA PUMP's "USA" was based on a song by Joe Yellow. While the original English version was a love song, their version, which is in Japanese, is a salute to the United States.
  • "Silent Night" is a fairly loose English translation of the original "Stille nacht", but translator John Freeman Young kept it conceptually close to Joseph Mohr's original German lyrics. However, the big changes are in the first verse. Mohr implicitly mentions Joseph ("Nur das traute hochheilige Paar"; "Only the close, most holy couple") and assigns a hairstyle to baby Jesus ("Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar"; "Blessed boy in curly hair"), while Young changes these to the familiar "Round yon virgin mother and child, holy infant so tender and mild." There are also several other known English translations, including a more faithful one by Frank Peterson ("Just the faithful and holy pair,Lovely boy-child with curly hair") and a semi-faithful one by Bettina Klein ("Round yon godly tender pair, Holy infant with curly hair"), although these failed to displace Young's translation as the most well known.
  • "Jingle Bells" is the Christmas Standard Snippet, despite famously not mentioning the holiday at all in the lyrics. Spanish translations, however, explicitly make it a Christmas song by replacing "Jingle bells, jingle bells" with "Navidad, Navidad".
  • "Solitaire" by Martine Clémenceau describes the narrator completely shutting themself away from society and is at least implied to take place during nuclear war. Laura Branigan's cover, on the other hand, features entirely different English lyrics about a woman who breaks up with her partner after he becomes neglectful towards her and refuses to reconcile with him when he appears to show remorse.
  • Charles Trenet's "La Mer" ("The Sea") is about the narrator's love for the sea itself. Jack Lawrence's English rewrite "Beyond the Sea" is an almost entirely new song, about the narrator's pining for his lover who lives on the other side of the sea.
  • "La Musique", first recorded by French singer Nicoletta in 1967, then becoming a huge hit in the country in 2001 as the theme song of the reality TV singing competition Star Academy, is an inspiring Hymn to Music. Upon learning that it's a French rendition of the American pop ballad "Angelica", written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (and recorded by Scott Walker, among many others), anyone who seeks out the original will be shocked to learn that it's a morbid Melodrama about a man mourning his wife's untimely death.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Most Sesame Street dubs change the meaning of the songs a good deal, particularly in Dutch (for example: "Do De Rubber Duck" becomes "Zoek de Zeep," or "Find the Soap" — despite Ernie prominently displaying his rubber duckie in the song). Germany, however, takes it a step further: songs not only get different lyrics, they have completely different tunes.
  • The Croatian HRT version of LazyTown has a song that not only has different lyrics but is in fact a completely different song, as in it was copied and pasted from a different episode. In "Defeeted", the song "Always a Way" was replaced with "Twenty Times Time" — the former is about not giving up when you struggle while the latter is about dental care, so that means Stephanie sings about brushing your teeth in order to help Sportacus walk again.
  • In the first Italian dub of The Muppet Show, the lyrics to "Halfway down the Stairs" have been changed to turn the song into a criticism towards people that do nothing useful all day.

  • Les Misérables was originally adapted to a musical in French. When the English version was created a lot of the tunes were kept, but they had to be extensively rewritten and a few extra songs were added as well.
  • Kristina, the English language version of the Swedish musical Kristina från Duvemåla, is littered with this even though Björn Ulvaeus (who wrote the original lyrics) helped to translate it. It's really jarring to listen to given how close attention Ulvaeus paid to the source material when he wrote the original lyrics (several lines are direct quotes, or as close as possible, from the novels) and yet with the English language version they didn't bother much with the accuracy.
    • One example is from the song You Have To Be There. In the original Kristina sings: "But you took my child" in reference to her recent miscarriage. In the English version she sings: "First you killed my child, when her life had scarce begun", referring to Anna, her daughter who died more than ten years earlier. It may not seem like that big of a deal if you just listen to the song out of its context but within the musical the whole reason why she questions God's existence is due to her miscarriage.

    Video Games 
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Utada Hikaru's Japanese song "Hikari" was adapted into the English song "Simple and Clean" for the international release of Kingdom Hearts. While the two songs feature the same tune, "Simple and Clean" is not a direct translation of "Hikari," and the meaning of its lyrics is quite different. Utada is bilingual, and wrote the lyrics for both, making it an interesting case of self-adaptation. Furthermore, the chorus is sung differently in the two versions. The instrumental orchestra version retains the Japanese chorus.
    • Same thing for Kingdom Hearts II as the Japanese version used "Passion", and the English version used "Sanctuary". Both were written and sung by Utada. In an interesting twist, "Sanctuary" was the one written first, while "Passion" was the adaptation. Utada had the melody planned before the lyrics, and they had to come up with an alternate melody to fit the Japanese lyrics.
    • The same case applies to Utada's songs for Kingdom Hearts III, "Face My Fears" and "Don't Think Twice," the latter of which is called "Chikai" in Japanese. "Face My Fears" notably has the same English title and chorus in Japanese, but in both songs, the Japanese lyrics have a different meaning than their English counterparts.
  • The European version of the Inazuma Eleven games zig-zag this trope:
    • The first game features a dubbed version of the anime adaptation's first opening theme, Tachiagariiyo, with lyrics rewritten to be all about playing soccer. The Italian dub just uses the same version of the theme song used in the dub of the anime, which haves more classic "describing the show's premise" lyrics.
    • When the second game was released in Europe, the opening was once again a translated version of the Japanese one, albeit with lyrics more faithful to the original version when compared with the first game's.
    • Inazuma Eleven Strikers just had its opening theme replaced with an instrumental version. The lyrics were taken out completely.
  • WarioWare: Touched!: Both versions of Ashley's theme are Bragging Theme Tunes, but the Japanese version is about how everyone loves her while the English version is about how she's a scary Creepy Child. Super Smash Bros. Brawl then remixed both versions and put them in the same game, which finally meant English players could hear the Japanese version and Japanese ones could hear the English version as well as their local equivalents.
  • The English versions of "Lunar (Fighting Through the Darkness)", "Wind's Nocturne", and "Wings" in Lunar: The Silver Star and its remake had new, completely different lyrics made up for them rather than being direct translations. Despite the lyrics for "Wings" being made up and not based on the original, it still manages to keep the overall meaning of the song. The meaning of "Wind's Nocturne" is quite different in the English version, the Japanese version is a love song about Luna's budding feelings for Alex, while the English version is about Luna being unsure about her place in the world and what she wants to do with her life. One of the remakes rerecorded the English versions of the songs with more faithful lyrics, but many people weren't fond of the change due to them sounding awkward, or just nostalgia.
  • Working Designs had a habit of doing this with most of their song dubs. Compare the lyrics of the English dubbed version of "Unyielding Wish" from Magic Knight Rayearth used in their localization of the game vs the more faithfully translated lyrics used in the Mediablasters dub of the anime. Either way, both versions have the exact same overall meaning.

    Western Animation 
  • Popples
    • The French version. The first line translates to the same thing as the original, but the second verse is changed from "Living just for fun" to "They will make you laugh", the verse after that "Laughter, good times too" is now "Children and even the big people", "When the Popples pop-pop" for you is "Everyone loves the Popples!" and the last line, "They pop up just for you!" is "They come out just for you!".
    • The Korean intro has different lyrics. The word "Popples" is in every other sentence, except for the ending.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The Italian version of "Winter Wrap Up" is named "Basta Inverno" ("Enough with the Winter"), and instead of talking about how much fun winter has been, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie's lines at the beginning talk about how much winter is the worst season ever ("In these three months of cold winter we were forced to stay at home, never getting out neither for work nor for fun").
    • The German version is called "Winter-Ade-Tag" ("Winter Farewell Day"), but most bronies understood "Winter-Tee-Tag" ("Winter Tea Day").
    • Original Croatian dub:
      • "Love Is In Bloom" is drastically different; instead of Twilight singing about the marriage of Shining Armor and Cadance, she sings about "passing the test" and "dismissing your doubts" — and these lyrics just so happen to belong to The Success Song, a song that comes from a completely different episode.
      • Downplayed with "The Flim Flam Brothers". Although the lyrics still bear some relevance, they were for some reason changed so that Flim and Flam sing about themselves more than about their machine that they're trying to advertise. Hilariously, one of the lines in the translated lyrics also has them very unsubtly claim that "we're not swindlers", something that likewise wasn't present in the original English version.
  • Since the Italian dub of Wander over Yonder shortens the title to just Wander, the theme song fills its lyrics by repeating not only the show's title like the original version, but also that it's a Disney show.
  • Somewhat common in Greek dubs of shows distributed by Modern Times:
    • The original intro of Garfield and Friends talks about friendship's importance. The Greek dub's lyrics are mostly telling Garfield not to eat too much or be mischievous, ending with "Even if you're fat and constantly sleep, you're the only cat I love!".
    • The Greek dub of Donkey Kong Country extends the intro a bit.
  • The Japanese theme song of Curious George is not only played at a higher pitch than the original song, but uses the instrumental version played over the end credits.
  • In the Super Mario World episode "Gopher Bash", Cheatsy Koopa sings a song about how he's the to-go man for any evil scheme. The Italian dub, while keeping a similar tone, adds stuff like Cheatsy feeling like a god every time King Koopa picks him for his plans and changes one of the evil deeds he can do from "put some grandma on the street" to "throw your grandma out from the taxi cab". Also, when Mario, Luigi and Yoshi hijack the Monty Mole that sing alongside him, they change the chorus lyrics from "and then he feels strong like a god" to "and then his brain says goodbye".
  • The English theme song for Teen Titans talks about how powerful and courageous the titular team is, and how any villain that enters their path will inevitably be curb-stomped. The Japanese lyrics, on the other hand, begins with an odd word salad verse before running with the understandable but incorrect presumption that the show is a Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World cartoon, with the lyrics being about homework and chores more than anything. In an unique case of this trope, both versions were created specifically for the original American airing of the series, which would switch between both versions depending on how serious that episode's plot was; if the Cold Open didn't tip you off to the fact that today's episode would be a bizarre one, Puffy AmiYumi singing in their native language would.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • Perhaps one of the weirdest examples happens in the Latin American Spanish dub of the episode "Whale of a Birthday", where the lyrics of "4 Ply" were changed to Squidward telling the audience how "hysterical" is his butt and that he only uses soft toilet paper, otherwise he will cry.
    • While in the first 9 seasons of the Italian dub the theme song was either just an instrumental piece or left in English, from Season 10 onwards it was dubbed in Italian. While the original lyrics are pretty generic and just tell about how SpongeBob is a sponge and has wacky adventures, the Italian ones are more descriptive of the titular character, mentioning how he struggles to take his driving license, makes Krabby Patties and how Squidward and Patrick are his friends.