St. Vincent’s DeJamz: international artists

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(Graphic by Max Kleiner / The DePaulia)

(Graphic by Max Kleiner / The DePaulia)

To spice things up a little different from last week’s issue of local sound by Chicago’s young artists, this week’s selection is entirely compiled of not only international artists, but also songs not in the English language. Whether it’s songs that have reached the tippy top of the U.S. music charts or others that may slip by and gone unknown, the beauty of the various languages in these songs is a stark reminder to open our ears to music we may not understand.

From Europe to Asia and rock to pop, here are just a few of the endless songs that make music special to every country and every person in this shared world.

1. Nena — “99 Luftballons”

While you may have heard its English version (“99 Red Balloons” by Kevin McAlea), released the same time as German band, Nena’s, original hit. Released in 1983, the undeniably catchy anti-war protest song hit the top of the charts across a number of countries in Europe. Since its debut, the song has found itself imbedded into pop culture of both Germany and the United States, playing routinely in various films and television shows. “99 Luftballons” is sure to get anyone dancing like it’s the 1980s.

2. Sigur Rós— “Hoppípolla”

I couldn’t tell you what this song is about, and I would recommend not even looking up the translation behind “Hoppípolla” because it takes away the mysterious beauty behind the Icelandic single. Possibly the most well known song by the Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós, Hoppípolla exemplifies the feeling of bittersweet happiness that the band’s sound is known for. The band’s frontman and lead guitarist Jónsi, has made his mark on a number of American film soundtracks like the “How to Train Your Dragon” series, along with director Cameron Crowes’ “We Bought a Zoo” and “Vanilla Sky.”

3. Andrea Bocelli— “Con te partirò”

Much like “99 Luftballons,” you may not recognize the name of this Italian operatic pop song, but you have probably heard its English version, “Time to Say Goodbye.” The song itself gives “Hoppípolla” a run for its money for the most beautiful song on this list, as Bocelli’s impressive and unbreakable voice would be quite hard to beat. Most would probably recognize the song from its magnificent cover by Will Ferrell and DePaul alum John C. Reilly, at the end of their popular comedy film, “Step Brothers.”

4. Psy — “Gangnam Style”

I apologize in advance, but it is impossible to compile a list of international music hits and not include what is arguably the biggest foreign language song to blow up the U.S. music charts in recent years. Created by South Korean musician, Psy, “Gangnam Style” took over pop culture as a phenomenon in 2012 as millions –including President Obama and other world leaders – began to replicate Psy’s amusing signature dance moves in parody music videos of the song. While the hype and popularity of the song, as well as Psy’s career in the U.S., may have died down, “Gangnam Style” still remains a key example of how fast songs from other countries can take over the pop culture world.