Thursday, 17 April 2014

Something Better for Eurovision

Recently, Finland selected the song that will represent the country in this year's annual celebration of kitsch and bland that is the Eurovision Song Contest. 

Something Better” by Softengine is somewhat predictable and inoffensive, though not unpleasant. However, it does stand out for its frankly puzzling English lyrics.

Finns usually speak excellent English (indeed often more grammatically correct than that spoken by native English speakers). But with Softengine’s ditty, there is a definite impression that something got lost in translation.

Just consider the opening lines:
Even human bound / People rolling dice / Image on the ground / Such a novel life
What?

This got me thinking... Maybe the true meaning of the song could be reverse-engineered.

So I put the lyrics into Google Translate to get their Finnish “equivalent”, then translated them back into English using the same tool.

This double-translation method has a long history of producing interesting results, including the probably apocryphal (but definitely excellent) transformation of the expression “out of sight, out of mind” into “blind, insane”.

Not surprisingly, the result of the English-Finnish-English translation of “Something Better” proved to be fairly inconclusive.

Maybe Softengine translated their lyrics from Swedish? Again, Google-translating to Swedish and back did not improve clarity. So then I went all out and tried double-translating via various languages.

What I hoped would be “Something [Even] Better” ended up being just as odd and meaningless as the original:

Even human bound
  Finnish 
Even the man tied to the
People rolling dice
  Swedish 
People rolling dice
Image on the ground
  Russian 
Preview on earth
Such a novel life
  French 
This new life
He thought while knowing nothing at all
  Hungarian 
He thought as he knew, no one does anything
Every option noted
  French 
Each option to rate
Or tendency made
  French 
Trend or fact
They will carry on until the perfect day
  Swahili 
Takes a full day on the border
She said while knowing nothing at all
  Finnish 
He said , knowing nothing

So that turned out to be quite a pointless exercise really (was it ever going to be otherwise?). Clearly, Softengine’s lyrics were meant to be enjoyed as unfathomable, and inadvertently amusing as they are.


What's your favourite weird song lyric(s)? Do share!

3 comments:

  1. The lyrics are about an old man who reminisces about his life from childhood to the present day. He has always been dissatisfied with his life as it seems that he never achieved anything and has not done anything out of the ordinary. However, after his wife died the man begins to understand that all this means nothing and realizes that what he and his wife had was "Something Better" than he could have ever achieved.

    The fact that his wife died is revealed in the end of the song during the song's climax in a very emotional way. So if these aren't great lyrics and if this is not a great song then I don't know what great lyrics and great songs are. The band members are only between 16 and 20 years old (!) and despite being very young they wrote these deeply philosophic lyrics and this beautiful composition completely on their own, which I think is remarkable. Also they found a way to perfectly transform the emotions of what the song is about into music. When listening to the song think of the old man reminiscing about his life and you will see what I mean.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well thanks for the explanation, Anonymous! I did see a similar explanation (from you?) in the comments of the YouTube video subsequent to writing that piece. I am guessing from your vigorous defence of the lyrics that you are somehow connected to the band...

      The idea behind the lyrics is indeed good, but I think it would be an overstatement to claim the actual lyrics are great, not least because they are, well, not-quite English. But, as you said, the members of the band are young, so allowances should be made.

      Delete
  2. Hi, just discovered your blog. As a Finn I find it interesting to read about finnish language and other stuff from a foreign perspective :D

    ReplyDelete