In this year’s BBC John Peel lecture, Brian Eno said that one of the failings of modern-day music critics is that they pay too much attention to song lyrics. As part of Roxy Music, Eno played on two of the greatest pop singles of all time – Virginia Plain and Pyjamarama – where the words add to the atmosphere but when considered apart from the music are ,at best, enigmatic, at worst, plain jibberish.
Even when songs do have an obvious meaning or tell a story, they should not be viewed in the same way as poems or works of fiction. This is why the ‘Rock In Translation’ slot of Italy’s Virgin Radio makes for such a torturous listening experience. On this, a woman earnestly reads the translated lyrics to popular tunes as though she were helping to impart some meaningful insight into the human condition. Lines in the vein of “come on baby rock me all night long” are rendered into Italian as though they were some kind of profound comments on the nature of loving relationships. Continue reading