Eurovision Song of the Week: Amar Pelos Dois (Portugal, 2017)

Let’s begin this new series on Eurovision songs with this year’s winner: Amar Pelos Dois (To Love for Two) from Portugal. It’s a logical first choice because of my new “(Eurovision) Tourist Portuguese” project (Link). But the whole truth is that I started that project partly for an excuse to learn this song!

First Impressions

If you don’t know Portuguese, let’s start with something fun. Listen to the song and tell me your first impressions. I’ll share mine, too, of course! The following video is the first recording of Amar Pelos Dois that most Eurovision fans heard.

Isn’t it lovely? Sobral’s jacket is much too big for him, but it fits his quirky artist persona. Amar Pelos Dois is obviously a love song (even for those who don’t know the Latin roots of the words in the title), but what can we tell about the “dois” lovers? I had thought they were together and celebrating their love. When I finally translated the lyrics, I was surprised to learn the story was sadder than that.

If you know another Romance language, was it easy to figure out the Portuguese? My basic knowledge of Italian — which is still very helpful when I listen to Italian love songs — did not help at all here. Instead, the lyrics sounded like strange Tagalog, English and German. For instance, the line, “Eu sei que não se ama sozinho” first sounded like, “You say genauso Ama . . .” (“Genauso” is German for “just as.” And “Ama” is Tagalog for “father.”)

Further Consideration

The real meaning of “Eu sei que não se ama sozinho” is, “I know no one loves alone.” The thought extends into the next line: “Talvez devagarinho possas voltar a aprender” — “Maybe, slowly you could learn again.” It may not be logical, but it is definitely lyrical! And it’s my favorite part of the song: the moment when moping sadness transforms into a hope that is ready to move forward.

I was able to translate the first line on my own, but not the second. I’m not yet sure what Portuguese does with the verb “voltar.” And perhaps it is beyond the scope of “Tourist Portuguese” to go deeper.

Here are the rest of the lyrics, if you want to analyze them some more:

Se um dia alguém
Perguntar por mim
Diz que vivi
ara te amar
Antes de ti
Só existi
Cansado e sem nada p’ra dar

Meu bem
Ouve as minhas preces
Peço que regresses
Que me voltes a querer

Eu sei
Que não se ama sozinho
Talvez devagarinho
Possas voltar a aprender

Se o teu coração
Não quiser ceder
Não sentir paixão
Não quiser sofrer
Sem fazer planos
Do que virá depois
O meu coração
Pode amar pelos dois

Lost and Found in Translation

Eurovision songs used to be sung in their country’s language and then translated into the other major participants’ languages. Amar Pelos Dois does not have official translations, but fans are filling the demand.

Here is a fan version in German, “Für uns zwei” (For us two):

On the whole it’s a very close translation. I’m impressed.

My favorite part has become: “Ich weiß, alleine ist nicht Liebe/ Vielleicht erlenst du wieder/ Schritt für Schritt und im Prinzip.” Instead of “devagarinho” (very slowly), we have “Schritt für Schritt” (step by step), which I think is acceptable. It emphasizes the sense of moving forward in hope. But this version also adds “im Prinzip” (in essence), which adds extra meaning. The beloved should not just learn to love again, but also learn the essence of love.

What I don’t like is the singer’s interpretation. He makes the song sound very old-fashioned — something my great-grandmother might like!

For a little more fun, here is a (much modern-sounding) English version — Both of Us:

Its translation of the same line: “I know that one can’t love alone/ But maybe by tomorrow I won’t love you on my own.”

Personally, I would have changed the last part to: “. . . I won’t love all on my own.” The original translation is slightly awkward; it could mean that the lover expects a future rival! I feel that my edit better captures the blend of loneliness, longing and hope in the original.

Would you have voted for Amar Pelos Dois during the Eurovision Final?

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