Eurovision Song of the Week: Há Sempre Alguém (Portugal, 1990)

Although Portugal did not win Eurovision until this year, Portuguese is a lovely musical language. Today I’d like to feature another Portuguese song, not just for my “Tourist Portuguese” project (Link), but also because I have found a really nice one. Há Sempre Alguém is a fun pop song that I like singing along to.

First Impressions

Portugal selects its Eurovision song through its own Festival da Canção (Festival of Song). Here is a clip of Nucha’s festival performance of Há Sempre Alguém. (I have no idea what Laurel and Hardy impersonators were doing there.)

My own first impressions are mostly favorable. The melody is fun and catchy; I can imagine Há Sempre Alguém becoming a hit on the radio. After hearing it once, I could hum the chorus! Then I looked up the lyrics, so I could also sing along.

As usual, Portuguese spelling was no help with Portuguese pronunciation. Like the time I listened to Amar Pelos Dois (Link), my knowledge of Italian and Spanish did not help me with the words at all. For instance, “alguém” sounds like a mispronounced Spanish “alguien.” But after I read an English translation, then listened to the song again, individual words started to make sense. When I knew the last line of the chorus was about dreaming, I understood the word “sonho”!

Há Sempre Alguém sounds like many other pop songs from 1990; so maybe back then, it didn’t stand out. In 2017, however, it sounds refreshing! If I had heard it twenty-seven years ago, I think I would have still liked it. But maybe not as much as I like it now.

Further Consideration

As we have seen with other Eurovision Songs of the Week, the live ESC performance can really add meaning to a song. I believe this was also the case with Há Sempre Alguém.

The chorus already had a nice message:

Sempre, há sempre alguém
Que ainda não tem o tanto que temos
Sempre, há sempre alguém
No canto do mundo que sonha também

There is always someone who doesn’t have as much as we have . . . There is always in the corner of the world someone who dreams along . . . It reminds us of how blessed we are, without making others in the world sound deprived. If someone can dream along with us, he is not truly poor! The message becomes bigger on the Eurovision stage. “O tanto que temos” or “as much as we have” sounds more abundant when “we” means not just Portugal, but twenty-one other European countries. And the “canto do mundo” or corner of the world seems closer when we remember that the number of Eurovision participants grows every year. Há Sempre Alguém is an anthem of wlecome.

I do have one suggested edit. Instead of “sonhar” (to dream), I think “cantar” (to sing) would have emphasized the power of shared music and given the last line of the chorus a play on words. (“Canto” can mean both a corner and a song!) But Há Sempre Alguém is very good as it is.

Lost (and Found) in Translation

I was surprised to learn that there is an English version of Há Sempre Alguém!

Sadly, this is one of the songs that gets lost in translation. Together isn’t a proper English version of the original, but something completely different. It takes an idea from the end of the second verse — “Cantemos unidos” or “Let’s sing together” — and builds a new song out of it.

But the real problem is that Together sounds cheap and uninspiring. I don’t know whether it’s the English language or the choice of imagery in the metaphors. Take the hook in the chorus: “Together we will sing this song/ And carry it along as far as the rainbow.” The rainbow metaphor should not be so bad; it gives the uplifting idea of surviving the rain. But in English it just sounds so trite. In contrast, the original has lines like: “As vozes do vento e as ondas do mar/ Trouxeram este novo dia” — The voices of the wind and the waves of the sea/ Brought this new day. (Translation by Diggiloo Thrush) But they somehow sound great!

Very few juries agreed with me back in 1990, however: Há Sempre Alguém placed third from last in the final. Is your opinion closer to theirs or to mine?

Would you have voted for Há Sempre Alguém in Eurovision 1990?

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