Eurovision Song of the Week: Madness of Love (Italy, 2011)

The first language I wanted to learn because of Eurovision was Italian. In my opinion, Italy has sent some of the best songs in the contest’s 60 years — including the years it did not win!

I think 2011’s Madness of Love (originally Follia d’Amore) is a good follow-up to last week’s Amar Pelos Dois. (Link to its ESotW post) Both are jazz songs: Madness of Love is stride piano jazz, while Amar Pelos Dois is a jazz waltz.

First Impressions

As before, let’s start with the recording of Madness of Love that most Eurovision fans heard first. This is the edited “official” version, which has an equal mix of Italian and English in the lyrics.

What do you think? I’m not a fan of adding new English lyrics to a song, just to make it more popular among voters. But in Eurovision, it seems to work. (That is, it seems to earn a lot of points from many different countries.) And at least it’s better than translating the whole song into English!

Dire si, dire mai non è facile, sai
And all the world around you seems to slip and disappear
Io non so più chi sei, non mi importa chi sei
I know for certain I won’t bother you with nostalgia

Ma vedrai un altro me in un sogno fragile
Riderai come se non ti avessi amato mai
Cercherai un altro me oltre all’ombra di un caffè
Troverai solo me
Se mi fermo un attimo, io non so più chi sei

Qui si vive così, day by day, night by night
But all the world around us slips away and disappears
I can’t live in your eyes, I can’t read in your mind
But someone hit me and I fell into your heart, my dear

And you’ll fly over lands where your eyes can’t find the end
Up on mountains, down lakes, through the clouds, out of your pains
You’ll be fine, you’ll be fine, all your troubles you won’t mind
Then you’ll land in my heart
Being so far away from you just makes me feel so dead

E vedrai un’altra te, quasi invincibile
Viva come non mai ed è li che tu mi avrai
Oltre false magie l’orizzonte sarai
Splenderai, splenderai, splenderai, splenderai

Most Eurovision songs that add English to the original language put the English at the end. They give a “So that is what the song is about!” effect. Madness of Love is very different: the first verse is half-Italian, half-English; the first refrain is all Italian; the second verse is mostly in English; the second refrain is in all English; and the last refrain is the original Italian. If there had to be an edit of Follia d’Amore, I’m glad it was this one. Ending with the original language keeps a national song strong. And the repeated “Splenderai” hook is hard to beat!

Further Consideration

I’ve been familiar with Madness of Love for a long time, but did not listen to Follia d’Amore until last week. Listen to the original with me:

It’s not at all like the other Italian love songs I have “studied.” It lacks the expected romantic lines, like “Ti voglio bene” or “Non posso vivere senza te.” Instead of being emotional, it is abstract. The singer and his beloved seem too separated from each other: There are many first-person singular and second-person singular verbs, but few first-person plural verbs. The only exception sounds like a generalization: “Tutti quanti siamo in orbita nella follia” (“All of us are in the orbit of madness”). Even the ending seems too individual: “Splenderai” (“You will shine”) rather than “Splenderemo” (“We will shine”).

In short, if I didn’t know the title and was hearing it for the first time, I might not have known it was a love song!

I also had to use an Italian-German dictionary a lot, for words I didn’t remember. I probably should have used it for all the words, because there was one I thought I remembered but really did not. The song mentions “un altro me” and “un’altra te” — “another me” and “another you.” But instead of recalling the Latin root “alter,” I saw the German word “alt” (“old”). And until I finally looked up a proper translation, I really thought the prediction was about “an old me” and “an old you”! Understandably, the refrains made more sense after that!

Lost and Found in Translation

This time, instead of comparing covers to the original, I will compare the two official versions.

Most of the translated lyrics have very different meanings. For instance, the line, “I know for certain I won’t bother you with nostalgia,” was originally “Mi basta perdere l’incanto della nostalgia” (“For me it is enough to lose the charm of nostalgia”). What both lyrics keep is the sense that nostalgia is something negative — something the singer does not want either himself or his lover to have. They’re practically the same line, compared to the huge change we see in the English refrain.

The English refrain is meant to be a translation of the last refrain, which we still hear in Italian. Here is a more literal translation of it: “And you’ll see another you/ Almost invincible/ Alive as never before/ And that’s when you’ll have me/ Over the false spells, you’ll be the sky/ And you’ll shine.” (Link) But the English lyrics go: “And you’ll fly over lands/ Where your eyes can’t find the end/ Up on mountains, down lakes/ Through the clouds, out of your pains/ You’ll be fine, you’ll be fine/ All your troubles you won’t mind . . .”

I’m not sure where the landscape imagery came from. It’s nowhere else in the Italian original. And the philosophical idea of “seeing another you” is totally lost in the description of lands that “your eyes can’t find the end of.” In fact, one is about being able to see and the other is about not being able to see! But I’m just glad, once again, that this did not become the “official” last refrain. “You’ll be fine” would have been a very weak substitute for “Splenderai”!

Would you have voted for Madness of Love in the Eurovision final?

2 thoughts on “Eurovision Song of the Week: Madness of Love (Italy, 2011)

  1. The all-Italian is massively better. The part-English also seems to me to break the unwritten rule that even if you adapt to a new language, it should shed more light, not less, on the rest of the song.

    Just from what I can follow, I agree that it seems rather odd for a love song. I almost get the impression (although admittedly, my impression is based on very little that’s informed) that it would make more sense as a song about someone in love with someone who does not actually reciprocate, but might.

    1. Cristina @Linguavert

      The half-English version is just more confusing!

      I’ll see your suggestion of unrequited love and raise you a scenario in which the beloved barely knows that the would-be lover exists! He could be singing of what he wishes would happen in the future, but isn’t doing much to get the ball rolling in the present.

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