I thought he was over, but he’s not going quietly, is he? PSY, the hit maker behind the #2 smash, “Gangnam Style”, is back with a new song that’s already burning up social media and climbing on iTunes. The new single, entitled “Gentleman”, is another catchy ditty from the performer that’s primarily sung in Korean, but has a few lines in English, at least more so than what’s in “Style”. Plus, it has its own dance and quirky video, etc., so expect that to at least be another top-40 hit for me. With Billboard changing their Hot 100 formula several months ago to include data from YouTube, it may even go to #1, meaning the magazine will essentially “right their wrongs” for denying “Style” a place at the top. (Although, who knows? With that kind of strategy, every single by him could shoot up to the top now.)
Plenty of performers have sent one song into the top 40 that’s sung in a foreign language: “Dominique” by The Singing Nun, “Macarena” by Los Del Rio, and others. It would basically look like the One-Hit Wonder Hall Of Fame. However, now that PSY is on the verge of another massive success, shall we take a look at those acts who had at least two top-40 hits in another language? It’s quite rare. I could only find three of them since the Hot 100 began in 1958, and like “Gangnam Style” and “Gentleman”, they all have some English lyrics in them. They all charted about twenty years apart from one another. Let’s see who the South Korean singer may be joining in the next few weeks.
This trio turned quartet based out of California went through a few name changes before they hit it big, including The Four Seasons (another group took that one first), The Four Grads and The Grads. However, it was The Sandpipers that gave them success, even though at least one other group at the time was recording under the name. They’re best known for their 1966 remake of the “Guantanamera” (“Woman From Guantánamo”), a Spanish song, which went to #9 in a version adding one middle section in English. Their second single, a version of “Louie Louie” that was slowed down and translated into Spanish, went to #30. The group had one other top 40 single completely sung in English: “Come Saturday Morning”, from the movie The Sterile Cuckoo. It went to #17 in early 1970. They broke up in 1975.
From Austria, Falco had a very successful career in Europe starting in the early 80’s. One of his first hits, 1981’s “Der Kommissar” (“The Commissioner”), couldn’t crack the Hot 100, but an English version by the group After The Fire went to #5 in 1983. It wasn’t until 1986 that he became huge in the U.S. with his #1 smash, “Rock Me Amadeus”, sung primarily in German with some English. It spent three weeks at the top. His followup single, “Vienna Calling”, was remixed for the U.S. market with more background vocalists, one less verse in German and an updated instrumental track, though the album version played in the music video (see above; you can hear the single mix here.) It went to #18, his final charting single here. He died in 1998 at the age of 40 from the injuries he suffered in a motor vehicle accident.
36-year-old Daddy Yankee (born Ramón Luis Ayala Rodríguez) has been recording since the early 90’s, but began charting in the U.S. nearly a decade later. The rapper was first featured on the 2004 hit “Oye Mi Canto” by New York rapper N.O.R.E., which went to #12 on the Hot 100. However, that song was essentially a half-English, half-Spanish collaboration record, with his rap falling into the latter category. In addition, he only appears on one version of it. His first solo single to make the Billboard charts, “Gasolina” (“Gasoline”), rose as high as #32 the next year. In 2006, he went a tad higher to #24 with “Rompe” (“Break It”), which was also issued with a remix featuring G-Unit rappers Lloyd Banks and Young Buck, as well as singer Nelly Furtado. He’s bubbled under the Hot 100 as recently as last year.
(NOTE: I was going to include Shakira on the list for her 2005 single “La Tortura” featuring Alejandro Sanz (#23) and her 2010 single “Loca” (#32), but the latter release has an English version and Spanish version that are both credited on the Hot 100 with their respective featured rappers (Dizzee Rascal for the English; El Cata for the Spanish.) Though both went to retail, the English edit was the only one serviced to radio here, so it’s a hard call. She’s still great, though!)
Keep your eye on the charts to see what goes on from here! If any of you can think of any acts that I missed, let me know! Comment below or find me on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.