A Twitter post last week reminded me of this remarkable song, “Prisencolinensinainciusol“, by Adriano Celentano. The lyrics are composed of nonsense syllables, meant to sound like English to a non-English speaker. Celentano’s song was aimed at Italian listeners in 1972 who loved music sung in English but didn’t know English well enough to know what the song’s lyrics meant. As he explained,
Ever since I started singing, I was very influenced by American music and everything Americans did. So at a certain point, because I like American slang—which, for a singer, is much easier to sing than Italian—I thought that I would write a song which would only have as its theme the inability to communicate. And to do this, I had to write a song where the lyrics didn’t mean anything.
As a native English speaker, I find the song both fascinating and confounding. My brain keeps trying to hook on to what he’s singing in anticipation of it being a word that I know, but comes up short.
Oh, and that choreography, those outfits. What a video.