Friday, June 24, 2011

Sound Advice: Adriano Celentano’s “Prisencolinensinainciusol”

Warning: This blog post may contain images and sounds that will cause you or parts of yourself to boogie at your desk. Please refrain from doing so, unless everyone else around you is free to join you in wild, abandoned glee.

Sometimes, pure genius doesn’t have to be deep or profound. Sometimes, genius can manifest itself in nothing more than words and sounds that mean nothing at all.

In the early 1970s, politically charged Italian singer-songwriter Adriano Celentano, having written some scathing and incendiary pop music, decided that he needed to loosen up, or at least for four minutes. The result is his hit single “Prisencolinensinainciusol”.

What does the title mean? Why, nothing, of course.

Celentano stated that after writing densely, thematically-packed music, he wanted to produce something playful. "Prisencolinensinainciusol" is his brainchid. The lyrics are an approximation of what English may sound like to non-Anglophone ears. When presenting the song on Italian national television, Celentano stated that he wrote the song to show how people in modern times cannot communicate effectively with one another. (He succeeds.) The above-noted clip is amalgamated and edited from two separate TV appearances of the song. Here they are:

What makes these four minutes such an absolute joy to behold is the audacious way in which Celentano delightfully, deliberately creates joyful nonsense for the sheer hell of it. His Wikipedia page indicates that two of his biggest influences are none other than Elvis Presley and Jerry Lewis. Given the way he contorts his face and swivels his hips in the clip, his performance has clearly been informed by both icons.

The performance itself is genius. It is choreographed nonsense combining a perfectly synched dance troupe strutting in supreme precision. There may only be a dozen dancers in the clip, but the use of the mirrors magnifies the experience and by extension the complete and total silliness of it all.

Pop music these days takes itself too seriously. American pop tried too hard to morph into R&B crossover. Former bubblegum pop artists have taken a sharp turn towards Ibiza in an effort to keep the party going, or they try to go all serious and mimic Adele. But listen to “Prisencolinensinainciusol” and you’ll notice an unmistakably original sound that is instantly catchy. No other pop song in recent memory has so prominently used the French horn to such joyful effect, with the exception of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love”. This is certainly the greatest single Eurovision never produced. The relentless beat simply demands movement, or at the least a good deal of head-bobbing at one’s desk. (I’ve tried to convince myself that Lady Gaga’s “Judas” is perhaps the only single to capture the spirit of “Prisencolinensinaincusol”, but it’s still mirthless cacophony to these ears.)

And for those of you who mistake lyrics to such popular songs like so:

“Last night I dreamed of some bagels” – Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita”
“Thursday’s fire’s startin' in my heart” – Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”
“Excuse me while I kiss this guy” – Jimi Hendrix, “Purple Sky”

Take heart, you can sing to this entire song and you’ll never be made fun of for flubbing the lyrics. Ever. Some days, the Blogger thinks that the bridge says:

“My eyes are sizzling, but they also come with bagels. Eyes!”

And some days it sounds like:

“My ice wide senseless, baby you’re so cold with basil. Ice!”

The Blogger is happy to report that he and several friends have spent countless hours over bottles of wine, trying to “decipher” the lyrics. Those remain some of the happiest hours of his life. Try it on your own!

The Blogger is also hopeful that one day, this amazing video will be on continuous display at a modern art gallery some day, just like Bjork.

The Blogger points out also that this amazing piece of lyrical genius is somehow NOT available on iTunes in North America. Boo. Write Steve Jobs personally if you have to get it in there!

Here’s a “transcript” of the song, complete with rather unfortunate subtitles. Enjoy!