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Oct 02

EVERY WORD IS TRUE – “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”

FT/10 comments • 37,130 views

OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN – “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”
The peril of the song’s rapid mutation into a standard was that some of the singers tackling it were completely out of their depth. The strings on this are queasily big, peeled-wallpaper grandeur, and Newton-John takes the song breathily, like a come-on – “dressed up to the nines (wink implied)”. It’s an intriguing idea all right, and for one verse you think she might pull it off (like Marianne Faithful or Jane Birkin might), but then she loses it, stretching and spinning all her vowels, losing the sense of the song. The MP3 cuts out before the end, and you don’t mind.

NACHA GUEVARA – “No Llores Por Mi, Argentina”
“You need to hear it in Spanish!” someone said when I mentioned this project. So here it is in Spanish, sung elegant, pure and diva-distant by Nacha Guevara. Her performance has the same aristocratic clarity as Julie Covington’s, but of course there are more sibilants, more rolled r’s, and Covington’s declamatory sting is missing. The deep-voiced male chorus (very much an optional for most versions) sounds graver and ghostlier than ever – where Covington’s performance was entirely for the crowd, Guevara’s seems sadder and self-sufficient. A song to past, not current glories, maybe? (Of course this might just be because I can’t understand the words.)

JOAN BAEZ – “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”
Baez’ performance is one of the most individual I’ve found but that doesn’t make it one of the best. From a live album, Baez comes off like the Beastie Boys of folk, ending every single line in exactly the same way (with a fluttery elongated vowel in her case). “I never invited them iiiiin / Though it seemed to the wuuuuuurld / They were all I desiiiiired”. She sings like she has no idea what “dressed up to the nines” means, which isn’t much of a problem, except then I notice she sings like she has no idea what any of the rest of it means either. The overall vibe is “I, Joan Baez, have deigned to cover this popular tune in the official Joan Baez way”. Or maybe she’s too honest a performer for a song dramatising populist dissembling? I don’t think so, though – her dissembly is different, is all.

THE SHADOWS – “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”
RICHARD CLAYDERMAN – “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”

The Shadows actually had a hit with their balmy instrumental version back in 1979. It stands up well enough, flitting close to musak before some corny but lively drum fills round the sound out. Hank Marvin’s guitar tone is pretty enough not to exhaust your patience, which can’t really be said of Richard Clayderman’s sickly. suet-y version. Clayderman gets the string section doing horrid, fey pizzicattos while he smarms the melody line out on piano. A castanet comes in after a couple of minutes and in context sounds utterly disgusting. “…Argentina” may be Lloyd Webber’s strongest ever tune but that only means that when its schlocky side does come out it comes out in emetic force.

ME FIRST AND THE GIMME GIMMES – “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”
A punker novelty cover is exactly what’s needed after Clayderman, and this does exactly what you’d imagine, in the grand Snuff tradition, transposed Stateside naturally. If you stopped bopping or laughing or sighing you might notice all of a sudden that “…Argentina” is a great lost selling-out song, which is maybe why these jokers sound so involved in it. (Their tilt at the “Have I said too much…?” verse is very nearly the best of anyone’s!). You might also notice that their version makes it a great lost teen-movie theme, too. In other words, quite possibly a hit if anyone involved could be arsed.

THE CARPENTERS – “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”
A damaged MP3 file, and a flawed version. Karen Carpenter moves the action from the Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires to a middle-American PTA meeting. She sounds invulnerable, not because she’s powerful but because she’s so darned nice. “All y’have to do is look at me to know that every word is true” – too right! Unfortunately a classic vocal reading is sabotaged by the arrangement, which starts pleasantly twinkly, rapidly turns the dial to ‘opulent’, and then to ‘mental’, divebombing Karen with absurd drum rolls and string trills. Richard’s attack of the Claydermans makes their version a chore when it could have been a triumph.

Comments

  1. 1
    bobbie on 12 Feb 2007 #

    I asked for music but they don’t gimie no music!

  2. 2
    David on 20 Apr 2007 #

    I have the ‘ABBA’ version, it is really Madonna. They sync to the second (except that the ‘ABBA version is cut off’

  3. 3
    Andrea on 25 Aug 2007 #

    I know this was posted five years ago but I was just sorting out my mp3s and came across a random version of ‘Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina’ that I initially thought was ABBA too. Turns out it’s actually the Ray Conniff Singers. So that’s nice to know.

  4. 4
    accentmonkey on 17 Mar 2008 #

    I understand from “sources” that the original hook line of the song, rather than “don’t cry for me Argentina”, was to be “it’s only your lover returning”, and that it was to be a fairly straightforward song of penance. Apparently that is the only line they changed, which is probably why the rest of the song seems so apolitical and vague.

    I can’t remember where this information comes from originally.

  5. 5
    Mark Regan on 24 May 2008 #

    You are SOOOO right on target in your comments about Sinead’s version. I cry EVERY time I watch it. She shows the subtle psychological core of the song with her vulnerability and modest downward glances. Simply amazing. I wish I could see her sing it in person. So much better than EVERY other version of that song. And I also agree with your about the words. Rice and Lloyd-Webber are to be congratulated for coming up with such delicate, meaningful lyrics.

    Another artist I’d like to hear sing this song is Hayley Westenra. She can really show her humility and emotions just like Sinead. And the wording is perfect for Hayley — except I’d change the country name to New Zealand to reflect her love for that country.

  6. 6
    Nette on 20 Sep 2008 #

    […] “..One reason “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” is a fascinating song is that it resonates so much in an era when women are entering and operating in the public arena at last; an arena whose rules, like the song, are written by men. The song’s mix of empathy, spin and steel, though, is not specifically ‘feminine’ – it’s just modern. ” – by Tom […]

  7. 7
    ALEXANDER on 27 Dec 2008 #

    DONT YOU LIKE ARGENTINA Mark Regan?
    I ASK BECAUSE YOU SAID THAT NEW Zealand WILL BE BETER THAN ARGENTINA WHY?
    I THINK THAT ARGENTINA IS A GREATE COUNTRYY, IN 1998 Y WHENT TO ARGENTINA TO LIVE AN I SAY THAT ITS WOMDEFULL, PEOPLE, TRADITIONS ECT…
    BYEE

  8. 8
    Jeffery Lee on 9 Aug 2009 #

    Don’t cry for me, Formosa !
    To relace Agintina with Formosa
    surly makes green peace with sweeter fragrance after all.

  9. 9
    cajethan aka brutz matz on 20 Oct 2012 #

    oh what a soulmating tone, the first day i heard this song, i cried and reflect it to my present feelings about the world. Infact, it’s a perfect song i will like to share with my world. Tim rice, webber lloyd and eva peron did great with this song. I song that can thrill millions of people and melts a stonny hearth. How i wish i’ll watch this song perform live. Note: i’ll sing this song in nigerian idols compitition next week saturday and give feedback how people feel about it

  10. 10
    BRUTZ MATZ on 26 Dec 2015 #

    i sang that song during nigerian idol audition season 3 and i impress my judge. though i didnt make the final but i was happy. with my song i composed,i’ll shake the world.

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