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Oct 02

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

FT/10 comments • 37,130 views

MADONNA – “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina (Miami Mix)”
Inside every showtune lives its disco twin, and “….Argentina” is no exception. Whether this stomper is the best disco version I sadly can’t tell you, though it redeems Madonna’s flatter original. Only when she’s dancing does she feel this free, and so she breaks out of the ‘proper singing’ straitjacket and belts the words out. “Don’t keep your distance!” – as if we’d dream of it, when the production is this fun, Santa Esmerelda goes Latino-house, a swirl of Spanish guitars and Club-Med piano. Even the castanets sound good!

SINEAD O’CONNOR – “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”
So, we’ve had original soundtracks, folksingers, pop superstars, lo-fi heroes, punkers, disco divas, 50s stars, AOR idols and more take a crack at the tune. But the best version is by Sinead O’Connor, from Am I Not Your Girl?, her album of orchestrated covers and standards that was greeted long ago as a vanity project. Her “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” is confused, proud, grand, personal, involving and occasionally desperate. How and why?

For a start, “…Argentina” is not just Lloyd-Webber’s finest hour, it’s more importantly Tim Rice’s. The reason I’ve been referring to the lyrics so much in this article is because they are bloody good, as speechwriting as much as songwriting. The opening is perfect, grabbing the attention, wrong-footing the audience – “It won’t be easy, you’ll think it strange”: what won’t? What’s strange? – and then at once explaining, “how I still need your love”, before setting up another ambiguity, “after all that I’ve done.”. The verse sets the tone – Eva is being utterly frank, honest almost desite herself – and the rest of the song carries through. Rice keeps using the trick of starting a verse with something spontaneous-sounding – “I had to let it happen”; “Have I said too much?” – and then turning it into something more prepared, more cadenced (the chorus, for instance). This is great songwriting and great rhetoric both. And you have to ask that question again – how honest is Eva being? Is it all scripted? And you have to answer, “Of course it is”.

There’s only a few professions more based in performance, more reliant on public acclaim – and more potentially dishonest – than politician. Pop singer is one of them. Sinead O’Connor has exactly the voice for “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”, for most showtunes really – expressive but rarely showy, lightly accented (so she can’t sound as ‘establishment’ as Covington), fragile enough to make you care. I could give a dozen examples of how her delivery beats the other versions I’ve heard, but one will do – her “NOT” in “They are not the solutions..” a sudden flash of betrayed rage.

This is the strength of Sinead’s performance – the way she gets absolutely inside the lyrics of “…Argentina” until you can’t tell if she’s singing as herself or Evita, about herself or Evita, or whether she’s singing a performance about performance itself. It’s all there, in the song and in her: coping with popularity, lying to yourself about what fame means, dealing with what women in public are meant to do and what they can do, defiance, fear and anger. Her performance is so strong it tears the song away from the musical, from her album, from any other version, insisting that it provide its own context. It’s still a cover of a dramatisation of a speech, bit it’s also its own living event, each time you play it. Like all great performances, in politics or pop, it makes questions about honesty seem juvenile, or rude. In politics that kind of impact can change the world, and often for the worse. Eloquence, megalomania and neediness may hold equal sway in pop, but there we can enjoy our demagogues more safely.

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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