I love that song to bits.
Last year, I found out that it was going to be sung by Maaike Vos on X Factor, one of those countless “talent shows” on television. So I went to YouTube and watched it. Before the song was halfway done, it was clear to me that it was a completely inoffensive, forgettable and superfluous cover, so I shut it down and forgot all about it.
Apparently, it was released as a singe, and did reasonably well on the Dutch charts. A few weeks ago this was brought to my attention, when I heard the song twice on one night. The first time I thought I heard something odd, which made me pay more attention the second time. And indeed, my suspicion was confirmed: Maaike was singing the wrong words.
You see, neither the original LP nor the reissued CD version of Nightout contain any lyrics. And unless you happen to find the right page on my website, it’s slim pickings for Ellen Foley lyrics on the internet. Most lyrics sites just have the words to “We Belong to the Night” and “What’s a Matter Baby”, while occasionally you’ll find the lyrics for Another Breath, which is quite incidentally the only album where the lyrics were included.
It seems to me that those lyrics sites copy each other’s content, without checking if it is correct. And since whomever did the first transcription of “We Belong to the Night” got a couple of lines wrong, it isn’t all that surprising that those faulty lines are all over the place. While the first verse is mostly correct, the second verse is a complete trainwreck:
The music that we hear in our hea[r]ts gives us something to dream of / ‘Cause when that lonely soul that calls, it’s those dreams that we’ll need / To keep us strong, to take us far / Far away from the pain of the days / ‘Cause that’s a cruel mental start / But baby, we, we belong to the night.
That does not make sense on any level. I could go along with needing dreams if a lonely soul calls out for you, but what, in the name of all things bright and shiny, is a “cruel mental start”? And how does a cruel mental start relate to the dreams we need to keep us strong and to take us far away from the pain of the days? When I first started working on my Nightout page, I used the widely available lyrics as a starting point, but I knew that they couldn’t be correct, because, well, it does not make sense.
According to the latest version of my transcription, the lyrics should be:
Now, doesn’t that make a lot more sense? The song is about a boy and a girl lost in the big city, but at night, when they dance, everything seems alright. For in the morning, when the sun comes up, they hear the music in their hearts, that lets them dream and that gets them through the day. Those dreams keep them strong and take them far away, far from the pain of the day, because—like the moon and the stars—they belong to the night. That, or it’s a song about vampires.
While someone singing the wrong words to a song I love is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, it annoys me to no end. Also, it pisses me off that none of the people involved seemed to care what the song they were recording was supposed to be about. Apparently, it’s totally acceptable to just sing whatever is on the lyric sheet. Why should you care what you sing, as long as you can hit the right notes at the right time? For me, this explains why this cover does absolutely nothing for me: it was made just to have a song for a talent contest, and the singer has no involvement with song, emotionally or artistically, whatsoever. As we would say on the twitters, #epicfail.
Disclaimer: I should, for the record, state that I’m not implying that every word of my transcription is correct. English isn’t my native tongue, and I’m doing the best I can. I’m pretty sure that the (almost) complete lyric archive is littered with errors. It’s just that this song is so epicly wrong that I don’t think it’s funny anymore.
update 2011-03-01 I’ve adjusted my transcription once again, based on a YouTube-comment by Fred Goodman, who co-wrote “We Belong to the Night” with Ellen. That’ll teach me to disable YouTube’s comments. Although: 99% of the comments on YouTube are utterly useless.