Elvis Costello doesn’t speak Spanish, but at least once he dreamed about it.
In 2018, television writer David Simon asked her to transform “This Year’s Girl”, the spicy cut from her 1978 pivotal LP. This year’s model, as a duo for the second season of the devil. The idea of ââreworking a classic might have pissed off a less adventurous artist, but Costello, still the shapeshifter, was intrigued. He and his frequent collaborator, Grammy-winning Argentinian producer Sebastian Krys, dug into the song’s original masters and added the voice of singer Natalie Bergman alongside Costello. The process sparked all kinds of ideas about reimagining and reinterpreting for Costello – and a few nights later he had a dream he had all listened to. This year’s model in a whole new way: in a completely different language.
âThe curiosity of it was to find out that the master tapes are in such great shape and to hear how powerful the band sounded when you removed my voice,â Costello said. Rolling stone during a recent Zoom call from Vancouver. âThere was so much going on. Then when we heard Natalie Bergman sing that verse, I thought, “Well, that’s something different.” And somewhere along the line, I made this jump to, ‘Let’s try to do it in Spanish.’ “
Costello tapped on Krys again to finish Spanish model, an unexpected album to be released on September 10, with a roster of artists from the Spanish-speaking world – including Juanes, Jorge Drexler, Luis Fonsi, Francisca Valenzuela, Fuego, Draco Rosa and Fito PÃ¡ez, among others – singing translated versions of 16 songs taken of This year’s model time. The project is not a collection of tribute songs or typical covers; all new vocal performances are tuned to the original Attractions recordings and instrumentation, capturing the energy of the band, who first backed Costello on the original LP.
Krys says he had been a huge fan of This year’s model for years, and calls “No Action” one of his favorite early “songs of all time, for any record.” He served as a key connector to the project, helping Costello find vocal talent that could both carry the weight of the songs and breathe new life into them. They also worked with the artists (and, in some cases, songwriters Elsten Torres, Ximena MuÃ±oz, Luis Miter and Andie Sandoval), to adapt the lyrics.
âAt first I was just kind of shocked,â Krys says, recalling his reaction when Costello introduced him to the concept. âAnd then I started to think about it. One of the things I’ve always loved about Elvis as an artist is that he really follows the music and not necessarily what people expect. So I was like, ‘Well, that makes sense, actually.’ “
The first song in the project is a version of âPump It Upâ performed by Colombian rocker Juanes. The video cheekily reflects the spirit of Spanish model by taking the bodies of the group members from the original video and pasting a cutout graphic of Juanes’ head on them. Juanes, who remembers watching the video as a child in MedellÃn, says that when Krys approached him to tackle âPump It Up,â he immediately agreed.
âA very cool thing for me was just learning from the masters,â says Juanes. âWe grew up listening to music from England, music from the United States. I’m from Colombia, Sebastian is from Argentina, so we grew up listening to these guys, and now we have the opportunity to be inside these tracks.
Although Juanes knew a lot about Costello’s work – he also collaborated with Attractions drummer Pete Thomas on his own latest album, Origin – the other artists involved in the project were more or less familiar with This year’s model. Many of them wanted to talk to Costello and glean as much as they could on the meaning of the songs. âI talked with Drexler for a long time about ‘Night Rally’ – he wanted to understand every idiom,â says Costello.
Others were eager to do their own thing. âDraco was saying to Sebastian, ‘I really need to talk to Elvis,’ so I thought we were going to have a conversation of a similar length,â Costello adds. âHe called and he said, ‘Can I do whatever I want?’ I said ‘Yes’ and he said ‘Okay, then.’ “
For Costello, Spanish model exposed qualities that were hidden in music from the start. âWe were only 23 when we recorded this record, so we didn’t know enough to ruin it. We didn’t have big ideas. âPump It Upâ was a take – the first takeâ¦ so there was that new paint feel about it, âhe says. âThe thing with the translation, and we discovered a lot of things on the record, [is that] the Spanish adaptation makes the melodies a little different, because the sound elements are different. I sing with a lot of, shall we say, attitude, especially at this time. With songs like âHand In Handâ and âLiving In Paradiseâ, I didn’t realize that these songs had a melody – I thought it was just me who was chuckling. I didn’t know they had tunes until I heard them sung by more melodious singers in another language.
This project also created quite a few new links across generations and geography. âWe met at the old A&M studios, Charlie Chaplin studios in Hollywood, who is now Henson, and we all talked, and one of the interesting things was hearing when one of the artists had heard of me, because I didn’t think they knew who I was. And with some, it was new acquaintances, and some people had heard a record some time ago, âsays Costello. âLikewise, some people that I knew from their work, others that I didn’t know, so it was thanks to Sebastian. Now I feel like I have 15 new friends.
Spanish model List of tracks
“No action”, Nina Diaz
“(Yo No Quiero Ir A) Chelsea” (“(I don’t want to go to) Chelsea”), Raquel SofÃa y Fuego
“Yo Te Vi” (“The Beat”), Drago Rosa
“Pump It Up”, Juanes
“DÃ©tonantes” (“Small triggers”), La Marisoul
“Tu Eres Para Mi” (“You belong to me”), Luis Fonsi
“Hand in hand”, Francisca Valenzuela and Luis Humberto Navejas
“La Chica de Hoy” (“This Year’s Girl”), Cami
“Mentira” (“Lips of service”), Pablo LÃ³pez
“Viviendo en el Paraiso” (“Living in paradise”), Jesse & Joy
“Vogue lipstick”, Murten
“La Turba” (“Night rally”), Jorge Drexler
“Llorar” (“Big tears”), SebastiÃ¡n Yatra
“Radio radio”, Fito PÃ¡ez
“Crawling to the United States”, Gian Marco and Nicole Zignago
“Se Esta Perdiendo La Inocencia” (“Out of Angels”), Vega