It’s a beautiful thing when a songwriter chooses and places a word so perfectly that its shape becomes physical sensation in the mind of the listener.
In Tu Canción (Your Song) you don’t need to know what the word ‘siento‘ (si-yén-to) means. Its sound alone (about 35 seconds in) will make your heart dance. The sliding ‘s‘, the elastic ‘y‘ sound, the soft landing of the ‘n’ and the final, neat step sound of the ‘to‘: a collection of sounds perfectly placed to swing you into a romantic waltz. Thank heavens for Spanish Irregular Verbs:
‘Siento’ means ‘I feel’, in every sense that ‘I feel’ carries in English: the emotional and the physical. ‘Siento que bailo por primera vez’ means ‘I feel that/as if I’m dancing for the [very] first time’.
Rául Gómez and Sylvia Santoro wrote the song for the young singers, having watched them meet and fall in love during the twelve week televised music competition OperaciónTriunfo 2017. Rául Gómez has said that he wanted Tu Canción to embody the hopeful, magical innocence of the beginnings of love.
Siento, married to the music of Tu Canción, is a word that rises on tiptoe, ready to dance. When Rául rehearses with the singers for the first time, he can’t stop himself acting out the swoop of siento. They’re concentrating so hard on getting the words and tune right that it takes them a while to relax into the pure sound of the words:
‘Siento’ is a lucky gift to the songwriters. It holds that magical, uplifting ‘y‘ sound because the Spanish verb sentir (to feel) is beautifully irregular. If sentir had been born to follow the standard rules of Spanish -ir verbs, ‘I feel’ would be ‘sento‘. Try making ‘sento’ sound like the first happy step of a waltz. It’s too heavy and too short. It has no lift, no width and not much life. It’s a marching word, not a dancing word.
But ‘siento’ has a spring to its step. As the rehearsals continue, Amaia Romero & Alfred Garcia, put more and more elastic into that first ‘y‘ sound. They move outside its Spanish dictionary meaning and pace siento so that it becomes a motor for the song.
‘Eres’ is another irregular verb gift. ‘Eres’ means ‘you are’. But it only exists as a songwriting option because its mother verb, ‘ser’ (to be) is wonderfully and wilfully irregular. If ‘ser’ behaved like ordinary -er Spanish verbs, ‘you are’ would be ‘ses‘. Goodbye to the central ‘r’ of ‘eres’ which hinges the word and lets it rock gently from side to side. ‘Ses‘ would be a single-syllabled buzz of sound. Over in an instant. You wouldn’t be able to extend it, as you can with ‘eres’.
The chorus runs on irregular verb energy: Siento que bailo por primera vez/Eres el arte que endulza la piel. ‘Siento’ and ‘eres’ are the ‘get ready to waltz’ words. Each word rises up and steps on into the dance. There’s even a pleasing mirror image in the way one word begins with an ‘s’ and the other ends in an ‘s’. One word ends in a vowel, the other begins with a vowel. It all adds to the round-and-round feeling of the chorus.
There’s a reason why the verbs we humans use the most, in love and anger, became irregular. Emotion stretched and bent them into the shapes we want, not the shape grammar dictated.
Irregular verbs are the words that sing in every language.