24 Easy Pop Songs for Learning English (and 6 Fun Ways to Practice)
Music is a truly universal language. We can all connect with songs no matter which languages we speak.
So, why is it sometimes so hard to understand the English you hear in songs? English songs on the radio can sound like total nonsense and be very hard to follow.
That’s where pop (popular) music comes in!
In this post, you’ll learn about 24 easy English songs that you can definitely sing along to. At the end, I’ll also provide six exercises you can use to learn English with songs.
- 1. “ABC” by Jackson 5
- 2. “Always on My Mind” by Elvis Presley
- 3. “And I Love Her” by The Beatles
- 4. “Beautiful Day” by U2
- 5. “Every Breath You Take” by The Police
- 6. “Manic Mondays” by The Bangles
- 7. “Our House” by Madness
- 8. “California Dreamin'” by The Mamas and the Papas
- 9. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye
- 10. “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars
- 11. “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers
- 12. “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes
- 13. “Live Forever” by Oasis
- 14. “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies
- 15. “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart
- 16. “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell
- 17. “The Sound” by The 1975
- 18. “Formation” by Beyoncé
- 19. “Cheap Thrills” by Sia
- 20. “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake
- 21. “Stitches” by Shawn Mendes
- 22. “Heathens” by Twenty One Pilots
- 23. “All My Friends” by Snakehips ft. Tinashe and Chance the Rapper
- 24. “Here” by Alessia Cara
- 6 Fun Exercises to Learn English with Songs
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)
1. “ABC” by Jackson 5
This English song features one of the most influential pop musicians of all time (the King of Pop: Michael Jackson), and it’s a great song all on its own.
The song focuses on vocabulary related to school and love, and its simple lyrics make it really easy to follow. Some school vocabulary, in particular, includes words like “arithmetic” (a type of mathematics) and the musical phrase “do re mi” (a common way for singers to sing scales in musical instruction).
Its simple, catchy chorus makes it great for getting English lyrics stuck in your head, helping you learn all of those useful English words.
2. “Always on My Mind” by Elvis Presley
Speaking of kings, Elvis Presley is known throughout the English-speaking world as the King of Rock n’ Roll.
This English song of his focuses on the topic of love. Elvis sings about how he’s always thinking of the woman he loves even though she feels he doesn’t pay attention to her.
The title is an English idiom that means “I am always thinking about you.” With lyrics like “Maybe I didn’t treat you quite as good as I should have | You were always on my mind,” this song is a great way to learn idioms and love expressions in English, hear negative sentences and observe past tense verbs in use.
3. “And I Love Her” by The Beatles
“And I Love Her” is a classic love song by The Beatles. The topic of love is universal (understood by everyone, regardless of culture) and easy for listeners to relate to.
Even though lyrics like “Bright are the stars that shine | Dark is the sky | I know this love of mine will never die” are kind of poetic, the words are simple enough for learners of English to understand.
4. “Beautiful Day” by U2
This song is a little more challenging than the previous ones. With lyrics like “The heart is a bloom | Shoots up through the stony ground,” this song is a great way to learn about figurative and poetic language.
The song is about being positive and happy and about appreciating your life. Even if you don’t understand all the lyrics at first, it’s quite catchy.
When it gives you an earworm and you can’t stop singing the easier lyrics of this English song, you can think about what the song means. (This is exactly why it’s so easy and fun to learn English with songs!)
5. “Every Breath You Take” by The Police
Unlike the previous song, this song is easy for English learners because it’s very simple and straightforward—perfect for learning!
The song is about an overly possessive lover who loves someone else so much that they want to always be by their side. The rhyming lyrics allow for phonetic practice, too.
There are also a few idioms to take note of in this English song. When the singer says his heart aches, it means that he’s so upset by the fact that he isn’t with his lover, it’s as if it actually hurts his heart.
Further, to be lost without a trace means that someone or something has disappeared without any clues as to where they could have gone.
6. “Manic Mondays” by The Bangles
This song is a little complex, and the vocabulary can be a bit advanced for beginning English learners, but the content is right where it needs to be to benefit English learners just starting out.
The song outlines typical daily routines, and has helpful day-to-day routine vocabulary. Besides, who doesn’t wish it was Sunday? It really is the fun day.
This song is also good for seeing the past tense and the past progressive in action. The past progressive is formed with the past tense of the verb to be plus the present participle (a verb ending in -ing). An example of this is in the first verse: “I was kissing Valentino by a crystal blue Italian stream.”
7. “Our House” by Madness
This song is good for learning idioms and other English expressions such as a date to keep (to make an appointment or meeting on time) and Sunday best (someone’s fanciest, nicest clothes).
It’s also good for building vocabulary that a learner would use to describe the activities at a house.
The chorus is iconic, and it’s probably one of the shortest and catchiest in English music history.
8. “California Dreamin'” by The Mamas and the Papas
Who doesn’t dream of sunny California on a cold winter’s day?
With lyrics like “All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray,” this short English song is great for learning vocabulary about the weather and seasons.
It’s also an iconic example of a conditional expression. Check it out:
“All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray.
I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day.
I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.;
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.”
9. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye
This catchy tune not only uses the past English tense in its various forms, but it also has quite a few examples of idioms and figurative expressions in English, making it a totally fun option to learn English with songs.
The title of the song is an idiom (I heard it through the grapevine) which means that someone learned a piece of information in an informal way, like through rumors or gossip.
Other idiom examples in this song include the following:
- Make me blue — Make me sad
- It took me by surprise — It surprised me
- To lose my mind — To become angry, upset or crazy
10. “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars
Learners of English will probably recognize this song as Bruno Mars’s worldwide hit from a few years ago. It focuses on someone who doesn’t want to do any work or leave the house that day. In fact, it seems that Bruno doesn’t even want to leave his bed!
Besides being undeniably catchy, this song is good for English learners because it uses the English future tense: “I’m gonna kick my feet up and stare at the fan.”
It’s also a great song to learn vocabulary for activities that people do when they’re at home, and it uses a lot of popular slang. Some of the slang terms might be hard for beginners, so I’ve broken it down a bit for you here:
- Chilling — Relaxing
- Snuggie — A sweater-blanket combination
- Dougie — A type of dance that was popular in the early 2010s
- My old man — A slang term for someone’s father
- Being in your birthday suit — Being naked
- Let everything hang loose — Be relaxed, not uptight or worried
11. “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers
This is a great song about waiting for and missing a loved one, and it’s sung at a slow pace so you can take your time understanding and processing what’s being said.
Most of the verbs are in the present tense, so they’re also easy to understand.
You’ll learn some unique expressions like godspeed (to wish someone luck or safety on a journey), and be exposed to the poetic use of personification (when an object does something human) like lonely rivers sigh (take a loud breath) and the open arms of the sea.
12. “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes
This is a fantastic song for getting used to the English imperative (command tense), as there are many instances of commands like “Be my baby” and “Wait and see.”
Apart from the imperative, you’ll see many times where the song uses the easy English future tense construction: subject + will + verb.
Not only is the future tense used frequently, but it almost always forms a contraction with the subject, such as you’ll (you will) and I’ll (I will). Listening to this song will give you plenty of practice with both the future tense and forming contractions!
13. “Live Forever” by Oasis
“Live Forever” is a well-known song with generally optimistic (positive) lyrics that will introduce you to a few slang words, such as wanna (want to) and gonna (going to).
Additionally, this is the perfect song for learning how to use basic verbs like breathe, believe, die, live and see.
Listen to them used in a variety of sentences and use the song’s frequent repetition to help you memorize them better. Hearing these common verbs used in context and set to a melody (tune) will help them stick in your head!
14. “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies
As you might imagine from the title, this song is full of sweetness! From vocabulary words like kiss, sunshine, candy, sugar and more, these lyrics are filled with cute English words.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that these words only have one meaning! For example, sugar can be the white substance you use to sweeten your coffee, or it can mean a kiss, or be used as a term of endearment (something you call a loved one).
In fact, this song is full of English terms of endearment, like sugar, honey and baby.
15. “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart
This famous love song covers some basic vocabulary, including body parts—like face, head and eyes—and places—like home and school.
Additionally, there are some really great expressions to learn, such as “you stole my heart” (you made me fall in love with you) and “make a living” (to work).
For the most part, the song is fairly easy to follow, but don’t feel bad if you need to listen to it multiple times to really understand the relationship between the two lovers.
16. “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell
A classic pop song, these lyrics have tons of vocabulary words that have to do with places and nature!
Just some of the great place and nature words you’ll hear include taxi, parking lot (where you leave your car when you shop), hotel, museum, trees, birds and bees.
It’s also worth mentioning that sometimes Joni Mitchell uses abbreviations of words. Here’s what to look out for:
- ’em — them
- ’til — until
- DDT — abbreviation for a chemical used to kill insects
There’s also one phrase construction that’s grammatically incorrect (it’s slang):
- don’t it — doesn’t it
17. “The Sound” by The 1975
This is a song about love. The singer tells a story about loving someone who doesn’t seem to care much about them. The lyrics use words and phrases from philosophy (the study of who we are and why we exist).
For instance, Socratic refers to the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates. The Socratic method of teaching is asking the student questions that they have to figure out for themselves (instead of just giving them the answer).
Some other advanced vocabulary includes:
- Conceited — Someone who is too proud of themselves
- Sycophant — Someone who acts nice to get what they want
- Prophetic — A guess about the future that comes true
- Cliché — An overused saying or action that’s no longer original
18. “Formation” by Beyoncé
Warning: Explicit lyrics (some cursing and sexual references)
The word formation refers to the way something is arranged, like dancers or soldiers lining up.
In this song, Beyoncé makes several references to things associated with the American South, like collard greens and cornbread (two types of food popular in the South).
Just remember that many of the things she mentions are stereotypes—things that people say are true about a group of people, but they might not be true for everyone (for instance, not every Southerner likes collard greens).
It’s a good song to learn some slang and informal words and phrases, too. “I slay” is a slang phrase that means you’re very amusing, cool or impressive. Cocky is an adjective to describe someone who is very sure of themselves in an overly-confident way.
19. “Cheap Thrills” by Sia
Sia’s catchy tune has a simple message: You don’t need money to enjoy yourself. Just keep dancing!
The lyrics repeat a few times, so this is a great song to practice understanding English lyrics.
Here are some terms to help you learn the song:
- Cheap thrill — Something exciting (a thrill) that only lasts for a short time (because it’s cheap)
- Won’t be long — A way to say that something will only take a moment
- Hit the dance floor — Go onto the dance floor and start dancing
20. “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake
“Can’t Stop the Feeling” is a feel-good song about how great dancing feels—and how great it feels to watch a person you like (or love) dance.
This song was used in the Disney movie “Trolls,” but if you listen to the lyrics closely you can also hear a more adult way to understand them. Can you hear both meanings?
Some slang terms include “in my zone,” meaning that you are completely focused on what you’re doing. The phrase “creeping up on you” means that something happens so slowly that you don’t notice it happening. The word phenomenally means really, really well or amazingly.
21. “Stitches” by Shawn Mendes
If you watch the music video for this song, the singer gets beaten up (punched and kicked; hurt) by an invisible person. This is meant to be a metaphor—a statement used to represent a different meaning.
In other words, the singer isn’t actually getting hurt, but the pain he shows in the video represents how he feels hurt inside because his lover is leaving him.
You can also understand this message through different parts of the lyrics. “Cut deeper than a knife” means that something you can’t touch hurts more than a knife cut. There’s also the word aching, which means to hurt a lot or for a long time, and the title word stitches—what doctors use to close up a big cut.
22. “Heathens” by Twenty One Pilots
This song was written for the 2016 movie “Suicide Squad.” It’s a dark-sounding pop song that says you should be careful who you trust, because you never know who the person next to you really is.
The song was written for the movie, so it’s actually about murderers. But you can also understand the lyrics to be about the band’s fans, or even about the church. Listen to the lyrics and see what they mean to you.
Here are some words and phrases to help you understand the song better:
- Heathen — Someone bad or uncivilized; usually used in religious contexts
- Docked away — Put away; stored
- Psychopath — Used as a slang term for someone who seems or acts crazy
- Intention — Why you do something
23. “All My Friends” by Snakehips ft. Tinashe and Chance the Rapper
Sometimes all the partying and dancing is too much. This song is about what happens when the singer doesn’t enjoy the party, and goes back to someone she’s not in a relationship with anymore.
There’s mild cursing (bad words) in this song, but also some great words to learn:
- Waver — Hesitate (wait)
- Wasted — Slang for being very drunk
- Polar opposite — Completely different than something else
- Propaganda — Usually false information used to make people think a certain way
- Treachery — Betrayal (go against someone’s trust)
24. “Here” by Alessia Cara
Alessia Cara would prefer not to party at all. This song is about what it’s like to be at a party when you would rather be at home.
She uses the word indifferent to say how she feels, meaning that she doesn’t really care. The word congregating means to gather in a group, and the word standoffish means to seem unfriendly.
Maybe you agree, and you would prefer to stay home instead of going out to party, too!
6 Fun Exercises to Learn English with Songs
To speed up your learning, here are some fun exercises that you can pair with your favorite pop songs:
- Guess the Lyrics: You can use the app/website LyricsTraining to fill in the blanks in the lyrics with the correct words. Start with the beginner level and adjust the difficulty as you go.
You can also use the language learning program FluentU, which uses authentic videos (like music videos) to teach English with tools like interactive subtitles, flashcards and personalized quizzes.
- Karaoke: Singing the lyrics as they appear tests your reading and pronunciation skills and can make phrases and words stick, too. Check out Sing King and KaraFun on YouTube or a karaoke app like Yokee to get started.
- A Song in Two Languages: Try translating an English song into your language. Pay attention to the melody and rhythm and try to match the number of syllables in each line. Here’s Radiohead’s “Creep” in Japanese, for example.
You could also translate only a portion of the song so that the lyrics are bilingual. Think of the Justin Bieber version of “Despacito.” Just make sure to choose an English song that you love listening to for this activity!
- What’s the Story?: Watch the music video and try to guess the meaning of the song. Then, look at the lyrics word by word and compare each line to the music video. Try it out with Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” here.
- Lyric Hunt: Songs are full of expressions and slang. When you find a confusing English expression, try searching it in Song Search. You’ll see a list of songs that contain that phrase, which can help you figure out how it’s used—and help you discover new music!
- Sentence Mining: English songs can help you learn proper sentence structure and grammar. Choose a song, then focus on a line of the lyrics that you want to practice. Replace some of the words to make your own new sentence.
For example, in “The Lazy Song,” Bruno Mars says “Today I don’t feel like doing anything.” The sentence structure is: “Today I don’t feel like [verb+ing].” You can then make sentences like “Today I don’t feel like going to the dentist” or “Today I don’t feel like swimming.”
Because songs usually use casual, everyday English, they can help you learn to use the language more naturally—all while enjoying some good music!
Start by exploring the easy pop songs we’ve listed above, then try out the exercises. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn from even one song. Happy listening!
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)