When you learn English with music lyrics that you love, you won’t even feel like you’re studying.
You’ll be dancing, singing and picking up essential English lessons with every beat.
And I’m not just talking about learning new words from the songs (although you definitely will do that!).
I’m talking about real-world language skills that you can use even when you don’t have a microphone or an air guitar.
In this article, we’ll show you some of the most fun and popular songs to learn English with music lyrics.
We’ll also show you exactly how they can improve your English skills by teaching you four important language concepts!
Why It’s So Easy to Learn English with Music Lyrics
There are many ways that music lyrics can help you learn English. Choose the way you like best, and you can cater to your personal learning style!
Research shows that people learn in different ways, and some people learn the best through music. Listening to music also affects the way your brain learns.
In fact, as pointed out by this video on FluentU’s YouTube channel, what starts out as just a catchy tune will become something you remember throughout your language learning journey.
A certain song may get your attention and then get stuck in your head, repeating the lyrics over and over. This helps you learn the words to the song and the grammar that goes along with it. Later, you’ll find that you’ll be able to actually use these words and grammar constructions because you’ve heard them so much in a song!
Check out other videos like this one on FluentU’s YouTube channel for more tips on improving your English skills.
However, there’s something else music can do for you apart from helping you learn and memorize words in English. The lyrics in English songs are extremely important. Songs are a type of literature, almost like poems. They use a lot of different literary techniques that exist in English. They sometimes play with the language in a way that can make it hard for English language learners to understand.
And since these aren’t just found in books or poems, learning to identify these will help you recognize them in everyday speech.
Online Tools That Help You Learn English with Music Lyrics
So, you may have a ton of songs you love and listen to all the time on the radio.
More than likely, you’ve heard the songs that we’re going to talk about (probably more times than you can count). We’ve chosen a few famous English songs with lyrics for you!
But even if you think you know the lyrics by heart, you’ll still need to look at a written version of lyrics to really get the most out of them. There are times when you may misinterpret or may not understand what the singer is saying. Looking at the lyrics can also help you see how things are spelled and pronounced.
Below are three awesome tools that were designed to help you learn English with music lyrics:
With FluentU, you can learn English with songs that native speakers love—without ever worrying about missing a word.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Every video comes with interactive subtitles. While you listen to a song, click any word in the subtitles for an instant definition, grammar info and useful examples. How cool and easy is that?
There are also full transcripts, vocabulary lists, flashcards and fun quizzes built into every video.
Just click the “Music Videos” category (or any other category that interests you) and select your level to quickly find the videos that are perfect for you. Plus, FluentU keeps track of your learning and suggests new videos based on that information.
You can check out the full video library for free on your computer, iOS or Android device with a FluentU trial.
This website is another great place to learn English with songs and lyrics. It provides music video games, where the lyrics will display as the video plays.
However, some parts will be left blank and you’ll have to fill in the missing word.
It’s a fun way to learn the lyrics of your favorite English songs and also learn some new vocabulary words.
How to Learn English with Music Lyrics from Smash Hits You Won’t Want to Stop Singing
We’re going to explain some important and common English language concepts using these famous English songs with lyrics:
- “Stay” by Zedd and Alessia Cara
- “Something Just Like This” by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay
- “Say You Won’t Let Go” by James Arthur
- “Issues” by Julia Michaels
- “It Ain’t Me” by Kygo and Selena Gomez
1. Learn Common English Idioms with Music Lyrics
Idioms are sayings or phrases in English that have double meanings and should not be taken literally. A common example is something you’ve probably heard: “It’s raining cats and dogs.” Are cats and dogs really falling from the sky? No. That would be bad. This saying means that it’s raining heavily.
Idioms are used constantly in English. They’re everywhere. They can be confusing to an English language learner, though, because their meanings are not literal. So it’s important to focus on these when you learn English with songs.
You should learn the meaning of these different expressions, so you can fully understand what others are talking about, whether in person or in writing. Identifying them in context will not only make their meanings much clearer, but you’ll also begin to incorporate them into your everyday speech and sound like a native!
Below are some idioms and common expressions you’ll hear in our list of English songs, along with their meanings.
“Stay” by Zedd and Alessia Cara
This song is full of references that have to do with time and change.
Here are some that would be helpful to understand:
Waiting for the time to pass you by
This means you’re waiting for something, or you want time to go by faster.
The winds of change
This isn’t actual wind. It refers to a force that has the power to change someone’s mind or change something important.
The clock is ticking
Again, we’re not referring to an actual clock. Someone might say this to another person as a way of expressing “Hurry up!” or “Stop wasting time!”
“Issues” by Julia Michaels
I got issues
In English, “issues” refers to when someone has a personal problem. In this song, the singer is very jealous and emotional when it comes to her lover.
When I’m down, I get real down
This isn’t talking about the direction down. It means when someone is feeling sad or unhappy.
When I’m high, I don’t come down
This is the opposite of the last definition. In this song, to be “high” means to be in a good mood. When she says, “I don’t come down,” she means that it is hard to get her out of the good mood.
“Say You Won’t Let Go” by James Arthur
Won’t Let Go
The title of this song means to not give up on something. In this case, the two lovers’ relationship is what they don’t want to give up on.
You lit me up
To “light someone up” is to make someone feel good or happy. “Lit” has become a popular slang word recently (“That party was so lit!”). It means to feel good or have a good time.
You made me feel as though I was enough
This means to make someone feel appreciated or acknowledged. In the song, the girl makes the singer feel good and more confident about himself.
2. Understand Contractions with English Music Lyrics
Musicians love to put contractions into their songs, so this is a big part of learning English with music lyrics. Contractions are shortened versions of phrases. For example, “I’m” is a contraction of “I am” and has the same meaning.
Learning the meanings of contractions can help improve your English vocabulary because they’re used all of the time in everyday conversation. Knowing their meanings will help you understand what people are trying to say and will also help you communicate.
It’s important to know that contractions are sometimes considered informal—you probably don’t want to use contractions in academic settings.
Let’s look at the contractions and slang used in our list of songs.
“It Ain’t Me” by Kygo and Selena Gomez
This song loves contractions! Here are some that you’ll see in these lyrics, along with explanations.
Who’s gonna walk you through the dark side of the morning?
Who’s — who is (“Who is gonna walk you…”)
Who’s gonna rock you when the sun won’t let you sleep?
Won’t — will not (“the sun will not let you sleep”)
Who’s waking up to drive you home when you’re drunk and all alone?
you’re — you are (“when you are drunk”)
It ain’t me
Ain’t — am not; are not; is not (“It is not me”)
The contraction “ain’t” is considered slang. In some American dialects, it’s perfectly fine to use (and it’s pretty common). But in other places, it’s considered improper grammar. However, the other contractions used in the song are usually okay to use.
“Issues” By Julia Michaels
Look closely at the way this song plays with language:
‘Cause I got issues
‘Cause — because (“Because I got issues”)
But you got ’em too
‘em — them (“But you got them too”)
And I’ll give mine to you
I’ll — I will (“And I will give mine to you”)
Here’s a warning. “‘Cause” and “’em” are slang. You can probably get away with using them in spoken conversation, but you won’t want to use them when you’re writing. They aren’t considered real words.
Also, the line “I got issues” isn’t grammatically correct. It should be “I have got issues.” Pop quiz! What contraction can we use here? (Answer: we could change “I have” to “I’ve.”)
3. Recognize Rhymes in English Music Lyrics
Have you already used rhymes to learn English with music lyrics? You’ll soon see how addictive it is!
“Rhyming” refers to words that have the same ending sound. An example would be “cat” and “hat.” Musicians tend to use rhyme in their lyrics to make the song catchier (easier to remember).
Rhymes can actually help teach you about different vowel and letter sounds and patterns.
They can also teach you how to pronounce words with the same vowel sound. For example, if you know that “boat” is pronounced with a long o sound, you will know how to pronounce other words you come across, such as “goat” or “coat” because the words rhyme!
“Say You Won’t Let Go” by James Arthur
I wake you up with some
Breakfast in bed
I’ll bring you coffee
With a kiss on your head
In this lyric excerpt, “bed” and “head” rhyme because they both end in the short e sound. Notice how they’re spelled slightly different. Although “head” has an extra a, it still makes the same e sound.
English can be tricky like that sometimes, but learning these different sounds and their spellings is essential for fluency.
“Something Just Like This” by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay
With some superhuman gifts.
Some fairytale bliss.
Just something I can turn to.
Somebody I can kiss.
I want something just like this.
In this song, “bliss,” “kiss” and “this” rhyme. They all have a short i sound and an s sound at the end of the word. However, even with the presence of the “t” in “gifts,” it rhymes as well because it makes the same ending sound as the other words.
If you aren’t sure, “bliss” means extreme happiness. You just learned a new vocabulary word!
4. Identify Allusions in English Music Lyrics
Allusions are references to literature or pop culture. English speakers use them all of the time in conversational English. Recognizing English allusions is a fantastic way to show that your English language and cultural knowledge is advanced.
For example, someone might say, “I felt as a strong as Hulk!” The Hulk is a superhero with superhuman strength from a popular comic book series. The speaker just made an allusion. Using allusions can actually help make your meaning more clear to others because it gives them a point of reference.
Many songs like to use allusions too because it makes their lyrics stronger and easier to relate to.
Allusions are everywhere in music and songs. I mean, everywhere. For even more examples, here’s an article that explains allusions in some popular English songs from the ’90s.
A popular example from a tune that’s not on our list is Taylor Swift’s “Love Song.” In the lyrics, she refers to two lovers as “Romeo” and “Juliet,” two very famous characters from William Shakespeare’s influential romantic play “Romeo and Juliet.”
“Something Just Like This” by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay
This popular song has a superhero theme and is full of allusions. The lyrics can help expose you to different characters from modern pop culture and ancient myths that are referenced a lot in English. Let’s look at some examples:
Achilles and his gold
Achilles is a hero from Greek mythology who fought in the Trojan war. The phrase “Achilles’ heel,” which refers to someone’s weakness, comes from this character (in the story, his weakness was his heel). There’s also a part of the ankle referred to as “the Achilles’ tendon” in English.
Hercules and his gifts
Hercules is a demi-god (half human, half god) from Greek mythology who had tremendous strength. He’s referred to often in English. There have been many movies and stories based off of his legend, including a Disney movie.
And Batman with his fists
We’re pretty sure you’ve heard of the big-wigs (important characters) of the Marvel and DC comic world, Spider-Man and Batman, so we aren’t going to explain who they are here. But now you know the reference made to these characters is called an allusion!
After reading this article, you should be really conscious of the lyrics in English songs.
Even if you’re just listening for fun, try to think of all of the different elements of English you can learn.
So go ahead, press play on your favorite tune and learn English with music lyrics!