learn-english-with-music

Learning English with Music: 17 Hot New Songs for English Learners

You know what brings us all together?

Music does.

Music is called the “universal language” for a reason.

“Universal” refers to something that is true for or applies to everyone. Every human being has a certain understanding of rhythm and melody from birth—you don’t have to go to school to learn how to enjoy the latest songs!

But in the age of social media, you either know about those latest songs or you know nothing at all.

Knowing what is happening right now, in the world of music or on any other subject, is perhaps the most important thing when it comes to participating in the online world, in English or any other language.

We have already talked about how you can use music to learn English.

We have also talked about some classic songs you can use in your practice.

But all of this means very little if you cannot participate in English conversations about the newest music right now.

Knowledge of the latest popular culture is very important to English fluency, and that knowledge also gives you access to the subjects everyone else is talking about in English.

So in order to boost your English conversation skills, and make your life easier, we have made a list of the best English songs from 2017 that you can use to improve your language skills.

How to Maximize English Learning Through Music

  • Use headphones: YouTube and other streaming sites and music resources often have low volume and poor audio quality. Using earbuds or headphones will help ensure that you catch all the words clearly rather than playing a guessing game as the song plays on.
  • Sing along: Simply listening to English music can do a lot for your understanding of English, but it never improves your spoken skills. To practice the words to songs yourself, you can sing the lyrics along with the music. There are also special karaoke videos you can find online that allow you to sing along to a version of the music without lyrics.

FluentU lets you sing along to English-language songs with captions that have built-in definitions and explanations. FluentU takes real-world videos—including the latest music videos, along with other great examples of pop culture—and turns them into personalized language lessons.

  • Pay attention to your mouth, tongue and lips: Notice how your mouth moves while you copy the pronunciation of the singers. This will help you transfer your English skills to normal conversations without music.
  • Replay difficult lines: The benefit of digital technology is that you can easily go back to a specific point in a song hundreds of times and listen to a part of a song over and over. If you find that a line has some difficult words, be sure to replay them so you can memorize them. In the songs below, we will point out specific challenging lines and words you should replay and pay special attention to.
  • Practice speaking lyrics normally: You will not be singing most of the time you are using the English language! So after you have listened to a song, find the lyrics of it and read them out loud just like you would read a book out loud. This will help you learn to pronounce and use the words as you would actually do in conversation.

The songs below are current and popular ones that are great for English learners in general. Because some of them contain swearing and more adult themes, however, they are not all appropriate for younger learners.

Have fun singing along!

Learn English Through Music with the Best Songs of 2017

1. “Something Just Like This” by The Chainsmokers & Coldplay

Genre: Dance/Electronic

Description: Have you read poems and stories where lovers say that they can move mountains for each other? Are you a fan of superheroes because they have powers that do not exist in real life? Of course we all love stories about impossible and amazing things. But this song is about the importance of the “common,” or regular, people we have beside us. Real human relationships are less about things like superpowers and more about care and comfort.

The lyrics mention some famous characters like Hercules and Achilles, who are heroes from Greek mythology, and Batman and Spiderman, who are superheroes from American culture.

You can also use this song to learn the correct pronunciation for harder-to-say words like “myths” and “legends” (both meaning the kind of stories that involve gods or heroes), “testaments” (a sign or proof of something) or “eclipse,” which is an event when the light of the sun or the moon is blocked. You may have heard people talking about the eclipse of the sun that took place in August of 2017.

Lines to focus on:

I’ve been reading books of old
The legends and the myths
The testaments they told
The moon and its eclipse
And Superman unrolls
A suit before he lifts
But I’m not the kind of person that it fits

(The words that tend to be harder to pronounce or understand for English learners are in italics.)

2. “Ghost” by Parekh and Singh

Genre: Dream pop

Description: “Dream pop” is the best category for this song. since you literally feel that you are in a fantasy land when you listen to it. The lyrics are actually not that happy, though. The song is about feeling like a ghost or a spirit when you love someone too much but things do not work out between you.

The word “ghost” itself can be tricky for English learners to pronounce, and the song can teach you how to do it. Other words you should pay attention to are “partially” and “whim” (a sudden or passing desire). The song is repetitive, which makes it easier to follow the lyrics.

Lines to focus on:

Change my life just upon a whim
Jump into the ocean, learn to swim
Gone for summer, winter, all the seasons
I guess that might be the reason
That I am a ghost

3. “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran

Genre: Pop/Tropical house

Description: This is a fun song about finding someone who is attractive and obsessing over (not being able to stop thinking about) their beauty. It does not have a very deep meaning, since it is the kind of song that is meant to be played at parties. You will connect to it if you recently started a relationship or remember the feeling that comes along with a new relationship.

As an English learner, you may find strange-sounding words in the song, like “jukebox,” which is a machine that plays music. These are not used much anymore, but the word is still common. Some common words, like “shots,” can be confusing as they can mean different things in different situations. Here, “shots” mean small glasses of alcohol that you usually order in bars and drink all at once.

Lines to focus on:

The club isn’t the best place to find a lover
So the bar is where I go
Me and my friends at the table doing shots
Drinking fast and then we talk slow
Come over and start up a conversation with just me
And trust me I’ll give it a chance now
Take my hand, stop, put Van the Man on the jukebox
And then we start to dance, and now I’m singing like

4. “Sweet Creature” by Harry Styles

Genre: Pop/Soft rock

Description: If you like slow, romantic songs that you listen to during long drives or rainy days, then this is the song for you. It is about two lovers who are fighting and are having some trouble in their relationship. But they fondly remind themselves how they complete each other and always support each other no matter what.

Some words, like “creature” (a living thing), can be tricky to pronounce, but the slow tempo (speed) of this song helps you listen to the sounds clearly. Beginners may also get confused with “wrong,” because its spelling is very different from its sound.

Lines to focus on:

No, we started
Two hearts in one home
I know, it’s hard when we argue
We’re both stubborn
I know but, oh

5. “Without You” by Avicii

Genre: Dance/Electronic

Description: The song is about being betrayed by the one you love and moving on after that. You can feel the anger in the lyrics, but the song is very pleasant to listen to.

You will find some phrases that are impossible to understand through their literal meanings. For instance, “carry my cross” is similar to the expression “to have a cross to bear,” and both mean to live with something sad or difficult.

“Bonnie and Clyde” were famous American partners who were deadly criminals during 1930s. In the song, the singer says he will play the role of the couple alone, without needing a partner. In this way, he says that he does not need his past lover.

Lines to focus on:

I got to learn how to love without you
I got to carry my cross without you
Stuck in the middle and I’m just about to
Figure it out without you
And I’m done sitting home without you
F*** I’m going out without you
I’m going to tear this city down without you
I’m going Bonnie and Clyde without you

6. “Only You” by Selena Gomez

Genre: Electronic pop

Description: This is another love song where we get the mixed feeling of separation and bonding (growing together). It may be about someone looking back at moments in a past relationship while they drift further away from the person they love.

This song is great for beginners since the words are all simple and the song is slow and easy to follow.

Lines to focus on:

Looking from a window above
It’s like a story of love
Can you hear me?
Came back only yesterday
I’m moving further away
Want you near me

7. “Paris” by The Chainsmokers

Genre: Electronic dance music

Description: This song has the same dreamy quality in it as the song “Ghost.” The lyrics can mean different things depending on how you choose to listen to them. The song is either about a friendship or a romantic relationship where both people are living in Paris, away from everyone they know. The song is about their dedication to each other as they promise that they will go through all hardships (difficulties) in life together.

While listening to the song, you can focus on words like “terrace” (a flat area, usually made of pavement or flat stones, next to a house), “cigarette” and “frown” and notice how they are pronounced.

Lines to focus on:

We were staying in Paris
To get away from your parents
You look so proud
Standing there with a frown and a cigarette
Posting pictures of yourself on the internet
Out on the terrace

8. “Hypnotised” by Coldplay

Genre: Alternative rock

Description: “Hypnotise” can mean to captivate someone (grab their attention) through some fascinating activity. (It can also mean to actually put someone in a trance, or a state where they are not completely asleep or awake.) The song is also about being fascinated by different things.

First, the singer’s mind is filled with pain, negativity and decay (the state of rotting or going bad). Then he talks about another person he has found who lifts up his mind and makes his whole world better.

This song is more for advanced learners, as the lyrics are complex. Also, there is very little repetition in the lyrics.

Pay attention to words like “hypnotised,” “mesmerized” (both mean about the same thing), “steeple” (the top of a church tower) and “rubble” (broken stones, bricks or concrete). Also note that “hypnotise” with an S is the British English spelling. If you are learning American English, you will want to spell “hypnotize” with a Z.

Lines to focus on:

Been rusting in rubble
Running to a faint
Need a brand new coat of paint
I found myself in trouble
Thinking ’bout what ain’t
Never gonna be a saint

9. “Time of Our Lives” by James Blunt

Genre: Pop

Description: This song is a story about two people who are looking back at their lives and remembering all the ups and downs. When the singer was introduced to his lover’s parents, they thought he would leave and the relationship would not last. He tells about all the hard times when he could not return home. And finally he talks about how these difficult moments made their relationship last for such a long time.

Make sure you pay attention to words that are harder to pronounce, like “awkward” and “nervous,” while listening to the song. The word “broke” as it is used below means to have no money or to have run out of money.

Lines to focus on:

Don’t close your eyes, dear, don’t you be nervous
You put this whole damn place in a spell
I see your friends here, and some of them jealous
‘Cause they know this love don’t come off the shelf
I saw your mother, she looks so beautiful
Remember when she didn’t think I would stay?
But all of those late-night broke-as-hell dinners
Led us to where we’re standing today

(The words “damn” and “hell” are milder curse words that are used here for emphasis, or to make words they are paired with stronger. “Whole damn place” is a stronger way of saying “whole place,” and “broke as hell” is another way of saying “completely broke.”)

10. “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles

Genre: Pop

Description: Harry Styles admitted that this song was his favorite and he was proud that he wrote it. It has a slow rhythm where he talks about the kind of world we live in. Our society is obsessed with the end of times and running away from the real issues that follow us everywhere.

The song is good for all levels of learners. Beginners can quickly pick up the words, as the song is both slow and repetitive. Advanced learners can focus more on the poetic lyrics and try to understand what the words could mean. (Different listeners interpret it differently.)

Lines to focus on:

Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times
Welcome to the final show
Hope you’re wearing your best clothes
You can’t bribe the door on your way to the sky

(“Bribe” means to dishonestly give something to someone in order to gain an unfair advantage.)

11. “Goodbye” by Echosmith

Genre: Pop

Description: If you ever had a bad breakup, this song will surely make you feel better. Although there is pain in the song, it is overshadowed by the honesty in the lyrics.

Practice words like “scar,” “grievance” (complaint) and “poison” as you sing along.

Lines to focus on:

Try not to let the burn become a scar
What’s left of me is only broken parts
You take the pretty and color it dark
My only grievance is a broken heart

12. “Malibu” by Miley Cyrus

Genre: Pop rock

Description: This soft song is about a trip to the city of Malibu that Miley Cyrus took with her fiance. It describes the fresh blue sky and the warm sands of the beaches, which she had never experienced before in her life.

This is for more intermediate and advanced level learners, as the lines are longer in the lyrics and it might be hard for beginners to properly follow the song. Watch out for more difficult words like “waves,” “drowning” and “current.”

Lines to focus on:

We are just like the waves that flow back and forth
Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning
And you’re there to save me
And I wanna thank you with all of my heart
It’s a brand new start
A dream come true in Malibu

13. “Attention” by Charlie Puth

Genre: Funk/Pop

Description: The singer in this song is talking about an ex-lover who wants to get his attention back but not their relationship.

You will encounter the word “karma,” which is originally from Sanskrit, but is used freely in English now. Karma is the concept that people who do good things get good results, and people who do evil get punished by the universe.

In general, you will encounter many words in the English language that are from other languages, since it is used internationally.

Lines to focus on:

I know that dress is karma, perfume regret
You got me thinking ’bout when you were mine, ooh
And now I’m all up on ya, what you expect?
But you’re not coming home with me tonight

14. “What About Us” by P!nk

Genre: Pop

Description: In every society, there are groups of people who are forgotten and excluded. This song talks about all the broken promises and betrayals these people go through. It asks about their rights and why they are used for the benefit of others.

While listening to the song, focus on the pronunciation of the words “searchlights” and “disaster.”

Lines to focus on:

We are searchlights, we can see in the dark
We are rockets, pointed up at the stars
We are billions of beautiful hearts
And you sold us down the river too far

15. “Praying” by Kesha

Genre: Pop ballad

Description: Kesha went through a legal battle with her producer over sexual assault. This song is about going through hell and coming out as a stronger person.

The song is painful but gives strength to people who have had to fight for justice in their lives. The words “farewell,” “monsters” and “thunder” should be on your practice list as you sing the lyrics.

Lines to focus on:

I’m proud of who I am
No more monsters, I can breathe again
And you said that I was done
Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come
‘Cause I can make it on my own
And I don’t need you, I found a strength I’ve never known
I’ll bring thunder, I’ll bring rain, oh
When I’m finished, they won’t even know your name

16. “Chained to the Rhythm” by Katy Perry

Genre: Pop

Description: This is a popular song that has a political message in the lyrics. Katy Perry is talking about how people are numb to the reality of the world and how they are simply going through the motions, or habits and routines, of daily life. Importantly, these motions are not created by them but the people who control the society. It talks about the blindness of the digital age to the larger society of people who are not like us. It talks about how we live in a “bubble,” dancing to the false messages fed to us by the media.

This song is good for all learning levels as there is enough repetition to follow the song but the lyrics have challenging words that will surely help you increase your vocabulary. You will hear some weirder words like “zombie” (a fictional creature that is neither dead or alive) and “distortion” (in this case, the twisting and falsifying of information).

Lines to focus on:

Turn it up, it’s your favorite song
Dance, dance, dance to the distortion
Come on, turn it up, keep it on repeat
Stumbling around like a wasted zombie
Yeah, we think we’re free
Drink, this one is on me
We’re all chained to the rhythm

17. “Believer” by Imagine Dragons

Genre: Pop rock

Description: This song is about making your own life and destiny (future). It is about believing in yourself no matter what others say. Also, the singer talks about how everything he has become has come from his pain. It is his painful experiences that have made him so powerful.

Some tricky words you will find in this song include “veins” (types of blood vessels), “ache” (pain) and “choking”(being breathless). So listen to these words again and again as you play the song.

Lines to focus on:

I was choking in the crowd
Living my brain up in the cloud
Falling like ashes to the ground
Hoping my feelings, they would drown
But they never did, ever lived, ebbing and flowing
Inhibited, limited
Till it broke up and it rained down

(“Ebbing” is used to describe the moving back of water in the ocean. In this case, it is being used to describe a lessening of feeling or emotion. “Inhibited” can be used to describe something that is prevented or held back, like actions or feelings.)

 

Hope you have a great time listening to these songs and boosting your English speaking skills!


Dhritiman Ray is a writer of fiction, poetry and non-fiction. He specializes in topics like education, psychology and lifestyle. To know more, click here.

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.

Experience English immersion online!

Comments are closed.