Wouldn’t it be great if you were practicing German at the same time?
Like listening (and maybe singing along) to music on Spotify!
I’ll show you German Spotify keywords you can use to start streaming incredible German songs, plus lots of recommendations you can rock out to right away.
- Why Use Spotify to Find German Songs?
- 5 Search Terms to Find the Best German Songs on Spotify
- Neue Deutsche Welle
- German Indie, German Hip Hop, German Pop, Oh My!
Why Use Spotify to Find German Songs?
Back in the stone ages, when mankind still listened to music on those shiny CD things, getting your hands on German music could be tough if you weren’t in a German-speaking country. But now, thanks to music streaming services like Spotify, finding German songs is a piece of (Black Forest) cake.
On Spotify, you can search with German keywords and get lots of suggestions for artists who sing auf Deutsch (in German).
But listening to German songs on Spotify is way more than a novelty or mere entertainment. Scientists have found major links between music and memory, especially if you sing along.
Music and language also have a lot in common. They share things like rhythm, tone, melody and so on. This means listening to German songs on Spotify will help you get a feel for the intonation, pronunciation and phrasing of the language, which can have a positive impact on your speaking skills.
Last but most definitely not least, German songs will give you a glimpse into the culture and teach you lots of cool vocabulary you won’t find in German textbooks.
If you want to go further into German music culture, you can look for music videos of your favorite German songs. If you use a program like FluentU you’ll basically turn each music video into its own little lesson. That’s because FluentU uses authentic German videos (like music videos) with interactive subtitles, so you can have the lyrics at your fingertips and be able to quickly see the definition of any word in the subtitles.
Although you might not come away a major Schlager fan (more on that in a minute) or develop a taste for German hip hop, you’ll still get a feel for what kind of German music is out there as well as its history.
Who knows? Maybe someday you’ll bond with your new German pals over your mutual love for Namika, Fettes Brot or Sportsfreunde Stiller.
So let’s get started.
5 Search Terms to Find the Best German Songs on Spotify
Here are some suggestions for keywords you can use to find great German songs on Spotify. They’ll take you through many different eras and genres that native German speakers know.
Kabarett is the German word for cabaret. This style of music is known for its political satire, irony and, at times, dark humor. Kabarett got its start in the Weimar-era 1920s and is still going strong today, although not all modern artists add in song and dance like they did in the old days.
Listening to this music, you can learn a lot about the political goings-on at various points in history in a tongue-in-cheek way. A lot of kabarett musicians also sing in various German dialects or accents.
Kabarett Songs on Spotify for German Learners
Have a listen to Georg Kreisler’s 1963 “Tauben vergiften” (“Poisoning Pigeons”) to hear a slight Viennese accent.
Then compare it to “Lieber Leierkastenmann” (“Dear Organ Grinder”) written and sung by Willi Kollo in 1928 from Berlin.
Next, move on to the wacky 90s song “Katzenklo” (“Kitty Litter Box”) sung by Helge Schneider, a kabaterrist and comedian from Westfalia, a region in northwestern Germany.
Can you hear the difference between their accents?
Peace, love and lieder machen (making songs), baby!
Liedermacher is German for singer-songwriter, particularly left-wing activists from the 1960—in other words, the German counterpart to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and co. Like Kabarett, German Liedermacher wrote playful, socially critical but also lyrical texts brimming with great vocabulary to learn.
Liedermacher Songs on Spotify for German Learners
If you want to learn a classic just about every German still knows the lyrics to, then learn Reinhard Mey’s 1974 “Über den Wolken” (“Over the Clouds”). This song has been shouted out on many a drunken night by old and young alike.
To hear the sound of a Liedermacher from the GDR, check out “Die Stasi-Ballade” (“The Stasi Ballad”) by Wolf Biermann, also from 1974, which is critical of the East German secret police.
If you’re in the mood for less politics and more pop, Udo Jürgens is your go-to. “Ich war noch niemals in New York” (“I’ve Never Been to New York”) is a fun tune from 1980 where you can hear Jürgens talk about all the things he has yet to do in New York and other places in the U.S.
Schlager means “hit” in German, but every German knows it really means kitsch and camp. The German sister to easy listening, this style of music is known for its syrupy sweet, sentimental lyrics, catchy tunes and light pop sound.
Corny though they may be, Schlager songs are full of great vocabulary and are part of the culture at large, whether most Germans want to admit it or not.
If you want to be a pro, you definitely need to Schunkeln when you listen to it. Schunkeln is a weird dance where you lock arms and sway back and forth. Trust me, you have to see it to believe it.
Schlager Songs on Spotify for German Learners
For some classic Schlager, check out “Immer wieder Sonntags” (“Always on Sundays”) from the 70s pop dynamo Cindy & Bert. If it’s not available in your Spotify region, you can catch it on YouTube.
The 1965 one-hit wonder “Marmor, Stein und Eisen bricht” (“Marble, Stone and Iron Breaks”) from Drafi Deutscher is another tune basically everyone and their mother knows.
In the ’60s and ’70s, Schlager stars loved to take hits in English and give them German lyrics that had nothing to do with the original, like the classic “Ein Bett im Kornfeld” (“A Bed in a Cornfield”), sung to the tune of “Let Your Love Flow” by The Bellamy Brothers.
No Schlager list would be complete without a saccharine sweet song by today’s reigning queen of Schlager, Helene Fischer. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the cheesy pop majesty of “Atemlos durch die Nacht” (“Breathless through the Night”).
Neue Deutsche Welle
Sick of the sentimental sweetness of Schlager and the heartfelt crooning of the Liedermacher, Neue Deutsche Welle artists burst onto the scene in West Germany in the 1980s. Literally “New German Wave,” Neue Deutsche Welle brought in a post-punk sound heavy on the synthesizers.
This style of music is also an important one to know if you’re interested in German culture, and has maybe a cooler sound than some of the genres I already mentioned.
Neue Deutsche Welle Songs on Spotify for German Learners
If you want to learn German to some classic electronic beas and diss some dictators along the way, check out the 1981 song “Der Mussolini” (“The Mussolini,” as in, “dance the Mussolini”) by DAF. The band name stands for Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft (German-American Friendship).
For a sound heavier on the electric guitars than electronic effects and synths, a song like “TV-GLOTZER (WHITE PUNKS ON DOPE)” from the ever-eccentric star Nina Hagen is the way to go. It’s is full of slang, including die Glotze, which is slang for TV. TV-Glotzer roughly translates to TV-Starer.
Last but not least, let the ultimate German new wave princess Nena teach you a little grammar with her classic hit “Irgendwie, irgendwo, irgendwann” (“Somehow, Somewhere, Someday”).
German Indie, German Hip Hop, German Pop, Oh My!
Liedermacher and Kabarett are too old school for you, you can’t really warm up to Neue Deutsche Welle and Schlager gets on your freaking nerves? No problem!
On Spotify you can easily search for German songs in your favorite style by searching for a particular genre, like indie, pop, rap, punk, etc., with “German” in front.
German Indie, Hip Hop and Pop on Spotify
Who knows? Maybe Namika will become your “Lieblingsmensch” (“Favorite Person”).
Do you know how to say yes and no at the same time in German? Let the hip hop group from Hamburg Fettes Brot teach you with their late ’90s hit, Jein (“Yes and No”).
Maybe it doesn’t matter at all, and yet it does—and you want the legendary band Tocotronic to teach you how to say that in German with their song “Es Ist Egal, Aber.”
Still not sure what kind of music you’re in the mood for? You can also follow playlists of German songs on Spotify with a mix of artists, like German Songs You Should Know or Deutsche Lieder/German Songs. Happy listening!
Rebeccah Dean is a writer and educator who has lived in Berlin since 1999. You can read more about her adventures on her blog Rebeccah Travels.