It sounds so cool to learn German with songs…
Until you remember that you don’t know any.
How can you fill your playlists with popular German songs that you’d actually hear in Germany?
That’s exactly what we’ll show in this article.
So warm up those vocal chords and get ready to learn German with music that native speakers love, from classics to rock, pop and hip hop hits.
Why Learn German with Songs?
If you find a song in German that you like, it’s only a matter of time before you start singing along without even knowing the exact words. This is great for your listening comprehension skills!
And by learning mega-hits and classic German songs, you’ll get a glimpse into German culture. After all, communicating is about more than just language.
After you learn these songs, you’ll be able to connect to German people on a deeper level.
Though music in German is generally not well known outside of Germany, Switzerland and Austria, there are a number of German hits that you might dig.
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Learn German with Songs: 10 Classic German Music Hits That You Oughta Know
The following is an eclectic mix of culturally important German songs that are handpicked to tickle your fancy as you learn German with music. Go forth and stream!
1. “Tour de France” (1983) by Kraftwerk
From the celebrated German electronic music band comes this 1983 international hit that portrays the experience of competing in the world’s most famous cycling race, the Tour de France.
In Kraftwerk’s signature style, this song employs repetitive rhythms and a catchy melody with only electronic instrumentation. This electronic music classic notably incorporates mechanical sounds associated with cycling.
This song is perfect for beginners to learn German with music, because it doesn’t have many lyrics yet will teach you quite a lot of vocabulary related to European geography!
2.“99 Luftballons” (1983) by Nena
This famous anti-nuclear protest song by the New German Wave band Nena accurately captures the political climate of the Cold War in the ’80s in Germany. It tells a story of how helium balloons are casually released into the air by West German civilians, but are then misconstrued as missiles by East German officials.
This results in all-out nuclear war, leaving “no room for victors.” Not only is this song easy to follow if you have the lyrics, but it is also great for vocabulary if you’re a German history or political science enthusiast!
3. “Männer” (1984) by Herbert Grönemeyer
This half-satirical, half-Men’s Lib song about men and their nuances is one of the most popular German songs by Herbert Grönemeyer. Grönemeyer is one of the most commercially successful artists in Germany.
Featured in his album 4360 Bochum, the track ironically points out that “men provide security [yet] men cry in secret […] men can do everything [yet] men have heart attacks.”
This catchy classic is perfect to learn German with songs because of its easy vocabulary and Grönemeyer’s clear enunciation.
4.“Ich bin zu müde, um schlafen zu geh’n” (1966) by Hildegard Knef
It’s hard to pick just one Hildegard Knef track to learn German with songs. Knef is one of Germany’s most famous chanteuses of the ’60s and ’70s. This tune, sung in her signature smoky, almost raspy, voice, is about how she is “too tired to go to sleep.”
She hates silence and calm and loves the clamor and the “pulse of the hasty night.” This song is perfect for you if you like something more playful or lighthearted. It has the added benefit that you would find most of its vocabulary in an elementary German textbook!
5. “Im wunderschönen Monat Mai,” Dichterliebe (1840) by Robert Schumann
No list of German songs would be complete without at least one Lied (“art song”), the 19th century genre consisting of setting romantic German poems to music. This piece is the first of 16 movements of Schumann’s longer song cycle Dichterliebe (“the Poet’s Love”), whose lyrics are taken from Heinrich Heine’s Lyrisches Intermezzo (1822).
It is about a knight who sits sorrowfully at home all day, but is visited by a fairy bride at night. The knight dances with her until the morning when she returns him to his “poet’s room.”
Though the vocabulary of the Dichterliebe is a bit advanced, the version above is clearly sung so you can definitely follow along!
6. “Du Hast” (1997) by Rammstein
Even if industrial metal is not really your cup of tea, there is no denying that Rammstein is one of Germany’s most important musical acts, not just in the German-speaking world, but also abroad. This song, which you might recognize from films like The Matrix and How High, plays with the homophones hast (“have”) and hasst (“hate”).
If you like metal, you’re in luck as this song has very repetitive and easy lyrics making it a great option to learn German with music.
Hint: check out Rammstein’s other songs as they will probably be useful as well!
7. “Wir Sind Wir” (2004) by Paul Van Dyk and Peter Heppner
More than any other song of its time, this song attempts to reflect upon the deep insecurity that Germans were feeling at the turn of the last century. Given the economic slump of the early 2000s, as well as the reduction of welfare benefits and the stagnation of the former East, this song aims to highlight that “this is just a bad period.”
An anthem of hope for the German identity, it was received favorably in the country and is well known to many young Germans. The lyrics by the renowned Paul van Dyk are powerfully political and great for an intermediate level German student!
8. “Leider Geil” (2012) by Deichkind
Deichkind is one of Germany’s top hip-hop/electro acts, whose ironic and humorous lyrics found popularity in the German-speaking world at the end of the ’90s. This silly song and its equally comical video try to explain, with examples, the concept of leider geil, or “unfortunately awesome.”
For example, despite creating pollution and hurting the environment, getting a fancy new ride is leider geil. The pace of the lyrics, as well as the use of slang, make it more appropriate for a higher level German language student hoping to learn German with songs. Nevertheless, if you like hip-hop, give it a shot!
9. “Eisbär” (1980) by Grauzone
Another hit from the German New Wave, this post-punk “cult” song by the Swiss band Grauzone features a man singing about wanting to be a polar bear. According to him, if he were one, he “wouldn’t have to cry [and] everything would be fine.”
Performed with guitars, drums and synthesizers, the song goes on to remark that “polar bears never have to cry.” This song is ideal for German language beginners who want to acquire some basic, yet specific, vocabulary while they learn German with music that most native speakers recognize!
10. “Lili Marlene” (1944) by Marlene Dietrich
Last but certainly not least is Marlene Dietrich and her rendition of the German love song “Lili Marlene.” Though this song has been recorded many times by different singers, Marlene’s recording is arguably the most well-known. Written as a poem in 1915, this song became popular during World War II with soldiers from both sides of the war.
With poignant yet colorful lyrics, this ode to Lili Marlene is a perfect for intermediate German students who are looking for a challenge as they learn German with music.
This song is also probably one of the most famous German-language songs in the world!
Have we got you rockin’ out to Rammstein or swaying to swoony old-school tunes? Whatever your German music taste is, you’ve now got a killer classic playlist to learn German with songs.
And One More Thing...
Want to know the key to learning German effectively?
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