learn german songs

Learn German with Music: 30 German Songs to Add to Your Playlist

Want to know how you can fill your playlists with popular German songs that you’d actually hear in Germany?

Then you’ve come to the right place!

Warm up those vocal chords and get ready to learn German with an eclectic mix of culturally important German songs that native speakers love, from classics to rock, pop and hip hop hits.

Contents

1. “Tour de France” 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” 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” 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, and certainly one of the most famous German singers.

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 for learning German because of its easy vocabulary and Grönemeyer’s clear enunciation.

4.“Ich bin zu müde, um schlafen zu geh’n” by Hildegard Knef

It’s hard to pick just one Hildegard Knef track for learning German. 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” 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’s 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” by Rammstein

Even if industrial metal isn’t your cup of tea, there’s no denying that Rammstein is one of Germany’s most important musical acts, both in the German-speaking world and 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 do like metal, you’re in luck! This song has very repetitive and easy lyrics, making it one of the better German songs for learning the language.

You can also check out Rammstein’s other music for more useful practice!

7. “Wir Sind Wir” by Paul Van Dyk and Peter Heppner

More than any other song of its time, this one 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 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” 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. Nevertheless, if you like hip-hop, give it a shot!

9. “Eisbär” 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” by Marlene Dietrich

Though this song has been recorded many times by different singers, Marlene’s recording of the German love song “Lili Marlene” 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 perfect for intermediate German students who are looking for a challenge as they learn German with music.

This is also probably one of the most famous German-language songs in the world!

11. “Moskau” by Dschinghis Khan

Dschinghis Khan is the poster child for German disco. Comprised of six singers and dancers—including a South African dancer dressed as a cartoonish Genghis Khan—Dschinghis Khan released a number of German-language disco tracks centering on hordes and Huns. The band was created in Munich to compete in Eurovision 1979.

“Moskau” (the German spelling of Moscow) has a particularly bright feel. It’s unabashedly fun, and a video of its performance has become Internet famous for featuring dancers in bright, satiny outfits performing outrageous Hopak-style dancing.

There are even a few interesting verb conjugations, such as the orders in the informal version of the Imperativ (imperative/command) case, telling the listener to “wirf die Gläser an die Wand” or “throw the glasses at the wall.” It could be a useful phrase at your next party—but maybe not at a Kneipe (pub).

12. “Sagen Sie, Frau Zimmermann” by Topsy Küppers

“Sagen Sie, Frau Zimmermann” (Tell Me, Mrs. Zimmerman) features a bold, brassy sound, with crooning ladies pulling out all the stops on background vocals. The storytelling in the lyrics takes center stage.

Repetition of commands such as “sagen Sie,” or “tell me,” is helpful for remembering the polite imperative, and there are many useful verbs such as “putzen” (to clean), “backen” (to bake) and “lieben” (to love) sprinkled throughout each stanza. This tale of a scorned woman is also filled with dark humor—an excellent incentive to translate the lyrics.

13. “Disco King” by Centrum

The title of the song says it all: it’s about the king of disco. Simplistic lyrics combine with a funky backing track to make for a short, enjoyable song.

The lyrics aren’t available online, so this is a good opportunity to test your listening comprehension. Its slow pace makes this song especially good for learners who are just starting to work on their listening skills. There is some fun vocabulary, such as “engen Hosen” (tight pants), as well as idiomatic turns of phrase, such as the separable verb in “und dann geht er los” (and then he sets off).

14. “Goldene Insel” by Shirley Thompson

“Goldene Insel” (Golden Island), is featured on the album “Funky Fräuleins,” a compilation of funky German songs.

Like other tracks on this list, “Goldene Insel” is catchy and poppy. The lyrics are hard to understand (mentioned in the album’s liner notes), but it’s invaluable to hear German spoken and sung in ways that are different from the standard accent. Conversing in a new language involves more than just classroom pronunciation, after all.

15. “Wenn der Urlaub kommt” by Manfred Krug

“Wenn der Urlaub kommt” (When the Vacation Comes) by Manfred Krug is like an afternoon spent at the city park: kind of loud and kind of exciting, with a noisier detour partway through. In this song, lyrics are sung in staccato, matching the meandering rhythm of the backing track.

Some phrases feature useful grammar. For example, from this line—“dann kriegst du Ärger”—you can learn more about the verb “kriegen,” which is a slightly less formal way of saying “bekommen” (to get or receive), and that this idiom means “to become angry.” The song can also help cement your understanding of the word wenn,” as it’s featured heavily throughout.

16. “Cola-Wodka” by Holger Biege

As this song crescendos amidst a funky haze of horns, pianos and high-energy drums, Holger Biege, a German singer, implicates vodka and Coke for his mistakes. Although “Cola-Wodka” (Vodka and Cola) was released in the late ‘70s, Holger Biege continues to sing to this day, belting out pop-rock songs.

The lyrics include some useful bits of vocabulary that help shift the blame or talk about bad things happening: “leider,” meaning “unfortunately,” and “Cola-Wodka war Schuld daran” (vodka and cola was to blame). The song’s name, too, offers some help in remembering how the letter W is pronounced in German—like V as in “vodka” (Wodka). The lyrics are available to view here.

17. “Trinklied” by Wir

The band Wir released some rocking songs. They sit firmly in the camp of funk-rock, with distorted guitars and unusual melodies. They started up in the disco age and played music through the late ‘80s.

This song, “Trinklied” (Drinking Song), is a particularly funky track. The vocals are dreamy at first, building up into harmonized shouts in the chorus (“Trink, trink!”—“Drink, drink!”). The relatively slow tempo makes for easy listening, and the lyrics are available online.

18. “Was du von mir verlangst” by Chicorée

Chicorée was a rock band from the DDR (the former East Germany) that was reasonably well known during the ‘80s, and this song (whose title means “What you’re asking of me”) is from 1987.  

One of the challenges of learning a new language is figuring out the most natural way to say something. Instead of memorizing set phrases, it’s helpful to find a catchy hook in a song that repeats a phrase—a built-in memory device. This song features two idiomatic expressions that repeat endlessly: von mir verlangen (to request of me) and “etwas macht mir Angst” (I’m afraid of something).

19. “Er gehört zu mir” by Marianne Rosenberg

Marianne Rosenberg was, and still is, a Schlager singer at heart. Although the German word “Schlager” literally means “hit,” Schlager songs are not really “pop.” Instead, Schlager songs tend to have a certain twangy sound and warm gentleness to the lyrics. They’re also great for learning German.

“Er gehört zu mir” (He Belongs to Me) is not a Schlager song. In fact, it sounds quintessentially disco, with the upbeat 4-4 rhythm found in most disco hits of the ‘70s. Likewise, the instrumentation isn’t filled with guitars or accordions, but synths and strings.

Given Marianne Rosenberg’s clear enunciation, this is an excellent song for practicing your accent, but even beyond that, the lyrics are filled with immediately useful phrases.

20. “Ich will dich” by Kreis

With stirrings of strings and flutes in the background, breathy vocals sing out, “Ich will dich, ich will dich, ich will dich… Ah, sag… was willst du? Ich will dich, ich will dich, nur dich immerzu!” “(I want you, I want you, I want you… Tell me…what do you want? I want you, I want you, only you, forever!”).

The tempo of the song is great for beginners, and the repetitive lyrics are catchy and memorable. At the very least, you’ll learn how to say, “I want you” over and over—a useful phrase for when you’re meeting up with a special German friend.

Kreis’s discography features numerous songs with disco and funk stylings. If you enjoy this track, you’re sure to enjoy others in their rock oeuvre.

21. “Mama will ins Netz” by Annett Louisan

A sweet, upbeat ditty with plenty of humor and fond mockery.

The scenario: the singer-songwriter’s mother ventures into the world of computing for the first time, hoping to figure out the process of sending an email. Louisan helps her on the phone, providing instructions.

Plenty of nouns, so plenty of article declination. What to do mit der Maus (with the mouse)? Mit dem Karton (with the box)? Was hast du denn für ‘nen Provider (so what kind of provider do you have)? Mama has no idea. Die Hoffnung stirbt zuletzt (Hope dies last).

22. “Im freien Fall” by Wirtz

Daniel Wirtz uses vividly descriptive language, so we can observe how adjective endings change form with different cases.

He starts with the image of mentale Müllentsorgung (mental trash disposal). He employs dative and accusative declination of neutral-gender adjectives: Zieh’ mit dem schneidenden Wort, gegen das stumpfe Gelaber (move with the cutting word against the dull babble).

He presents his personal philosophy in reinster Form (in purest form) as he describes das Leben im freien Fall (life in free fall). The song also features a variety of German adverbs.

23. “Der langsame Tod eines sehr großen Tieres” by Herrenmagazin 

Zu, über, unten, in, vor, aus, bei (to, over, under, in, before, out, at)—this song is full of those luscious German prepositions. As the indie rockers from Hamburg paint a dark and abstract picture of dysfunctional love, you can cement in your brain the diverse ways in which prepositions act upon possessive pronouns, articles and adjectives.

Also, the lyrics provide examples of imperative form in the second-person plural. The live acoustic version of the song on TV Noir, with a slower tempo and black-and-white aesthetic, is particularly lovely and haunting.

24. “Eisberg” by Andreas Bourani

This song shows many examples of the dative state, so you can refer back to it and work out the accusative by elimination, if ever confused.

Ich treib alleine auf dem Meer (I float alone on the sea) he sings, static state, with the dative particle dem. If he were to shove a boat into the sea and take off, it would be the directional accusative, (fahre hinaus) auf das Meer, shortened to aufs Meer (I’m sailing out onto the sea). The song is also a good source of reflexive pronouns.

25. “Dreh dich nicht um” by Gisbert zu Knyphausen

In this song, singer-songwriter Gisbert zu Knyphausen says goodbye to a failing romantic relationship and employs a number of verbs with separable prefixes as he lays out the impending separation. Nimm deine Schuhe mit, he says—take your shoes with (you), the imperative form sending the “with” on the front of the infinitive verb mitnehmen (to take with) to the end of the clause.

The same rule returns as he applies the imperative to the verb umdrehen and tells her, dreh dich nicht um (don’t turn around), with his construction based on the verb krummnehmen (take the wrong way) and the imperative nimm sie uns nicht krumm (don’t take it wrongly). We also see a separable verb, einreden (talk into/persuade), staying whole, because the modal verb musst (must), at the start of a long sentence, keeps it united at the end of a subordinate clause.

26. “Zeiten ändern sich” by Bushido

This belongs to that particular brand of rap song which glorifies the money and possessions the rapper has accumulated while sneering at his haters, who so clearly underestimated him back in the day.

All that self-involvement produces great examples of reflexive verbs and pronouns! As reflexive verbs have the same object and subject, “me me me” songs are perfect. For instance, Bushido can now buy himself (sich kaufen) all kinds of things if he wished, like an entire Lidl grocery store and a villa. Why? Because the times have changed (themselves)—Zeiten ändern sich.

27. “Bilder mit Katze” by Frittenbude

It’s a catchy electro track with laconic hipster rap vocals to help you remember how subjunctive I (Konjunktiv I) form works.

Actually, there’s just one example—doch sie sei leider pleite (she was supposedly broke, unfortunately)—but the song is also packed with adjective declination, past tense verb conjugation, lots of slang and complex narrative lyrics. Plus, the music video is utterly charming. Sei (subjunctive form of is) is basically the most important passive verb form, anyway, along with habe (subjunctive form of have).

28. “Wenn ich ein Junge wär” by Fräulein Wunder

Ah, subjunctive II (Konjunktiv II), the marvelous realm of theoretical, far-fetched possibilities and sheer imagination. What would you do if you were suddenly transformed from a girl to a boy? The ladies of Fräulein Wunder have a few ideas.

Ich würd nur D-max gucken, und Jacky-Cola schlucken, ich würd mich selber küssen, und nur zum Spaß freihändig pissen – wenn ich ein Junge wär… (I would watch only D-max, gulp cola, kiss myself and piss with no hands for fun…) Drinking with Swedish girls, martial arts and donating sperm also make the list of subjunctive activities.

29. “Paradies” by Die Toten Hosen

If you want to learn the tricks of possessive form, spend a bit of time with this song’s lyrics. They feature possessive constructions using the genitive form, both feminine and masculine: Die Hölle der Wiedergeburt (the hell of rebirth), im Buch des Lebens (in the Book of Life).

Possessive pronouns also show up: there’s the genitive dessen Chancen stehen nicht schlecht (his chances aren’t bad) and the basic accusative wer sein Schicksal mit Demut trägt (he who bears his fate with humility).

30. “Krieger des Lichts” by Silbermond

A stirring song in general, and especially helpful if you’re studying the imperative form. 

Lasst uns aufstehen, macht euch auf den Weg, sei wie der Fluß, wenn dein Wille schläft, dann weck ihn wieder (let us stand up, set out on the way, be like the river, when your will sleeps, wake it up again)—this song really spans the gamut of imperative verbs. You’ll also find some useful examples of possessive genitive.

 

Have we got you rockin’ out to Rammstein or swaying to swoony old-school tunes?

The internet has many more songs and music videos that you can use to keep improving your German, if you know where to look.

You can always browse through lists of German songs on Spotify and try to work out the words’ meaning in context. Another good way to improve your understanding of German grammar, vocabulary and idioms is learning German with song lyrics.

You can also take it a step further and use learning programs to help guide you.

FluentU is one of the best websites and apps for learning German the way native speakers really use it. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

Watch authentic media to simultaneously immerse yourself in the German language and build an understanding of the German culture.

By using real-life videos, the content is kept fresh and current. Topics cover a lot of ground as you can see here:

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Vocabulary and phrases are learned with the help of interactive subtitles and full transcripts.

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Hovering over or tapping on any word in the subtitles will automatically pause the video and instantly display its meaning. Interesting words you don’t know yet can be added to a to-learn list for later.

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For every lesson, a list of vocabulary is provided for easy reference and bolstered with plenty of examples of how each word is used in a sentence.

Your existing knowledge is tested with the help of adaptive quizzes in which words are learned in context.

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To keep things fresh, FluentU keeps track of the words you’re learning and recommends further lessons and videos based on what you've already studied.

This way, you have a truly personalized learning experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

Whatever your taste in music is, you’ve now got a killer playlist of classics and hit German songs to help you learn more about the language.

 

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

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