Tired of memorizing conjugation tables?
Take a break.
And while you’re at it, why not get to know some German classics?
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 classic 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.
The following is an eclectic mix of culturally important songs that are handpicked to tickle your fancy! Go forth and stream!
10 Classic Songs for German Learners
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 German language beginners because it doesn’t have many lyrics yet will teach you quite a lot 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 eighties 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 by Herbert Grönemeyer’s, one of the most commercially successful artists in Germany. Featured in his album 4360 Bochum, the third best-selling record in Germany, 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 German classic is perfect for German learners 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 a song by Hildegard Knef, one of Germany’s most famous chanteuses in the sixties and seventies. This track, 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 clamour and the “pulse of the hasty night.” This song is perfect for you if you like something more playful or light-hearted. 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 music 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 sixteen 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, you can find a version that is clearly sung and 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 song for language learning. 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 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 nineties. 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 this song, as well as its 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” (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 learning a song that most German 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-level German students who are looking for a challenge! This song is also probably one of the most famous German-language songs in the world!
And One More Thing…
Want to make sure you don’t miss a word in an authentic German song or video?
You’ll get content that native German speakers actually watch on the regular, from hit music videos to funny commercials, scenes from “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the hit song “Let it Go” from “Frozen.”
Love the idea of watching fun, authentic videos, but worried about understanding them well enough? FluentU brings native videos within reach with its interactive subtitles.
While watching your chosen videos, you can tap on any subtitled word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used by modern natives. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can simply tap “add” to save it to your vocabulary list.
As you can see, FluentU isn’t just for watching videos. It’s a unique language learning program designed to get you to total German mastery, complete with active learning tools like vocabulary lists, multimedia flashcards and more.
Even the flashcards have something special to offer learners—they integrate video clips, imagery and audio to create rich, memorable learning experiences and help you retain German vocabulary better than ever.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of your progress and recommends relevant content based on what you’ve already learned.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.