Spanish music is pretty awesome.
Those strong beats, those hip-swaying rhythms—it’s impossible to deny your body’s instinct to move and groove when a salsa or bachata song comes on.
And Spanish music is an international phenomenon. You’ve probably heard a few hit Spanish tunes in your day, or perhaps you’re a full-blown reggaeton addict.
Maybe you’ve been interested in Spanish-language music ever since you heard Ricky Martin’s “Livin la Vida Loca.”
Well, have you ever listened to the full song in Spanish? It’s even better than the English one.
As is often the case with translated books, the original version of a song is usually preferable to the translation.
And let us tell you a secret, there’s a whole world of seriously cool Spanish singers out there doing their thing. You probably haven’t heard of many of them—but they’re flying under your radar right now, just waiting for you to discover them.
But the best thing about them?
They sing all types of music. It isn’t all just smoochy love songs.
And of course, you get to learn Spanish while you dance along (we cannot guarantee learning and dancing will occur at the same time. One step at a time, people!).
How Spanish Song Lyrics Can Improve Your Fluency
Apart from the fact that you’ll get to discover artists you might not know about and revisit those you already know and love, translating Spanish lyrics can be a fun and enlightening exercise.
You know that feeling when you look at the lyrics in English and realize “Oh, that’s what the song is about!”? Well, it’s like that when you figure out Spanish lyrics—but it’s even better because it required a little extra brain power to decipher the riddle.
As well as learning loads of new vocabulary, you can also see how some of that grammar you’ve been swotting up on is used in the songs.
Singing along to the songs once you’ve figured them out can help you get used to Spanish pronunciation, and singing the fast bits is an extra challenge. And if you ever do happen to go to a karaoke party where all the songs are in Spanish, you’ll be at an advantage.
So, how exactly do you learn with song lyrics?
Well, we recommend the first time you listen you watch the video and enjoy the music without worrying too much about the words. Hopefully, after this first viewing you’ll have an idea more or less of what the song is about (if not, don’t panic!).
The second time around you can start and stop the song to try and pick out some more vocabulary. Try filling in the gaps with a website like Lyrics Training, or simply look up the letra (lyrics) with your good friend Google so you can start trying to figure out what’s going on.
FluentU is another fantastic option for learning Spanish with song lyrics. You’ll find everything from the Spanish rendition of “Rolling in the Deep” to a Spanish “Sesame Street” rap or the Spanish versions of your favorite Disney songs here.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos topics, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.
Plus, if you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re studying with the same video.
You can always manually look up any words you don’t understand in songs (try these apps if you don’t have a good dictionary). But either way, this is the important part: try and remember those lyrics.
The memory part can be achieved by writing all the lyrics down, or perhaps by singing the song over and over again until you’ve got it. The second version is probably more fun, and there are lots of YouTube versions of songs perfect for your karaoke needs. Some even have the lyrics written on the screen for you.
But where should you start? There’s so many songs out there!
Luckily for you, we’ve picked five great, catchy Spanish songs to get you started.
5 Modern Spanish Songs with Lyrics That Double as Language Lessons
1. “Me Gustas Tú” by Manu Chao
Manu Chao’s happy-go-lucky song about all the things he likes in life is perfect for beginners. It’s also a really easy one to sing along to.
The structure of the song is simple, with the verses stating all the things Manu Chao likes (e.g. me gusta viajar). Then he caps off each verse by saying he likes the person he’s singing to (me gustas tú). The chorus is a mix of French and Spanish (we’ll ignore the French for the purposes of this post, but if you’re learning French too then it’s a double whammy language lesson song).
The first three verses are fairly simple, with the song referencing dreaming (me gusta soñar), motorbikes (me gusta la moto) and rain (me gusta la lluvia).
The last verse includes some more tricky vocab. Let’s take a look at it:
Me gusta la canela, me gustas tú.
Me gusta el fuego, me gustas tú.
Me gusta menear, me gustas tú.
Me gusta la Coruña, me gustas tú.
Me gusta Malasaña, me gustas tú.
Me gusta la castaña, me gustas tú.
Me gusta Guatemala, me gustas tú.
So what on earth is canela? We’ll give you that one for free. It means cinnamon.
And menear? What does that mean? Menear can mean to shake, to wiggle or to sway. Our money’s on the swaying.
Try and figure out the rest of the song on your own. And no, you don’t need to feel proud for translating the word Guatemala. But if you find out where Malasaña is without the power of Google, you get extra points.
This song is a good way to drill into your head the grammar of the verb gustar. If what you’re talking about is singular, the verb gustar is singular (e.g. me gusta el mar — I like the sea). If you’re talking about something plural (e.g. aviones) then gustar is plural (me gustan los aviones — I like planes).
2. “Vivir Mi Vida” by Marc Anthony
American Marc Anthony is absolutely huge in Latin America, and this song was a massive hit in 2013. It’s another uplifting song perfect for singing along at the top of your voice once you’ve mastered the words.
So, what’s he singing about? Well, he begins the song with the chorus which is repeated throughout the song. It goes like this:
Voy a reír, voy a bailar
Vivir mi vida lalalalá
Voy a reír, voy a gozar
Vivir mi vida lalalalá
Try translating and then compare with this (no cheating!)
I’m going to laugh, I’m going to dance
Live my life lalala
I’m going to laugh, I’m going to enjoy myself
Live my life lalala.
The lalala bit was the worst, right? Didn’t think so.
The vocabulary in the song is simple but useful. There are already a couple of words that are worth picking out and noting down, such as heridas (wounds or injuries) and gotas (drops, in this case he’s talking about rain).
The grammar is also fairly straightforward, so this is a good one to practice the present tense.
Also, as we can see with the chorus we’ve just translated, Anthony uses the “ir + a + infinitive” structure several times in the chorus (Voy a bailar, for example).
If you ever get stuck trying to think of how to form this tense, next time you can just think of Mark Anthony and his plans for laughing, dancing and generally having a good time and living life. For more on this future form as well as other ways to talk about the future, see this post.
3. “Bailando” by Enrique Iglesias
Oh, Enrique. You hoped he was going to come up, didn’t you?
If you didn’t and you’re upset about the lack of female artists on this list, we’ll kindly direct you to our post on learning Spanish with Shakira. Yes, the Colombia Goddess gets her own post all to herself.
Remember that this song is different from “Bailamos” even though they’re both about dancing. This one is far less smoochy and more upbeat, and the video involves a lot of people bailando in the streets. Although it all maybe got a bit much for Enrique as he seems to have taken refuge in a tunnel.
Useful vocabulary is, as we would expect from Enrique, all related to the corazón. He talks about his heart beating slowly (me palpita lento). Palpitar is the verb “to beat” (as in heartbeat, not beating someone at Scrabble). He also croons about bodies going up (subiendo) and down (bajando), but we know he’s still talking about the dancing as he keeps repeating the word bailando, just in case anyone misinterprets him.
Again, the song is mostly in the present tense, so it’s nice and simple.
4. “Vivir sin aire” by Maná
Mexican group Maná gets a little cheesy in this song, as they sing about how they wish they could live without air, water and without their love but they find it impossible. As you can probably tell from the video, the song was released in the early 1990s.
Useful vocabulary is related to angst-ridden feelings like ahogar (to suffocate), the line reads me estoy ahogando sin tu amor (I am suffocating without your love). Try and see how many other lines you can spot that could have been written by a heartsick thirteen-year-old in their journal.
Maná often use the phrase cómo quisiera (how I would like), which is a good example of how conditionals are used in real life.
5. “Mambeado” by Onda Vaga
Onda Vaga don’t have the same level of international fame as the other artists listed here, but they’re popular in their home country Argentina, and with good reason.
Plus, their songs are excellent for learning Spanish. They’re simple enough that you can translate them, but full of enough new vocabulary that it’s still a challenge to figure them out.
“Mambeado” is full of useful vocab. Let’s take a look at a part of one of the verses:
Yo no sé por qué a veces me pierdo
Los ojos se me dan vuelta y me muero por dentro
Y me encierro otra vez y no puedo salir
No puedo ver lo lindo de cada momento
This translates to:
I don’t know why sometimes I get lost
My eyes go round in my head and I die inside
And I lock myself in again and I can’t go out
I can’t see how lovely every moment is.
Now, that may sound depressing, but the chorus invites everyone to sing it to the moon, the sun and stars, so this bunch of boys aren’t quite as moody as
they sound at first. This song is also another good one to sing at the top of your lungs. To really get in the Onda Vaga mood, this is preferably sung around a campfire.
So, now you can cantarle a la luna y al sol (sing to the moon and sun).
Sing it to the moon, the sun and maybe even your Spanish teacher!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.