Relax, we are not about to tell you to endure "Despacito" for the 50th time!
Music remains one of the most popular ways of exploring, absorbing and understanding a new language. Scientifically, research suggests that music learning could be intimately related to learning languages more easily. How awesome is that? Your brain gets all enthusiastic about language and music alike!
For that reason, do not be scared of exposing yourself to more music genres, a wider variety of styles, and even different accents when it comes to music created in the Spanish-speaking world. Sometimes language learners will feel overwhelmed, irritated or hopeless when they are confronted with lyrics they don't understand. However, do not forget that music tends to repeat some expressions over and over, and that topics tend to repeat themselves too! Love, politics, friendship, breakups, talking about how you're the most awesome person at the local party...you name it!
So, how about we take a look at some really, really awesome songs in Spanish that will keep you pushing that replay button until it gets numb?
8. Bebe: "Malo" ("Evil")
Having received thirteen award nominations for the Latin Grammy Awards and having won the award for Best New Artist in 2005, Bebe brings an alternative vibe to her songs. She blends typical Spanish rhythms and instruments with rock'n'roll and pop, and her lyrics often address strong topics such as self-confidence, violence in relationships, gender equality, and overcoming experiences of abuse and negativity.
"Malo" (meaning "evil", "bad") is arguably her most popular song, as it tells us the story of a woman who is mistreated and abused (verbally and physically) by her partner. She cries often, feels scared of what might happen to her, tries to protect her children from the abuse, and yet lets us know how strong and smart she is.
Not only is this song touching and empowering for its lyrics, it is also creative and unpredictable in its sound. You will be surprised by how much the rhythm and the style change as the track progresses!
"Una vez más no, por favor, que estoy cansada
y no puedo con el corazón,
una vez más no, mi amor, por favor,
no grites, que los niños duermen...
Voy a volverme como el fuego,
voy a quemar tu puño de acero,
y del morao de mi mejillas saldrá el valor
pa' cobrarme las heridas.
Malo, malo, malo eres,
no se daña a quien se quiere, no;
tonto, tonto, tonto eres,
no te pienses mejor que las mujeres."
"Not one more time, please, because I am tired,
and my heart can't take it,
Not one more time, my love, please, don't shout
the children are sleeping...
I'm going to come back as fire
I'm going to burn your fists of steel
And from my blackberry-colored cheeks
Will come the value to avenge my wounds
Evil, evil, you are evil
One doesn't damage the ones one loves, no!
Fool, fool, you are a fool
Don't think you are better than women"
7. Mala Rodríguez: "Quién Manda" ("Who is the Boss")
What? You still don't know one of the greatest names of Spanish hip hop?!
Mala Rodríguez is a Latin Grammy Award-winning Spanish rapper, from Andalucía straight to your earbuds!
Her powerful music videos as well as the way she blends flamenco and rap in several of her songs have made her one of the biggest names in the industry. She became such a reference that her songs were even featured in several movies across the Spanish-speaking world and France, as well as video games (such as "EA Sports FIFA" and "Need for Speed").
*"Y si ya tengo el agua que me da la lluvia
Si conozco lo grande que me da el cielo.
Si ya tengo lo oscuro que me da la noche
Si entiendo lo que pasa cuando arde el fuego
Si se abren los caminos cuando hay estrellas
Si puedo vivir por lo que cae al suelo
Si no me falta la esperanza gracias a la mañana,
Yo no necesito poder...
Quién manda aquí, quién?
Quién manda aquí, quién?
Tiempo de ver como se levanta la gente
Yo no necesito poder"
"And if I already have the water that the rain gives me
If I know the greatness that the sky gives me
If I have the darkness that nights brings to me
If I know what happens when fire burns
If the road opens when stars come out
If I can live out of things that fall on the floor
If I don't need any hope thanks to the morning,
I don't need any power...
Who is the boss here? Who?
Who is the boss here? Who?
It's time to see how the people rise
I don't need any power."
6. Calle 13: "Latinoamérica" ("Latin America")
Still along the lines of rap and hip hop, the Puerto Rican group Calle 13 is one of the most political in Latin American music - not to mention one of the most creative! The band will often rap about political revolution, social inequalities, the strength of the minorities, poverty, education and Latin American identity.
This particular song is touching and inspiring for the fact that it is an ode to Latin America - its green and blue landscapes, its hard-working people who have often been exploited, and the strength of its population. The song refers to several iconic elements of Latin American culture: a warm village, a basket with beans, the lakes and rivers, Diego Maradona (legendary Argentinian soccer player),...there is even a reference to Colombian Nobel prize winning author Gabriel García Márquez!
Perhaps the fundamental message the song conveys is that regardless of how much some industries greedily try exploiting entire peoples and cultures, some things - and lives! - simply cannot be put for sale.
Inspiring words, beautiful tune! And a bonus? A small fragment of the song is also sung in Brazilian Portuguese, making you feel like a true polyglot!
"Soy lo que sostiene mi bandera,
la espina dorsal del planeta es mi cordillera.
Soy lo que me enseño mi padre,
el que no quiere a su patria no quiere a su madre.
Soy América latina,
un pueblo sin piernas pero que camina.
Tú no puedes comprar al viento.
Tú no puedes comprar al sol.
Tú no puedes comprar la lluvia.
Tú no puedes comprar el calor.
Tú no puedes comprar las nubes.
Tú no puedes comprar los colores.
Tú no puedes comprar mi alegría.
Tú no puedes comprar mis dolores."
"I am that which supports my flag,
The planet’s spine is my mountain range.
I am what my father taught me,
Whoever doesn’t love their country doesn’t love their mother.
I am Latin America,
A nation without legs but which keeps walking.
You can’t buy the wind.
You can’t buy the sun.
You can’t buy the rain.
You can’t buy the heat.
You can’t buy the clouds.
You can’t buy the colours.
You can’t buy my happiness.
You can’t buy my sorrows."
5. Buika: "No Habrá Nadie En El Mundo" ("There Will Be Nobody in the World")
Ready for some goosebumps? You most certainly are!
Concha Buika is a Spanish singer from Palma de Mallorca who stayed faithful to traditional Spanish rhythms, such as flamenco and copla, a form of popular song. If you are into soul, jazz, soothing rhythms and powerful vocal chords, you have found your best bet. Interesting fact? Buika actually started her music career as a drummer, but she had been rejected so many times (according to her, because she was a woman) that she decided to turn to singing instead! We don't complain.
"No Habrá Nadie En El Mundo" speaks of love, getting hurt by someone's pride, and definitely missing somebody too...to the point where you just can't sleep! The typical Spanish rhythm, Buika's slightly husky voice and the jazzy vibe you will get from this song will keep you absolutely hooked.
"Desde que el agua es libre,
Libre entre manantiales vive,
jazmines han llorado,
y yo no comprendo como
en tus ojos niña solo hay desierto.
Hermosa era la tarde, cuando entre los olivos nadie,
nadie vio como yo a ti te quise, como te quiero.
Hoy los olivos duermen y yo no duermo.
No habrá nadie en el mundo que cure
la herida que dejo tu orgullo,
yo no comprendo que tu me lastimes
con todo todo el amor que tu me diste..."
"Since water is free
Lives free between springs,
Jasmines have cried
and I don't understand how
In your eyes girl, there is only desert.
The afternoon was beautiful, when between the olive trees no one,
No one saw how I loved you, how I love you.
Today the olive trees sleep and I don't sleep.
There will be no one in this world who can cure
The wound that your pride left,
I don't understand how you hurt me
with all the love that you gave me"
4. Gente de Zona: "La Gozadera" ("The Party/The Fun Time")
Did you honestly believe this list would be complete without some serious party music?! Spanish is synonym with fiesta (party)! And where there's party, there is Gente de Zona.
Gente de Zona is a Cuban reggaeton group (currently a duo) which has been founded in 2000. The group mixes the powerful beats of reggaeton with traditional latin rhythms...and this song is the perfect place to begin!
"La Gozadera" (meaning the "fun party", "having a great time") is another song dedicated to Latin America, its heritage and what each country brings to the table when it's time to party hard. You are likely to learn how to name several Latin American countries in a row after listening to it a couple of times!
"La cosa esta bien dura, la cosa esta divina
Perú con Hondura, Chile con Argentina
Panamá trae la zandunga, Ecuador Bilirrubina
Y Uruguay con Paraguay, hermano con Costa Rica
Bolivia viene llegando, Brasil ya esta en camino
El mundo se esta sumando, a la gente de los latinos
Y se formó la gozadera, Miami me lo confirmo
Y el arroz con habichuela, Puerto Rico me lo regaló
Y la tambora merenguera, Dominicana ya repicó
Con México, Colombia y Venezuela y del caribe somos tú y yo"
"This thing is rather great, the thing is divine
Peru with Honduras, Chile with Argentina
Panama brings their partying (the song uses a slang expression for "living it up"), Ecuador their Bilirubin (dance)
And Uruguay with Paraguay, brother, with Costa Rica
Bolivia is arriving, Brazil is already on the way
The world is joining the Latino people
And the party started,
Miami confirmed it for me
And the rice and beans, Puerto Rico gave me
And the merengue drums, Dominican Republic already drummed in
With Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela
And the Caribbean is where you and I are from"
3. Celia Cruz - "La Vida Es Un Carnaval"
If you haven't met the Queen of Salsa, the time is now. Celia Cruz was a Cuban-American singer and arguably the most renowned Latin artist of the 20th century, having won several awards and having even been awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1994 by U.S. President Bill Clinton.
If you need more reasons to listen carefully to her melodies, know that Celia Cruz is a crucial symbol of Cuba and that she has been synonym with freedom, energy, liberation and female charisma and strength worldwide. Not listening to one of her songs is not even a choice!
Start with "La Vida Es un Carnaval" ("Life is a Carnival"), a song about positivity, overcoming hardship, living life with a light-hearted attitude and realizing the fact you are not necessarily alone in your darkest moments. What a beautiful way to get familiar with Spanish-speaking cultures and the identity of Latin America!
"Todo aquél que piense que la vida es desigual
Tiene que saber que no es así
Que la vida es una hermosura, hay que vivirla
Todo aquel que piense que está solo y que está mal
Tiene que saber que no es así
Que en la vida no hay nadie solo, siempre hay alguien
Ay, no hay que llorar
Que la vida es un carnaval y es más bello vivir cantando..."*
"Anyone who thinks life is unfair (lit. unequal)
Needs to know that's not the case,
that life is wonderful, one must live it.
Anyone who thinks they are alone and that the situation is bad
Needs to know that's not the case,
that in life no one is alone, there is always somebody...
Ah, no need to cry, for life is a Carnival,
And it's way more beautiful to live it while singing."
2. Villagran Bolaños (feat. El Chavez) - "El Ritmo Subtropical" ("The Subtropical Rhythm")
The land of Guaraní-speaking youth, the omnipresent tereré drink (infusion of yerba mate), awe-inspiring natural landscapes and caverns...and some really catchy alternative rock music! Bet you didn't expect that.
Villagran Bolaños are a popular band among Paraguayan rock enthusiasts, and they tend to blend the most addictive of latin rhythms and references to what we are commonly used to in rock'n'roll. "El Ritmo Subtropical" goes straight to the core with a tribute to...rhythm itself!
Notice how, unlike several other varieties of Spanish, Paraguayan Spanish refers to the second person singular (you) as vos, rather than tú or usted. Verbs are conjugated accordingly, and that is why you will hear the verb venir (to come) conjugated in its imperative form as "vení" rather than "ven" (for tú) or "venga" (for usted), for example.
*"Vení a bailar el ritmo subtropical
Vení a cantar, vení a saltar, te invito a pasar
Para que se sienta hasta en la Patagonia
Que se vaya moviendo resucitando momias
Tormenta de arena desde el Atakama
Un kilo de coca junto a Valderrama
Lluvia desde el sur, especially for you!
Semilla de luz, carga con tu cruz
Preguntame cuando es hora de salir
Vamos gateando, pero no vamos a huir!
Vení a bailar el ritmo subtropical
Vení a cantar, vení a saltar, te invito a pasar!"*
"Come dance to the subtropical rhythm
Come dance, come sing, I invite you to come around
In such a way it can even be felt in Patagonia
So that it moves along, bringing mummies back to life
Sandstorm all the way from the Atacama desert
A kilogram of coca nearby Valderrama
Rain from the south, especially for you!
Seed of light, carry your cross
Ask me when the time to go out is,
We may crawl, but we won't flee...
Come dance to the subtropical rhythm
Come dance, come sing, I invite you to come around"
1. Orishas - "Hay Un Son" ("There's a Sound")
If you remember the summer of 2003 in France, Spain, Portugal and/or Latin America, you remember this major hit by Cuban band Orishas. With songs that beautifully master both hip hop and typical Cuban heritage, you are likely to press "replay" a couple of times and be able to sing along after some days! Make sure you listen to their major hits, such as "El Kilo", "Naci Orishas", "Mistica", and "Represent Cuba".
"Hay Un Son" takes you straight to La Habana, the capital city and largest city of Cuba, speaking of a beautiful sound and rhythm that is hanging in the air and a contagious flow...which is, of course, that of this particular song! This is a great opportunity to start getting familiar with Cuban traditions and associated vocabulary, as well as this particular variety of Spanish.
"Tengo un son repleto de ritmos y sentimientos…
Se te mete dentro como lo hace mi guitarra…
Como primavera lanza flores en tus alas…
Sal para la buena… ¡y te llenará de ganas!
Hay un son, hay un flow…
Hay un son que se oye en la Habana…"
"I've got a sound full of rhythms and feelings...
It sticks to you just like my guitar does...
Like spring launches flowers on your wings...
Salt for the good...and it will fill you up with joy (the word "ganas" has no direct translation in English - it could mean "desire", "appetite", "feeling like doing something", "joy"...a very versatile word!)
There's a sound, there's a flow...
There's a sound one can hear in Havana..."