What got you interested in Spanish in the first place?
Perhaps you’ve watched Narcos or Casa de Papel and decided it was time to learn this wonderful language. Maybe you thought it sounded sexy, romantic or pleasant to the ear. You might also have travelled to Spain, Mexico, Argentina or one of several Spanish-speaking countries that keep us coming back for more!
But when it comes to Spanish, music is likely to be one of the top three reasons for learning the language.
What makes music in Spanish so special?
Spanish is a colourful language with badass literary traditions. It expresses a variety of feelings with extreme accuracy, from revenge and grief to passion and longing. The fact that Spanish blends its open vowels with the stronger sounds of the rolled “r”s and the jota makes it even more unpredictable and compelling to the ear!
It is also known that Spanish-speaking countries represent a variety of fascinating cultures whose history hasn’t always been peaceful, and so Spanish music is rich in its message as well. Apart from the fun songs about love and partying we all like to sing along to, many of the most compelling songs about rebellion, revolution and resilience are beautifully sung in Spanish.
12 Unforgettable Songs in Spanish That’ll Make Your Day
Whenever the topic of Spanish music comes up, it is only a matter of minutes until somebody mentions Catalonian singer Rosalía. The way she incorporates the intense sounds of the traditional Spanish art of flamenco into her hip hop hits has Spanish sources claiming she is revolutionising the style itself. “Malamente” is the perfect example of how urban culture does not have to exclude the heritage of flamenco and gitano culture. Mysterious, enigmatic and modern, just the way we like it!
Fragment: “Ese cristalito roto / Yo sentí cómo crujía / Antes de caerse al suelo / Ya sabía que se rompía / Está parpadeando / La luz del descansillo / Una voz en la escalera / Alguien cruzando el pasillo / Malamente”
Translation: “That little broken glass / I felt how it creaked / Before it fell to the ground / I already knew it was breaking / It’s blinking / The landing light / A voice on the stairs / Someone crossing the hall / Badly”
Literally: “Strip Me Away”
Directly from Havana, Cuba, Orishas are a household name in the world of hip hop in Spanish. You are likely to have heard their massive hits “Naci Orishas”, “Represent (Cuba)”, “Mística” or “El Kilo”…but if you haven’t, we are not to blame if you can’t stop shaking it afterwards! As for “Despójame”, it is another lively, energetic song that draws inspiration from a specific Cuban culture of superstition, good luck, prayer and family protection. It is a hymn to the higher forces that protect us from all evil…and who doesn’t need that every now and then?
Fragment: “¡Despójame! / Y quítame lo malo / Pa’ ti, pa’ mí, pa’ todos Bendícenos a todos / Positivo, real, nuestro fenómeno / La fuerza ancestral nos protege / Agua y bendición, naceré / Endopráctico, táctico, metódico”
Translation: “Strip it away / And take evil away from me / For me, for you, for everybody / Bless us all / Positive, real, our phenomenon / The ancestral force protects us / Water and blessing, I will be born / ‘Endopractical’, tactical, methodic”
Literally: “The Same Sun”
Born in Barcelona, young Spanish-German singer Álvaro Soler keeps playing all the right cards. His name is solid both in Europe and Latin America by now, largely thanks to this cheerful song. We’re not surprised – it is a beautifully-crafted ode to unity, standing together in this big world and breaking borders to celebrate life as one!
Fragment: “Yo quiero que este / Sea el mundo que conteste / Del este hasta oeste / Y bajo el mismo sol / Ahora nos vamos / Sí juntos celebramos / Aquí todos estamos / Bajo el mismo sol”
Translation: “I want that this / Is the world that answers back / From east to west / And under the same sun / Now we get going / Yes, we celebrate together / Here all of us are / Under the same sun”
Rosalía is not the only musician who uses flamenco to sing the mysteries and hardships of life. Valencian singer Bebe has become a loud voice for women’s rights, gender equality and LGBTQ communities in Spain. Her lyrics address topics such as domestic violence, self-esteem and starting again after a dark period in life. “Malo” is, without a doubt, her biggest hit to date and a strong cry for freedom in an abusive relationship. Other songs, such as “Siempre Me Quedará”, “Que Nadie me Levante La Voz” and “Ella” are also worth listening to!
Fragment: “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 mis mejillas saldrá el valor / Para cobrarme las heridas / Malo, malo, malo eres / No se daña quien se quiere”
Translation: “Not once again, my love, please / Don’t shout, the kids are sleeping / I will become just like fire / I will burn your fist of steel / and from the purple colour of my cheeks will come the courage / to cover my wounds / Evil, evil, evil you are / Don’t damage those you love”
Literally: “Latin America”
Puerto Rican hip hop group Calle 13 has no limits – if they believe something is worth talking about, you can rest assured they have a song for it! From social uprising to cultural identity, labour rights in Latin America (“El Hormiguero”), protesting (“Multi Viral”) and cultures of violence (“Adentro”), they’ve got you covered – in Spanish, of course. “Latinoamérica” is particularly touching because it addresses the fact that even though South American cultures have been heavily affected by colonialism, violence and exploitation, they stand tall and hold on to their identities and the resources nobody can take away from them.
Fragment: “Soy lo que me enseñó 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”
Translation: “I am what my father taught me / Those who don’t care for their homeland, don’t care for their mother / I am Latin America / A people without legs, but 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 struggles”
Literally: “The Subtropical Rhythm”
When you think of Spanish, do you think of Paraguay? You will, after Villagran Bolaños! Perhaps we wouldn’t associate latin rhythms, Patagonia, southern rains and tropical landscapes with rock music. “El Ritmo Subtropical” came to prove us all wrong and show us why the band has now become a symbol of national pride for Paraguay, having become equally popular in the entirety of Latin America as well. Here’s to rocking and dancing at the same time…in Spanish!
Fragment: “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 / Lluvia desde el sur, especially for you!”
Translation: “Come dance to the subtropical rhythm / Come sing, come jump, I invite you to come in / So it can be felt even in Patagonia / Let it keep on moving until it brings mummies back to life / A sand torment from Atakama / Rains from the south, especially for you!”
Literally: “Little Black Woman” (in Spanish, “negrito” and “negrita” can often be used as affectionate nicknames for an attractive or cute dark-skinned person)
Tired of the same old love songs? Straight from Asunción, Paraguay, Kchiporros give you this alternative, danceable hymn to attraction, sensuality and femininity…all while blending rock music and traditional Paraguayan sounds! After getting to know Kchiporros, you might start understanding why they are inevitably mentioned by young Paraguayans as one of the best bands in the country. Bonus? The original music video actually has the Spanish lyrics written all over it!
Fragment: “Sabes te quiero llevar / hasta el fin de este universo / quiero llegar bien profundo / salir de este mundo y morir en tu beso / Ay negrita / tu corazón me grita / quiero darte / darte todo lo que necesitas”
Translation: “You know I want to take you / until the end of this universe / I want to go deep / Get out of this world and die in your kiss / Oh, negrita / Your heart is shouting / I want to give you everything you need”
Literally: “I Wake Up”
Perhaps what us Spanish learners love so much about the language is how it can carry us to other ambiances, imaginaries and feelings. Amanitas stand out from the Chilean crowd of Santiago for this reason. Composed of five women, the band focuses on a dreamy, alternative urban world in which we start believing we’re dreaming! Their songs are particularly fit for language learners because they tend to be slow paced, making it easier to understand what is being sung.
Fragment: “La verdad es que mi espalda / se vierte entera al prender tu amanecer / Detrás de tu alba el juego luce bien sin ver / y mientras más veo tu rasgo aquí en mi piel / Me desvelo, / me desvelo / me desvelo para ti”
Translation: “The truth is that my back / Spills whole as it lights your dawn / Behind your daybreak the game looks appealing without seeing / and the more I see your trait here, in my skin, / I wake up / I wake up / I wake up for you”
Literally: You’ve guessed it…”Inevitable”!
Pedrina doesn’t just stick to singing what anyone else writes. This singer from Bogotá, Colombia, is the creative brain behind several music projects and collaborations that would become solid names in the world of Latin jazz and alternative Latin pop, such as Hotel Mama and Pedrina y Rio. In this song, Pedrina partners up with artist Juan Ingaramo from Argentina to sing about the mysteries of love that was meant to be!
Fragment: “Cuando te vi por vez primera no sabia que decir / No sabía que sentía / Tu alma y la mía un día serían la misma / Quererte fue inevitable yo iba a encontrarte en todas partes / En este mundo y cualquiera íbamos a juntarnos inevitablemente”
Translation: “When I saw you for the first time I didn’t know what to say / I didn’t know what I felt / Your soul and mine would be the same one day / Wanting you was inevitable, I would find you everywhere / In this world and any other we would come together inevitably”
American YouTuber and internet celebrity Lele Pons was born in Caracas, Venezuela, so it is only fitting that she would create a song in such a wonderful language! While her career might not be only focused on music, her single “Celoso” is useful for Spanish language learners because it is catchy, simple in vocabulary, repetitive…and really sassy! After all, who hasn’t felt like they want to be their own boss and not take orders as to where to be and who to be with?
Fragment: “No necesito que me pague a mí los tragos / Eres intenso, estás haciendo demasiado / Tienes dinero pero yo también trabajo / Yo no pregunto, si lo quiero yo lo hago / Te pones celoso si bailo con otro / Yo no soy de ellos, ni tuya tampoco”
Translation: “I don’t need for you to pay my drinks / You are intense, you are doing too much / You have money, but I also work / I don’t ask, if I want to do it, I’ll do it / You get jealous if I dance with another one / I am not theirs nor am I yours”
Literally: “Tell Me How You Want It”
Venezuelans are quick to mention Los Mesoneros as a proud example of contemporary music from Caracas. Active since 2016, they bring us the best songs about relationships, betrayal, passion and attraction that have been shaking up the internet. “Dime Cómo Tú Quieras” is just the type of song you’d listen to walking stylishly in the streets with your elegant trench coat, showcasing how effortlessly you can conjugate verbs in Spanish!
Fragment: “Sé que no estás buscando a nadie / Estás aquí solo por distracción / Pensando en quién estuvo antes / Pero ven y dame un poco de tu atención / Entonces dime cómo tú quieras / Cualquier nombre que prefieras / Dime cómo tú quieras / Que yo puedo ser quien sea”
Translation: “I know you’re not looking for anybody / You’re here only to get some distraction / Thinking of who was there before / But come, give me a little of your attention / So tell me how you want it / Any name you prefer / Tell me how you want it / Because I can be whoever”
We finish with a heartfelt acoustic homage to being anything but perfect. Jessie Reyez’ lyrics are as intense as her style, leaving nothing left to say after pouring her heart out. Since she is a Canadian musician of Colombian heritage, the overwhelming majority of her songs are in English…but a very special one isn’t. The slower pace of “Sola” and the simplicity of its background make it perfect for any Spanish learner to keep up with the words and the message. You might not be able to read the lyrics in the midst of your tears, though…don’t tell us we didn’t warn you!
Fragment: “Yo no soy el tipo de mujer / Con quien tu mamá te quiere ver / Me hacen falta tantas cosas / Y me fallan tantas otras / Nunca te podría complacer / Ellas son fieles / Ellas son santas / Ellas son buenas, perdonan calladas / No hacen escenas / No piden nada / Yo no te podría complacer / No soy ese tipo de mujer”
Translation: “I am not the type of woman / with whom your mother wants to see you / So many things are lacking / And so many other things fail me / I would not be able to please you / They are loyal / They are saints / They are good, they forgive silently / They don’t make a scene / They ask for nothing / I would not be able to please you / I am not that type of woman.”
Where can you go from here?
Now that you’ve enriched your playlist with more music styles from Colombia, Chile, Paraguay, Venezuela and Spain, you have officially earned the right to pompously look down on “Despacito” enthusiasts (hehe)! Make sure you keep growing your playlists by doing your own research. Remember: your Spanish learning journey should be made as personal as possible, and this is one of many ways to do it!