We can’t dispute how unique and powerful an art form music is. It can connect people from all walks of life and all parts of the world. It transcends space and time. It also connects people who speak different languages.
Language plays an important role in music because artists are able to transform simple words into a meaningful composition. A beautiful song can help you pull through a rough spell or help enjoy a nostalgic trip down memory lane. A powerful German metal song can make you feel invincible.
German music is sadly very underappreciated. This is most often attributed to incomprehension of the language. Rammstein have given that as the reason they use so much pyrotechnics in their videos and concerts. They need to attract attention because “nobody understands what we’re singing about.”
Most Viewed German Songs in 2019
We’ll start with a playlist of the most-watched German music videos in 2019; rankings for 2020 aren’t ready. Some of the songs or videos might not be available in your country due to copyright restrictions.
Two highlights are Sido’s “Astronaut” and Rammstein’s “Ich Will.” The Astronaut video depicts images from Germany’s recent refugee crisis. Here’s an excerpt of the poignant lyrics:
Sitzen im Dreck bis zum Hals, haben Löcher im Herz
Up to the neck in filth with holes in our heart
Ertränken Sorgen und Probleme in ’nem Becher voll Wein
Drowning sorrow and problems in a jug of wine
Mit einem Lächeln aus Stein, uns fällt nichts Besseres ein
With a smile of stone, we can think of nothing better
Wir hab’n morgen schon vergessen, wer wir gestern noch war’n
Tomorrow we’ll forget who we were yesterday
Hab’n uns alle vollgefressen und vergessen zu zahl’n
We’ve stuffed our faces and forgotten to count…
Despite these somewhat gloomy lyrics, Germany certainly coped with the refugee crisis and will cope with the COVID-19 outbreak too. You’d expect nothing less from a country that not only survived two world wars, but went on to become an economic superpower!
Top 10 Global Hits from Germany
This playlist of top 10 hits has explanations in German of each song and also features interviews with some artists in German. There’s one with Donna Summer, who was actually fluent in the language and recorded some of her hits in Germany.
German Metal and Rock Playlist
We can’t talk about German music without at least a mention of metal and rock. Some of the most famous heavy metal bands in the world come from Germany: Rammstein, The Scorpions, Helloween, Destruction, Accept, Blind Guardian, Kreator, and Sodom are just a few names that spring to mind.
Although Motorhead was an English band, they toured Germany extensively and had a pronounced affinity for the country.
German metal bands are so good that most of them sing only in English to reach the widest market possible, which they have the potential to do. Of those I mention, all but Rammstein have done this.
Here is a playlist of German-language metal and rock songs. The best ones for language learning are In Alle Ewigkeit (“For All Eternity”) from Heimatærde’s album Leben Geben, Leben Nehmen (“Give Life, Take Life”) and Im Regen Allein (“Alone in the Rain”) by Seelennacht.
Best German Pop and Techno Songs
You know German classical music is the most performed and some of the most accomplished composers are German, including Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Richard Wagner, and Robert Schumann. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was Austrian.
Love classical music or hate it, it’s a fact it can’t help you learn German. No worries - Germans also have amazing pop and techno music with simple lyrics that are perfect for language learning.
Check out this list of the best pop songs on Spotify. A highlight is Alles, was zählt by Namika.
Man gibt mir 81 Jahre hier
I have been given 81 years here
A workaholic with a 50-hour work week
Ich lächle so dreizehn Minuten pro Tag
I smile for about 13 minutes a day
Nehm' jeden zweiten Sommer Urlaub mit
Go to war over a holiday every second summer
Krieg' 1, 5 Kinder im Schnitt
With 5 children in tow
Und fünfundvierzig-tausend Brutto im Jahr
And 45,000 gross (pay) a year …
Check out this playlist of the best German techno songs on Spotify too.
5 Top German Bands
This section is dedicated to the best German bands. Some of their songs are great for learning German as they are sung slowly and the lyrics are simple and easy to understand. I’ve added a link to one of the best songs by the band at the end of each part.
5. Die Fantastischen Vier
German hip-hop will work nothing short of a miracle when it comes to learning German. The hard sound of German lends itself well to the beat. You won’t find the eclectic combo of backing tracks in many US rap songs.
The Fantastic Four released the first German rap album in history a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall (1991). The sound of their hit Tag am Meer (“Day at the Sea”) is soft and gentle and the lyrics are rapped slowly and clearly.
4. Die Toten Hosen
The name of this punk band from Düsseldorf translates as “The Dead Pants”. I have no idea why, but a lot of English speakers have heard of them.
Skyrocketing to fame in the 80s German punk movement, they became wildly successful worldwide. Some of their songs are melodic and slow, making them perfect for beginners. One of these is Tage wie diese (“Days like these”).
OK, I won’t lie – their songs won’t help you learn German. Don’t even try listening to them without the lyrics in front of you. In themselves, the lyrics are easy to understand, but the vocal’s raspy shriek renders the words unrecognizable.
He’s no longer with the band; they got a new vocal a few years ago, and we miss the original one sorely. There’s nothing like 2008’s Blut im Auge (“Blood in the Eye”) to give you the energy you need to get through the day.
2. Die Ärzte
The Doctors are our second punk entry. Germany has lots of great punk bands, actually. The Berliner band, consisting of bass player Rodrigo González, guitarist Farin Urlaub, and drummer Bela B, has released 13 studio albums.
Listen to the attention-grabbing Junge, find the lyrics and sing along to the moving chorus.
You can’t say you were surprised – Rammstein is practically synonymous with “famous German band.” The simple lyrics are easy to translate and follow. There are even groups called “Learn German with Rammstein” on Facebook.
The band is a true wonder to emerge from Germany’s so-called Neue deutsche Härte (new German hard) movement. Listen to Engel (“Angel”) – “Gott weiß ich will kein Engel sein.” Also give Ohne dich (“Without you”) a hear and watch the video – the song is not about what you think!
7 Most Famous German Songs
The last section is dedicated to the most famous German songs of all time. Click to listen to them on YouTube.
7. Haus am See – Peter Fox
Haus am See (“House on the lake”) was a single from Fox’s studio album Stadtaffe (“city monkey”), which was released in 2008 and reached no. 8 in the German single charts. The simple and pleasant song is about his dream of living in a house on the lake.
6. Warum? – Tic Tac Toe
Warum is girl group Tic Tac Toe’s most popular song, which sold over half a million copies. It is about a drug addict who passes away. The 1997 song topped the charts in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.
5. Allein Allein – Polarkreis 18
The title song for the 2008 fantasy movie “Krabat” topped the charts in Belgium and Germany. “Wir sind allein” (“We are alone”) is repeated in the chorus. Maybe the song’s popularity can be attributed to this line. Who knows?
4. Da Da Da – Trio
This hit sold 13 million copies, taking the German charts by storm in back in 1982. The English re-recording went double platinum in Canada. By the end of 1983, Trio had another three top ten hits in their country of origin. Da Da Da is immortal.
3. Major Tom – Peter Schilling
Major Tom tells the sad story of an astronaut who is left drifting in outer space after losing contact with ground control.
2. Neunundneunzig Luftballons – Nena
Nena’s 1983 hit with its powerful pro-peace message topped world charts. To date, she remains one of the most famous German singers. “99 Balloons” is about 99 red balloons released into the air that were shot done by fighter jets after being mistaken for UFOs.
Neighboring states take this as an act of hostility and engage in warfare, which puts an end to life on Earth.
1. Rammstein – Du Hast
Du hast has appeared on numerous film soundtracks, most notably The Matrix. It is the most successful German song in the history of the US Mainstream Rock Songs (Billboard) chart, reaching no. 20 in 1997, the year it was released. Here’s how it did in other countries:
|Canada Alternative 30||2|
|Germany (Media Control AG)||5|
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||10|
|US Mainstream Rock Songs (Billboard)||20|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||33|
Out of context, Du hast means “you have”. In this song, it is part of Du hast mich gefragt und ich hab nichts gesagt “You asked me and I said nothing.” Unfortunately, the person continues to insist:
Willst du bis der Tod uns scheidet / Treue sein für alle Tage?
Do you want to be faithful until the end of days, until death do us part?
Answer: Nein, nein!