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The Sound of Music... and Lyrics
Learning German via German Pop Music

Nena CD Although the German group Rammstein is more current (and more controversial), you may recall the German hit song “99 Luftballons” (“99 Red Balloons”) by Nena from the early 1980s. Well, her album is still selling well—and now she has a new hit album! Or perhaps you can still hear the words to “Rock Me Amadeus” by the late Austrian singer known as Falco. From time to time a German popular song, such as “Major Tom” by Peter Schilling in the 1970s, manages to hit the American, British, or Australian pop charts — usually in English translation, sometimes partly in German. Often the single release would have the English lyrics on one side, the German version on the other. Even the Beatles recorded a German version of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (“Komm gib mir deine Hand”).

In this article we look at learning German through popular music. We'll link you to some German music groups and their Web sites. (You can even listen to some groups online.) We'll also show you how and where you can compare prices and order CD albums by these groups. (Also see the "compare prices" links in this article.)

See our German music and artist links below...
and German Songs from iTunes

One of the latest German groups to successfully cross the Atlantic is the eastern German rock group Rammstein. Their CD album entitled "Sehnsucht" (longing) has been a top seller in US music stores. What's unique about Rammstein albums being sold in the English-speaking world is that almost all of the songs are in German, and the printed lyrics to all of the songs are included with the CD—in German. Just don't let the Hannibal Lector look of the cover put you off. (If it does, stay tuned for some mellower alternatives below.) Rammstein CD releases include: Mutter (2001), Live aus Berlin (1999), Sehnsucht (1997) and Herzeleid (1996).

Rammstein CD Rammstein's lyrics tend to be plain and simple—even if they are subject to double meanings and have been translated (by the group itself) into English in strange ways. A prime example is their song entitled "Du hast" in German. Listening to the album you can hear this phrase in English as "you hate me" (but it's not in the printed lyrics). This is a play on the fact that "du hast" ("you have") sounds the same as "du hasst" ("you hate"). Don't ask me why Rammstein chose to do that, but their lyrics can be quite playful... and quite profane, sexual, and even fascist.

Make no mistake, if you translate some of Rammstein's lyrics into English, you'll have some lines that could not be played on the radio in most countries. Even if the kiddies are listening to it, it's not really for the kiddies. Although the title of one song on the "Sehnsucht" album, "Spiel mit mir" ("Play with me"), could be rather innocent, Rammstein goes in another, more kinky direction. But lines like "wir teilen Zimmer und das Bett" are easy for even beginners in German to understand, and most of the song titles are only one or two words: "Klavier" (piano), "Alter Mann" (old man), "Tier" (animal), "Engel" (angel), and "Eifersucht" (jealousy). However, the song "Küss mich" is not about any innocent kiss. But Rammstein's first album, "Herzeleid" (heartache/anguish) is still doing well in the US. (More about Rammstein)

Even if their lyrics are often offensive, Rammstein's music really isn't that bad—rather mild "industrial rock" compared to some of the heavy metal you hear these days—but their style is more for the younger crowd. If your tastes run to something a bit softer and mellower, then you may want to look at and listen to Die Prinzen. The first several albums by this quartet of young men from eastern Germany were sung a cappella, but their more recent albums, including "Schweine" (1995) have musical accompaniment. Prinzen's songs tend to feature clever lyrics and a catchy melody. (Yes, I'm a fan.) I particularly like two songs by Die Prinzen: one called "Alles nur geklaut" ("It's all just stolen") and another entitled "Überall" ("Everywhere")—both on their "Alles nur geklaut" CD album.

Another talented German musician is Herbert Grönemeyer. Although his lyrics are sometimes difficult for even Germans to understand, his music is very enjoyable. Grönemeyer, like his fellow German Udo Lindenberg, rarely if ever records in English—which has limited his market to the German-speaking world. His over a dozen albums have sold well in German Europe, but he is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world. (The versatile Grönemeyer appeared in the classic German anti-war film, Das Boot.)

Some other German artists/groups to consider: Die Fantastischen Vier (German rap/hip-hop, see our article), Münchner Freiheit (mellow teenie-rock with understandable lyrics), and Marius Müller Westernhagen (similar to Lindenberg).

On the next page we offer some related Web sites for various artists and their CDs. German popular songs are a great way to expand your vocabulary and learn something about the culture as well—while you enjoy the music!

NEXT > German Music on CD

MORE > German Song Lyrics in German and English

Related Pages

Downloading German Songs from iTunes
A guide to finding and downloading German music from the US iTunes store.

German Music Today - deutsche Musik heute
What are the popular music groups and artists singing in German today? With info, song lyrics and links.

Herbert Grönemeyer and His Songs
Although virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, Grönemeyer is one of Germany's best known popular - and best - singers. Learn more about him and his music. You'll also enjoy the German and English lyrics to many of his songs.

German Song Lyrics
Song lyrics in German and English.

Her career spans over 20 years! From "99 Luftballons" (1983) to "Willst du mit mir geh" (2005), we have lyrics in German and English.

Rammstein für Deutschlernende
More about the group and their controversial German lyrics.

"MfG" and the Fanta4
A German rap song full of abbreviations! From your Guide.

Top German Music CDs
Your Guide's top picks.

Are You Listening?
Hören Sie zu? Why you should be listening online! Plus, our Listening Poll. From your Guide.

Using Authentic Language Sources
Make the Web work for you—beginners included!

Listening Links
Online listening. Music, radio and TV sites in German.

Music/Song Links
Many more links for German songs, artists, lyrics, etc. from your Guide.

German Newsletters
Subscribe to a free newsletter!

German Chat


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