I just posted about some great newish songs I’ve found, but the majority of songs I use in my classroom are tried-and-true successes from the last 12 years of teaching. The fact is, most new music that comes out, however engaging it might be, is not comprehensible and does not repeat enough to be useful for acquisition. When I find a song that is the perfect combination of repetition, comprehensible language, and high student appeal, it stays around for a long time. So what are those gems? In a very unscientific way I’ve compiled for you the list of what I would say are the top 20 most successful and popular songs in my class.
- La llave de mi corazón – a.k.a. “The Sammy Sosa song”
With this tune in 2007, the first time I ever saw the Latin Grammys, Juan Luis Guerra won Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Merengue Album, and Best Tropical Song- a stunning sweep by any measure. In my class, this song wins top honors as Song of All Time (okay, my 12 years teaching anyway). The message is as upbeat as the tempo, the video is a fun and clean cultural showcase that captivates boys and girls alike (moral of the story: if you want to get the girl, learn to dance the merengue), and the English codeswitching catches students’ attention every time.
For novices, use the combination of soy de and ella es de to work on talking about origins. You can also focus on tiene/tienes. For intermediates, try out the influence phrases: “¿Qué quiere que haga yo?” “Quiero que me beses“… ahem… something else.
- Vivir mi vida
Marc Anthony put out what may be the best novice authentic song of all. See how I developed a week or more of lesson plans from it.
Hace tiempo – a.k.a. “The dancing firemen song”
Fonseca is easily one of my favorite artists. I love his Colombian sound, I usually love the message of his songs, and his videos are often fun. This one tops the Fonseca list in my students’ opinions and is arguably the best song I’ve seen for working with pronouns, particularly reflexives (but also check out the newer Sie7e tune “Por toda la vida“).
- Tengo tu love
Speaking of Sie7e, this song is another one that wins top honors for novices. The uses of tengo are great for language, and the positive message can’t be beat. It’s also a perfect song to showcase the proficiency-pusher vale.
This song and all those marked with a cross on the image above are by Christian artists singing in that genre (Juan Luis Guerra is also a Christian artist singing mostly secular music). Adrian Roberto sings this one. He’s the son of one of the most popular Christian Spanish-language artists, Jesús Adrián Romero. The vocabulary and repetition of dame in this song work well, and Adrian is a hit with the muchachas. My poor girls had their hearts crushed when I played the video of him proposing to his girlfriend at one of his father’s concerts. Now, though, he’s got less hair on his face and a lot more on his head.
- Me voy – Julieta Venegas
For the leave-taking phrases me voy, me despido de, and adiós as well as the great novice add ¡Qué lástima! And she dumps her boyfriend out of a hot-air balloon.
- No me doy por vencido
Claudia Brant is a fantastic songwriter and the times she’s teamed up with Luis Fonsi have been some of her most successful. This song, which spent 30 weeks at the top of the airplay chart, was not only named Latin Billboard’s song of the decade, it’s also on their list of the top 50 Latin songs of all time. As for language, there’s present tense, there are pronouns, but the gem here is really the title phrase, darse por vencido. The year after this song came out, I had a senior in AP Spanish who missed a significant part of her school year battling her second bout of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (and then went on to pass the AP exam… the old one). This was her anthem, and the title phrase and the also-present vale la pena were the idioms she was determined to use somewhere on the exam. I still think of her every time I hear it.
Tercer Cielo is a hit among my students with their music about facing life and death with optimism and hope. Creeré is a gem of future tense that sticks in their heads the whole year. (Mi último día is also a great song-to-conversation-starter for the unreal if clause starting with como si.)
Tons of present tense, with Superman. Jesse & Joy’s songs have always been a hit with my students (qué lastima they have gotten so classroom-inappropriate in their videos recently) and this one is way up on the list.
Camila also always scored high on my students’ approval ratings. Unfortunately, not many of their songs have a whole lot of teaching use. This one is a pretty good pick for present-tense tú forms.
Side note, every night at my house we sing “¡Dientes! Todo el mundo necesita lavarse los dientes…”
- Mi niña bonita
Chino y Nacho’s greatest hit for Spanish class. It’s all about describing someone who means a lot to you.
- Qué hiciste, the musical past-tense gold
No contest, JLo put out the best song for contrasting imperfect and preterite narration. And a car explodes.
- Me gustas tú – Luis Fonsi, not Manu Chau
Catchy with repetition of me gusta, need I say more? My students enjoy replacing the song’s activities with their own preferences and trying to out-sing each other.
Another one of Jesse y Joy’s from back when they used to sing happy songs. Tú forms and a good showcase of the possessive nuestro and phrase sabe a. Also cooking-related vocabulary.
Aquí estoy yo
A good novice song for aquí and gerunds and prepositions; perhaps my favorite collaboration ever. Fonsi, Bisbal (curly!!), Schajris and Syntek? Yes, please. My students were also highly amused by all the bromance going on in their 2009 Premios Lo Nuestro performance (paired with “No me doy por vencido”!).
- No te pido flores
This is a great Fanny Lu tune for subjunctive in phrases of influence.
Jesse y Joy put together a mesmerizing video for this one, I’ve got to say. Great for duele, and they like the verb so much it’s also the name of one of their newest ones (check it out for some past tense switches). Also present yo forms.
For sure, Hillsong’s energetic tune here is not one of my favorite worship songs either in English or Spanish, but it was such a hit in chapel with my teens and coincided with a Spanish 3 run-through on commands, so there you go. As mission/service trip prep the vocabulary is helpful, too. Also future tense.
Oh, the video. Jesse y Joy, how could you? We love it for familiar commands and the phrase me da igual for giving opinions. We need counselors on hand after viewing the video (in my class we skip the first 45 seconds, but it’s not risqué on the level of, say, Llorar).
- Razones pa’ vivir
Alex Campos and Jesús Adrian Roberto are great separate, but the result when they get together is truly fantástico. Early on, there’s plenty of focus on tengo and possessive tú, and later, a good showing of past tense and some present perfect, too.
It was hard to whittle the songs down to these twenty, but this is a good representation of my students’ most popular songs and what we used them for. For a few more songs that almost made the list, check out Fanny Lu’s “Tú no eres para mí” (so good for description and present tense), Jesse y Joy’s “Electricidad” (great for pointing out that -dad words are la words), and Juan Luis Guerra’s fabulous collaboration with Enrique Iglesias, “Cuando me enamoro” (if anyone can get Iglesias to do a clean video, it’s Guerra).