When we talk to friends about the things that got us through 2020, music is definitely at the top of the list. No matter what genres you prefer, listening to your favorite songs is bound to be an uplifting experience that helps you connect with your emotions in a way that feels both fun and cathartic.
But for language enthusiasts, music is much more than that. It’s also an invaluable learning source that allows them to familiarize themselves with the sounds and words of their target language.
At Listen & Learn, we share your passion for music. We want to thank you for having taken part in our Instagram poll about the best songs of 2020 and we are proud to present your top 3 choices, and some tips on how to turn your favorite hits into learning opportunities.
Pa ti – Maluma, Jennifer Lopez
Since its release in September, Pa ti has become one of the most popular Latin singles in recent memory. With its elegant, colorful video, and its sensual rhythmical pattern, this song makes us long for happier pre-COVID days in which we could have parties by the pool or go to a nightclub with our friends.
For Spanish learners, this is a great song to get familiar with some basic aspects of the language. For example, the very title of the song is an abbreviation of “Para ti”. Just like American singer tends to use contractions such as “wanna” and “gonna” in pop music, Spanish-speaking artists might say “pa” instead of “para”.
And this is not the only contraction in the song. In the chorus, Lopez sings “También lo que tengo bajo ‘e la’ caderas, a shortening of “bajo de las caderas” (below my hips). Finally, near the end, she says Tamo pa’ pasar la vida completa, an abbreviation of “estamos para pasar la vida completa” (we’re here to spend our whole lives together).
Besides, this song is useful to see how conditional forms are phrased in Spanish. Take a look at the following lines:
Si tú me da’ de to’ lo tuyo, baby
Mataría por ti, me arriesgaría por ti, mi amor.
In Spanish, the ending “ía” adds a conditional meaning (matar, for example, turns into mataría, just like “would” does in English. Can you tell what the infinitive forms of these verbs are? What do they mean?
Rain On Me – Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande
Rain On Me, described as “a celebration of tears” by Lady Gaga, is a dance-pop anthem that combines a synth-disco beat, emotional lyrics, and Gaga and Grande’s powerhouse vocals.
And with its themes of persevering through hard times, healing, and finding beauty amidst a storm, this might be the most appropriate song for this pandemic time.
From a language-learning perspective, this is another great choice from our followers, as it has a rich array of words related to weather and climatic conditions, such as “rainfall”, “tsunami”, and “thunder”. What’s more, the lyrics contain a wide variety of tenses.
In the opening lines, for example, Gaga sings:
I didn’t ask for a free ride
I only asked you to show me a real good time
These lines are useful for revising the rules for the past simple, which uses the past form of verbs in affirmative phrases, but takes “didn’t” + an infinitive form in negative ones.
As regards pronunciation, people who are learning English as a foreign language might notice how the artists articulate the words “Won’t you rain on me?”, with the /t/ in “won’t” and the /j/ in “you” joining to produce a <ch> sound.
But if you don’t like to delve that deep into formal aspects of the language, you can just learn the lyrics and sing along. We’re sure you’ll find it empowering!
Blinding Lights – The Weeknd
As soon as it came out almost one year ago, Blinding Lights peaked at number one in more than thirty countries, making it one of the most globally successful singles in the last decade. It’s not difficult to understand its popularity. The Weeknd’s vocal range, combined with a melodious, emotion-filled chorus, exhibits a sophistication that had been missing in rock music for quite some time.
It’s also easy to see why so many English teachers choose this song for their lessons, as the lyrics contain lots of interesting bits from a linguistic perspective. For example, students can see how the singer uses abbreviations, in lines such as “I’ve been tryna call”, and “‘Cause I can see the light up in the sky”. Besides, the song is also useful for revising the use of phrasal verbs such as “turn on”, “run out (of time)”, and “light up”.
On December 4, a remix featuring Spanish singer Rosalía was released worldwide, making this song an even more interesting language-learning opportunity.
Is your favorite 2020 song in this top 3? Let us know in the comments.