The Universal Language

Four recommendations for Non-English songs


Made by Millie Garcia

As someone who is bilingual, I would like to say that I’ve heard my fair share of non-English music. It has mostly been in Spanish, but as of a year ago I’ve also started listening to Korean songs as well. It really opened my eyes (well in this case, my ears) to music from around the world. It made me curious about the music that I don’t listen to because I don’t understand the language it’s in. I’m not the only one, though, I also know people who really enjoy non-English music too. With this knowledge, I took it upon myself to ask a few people to recommend to me one of their favorite non-English songs.

Here’s how it’ll work:

The person I’m asking will recommend a song and tell me why they chose it. I will then listen to it and rate it on a scale of 10. Five points will be possible for the mood of the song and five will be possible for the message the song is trying to get across. Let’s begin!


1.) Participant: Feda Elbadri ‘21

Song and Artist: Habeebi Ta’al – AlSarah & The Nubatones (Cover)

Language: Sudanese Arabic

Why did you recommend this song?: “It’s nostalgic and cute! Living in the United States, I tend to roll my eyes at the idea of romance, but being in Sudan, it’s really fun and sweet connecting with someone else. I would guess it’s because the culture you all share and the language you all speak makes it that much easier for people like you to come closer together.”

Vibe: 5/5  Lyrics: 4/5  Total: 9/10

Overall Thoughts: It was a very upbeat retro/electric song that is great if you just want to dance it out. The simple percussion with the bass guitar really allows for you to just listen to the song and enjoy it. The vocals are bright and energetic that make the song more uplifting. The lyrics are simple but are romantic. They talk about the love that you have somebody being sweet and doing whatever it takes for your lover. I would totally recommend this song if you want something to groove out to while in the car or with your friends.

2.) Participant: Frida Escorcia ‘21

Song and Artist: Spring Day – BTS

Language: Korean

Why did you recommend this song?: “It is a very beautifully written poetic song. It has an amazing rhythm and beat that goes perfectly with the mood of what the song is talking about.”

Vibe: 5/5 Lyrics: 5/5 Total: 10/10

Overall Thoughts: I think the lyrics are beautiful. It talks about missing someone and trying to forget them but still hopelessly waiting for them to come back. The lyrics progress from hating that person for leaving, to realizing that it wasn’t anyone’s fault and waiting for better days. The lyrics are genderless and can be interpreted romantically or platonically. I really enjoyed the vocals and the rapping, it added more emotion and allowed me to feel the music more.

3.) Participant: Gabriela Garcia ‘20

Song and Artist: Yellow – Katherine Ho (Cover)

Language: Chinese

Why would you recommend this song?: “This song has great vocals, an awesome bridge, and the lyrics tell a nice story. I didn’t know this until recently but [the song] is actually a cover of a Coldplay song that was featured in the movie, Crazy Rich Asians. The song was played at the end when the main character finds herself and that’s what I think this song is about; self discovery and love.”

Vibe: 4/5 Lyrics: 4.5/5 Total: 8.5/10

Overall Thoughts: I have seen the movie Crazy Rich Asians, but I don’t remember hearing this song! ‘Yellow’ has a softer feel to it, vocally and musically. It starts off with light guitar strums and light vocals, but by the chorus, the song evolves into a bigger and stronger ballad. The chorus is repeated a few times at the end, making me think about what the lyrics mean. The chorus talks about being happy and completely in love with somebody. The lyrics are poetic and the vocals make them more powerful. I think this song should be listened to by anybody who wants a song to cry to. It can be tears of joy or sadness; ‘Yellow’ is very emotional song that will get stuck in your head.

4.) Participant: Omar Paz ‘21

Song and Artist: Vivir Mi Vida – Marc Anthony

Language: Spanish

Why would you recommend this song?: “It’s very inspirational for people who are feeling down at times. The song is about happiness and how you only have one life and that’s why you should celebrate it.”

Vibe: 4/5 Lyrics: 5/5 Total: 9/10

Overall Thoughts: I really liked the pace in this song. ‘Vivir Mi Vida’ could be classified in the genre of salsa, and with the instruments used, trumpets and cowbells being a few, I would totally agree. While the lyrics are simple, they have a great message. The lyrics encourage you to fill your life with happiness and to live in the moment. The layered vocals really added to the message of the song and was a beautiful touch that made me want to sing along. If you ever need a song to pick you up when you’re feeling down, this is the song for you!

Final Thoughts

This was a great experience. I got to learn about different languages, how to interpret song lyrics, and I listened to music that I would have otherwise never listened to. I did this because not only did I want to listen to music that students at City are listening to, but also to see how non-English songs compare to the ones I can understand in English. I will say that after hearing these songs, I will definitely listen to songs in different languages more often. The biggest surprise to me was how meaningful the lyrics in each of the songs were. In English, songs often times don’t really use deep metaphors, but in the songs I listened to, most of the lyrics were metaphors. Each song had a great message that even though I couldn’t understand while just listening, I still felt the message from the vocals or the instrumentals. Many people who don’t like non-English music say that their reasoning is, “I don’t understand what they are saying,” which is valid, but that does not stop them from looking up the lyrics online and reading translations. Taking the time to look for and read translations sounds like a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it if you like the song. I think that music in different languages are under-appreciated in the U.S. and it’s so cool to see people my age that are open to the idea of listening to it.