Germany is a European country with a lot of ups and downs throughout its history, which created the perfect storm for all kinds of art. Music has been a major component of life there forever, from classic German tunes to newer genres that we would be more familiar with today. In this article, we’ll go over the 35 best German songs, focusing mainly on the most famous and popular hits of the modern era.
1. 99 Luftballons – NENA
The song 99 Luftballons was originally released by German band NENA in 1983 as part of their eponymous album. Kevin McAlea provided the lyrics for the English version, 99 Red Balloons, in 1984 after the track became a widespread success across Europe. Interestingly, the English version isn’t a direct translation of the German lyrics and even has a slightly different meaning.
In the US, the English version didn’t end up charting, but NENA’s original version made it to number two on the Hot 100. In most European countries, the original topped the charts. The English version did the same in Canada, Ireland, and the UK.
2. Du Hast – Rammstein
Du Hast is probably the one German-language song that almost everyone in the English-speaking world has heard at some point in their lives. It was released by German rock band Rammstein as the second single from their 1997 album Sehnsucht.
After release, it quickly found a place in other media, from video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band to films like The Matrix and How High. The whole point of the track is that it’s a play on the homophones “du hast” and “du hasst,” which mean “you have” and “you hate,” respectively.
3. Rock Me Amadeus – Falco
Falco might be an Austrian musician, but he is one of the most influential musicians in modern German-speaking countries. Rock Me Amadeus was a massive hit single, both in Europe and in the US. To date, it’s still the only German-language song to reach the top spot of the Billboard US Hot 100. Sadly, it was only one of his tracks to top both the Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart, though many of his songs have become loved in Europe, making him one of the most popular German-language artists ever.
4. Wind of Change – Scorpions
Scorpions were putting out influential rock ballads when Germany was still split between East and West and right when the Soviet Union was going to fall. In fact, Wind Of Change was released as the third single from their Crazy World album in 1991 just after a failed coup against the Soviets that sent them down the path to dissolution.
It was a massive hit across Europe, topping charts across most of the continent and even rising to number four in the US. To date, it’s one of the best-selling singles of all time with over 14 million worldwide record sales, and is the best-selling single of all time by a German artist.
5. Major Tom (Völlig Losgelöst…) – Peter Schilling
Peter Schilling released Major Tom (Völlig Losgelöst…) on his Error In The System album. It was originally recorded in German in West Germany in 1983, taking the top spot of the West German, Austrian, and Swiss charts. An English version was released in the US that same year, peaking at number 14 on the Hot 100 and number two on the US Dance chart. Several remixes of the space rock dance song ended up being released, from Major Tom 94 to Major Tom 2000.
6. Männer – Herbert Grönemeyer
Männer is one of the catchy German songs that can actually help listeners learn a bit of the language if they’re interested in learning or having a hard time. Herbert Grönemeyer is one of the most famous commercial artists from Germany, and this track contains all the satirical elements you expect of the music coming out of that country. While some might say it makes fun of weak men, it’s actually describing the way society treats men who are perceived as weak because of stereotypical things like crying.
7. Lili Marlene – Marlene Dietrich
Lili Marlene is an old German love song that has always been incredibly popular. Marlene Dietrich released her version in 1944, and it became one of the most popular tracks of WWII with soldiers on both sides of the conflict. It delightfully describes being able to be with the one you love who you spend time away from, which was something everyone involved in the war could relate to. It’s also one of the best songs to help you learn German, as it’s easy to follow along with.
8. Allein Allein – Polarkreis 18
Some songs are super fun to dance to, but if you listen closely to the lyrics they contain, it becomes apparent that there’s nothing happy to be had in the track. Allein Allein by Polarkreis 18 is one of those songs. While it may have a danceable and fun rhythm, it’s all about how the narrator feels alone in different portions of their life. Polarkreis 18 released the song in 2008 and scored a major pop hit in Germany, ending up with a signature track and perhaps the one they are best known for today.
9. Da Da Da – Trio
Da Da Da is a fun mashup of English and German that was a huge hit single when it was first released in 1982. The German lyrics translate to something along the lines of “I love you not, you love me not,” with the title translating to “There, there, there.” It’s almost consoling you for not having the relationship you wanted. It was an easy number-one single in Germany that sold over 13 million units before Trio recorded an English version that earned a double-platinum certification in Canada.
10. Tage wie diese – Die Toten Hosen
A lot of German artists don’t get the international recognition they probably deserve, but this isn’t really the case for Die Toten Hosen since they’re pretty well-known around the world. They capitalized on the huge popularity of punk music during the 1980s, with Tage Wie Diese being one of their best-known songs to come from the era. Translating to “Days like these,” the track has been hugely influential on the German music scene.
11. Big in Japan – Alphaville
Alphaville is a German synth-pop band that gained global recognition for their 1984 release of Big In Japan. It was part of their debut album Forever Young, depicting the story of a couple struggling with addiction. It wasn’t just an international hit, the song helped establish both them and the validity of the synth-pop genre in Europe, becoming a timeless classic of the genre.
12. Maschin – Bilderbuch
Maschin or “Machine” in English is a song about falling in love at first sight. It keeps the upbeat and generally happy feeling throughout it, but there’s an undercurrent of fear over their partner leaving them for even a moment. They’re so in love with them that they don’t want to be apart at all, which is a pretty sweet sentiment in moderation.
13. Maria Magdalena – Sandra
Sandra recorded Maria Magdalena for her debut album in 1985, and it became a global hit that established her solo career from that point onward. The song revolves around a woman who believes she can never be an angel in the eyes of the world, likening herself to Mary Magdalene. It was a huge chart hit in Europe, topping several European country’s charts and becoming one of the defining pop anthems of the decade.
14. Ein bisschen Frieden – Nicole Seibert
Ein Bisschen Frieden is a special song for Germany, as Nicole Seibert’s version of the track won the Eurovision contest in 1982. It’s a warm, heartfelt ballad about wanting to find peace in a world full of chaos. It was a huge European hit after winning the contest, eventually being released in several other languages in addition to its original German version.
15. Haus am See – Peter Fox
Looking at German music, it’s easy to see why a song that’s actually happy without an undercurrent of sadness would do well on the charts. Peter Fox released Haus Am See as a pop and reggae track in 2008 and saw it rise to number eight on the German charts. It’s a lighthearted song that sees the singer dreaming of living in a house on a lake and being able to relax. It paints a nice little picture of the future that a lot of people could relate to and enjoy.
16. Dynamit – Matz Wagemann
Dynamit might have been a huge mainstream hit, and Matz Wagemann has been involved in music from a young age. Before setting off in a solo career, he was touring as part of an orchestra, an experience that is evident in the music he produces on his own. This track is a combination of hip hop, classical jazz, and Latin music that’s sure to get people up on their feet and dancing. It’s also an awesome workout song because it has such motivating lyrics, but you will have to be able to understand German if you want to listen to it for that side of it.
17. Leider Geil – Deichkind
Deichkind is and has always been one of the most famous hip hop and electronic artists to come out of Germany. Most of their work has some level of comedy or irony to it, so checking them out will always be a good time if you can understand just enough German to get by.
Leider Geil is perhaps their best-known single, roughly translating to “Unfortunately awesome.” It’s full of examples of things that have a negative side to them, but are still awesome in some way. Like a new car; while it creates pollution, getting a fancy new one is still great for you, hence it being “unfortunately awesome.”
18. Warum? – Tic Tac Toe
Few hit singles have the longevity that Warum? does. Despite being released in 1995, it’s still a popular and well-known single in Germany and German-speaking countries. Of course, it has a serious tone to it that deals with two friends drifting apart despite relying on each other for a large part of their lives. Tic Tac Toe scored an enduring and relevant hit with this one, scoring a major chart hit and a song that still sees regular airplay in that part of the world.
19. Eisbär – Grauzone
The new wave movement in Germany was absolutely huge during the early 1980s, and Grauzone capitalized on its popularity with the song Eisbär. It seems a bit odd that he wishes he was a polar bear, but the reason behind it is so he doesn’t have to deal with societal problems and would feel less pressure in his life. It ended up being sad, but being a polar bear might be pretty cool if global warming wasn’t dooming most of them.
20. Ohne dich (schlaf’ ich heut Nacht nicht ein) – Münchener Freiheit
Ohne Dich (Schlaf’ Ich Heut Nacht Nicht Ein) is an adorable love song about having a crush on someone and not being able to sleep until you make them yours. Münchener Freiheit released the track in 1986, and it became a big fan favorite in Germany, with many people still enjoying the song today.
21. Wir sind wir – Paul Van Dyk And Peter Heppner
Germany has gone through it in their history, with major shifts between the highs and lows. It’s almost a cultural attitude to consider downturns as just a bad time that will pass. Wir Sind Wir is a song that captures that extremely well and serves as something like an anthem of hope for Germans looking forward to a brighter future.
22. Alle bisschen kaputt – Dazzle
This single lacks the happy tones that a lot of sadder German songs are fraught with, as it literally translates to “slightly damaged” or “all a little broken.” Alle Bisschen Kaputt by Dazzle is about how everyone has things that leave them a bit broken, but we all keep trying to make due and do our best.
23. Leichtes Gepäck – Silbermond
Leichtes Gepäck translates to “lightweight luggage,” and this song is all about letting go of things that hold you back. It can apply to personal and emotional baggage or even just possessions that drag you down and keep you from getting to where you want to be. It addresses the theme that chasing more stuff will leave you unsatisfied and that happiness can be found once you let those things go. In this case, less is more, so let go of things that get in the way of your happiness.
24. Was für ein life – LOT
LOT might be known for trying to be glamorous but that hasn’t turned them from being an independent artist in chase of that lifestyle. Was Füe Ein Life is a bit repetitive, but it talks about being someone worthy of being admired. Whether it be teachers, politicians, or people in authority, everyone loves and reveres the narrator of this one, so it’s an awesome confidence dream.
25. Traum – CRO
“Traum” translates to “dream,” so it should come as no surprise that Traum is about the dream life and being with the person the singer loves. Until he gets who he wants, he isn’t going to settle. But the catchy beat of the track and the famous panda mask worn in the music video turned this one into a huge hit in Germany.
26. Dreh auf – Marie Bothmer
If you don’t know much German but want something to yell at the club, you can just scream out the title for this song. Dreh Auf translates literally to “turn it up,” the perfect sentiment for a fun night out full of music.
Marie Bothmer is one of the biggest pop singers in Germany, and this track is all about how music can be a fun, safe place for people to let it all hang out. It still has the sad element that’s so common in songs on this list, containing themes like being overwhelmed by life and needing an escape.
27. Das Model – Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk released Das Model in 1978 and again in 1981. English and German versions were recorded, with both being covered by numerous other groups over the years. When it was rereleased in 1981, it took the top spot on the UK Singles Chart.
28. Satellite – Lena
Satellite was a big song for Germany as a whole, as it was the track that won Eurovision 2010 and marked their first win in the contest after more than 30 years. It turned out to be a big commercial success on top of winning the contest, turning Lena into an international pop star.
29. Deutschland – Rammstein
Rammstein is back, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone since they’re such an influential group in German music. Deutschland literally translates to Germany and is a relatively modern release from them. It was the lead single for their untitled album in 2019, telling the story of their relationship with their homeland and the complicated nature of it as it was good sometimes and bad other times.
30. Perfekte Welle – Juli
Perfekte Welle is known best for its incredible lyrical story, telling the tale of a person waiting for something extraordinary to happen in their life like a perfect wave. The song comes from Juli’s debut album in 2004 and was a mixture of alternative rock and pop music that was perfect for the early 2000s. It’s a truly upbeat track, holding out hope for something good to happen, which made it popular with a lot of listeners. It ended up peaking at number two in both Germany and Austria.
31. Zehn Kleine Jägermeister – Die Toten Hosen
Die Toten Hosen appears again with another anthem, though this one would come in 1996 as part of their Opium Furs Volk album. Once translated, the song title is “Ten Little Huntsmen,” which has nothing to do with the actual Jägermeister spirit brand. It’s a fun and catchy track that has turned into one of the best drinking songs in the region though, as it recounts the fate of various hunters on hunting trips and is based on a German nursery rhyme that everyone there has heard at least a couple of times in their life.
32. NA-MI-KA – Namika
Finally, one of our songs needs no translation for the title. NA-MI-KA is literally an eponymous song, titled after the singer Namika. A Moroccan and German heritage led to her creating such a unique stage name, and this track tells the story of how difficult life can be for a person of mixed races in Germany. Behind the happy beat, there’s a really powerful message and that gives it extra personality and importance.
33. Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of…) – Lou Bega
Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of…) is absolutely not the first track you think of when you think of German songs, but Lou Bega himself is a German singer. It’s an infectious mambo and jazz piece that was originally an instrumental from 1949 by Damaso Perez Prado. He added the lyrics to it and ended up creating a worldwide hit single. It’s an instantly recognizable track that deserves a little more credit than it gets, so now you know it’s actually a German song.
34. Rock You Like A Hurricane – Scorpions
Just like our last entry, many people don’t know that Rock You Like A Hurricane is a German song. Scorpions scored one of the most legendary rock singles of the classic rock genre in 1984 with this one, releasing it as the lead single of their Love At First Sting album. In the US, it rose to number 25 on the Hot 100 and has been labeled as one of the best hard rock tracks of all time.
35. Der Kommissar – Falco
Der Kommissar is another huge single from Falco that appears on most of the fan poll lists of the best German songs. It translates to “The Commissioner,” and was a number-one single across most of the European countries after releasing in 1981. It even made it onto the US Cashbox Top 100 chart in the US, though it didn’t chart on the Hot 100.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.