Learning a language through music is a fun way to not only improve your language skills, but to also understand more about the culture and learn more idiomatic expressions. I’ve always been a fan of this language learning method. But I have to be honest – it took me a while to really find songs in Portuguese I like.
That’s because before I had many connections with Portuguese speakers, the best way I could find relevant music was by looking up current hits. This usually works for me, but in Brazil, the “funk” craze pretty much dominates all new music (closely followed by “sertanejo”). These can be great for parties, and are obviously greatly popular in Brazil, but they are personally just not my style. On a more practical side, funk music is full of slang and regionalisms – not the best for Portuguese learners. Fortunately, Brazil has actually embraced many different music styles throughout history, so there is something for everyone. Now that I’m familiar with the different genres, there are many songs in Portuguese that I love, and Brazilian music is up there as some of my favourite.
So, the purpose of this post is to help you to learn Portuguese with music by introducing you the great Brazilian music that is not as easy to stumble upon these days.
What you should know about music in Portuguese
Before we dive into the top songs in Portuguese for learners, there are a few things you should know about Portuguese language music.
1. Music in Portuguese is dominated by Brazilian music.
Most of the most popular songs in Portuguese are Brazilian in origin. You may think that this is because the vast majority of Portuguese speakers are Brazilian. This is part of it, but Brazilian music is also widely listened to in other Portuguese speaking nations, often even more than local music. When I was in Portugal I remember noticing how widespread Brazilian music is over there. So the Brazilian music industry really dominates the Portuguese speaking world. Brazilians, on the other hand, don’t seem to listen to music in Portuguese that’s not Brazilian. This is a stark contrast to the Spanish-speaking music industry, which is much more diversified between different countries.
2. Songs in Portuguese are Mostly live
Brazilians sure love their live music. Often the released records, radio versions of songs, and albums, are all live recordings, rather than studio recordings. Live music is also everywhere in Brazil – on the streets, in restaurants and bars. And Brazilian musicians seem to be perpetually touring Brazil.
3. Brazilian musicians love to collab
Collaborating and producing songs together is something that seems to be becoming more popular among western musicians – but this has always been the Brazilian way. Brazilian artists within the same genre will have all mixed and matched and collaborated with each other.
4. Brazilian music genres
This brings me to Brazilian music genres. Brazilian music is incredibly diverse and unique. Aside from the traditional genres (rock, pop) has its own genres which are unique to Brazil. If you are going to be listening to Brazilian music, it might be helpful to understand what some of these genres mean and figure out which ones you like. My list of songs in Portuguese includes a range of different genres to help you find one you like.
What is Brazilian funk music?
You can kind of think of funk music as the Brazilian reggaeton – it’s currently the most popular dance music that a lot of Brazilians hate on. It’s also usually about sex – and is often quite sexist. But the sound of funk is not really similar to reggaeton. It’s more of a remixed hip-hop/rap style. Hard to describe, but check out the top hits and you’ll find plenty of examples.
What is sertanejo?
Sertanejo is Brazilian country music that has been around for about 100 years. The current sertanejo, known as sertanejo universitário, can be described (with no disrespect) as a kind of whiney harmony. The main tune of the song is created by the singer’s voice. This can be accompanied by drums and guitar which take back stage compared to the voice. Sertanejo universitário is often sung by duos or collabs between two or more artists. Again, you’ll find plenty of this in the current popular songs lists for Brazil, and I’ve also included a few sertanejo artists in this list.
What is MPB?
MPB stands for música popular brasileira (popular Brazilian music). It is basically the modern fusion of different styles of traditionally Brazilian music genres. It is generally what I would describe as a soft urban pop style which usually goes great with an acoustic guitar. There were many great MPB albums released from the 70’s to the early 00’s. Now that’s died down, but the old classics are still very popular and widely played, even today.
What is samba music?
Samba is a Brazilian dance music characterised by the many interesting instruments it incorporates, and the infectious beats that can be danced to with samba steps. Pagode, another very popular Brazilian music genre, is a sub-genre of samba.
So, now that your clued up on how the Portuguese language music industry looks, let’s take a look at some great songs you can listen to to learn Portuguese.
Here’s my list of the best songs to learn Portuguese. I’ve also put them all together on a Spotify playlist. So you can now listen to and download all the songs mentioned in this blog post on Spotify, by clicking the link below.
1. Surpresa de Amor – Turma do Pagode
This is one of the very first songs in Portuguese that I fell in love with – one of the few that I found by searching the hits at the time. It’s just such a fun song, and – since it’s quite repetitive – super easy to pick up the lyrics. This song might be from 2014 but this group is super active and has released several albums since then – so if you like Surpresa de Amor, go check them out!
Also by Turma do Pagode: Sou Eu
2. É isso aí – Ana Carolina & Seu Jorge
É Isso Aí is, in my opinion, one of the best songs in Portuguese there is. Technically, it is a cover of the English song The Blower’s Daughter, but really it does not come close in terms of the emotion and power that radiates out of these two artists’ voices. The lyrics are different, the beat is different – real artistic liberty has been taken with this cover. And that’s another thing you’ll find with Brazilian music – there are a lot of really great covers of popular English songs.
Also by Ana Carolina & Seu Jorge: Pra Rua Me Levar
3. Não Dá – D.A.M.A
Sung by a Portuguese band, this is the only song on the list that is not Brazilian. Sadly, it’s one of the only non-Brazilian songs in Portuguese that I know. I say sadly because I’m sure there is a huge amount of great songs in Portuguese produced in other countries, which doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Despite being an amazing song with a good beat, I’ve never met a Brazilian that knows Não Dá or the band D.A.M.A. This song and many of their others are very good songs to learn Portuguese – they are pretty slow and easy-going, easy-to-follow. So check them out if that’s your style! This post has more songs from Portugal to check out.
Also by D.A.M.A: Tento (I – transformar)
4. O Sol – Vitor Kley
This song became a huge hit in Brazil, and even now, three years later, it’s playing on the radio and at parties all the time, so I guess it’s somewhat of a modern classic. This is a light-hearted, well-paced song with fairly simple lyrics – a great song to listen to if you’re learning Portuguese.
Also by Vitor Kley: Pupila (with ANAVITÓRIA)
5. Pais e Filhos -Legião Urbana
Legião Urbana is a classic Brazilian rock band from the 1980’s. They have a lot of songs about politics and Brazilian society, so they are great if you’re looking to learn more about Brazilian culture. This particular song is a catchy tune about the complicated relationships between parents and their children. If you’re interested in more of the classics from the “olden days”, check out this list of the 100 greatest Brazilian songs.
Also by Legião Urbana: Tempo perdido
6. Quarta Cadeira – Matheus & Kaun, Jorge & Mateus
This is a good example of modern sertanejo, which, as I mentioned, is currently one of the most popular music genres in Brazil. This song has been super popular since it came out, probably thanks to its catchy tune and relatable lyrics. The fact that the vocals are two of the most popular sertanejo duos out probably doesn’t hurt, either. This is also a great example of the collabs I was talking about, where we see four artists together on one song. Give it a listen and see if you can figure out what it’s about.
Also by Matheus & Kauan: Vou ter que superar
Also by Jorge & Mateus: Tijolão
7. Quando eu morrer – Cátia Machado
Cátia Machado is a talented singer and songwriter, albeit less well known than the other artists on this page (she’s my husband’s aunt, if you were wondering how I “discovered” her). The one thing I would say about her is that once you’ve heard them a few times, her songs are super hard to get out of your head! She sings a variety of different styles of classic Brazilian music. This song is a super catchy song with a beautiful message, and the lyrics are in the description of this Youtube video.
Also by Cátia Machado: Guerreira
8. Não deixa o samba morrer – Alcione Nazareth
I was on a cruise in Brazil earlier this year, and I honestly heard different renditions of this song, on different parts of the ship at least three times a day. I can pretty confidently say that every Brazilian knows this one. It’s definitely reached the status of golden classic in Brazil. And it’s easy to see why.
Also by Alcione Nazareth: Faz uma loucura por mim
9. All Star – Nando Reis
Genre: MPB (classic pop)
This song is one of those songs that becomes more beautiful when you understand the lyrics – all the more motivation to improve your Portuguese! All Star is one of my favourite songs in Portuguese, just because of the feeling it brings.
Also check out: Pra você guardei o amor, De Janeiro a Janeiro (with Roberta Campos)
10. Sorri, sou rei – Natiruts
This is one of the few songs in Portuguese that I had heard before I started studying Portuguese – it may be familiar to you, too. This is another soulful song that is also upbeat and fun. Learn the words and try to sing along!
Also check out: Andei só
Other Great artists who sing in Portuguese
If you’ve listened to all the songs in this post and you’re itching for more music in Portuguese, or if you just feel like you haven’t found the artist for you yet, here are a bunch more talented artists – old and new – whose songs are mostly in Portuguese.
- Os Paralamas do Sucesso
- Tiago Iorc
- Zeca Baleiro
- Claudinho & Buchacha
- Marília Mendonça
- Luan Santana
- Felipe Araújo
After reading this, you should have a great idea of the huge range of songs in Portuguese that are available. The music industry alone tells you how vibrant Brazilian culture is, one of the many reasons Portuguese is my favourite language. If you haven’t yet, don’t forget to get the Spotify playlist of all the songs mentioned in this article. I hope you’ve found something you liked, and something that can make your Portuguese learning journey that much more fun!