Yes, foreign language songs can give you goosebumps even if you don’t understand what they’re singing about
As a music journalist based in Europe, I listen to a lot of songs in languages I do not understand. When I began doing this, however, I realized quickly I did not have to understand the language the song was sung in to get goosebumps from some of them.
Because, yes, foreign language songs can cause you to feel heightened emotions, if you are the type of person music affects that way.
So today, I thought I would share some of my favorite foreign language songs that I still do not understand (well, I do speak reasonable Thai) but that, every time I play them, I break out in the strongest of chills.
Because, let’s face it, it is not always the lyrics of a song that hit our hearts, but instead is the music and the emotion the artist is feeling as they sing that affects us so much.
Be warned though, the songs I have chosen are an eclectic lot with everything from a former Eurovision song to a track from two Thai bands you have probably never heard of.
The thread that runs through all of them, though, is these foreign language songs’ ability to give you goosebumps.
Voltaj — ‘De la capat’
Voltaj’s ‘De la Capat‘ was the song chosen by Romania to represent the country at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2015 in Vienna, Austria. The song tells the story of a Romanian boy trying to contact his mother who is working abroad in Vienna.
The song was written by Voltaj to highlight the plight of the many Romanian children who are left behind as their parents are forced to work elsewhere in Europe to earn money. The band’s lead singer Călin Goia said about the message behind the song:
“Those kids live a trauma because of the lack of affection when their parents are away working abroad, although they receive gifts and packages from them. People must know that Romanians are not lazy or thieves, and the biggest majority are hard-working and honest, making enormous sacrifices for their families left behind. Therefore, they must be respected and not discriminated against because of this.”
Honestly, though, even if I didn’t know the story behind Voltaj’s ‘De la Capat‘, it would still give me goosebumps.
Because it is just so beautiful.
Pablo Alborán — ‘Tu Refugio‘
“Déjame ser tu refugio, déjame que yo te ayudo,
aguantémonos la vida, te recuerdo si lo olvidas,
que hemos crecido peleando y sin quererlo nos gustamos,
cuántas cosas han pasado y ya no hay miedo de decir te amo”
“Let me be your refuge, let me help you
We’ll get through life together, I’ll remind you if you forget
That we’ve grown up fighting but unintentionally fell in love
So much has happened and now there’s no fear in saying I love you“
Spanish singer Pablo Alborán is just one of a huge number of Spanish singers whose music gives me goosebumps (another one is below). But I have loved his ‘Tu Refugio‘ more than anything else he has produced.
The track is from his fourth studio album Prometo (I Promise).
Alejandro Sanz — ‘Cuando Nadie Me Ve’ (When Nobody Sees Me)
I discovered Spanish singer Alejandro Sanz during a holiday in Spain about 15 years ago. I bought every album I could find, and listened to them non-stop for about six months.
Sanz’ ‘Cuando Nadie Me Ve‘ is from his album El Alma al Aire — still today one of the most perfect albums I own — and is just so dramatic and gorgeous.
And that accent, and the way Sanz sings!
Thaitanium — ‘Sud kob fah’ (Horizon)
I lived in Thailand for 14 years, so listened to Thai pop music often. One of my two favorite Thai bands, though, is Thaitanium. A hip-hop band that has been around since 2000, and in those years has gone from strength to strength until they’re one of Thailand’s most successful bands.
But the song Thaitanium released that hits my heart the most and gives me massive goosebumps is ‘Sud kob fah‘. The track is a collaboration between the band and the lead singer of my other favorite Thai band, Carabao — Aed Carabao.
On this, it is the mix of Thai and English, the superb rapping, Aed Carabao’s amazing voice and that bloody orchestra. Perfect. Simply perfect. And, if you love Thailand as much as I do, this thing will give you so so so many goosebumps.
And just to add even more to how much I love this band and this song, by coincidence, I even got my tattoo done at the same tattoo studio in Bangkok where Thaitanium get theirs.
Marco Masini — ‘Non è così‘
I came across Italian singer songwriter Marco Masini while watching the San Remo Festival in 2015. The only reason I was streaming that competition to choose Italy’s artist for Eurovision was because my once greatest of loves Conchita Wurst was performing at the event.
But when Marco Masinis arrived on stage, there went a little bit of my heart.
Because it is not just that every one of his huge library of songs is gorgeous, it is that his scratchy husky, almost always angry voice is so damned gorgeous, it grabs every hidden part of my soul.
One of my favorite Marco Masini songs is ‘Non è così‘ (It is not so) — and the sadness of that song written from the perspective of a man who watches his lover walk away from her dreams and, as he realizes she is refusing to fight, he feels the fight drain away from himself as well.
Quelle luci che avevi dentro agli occhi
E mi dicevi tanto non c’è più
Niente da illuminare
Volevo dirti che non è così
Non è così
Non è così
E che se adesso tu fai buio io non riesco più a guardare
I saw you turn off one by one
Those lights that you had inside your eyes
And you told me so much there is
nothing more to illuminate
I wanted to tell you that it is not so
It is not so
It is not so
And that if now you get dark I can no longer look
Minami — ‘Kawaki wo Ameku‘
Minami hit my world when I heard the opening theme song for one of my favorite anime series Domestic Girlfriend — and since then, I have devoured everything she has released.
Because you don’t always expect a slight, sweet-looking Japanese girl to come out with a voice like this — hard, husky, and with such enormous emotion it sometimes feels like she is ripping her own soul apart as she sings.
This one is called ‘Kawaki wo Ameku‘, aka ‘Crying For Rain’. Do yourself a favor, put it on repeat and both watch that beautiful animated video as well as allow her voice and that wild guitar to wash over you.
Because the song may be in Japanese, but you don’t need to understand this foreign language song to get goosebumps.
The video, by the way, has almost 80 million views on YouTube because, Minami, she is something else.
These are just six of the foreign language songs that give me goosebumps. There are many many more and, yes, I have listened to them hundreds of times each and, no, those goosebumps never really go away.
- Listen to Chris De Burgh’s ‘Lady in Red’ from The Umbrella Academy, Season 3, Ep. 3 - June 28, 2022
- Listen to The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Do You Believe in Magic?’ from The Umbrella Academy, Season 3, Ep. 3 - June 28, 2022
- Listen to Matt Monro’s ‘Born Free’ from In The Dark, Season 4, Ep. 4 - June 28, 2022