You probably learned to speak Spanish in one of three ways: from your family; from school; or from pop culture. Movies, TV, and music have been a longtime source for our daily intake of bilingualism (here’s looking at you, Ricky Ricardo!). And it’s pretty evident that it’s easier, and a lot more fun, to sing in our mother tongue than to recite convoluted Spanish sentences in front of the classroom. So we’ve rounded up some of the very best bilingual songs of all-time, so go ahead and sing-along -- you know you want to!
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The Clash - “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”
Lead singer of pioneering punk band the Clash, the late Joe Strummer, had been a longtime lover of Spanish culture (he spent several years of his youth in Spain, mentions Granada, Spain on their track “Spanish Bombs” and had a Spanish girlfriend, Paloma Romero of the Slits). So it’s no surprise the British rocker wanted to incorporate the Spanish language on their classic track “Should I Stay Or Should I Go.” Legend has it that Strummer recruited friend Joe Ely, a Texas singer, to translate all the lyrics, and actually sang along with Strummer on the track.
Manu Chao - “Me Gustas Tu”
In the spring of 2001 Spanish, and Paris-raised, singer Manu Chao released his second solo album Proxima Estacion: Esperanza which featured his stellar breakthrough single “Me Gustas Tu.” Manu Chao, who is multilingual and sings in Spanish, French, English, Italian, Galician, Arabic, and Portuguese, chose to sing “Me Gustas Tu” primarily in Spanish, while the the chorus is in French. The catchy “Me gustas tu,” tagline made it an irresistible hit.
Wall of Voodoo - "Mexican Radio"
This is probably one of the coolest one-hit-wonders of the early ‘80s, and even though the track, by Wall of Voodoo (who?!) only peaked at #58 on the Billboard charts, it did become an international hit. It’s been one of the few times you’d ever hear the word “Mexican” on MTV. By the way, dudes of Wall of Voodoo, we don’t think anyone eats barbequed iguana.
Jose Feliciano - “Feliz Navidad”
Every kid has been presumably forced to sing this song during the Christmas recital. But hey, we’re not complaining, it was our time to shine and show off to the non-Latino kids that we knew exactly how to sing “Feliz Navidad, prospero ano y felicidad” without stumbling. The track has not lost any steam since it’s release back in 1970. Every year during the holidays the song is one of the most downloaded, and is considered one of the top Christmas songs most played around the world.
Color Me Badd - “I Adore Mi Amor”
Before Gossip Girl and The O.C. there was the original Beverly Hills 90210, which was the thing to watch. So when the biggest teen show of the early ‘90s featured the biggest pop group it was like the second coming. Yes, we’re talking about Color Me Badd, a foursome from Oklahoma, with members that featured an array of ethnicities it would make your head spin (and that’s a good thing). Naturally, since one of its members is Latino, the dudes released a romantic R&B ballad in Spanglish, which became one of their biggest hits, next to “I Wanna Sex You Up” of course. These dudes sure knew how to talk to women. Here they are singing it acapella for the kids at West Beverly High.
Gloria Estefan - "Conga"
Before the Latin pop explosion was brought on by Ricky Martin and Marc Anthony in the U.S. in the late ‘90s, Gloria Estefan introduced the world to the colorful rhythms of Cuban music more than a decade earlier. “Conga” released in 1985 by the Miami Sound Machine was beautifully heavy with percussions and horns that it had everyone and their mother dancing in the conga line. And even though the song didn’t specifically infuse Spanglish, it sort of did. “Come on, shake your body baby, do the conga/I know you can't control yourself any longa.” Given, she is saying “longer” but everyone sang it as “longa.” Nuff said.
Gerardo - "Rico Suave"
The self-proclaimed “Latin Elvis” is actually an Ecuadorian from L.A. who had one hell of a hit with “Rico Suave” in 1991. In fact, we actually thought his name was Rico Suave. And since we’re being honest, bilingual or not, Spanish rap is a lot harder to sing-along to. We have no idea what he was talking about.
Pitbull - "Don’t Stop The Party"
It may seem like Pitbull has always been part of our lives, but this Latino rapper from Florida really didn’t burst into the mainstream until 2004 with the nicely titled “Culo” track he did with Lil Jon. Even though we can name a ton of great bilingual tracks from the dog, our favorite is “Don’t Stop The Party.”
Madonna - "La Isla Bonita"
Oh, Madonna! We love it when she comes to our side. And by our side we mean dating a cholo from East L.A and dancing in red flamenco dress alone in her room. We do that all the time! Madge has had a thing for Latin men for decades, which is why she fell in love with San Pedro on “La Isla Bonita” in 1987. Okay, so technically San Pedro is an island, but we digress. Fun fact: This hit was originally offered to Michael Jackson.
Lady Gaga - “Americano”
Speaking of East L.A., another blonde bombshell that wanted to get in touch with her Latina side was Lady Gaga on this pretty awesome track on her Born This Way album. Most of “Americano” was written in Spanish. Hopefully ARTPOP will have some Spanglish in it too!
Prince Royce - “Stand by Me”
Who else but Prince Royce could turn an old classic song into a beautifully modern bachata ballad? No one, that’s who! He literally sang this Ben E. King track in Spanglish, and perfectly so. “Stand by me/oohh stand junto a mi.”
Ricky Martin - "Livin La Vida Loca"
The year was 1999, and even though Ricky Martin was common terminology in Latino homes since the late ‘70s, it was only until that point that U.S. audiences got a taste of Puerto Rican goodness. After four Spanish language albums, Ricky was releasing an album entirely in English and it was the bomb! “Livin’ La Vida Loca” is the song that blew the doors wide open for the Latin pop explosion, which became a free for all, and it was about damn time.
Shakira - “Addicted To You”
Um, yes, we’re totally and completely addicted to Shakira, and have been since day one! The Colombian popstar has been delivering incredibly awesome Spanglish tracks throughout the years but our favorite has to be “Addicted To You.” If non-Spanish speakers can’t pick up the language after listening to this track, then we feel bad for you, son!