6. U2 – City of Blinding Lights
Our research told us that U2 is the second best band to help you learn English and frontman Bono is the second best male artist to help you learn (edged out by Justin Timberlake). The chorus was inspired by a moment during a performance in New York City, when Bono saw the audience lit up and shouted, “Oh, you look so beautiful tonight!”

And I miss you when you’re not around
I’m getting ready to leave the ground
Oh you look so beautiful tonight
In the city of blinding lights

7. The Police – Every Breath You Take
These lyrics are a good use of repetition and rhyme, which is great for helping memorisation. Most people consider this a love song, but that’s a common mistake. In 1983, Sting was interviewed for New Musical Express and explained: “I think it’s a nasty little song, really rather evil. It’s about jealousy and surveillance and ownership.”

Every move you make and every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you
Every move you make, every step you take, I’ll be watching you

8. Bob Dylan – Mr Tambourine Man
Dylan’s whimsical, poetic lyrics might be difficult for an English language learner to interpret, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a pleasure to listen and sing along to.

Hey! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

9. Madness – Our House
This song takes you through the daily goings-on in a typical household. With lines such as Father gets up late for work/Mother has to iron his shirt/Then she sends the kids to school – it’s quite clearly a story that most people can connect with. This is a great song for understanding the concept of nostalgia!

I remember way back then when
everything was true and when
we would have such a very good time
such a fine time


10. Otis Reading – (Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay

Sadly, Otis Redding lost his life in a plane crash shortly after this song was recorded, and it was released after his death. His lyrics are quite reflective, and provoke feelings of both contentment and sadness. You can really imagine yourself sitting on the dock with his simple yet descriptive words.

Sittin’ in the morning sun
I’ll be sittin’ when the evening comes
Watching the ships roll in
Then I watch them roll away again


11. Leonard Cohen – Everybody Knows

No list of standout turns of phrase would be complete without Leonard Cohen, a man whose song writing process is so painstaking he’ll often spend years on the same song. When quizzed on his process, Cohen once said it often took so long because, “After a while, if you stick with the song long enough it will yield.” It’s interesting to note then that, even for a master of the English language, the words don’t always come easily. Everybody Knows remains a firm favourite among fans, with the majority of lines starting with the words ‘Everybody knows…’ It’s a lengthy song, but for the sheer beauty of its words and phrasing, the opening lines are a highlight:

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows that the good guys lost

 

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