If Despacito's success has a travel lesson hidden in its reggaeton beats, it's that we're SO eager to listen to music NOT in English. Unfortunately, this can be a challenge. From Armenia to Sweden, local singers produce songs in English for a chance at hitting it big outside of their home country. But there's so much we're missing! We've rounded up eighteen songs from around the world that even a non-native speaker won't have trouble listening to on repeat. These aren't necessarily the newest hits, but the songs we keep returning to year after year.
In Italia By Fabri Fibra (Italy)
If you're bored of postcard-perfect representations of Italy, you need this song from Italian rap phenomenon Fabri Fibra which damns Italy as il paese delle mezze verità, the country of half-truths. The angry but catchy tune will have you shaking your head in half-rage, then going back to familiarize yourself with the rest of the rappers oeuvre.
Anganku Anganmu By Raisa Feat. Isyana Sarasvati (Indonesia)
Two of Indonesia's top female singers teamed up to make this soulful, melancholy song. Fans were excited to see how two of the country's most played songstresses would work together—and if they would at all. From the response, it seems the pairing has been a success, but there aren't any plans for an encore yet. The song, like countless others, is about a yearning for a missed love. Bonus points if you can explain to us why it's set in Stockholm.
Te Voy A Amar By Axel (Argentina)
If you go weak in the knees for heartfelt love songs, you’ll adore Axel's "Te Voy A Amar" (I am going to love you), which starts off as a slow ballad until the chorus when it crescendos into a powerful ballad. This song, from his sixth album, was a chart topper throughout Latin America and went gold, then platinum on the day it was released in Argentina.
Pes Mou By Thanos Petrelis (Greece)
At the start, Thanos Petrelis's hit song "Pes Mou" has the upbeat, instrumental tones you might associate with stereotypical Grecian melodies, but it quickly turns into a jazzy pop tune that we'd be happy to dance to at a club anywhere in the world. Petrelis came into the public eye after placing third in the Greek reality TV show Fame Story (think X Factor, but for Greece). "Pes Mou" translates to "Tell Me" and the song describes the heartbreak of not being able to talk to a former lover after parting ways.
Automatic By Utada Hikaru (Japan)
If you would love J-pop but can't get past the high-pitched vocalists, turn on this song from Utada Hikaru. While it's no doubt pop-y, there's a hint of early 2000’s r&b influence to it that makes it more approachable than most heavily synthed Japanese hits. Hiraku was born in the US and released her first album in English, but it wasn't until she released her second album in Japanese that she gained a large fan base. In 2009, The Japanese Times even named her one of the most influential artists of the decade.
Boten Anna By Basshunter (Sweden)
How you react to Basshunter's 2006 song "Boten Anna" depends on how you experience it. Listen to it and you'll dance in your seat. Watch the music video and you’ll laugh out loud at the early 2000s styles. Basshunter is the stage name of Swedish DJ/electro-pop artist Jonas Erik Altberg. He still performs and releases music, but it's mostly in English nowadays. This song was also has an English version called "Now You're Gone," but the only thing it has in common is the beat. The original Swedish version is about a guy trying to convince a girl that he's not a chat bot.
Wakhra Swag By Navv Inder (India, Punjabi)
The cover thumbnail for this song proudly announces that it has 90 million views and you'll add a couple hundred more once you get the beat stuck in your head. Navv Inder is from Gurusar Sudhar in Punjab, Northern India. He's released five albums, but this song is his runaway hit, and won the Punjab Music Awards in 2016. The song talks about chasing brands and how that doesn't really make you all that attractive. "There are a hundred Audi's in my village / but I own a Yamaha out of my hobby / I roam around in Chandigarh / as Obama in India."
Mensch By Herbert Grönemeyer
Herbert Grönemeyer is the best-selling musician in German history, but it took him until this, his eleventh studio album to have a number one hit in Germany. That being said, the album went on to be the best-selling German-language of all time, breaking records in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. "Mensch" translates to "Human" and the song is all about the agonies and ecstasies of being alive—but frankly, it;s catchy enough that we don't need to understand the words to want it on repeat.
Ai Se Eu Te Pego By Michel Teló (Brazil)
One of Brazil's biggest recent hits is "Ai Se Eu Te Pego" and it's become famous around the world. The singer Michel Teló had sung in various bands before deciding to go solo in 2008. His style is described as country, most noted in his soft spot for the harmonica and the accordion. "Ai Se Eu Te Pego" became popular in part thanks to the song's distinctive accompanying dance, which Brazilian football fans used during goal celebrations. In English the song's name "Ah when I get my hands on you" and basically describes a guy falling madly in love with a girl.
Ara Ara By Yasin Keles (Turkey)
Party like you're in a Turkish nightclub when you listen to "Ara Ara" an electro-pop, beat-driven song by Yasin Keles. "Ara Ara" translates to "Look For, Look For" in English and encourages a guy who just lost a girl he liked not to cry, it’s over. Yasin Keles is primarily a DJ and you can tell from this song.
Turn It Up By T.O.P. (South Korea)
If you're sick of saccharine K-Pop tracks, give T.O.P. a chance. This South Korean pop-rapper is one part of the Big Bang duo. He's only released two songs on his own, this and Doom Dada, but they both became chart topping hits. They still have the synth and the rhythm you know from K-Pop, but adjusted an octave lower. The title says you pretty much all you need to know, this is song about listening to music with a heavy emphasis on the excesses of the celebrity lifestyle.
Reseaux By Niska (France)
Rap in French? You'll be wondering why you haven't been listening to it for years after hearing this melodic/powerful track from Niska. It's topped the Billboardcharts in France, Belgium and Switzerland. Niska got his start with the rap group Negro Deep, but went solo in 2015.
Safari By J Balvin (Colombia)
Want more of that Despacito vibe? Listen to "Safari" by J Balvin, which has a slower beat but is no less catchy. Balvin was born in Colombia, but started to pursue a music career when he moved to the United States at 17. He's since become a big deal in the Latin Music world: he's topped Billboard’s Latin Charts and collaborated with many artists and DJs. The lyrics: "This party / Is a safari / She likes it / Everybody watches how you dance."
Anhamemately By Artem Valter (Armenia)
This Armenian artist may have produced Eurovision-winning songs, but with such appeal that they've gone on to become chart-toppers in their own right. They're the kind of light, pop tunes that you're used to listening to while lounging on the beach. "Anhamemately" translates to "Thank you very much," and the song talks about yearning for a distracted lover.
Phakade By Lira (South Africa)
This narrative music video from South Africa feels like a mini movie, set to song. Lira is the stage name of Lerato Molapo. She's won the South African Music Award eleven times and her records have gone multi-platinum. "Phakade" means "forever" and the song is about wanting to be with someone forever.
Real St. P Bullshit By Leningrad (Russia)
A fair warning—you might not want to listen to this song for the first time at work, and not just for the slightly racy video. Leningrad's song "Real St.P Bullshit" seems to cram every Russian stereotype into three minutes and your mouth is sure to be on the floor. For everyone wondering how they got away with that, the answer is that they haven't always. When the band formed in the early nineties, most radio stations avoided playing their songs. But that didn't stop them from becoming hits. The band has fourteen members, including female vocalist Yuliya Kogan since 2007. Lead singer Sergei Shnurov has been quoted as saying "Our songs are just about the good sides of life: vodka and girls that is." We're not saying we believe this is the only side to Russia, but it sure is a side we didn't expect to find in the country's own music.
Gal Dem Sugar By Koshens (Jamaica)
Koshens is a dancehall favorite in Jamaica and has several reggae hits. His fan base extends to Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Japan (his song "Pon Di Corner" was such a hit in Japan, he did a special Japan-only tour).
Tuttugu & Fjórir By Emmsjé Gauti (Iceland)
Emmsjé Gauti is the stage name for Gauti Þeyr Másson who has been in Iceland's rap and hip hop scene since he joined an rap group in 2002. In 2010, he went solo and has since released two albums. "Tuttugu & Fjórir" literally means "twenty-four" and this song describes the pain of growing up and the difficulty in knowing ones self.