Welsh music has a rich and storied history, boasting an array of talented artists and unforgettable songs that resonate deeply with fans in Wales and worldwide.
From traditional folk tunes to modern pop hits, Welsh music embodies the heart and soul of its people.
In this post, we’ve compiled a list of 18 of the best Welsh songs spanning various genres and periods. These will undoubtedly make you proud to be Welsh or simply appreciate the beauty of this nation’s musical legacy. Read on!
1. “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”
Up first on our list is Wales’ national anthem. “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” is translated to “Land of My Fathers.” It was written and composed in 1856 by the father and son team of Evan James and James James.
The anthem was first performed by Elizabeth John in front of a vestry, or committee, in Maesteg, a town in Wales. It became more popular in 1858 following the Llangollen festival. The song was included in several publications, which were sold across Wales.
“Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” became even more popular after Robert Rees, a famous Welsh soloist, performed it. The song was sung at patriotic events, and this led to it becoming a national anthem. Surprisingly, “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” was the first anthem to the performed at the start of a sports or national event.
Lyrically, the anthem is about the land of Wales, from its culture, music, landscape, and heroes. It shows the rich heritage of this wonderful country.
2. “Arglwydd Arwain Trwy’r Anialwch”
Up next is another popular Welsh song called “Arglwydd Arwain Trwy’r Anialwch.” When translated, it says, “Guide me, o thou great redeemer.” However, it is called “Bread of Heaven” from a line in the English translation.
This hymn was written by Welsh writer William Williams in 1762. A few years later, Peter Williams translated the hymn into English. It is considered the second national anthem after “Land of My Fathers.”
“Arglwydd Arwain Trwy’r Anialwch” is performed at national events, royal funerals and weddings, and state ceremonies. In fact, the hymn was sung at the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton, which you can watch in the video above.
In the lyrics, the singer asks for the redeemer to guide him, feed him, and lead him through his journey. He further implores the redeemer to be his strength and deliver him to safety.
3. “Calon Lân”
Yet another song in the Welsh language that deserves a spot on our list is “Calon Lân.” In English, it means “A Pure Heart.” This hymn was as old as time, written in the 1890s by the Welsh poet Daniel James.
Lyrics-wise, the singer is asking not a luxurious life or any material things. He is asking to have “a happy heart, an honest heart, a pure heart.”
While this was intended as a hymn, “Calon Lân” developed to become a rugby anthem. This is usually sung before a match involving the Welsh national team.
Certain performances of the song have been carried out in recent years. The Welsh group Only Boys Aloud performed the song on Britain’s Got Talent. Their performance has more than 1.5 million views on Youtube already.
4. “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” By Bonnie Tyler
One of the most iconic songs in history is “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler. It embodies a love ballad’s raw emotion and extraordinary power. Born and raised in Wales, Tyler’s unique voice made this track an instant classic upon its release in 1983.
Did you know that songwriter Jim Steinman initially conceived it as a vampire love song? In fact, its original title was “Vampires in Love.”
“Total Eclipse of the Heart” became one of the best-selling singles worldwide and topped the US charts. It remains Tyler’s most significant musical success.
In addition to its commercial achievements, the song has inspired countless covers. Some chart-topping covers include that of Nickie French and Lissette. This proves that true artistry knows no bounds or limitations when resonating with fans worldwide.
5. “Primadonna” By Marina And The Diamonds
The talented Welsh singer-songwriter Marina and the Diamonds brought to life “Primadonna.” It became her highest-peaking single in the UK, propelling her into chart-topping success.
“Primadonna” is dance-pop featuring elements of Europop. Lyrics-wise, the singer is not afraid to admit that she is a primadonna. She misbehaves, gets her way no matter what, and has a big ego. But only because she feels that her lover does not appreciate her.
From her album Electric Heart, the song sold more than 25,000 copies during the initial week. This became her highest-charting song in the UK. In 2020, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) certified it as Gold.
In the US, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified it Platinum for more than one million copies sold.
6. “Merry Christmas Everyone” By Shakin’ Stevens
Few festive songs have stood the test of time, like “Merry Christmas Everyone” by Welsh singer Shakin’ Stevens. This iconic holiday classic continues to bring joy during the yuletide season.
“Merry Christmas, Everyone” became the #1 Christmas song of the year upon its release in 1985. As one of Shakin’ Stevens’ most popular hits, it is considered the 50th most excellent Welsh song ever. It topped the UK Singles chart and BPI certified it three times Platinum.
The catchy melody and heartwarming lyrics make it a seasonal favorite. But the impact of “Merry Christmas Everyone” goes beyond just being a fun song for listeners. It is a representation of ’80s music and exemplifies how some songs become ingrained in our collective cultural fabric.
7. “Mercy” By Duffy
Our next song, “Mercy” by Welsh singer Duffy, certainly deserves a spot on our list. The song was a commercial success in and out of the UK.
Featured on her debut album Rockferry, “Mercy” reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart for five weeks. It sold over half a million copies that year alone. The song also found success worldwide as it topped the charts in several countries.
The song’s success may be attributed to its infectious beat and catchy lyrics. The song is a plea for the singer’s lover to release her from the spell he put her in. Although she loves him, she is begging him for mercy to let her go.
The success of “Mercy” marked a significant moment in Welsh pop music history. It had been more than two decades since Bonnie Tyler’s hit single “Total Eclipse of the Heart” topped the charts worldwide.
It is clear that “Mercy” has left an indelible mark in music history with its lasting impact more than a decade after its release.
8. “It’s A Heartache” By Bonnie Tyler
Before “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” there was “It’s A Heartache.” This 1977 song marked Bonnie Tyler‘s first hit in the US, where it reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. In the UK, it peaked at #4.
The song’s success did not stop there. It was certified Gold by UK’s BPI and US’s RIAA for selling 500,000 and one million copies, respectively.
Even years after its release, fans worldwide can still resonate with the message behind the song. The singer laments falling in love with a man who doesn’t care for her. And by the time she realizes it, it’s too late.
Outside of the catchy melody and relatable lyrics, one thing that caught the listeners’ attention was Tyler’s voice. Its husky quality was due to an operation she underwent to remove nodules from her vocal folds. This was the voice that she would become famous for.
9. “Dakota” By Stereophonics
The Welsh alternative rock band Stereophonics released their song “Dakota” in 2005. This anthem deserves a spot on our list.
“Dakota” was the band’s first #1 song in the UK after topping the UK Singles and UK Singles Downloads Chart. The song remained in these charts for 44 weeks!
Stereophonics’ lead singer Kelly Jones, and the song’s writer, originally titled the song “Vermilion.” He had written the lyrics in Vermilion, South Dakota. But after other bands released songs with the same title, the band changed the title to “Dakota.” This was the name of an apartment building in New York City.
The lyrics find the singer reminiscing about his first real relationship. Though things were going great, they had to separate. It’s something he wants to talk about when they meet again.
With the infectious guitar riff and memorable lyrics, “Dakota” has become a staple in the Stereophonics’ discography and remains one of their most beloved songs.
10. “Those Were The Days” By Mary Hopkin
Another song that became a commercial success is Mary Hopkin‘s version of “Those Were the Days.” This classic track was originally a Russian romance song and was made famous when Hopkin recorded it as an 18-year-old Welsh folk singer.
The song is about a woman reminiscing about her youth with a friend. They used to hit a tavern where they have a drink or two and talked about all their plans. Years pass and everything changes. But in their hearts, “the dreams are still the same.”
The song quickly rose to popularity, spending six weeks at the top of the UK charts. Its success secured Hopkin’s place in music history and helped establish her as one of Wales’ most celebrated artists.
11. “I Love You Always Forever” By Donna Lewis
Some singers hit it big with their debut single. Case in point, Donna Lewis‘ “I Love You Always Forever.” It would eventually become the most iconic song the Welsh singer ever recorded.
Released in 1996, the song peaked at #5 on the UK Singles Chart and #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It fared better on Billboard Mainstream Top 40 and Adult Top 40, where the song was #1.
The success of “I Love You Always Forever” may be attributed to the fact that it’s easy to sing along to. The message is also something that people can relate to, as it’s a declaration of love for someone.
In 2016, Australian pop singer Betty Who released a version that was equally successful. It reached #1 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs and #6 on the ARIA Singles Chart.
Despite it being Lewis’ only successful song, “I Love You Always Forever” will remain a beloved pop gem. Its nostalgic lyrics and catchy melody captivate audiences today just as they did when they first heard it almost three decades ago.
12. “Sex Bomb” By Tom Jones And Mousse T.
Following its release in 1999 from the album Reload, the song topped the Eurochart Hot 100. In the UK, it peaked at #3 and was certified Silver for sales of over 200,000.
The song is a fun track to listen to with great energy. It’s also easy to sing along to. “Sex Bomb” became a successful and popular song that consequently made Jones more famous.
13. “She’s A Lady” By Tom Jones
The Welshman Tom Jones appears for the second time on our list with his version of “She’s A Lady.” Written by singer-songwriter Paul Anka, the song appeared on Jones’ 1971 album, Tom Jones Sings She’s a Lady.
The song remains hugely popular among Jones’ fans and music lovers. It cemented its place as a hit song that helped establish the singer’s reputation. In short, “She’s A Lady” showcases Jones’ legendary voice at its best.
Lyrics-wise, the song is an ode to the singer’s love interest. He describes her as someone who’s “got style, she’s got grace, she’s a winner.” And he can’t imagine living his life without her by his side.
Commercially, “She’s A Lady” was a success, topping the Cash Box Top 100 chart. It peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #4 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
“She’s A Lady” also appeared in movies, including Miss Congeniality, Bend It Like Beckham, and Flushed Away, among others.
14. “If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next” By Manic Street Preachers
One of the most iconic songs to come out of Wales is “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” by Manic Street Preachers. The song quickly became an anthem for social commentary and political activism.
The song’s debut was timely. Around this time, the UK was still reeling from events such as Bloody Sunday and Hillsborough. It became one of the band’s biggest hits, encapsulating its unique blend of alternative rock music with cultural significance.
Shortly after its release in 1998, it topped the UK Singles Chart. BPI certified it platinum after selling more than 600,000 copies in the UK alone. In addition, the song was nominated for Best British Single at the 1999 BRIT Awards.
15. “(I Wanna Give You) Devotion” By Nomad
The electronic group Nomad‘s “Devotion” is a must-listen for anyone who loves house music. The duo made waves in the late ’80s and early ’90s with their upbeat electronic tracks. But “Devotion” stands out as one of their best works to date.
Quite simply, “Devotion” is a lover’s promise to be devoted to his love interest. The bouncy groove makes it a staple in dance clubs.
The song was a commercial success, peaking at #2 on the UK Singles Chart. It reached the top spot on the UK Dance Singles Chart and #6 on the Eurochart Hot 100. In the UK, the BPI certified “Devotion” silver for selling more than 200,000 copies.
16. “Goldfinger” By Shirley Bassey
Our next song on the list is Welsh singer Shirley Bassey‘s “Goldfinger.” The song was released in 1964 and was written specifically for the James Bond movie Goldfinger. Though she had successful songs before, she landed her big break recording soundtracks for James Bond movies.
“Goldfinger” became a timeless classic and one of the most iconic James Bond theme songs. Bassey’s powerful vocals perfectly capture the essence of the movie as she warns against falling in love with Mister Goldfinger.
After its release, the song peaked at #2 on the Adult Contemporary chart. In the UK, the song peaked at #21. At the AFI’s 100 Years…1000 Songs survey, “Goldfinger” ranked at #53. The song was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.
17. “A Design For Life” By Manic Street Preachers
The Welsh band Manic Street Preachers appears for the second time on our list with “A Design for Life.” This song has left an indelible mark on the Welsh music scene. It was released as a single from their fourth album, Everything Must Go, in 1996 and made history.
The song was a commercial success for the band. It debuted at #3 on the UK Singles Chart and stayed on the chart for 14 weeks. This became the band’s best-performing song. It was also certified platinum for selling more than 600,000 copies.
The lyrics of “A Design for Life” talk about working-class struggles and loss of hope during post-industrial times in the UK. The song’s themes may have been bleak. But people found resonance with its message because they could relate.
Even though many great Welsh songs exist, “A Design For Life” stands apart because it addresses social issues beyond entertainment and speaks to people’s hearts.
18. “Without You” By Badfinger
The songwriters of “Without You,” Pete Ham and Tom Evans of the rock band Badfinger, weren’t hopeful about the song. But it would turn out to be such a success that the song lived on and remained popular for more than five decades as of this writing.
“Without You” is a classic ballad that tugs on the heartstrings with its emotional lyrics. The song was influenced by the relationships the songwriters had with their partners at the time. In the song, the singer finds it difficult to face a life without his lover beside him.
In the years to come, more than 180 artists would cover the song. Some of the most successful include Harry Nilsson in 1971 and Mariah Carey in 1994. Nilsson’s cover found its way to the 2021 Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Carey’s version, on the other hand, peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, #2 on Hot 100 Airplay, and #3 on Hot 100 Singles Sales. RIAA certified it platinum for selling 600,000 copies.
Summing Up Our List Of Welsh Songs
As our list showed you, Wales has a rich musical heritage. It shows so much from these great Welsh singers whose songs have transcended time and become a part of musical history.
The creativity and talent of songwriters led to songs that people still find relevant to this day. And it’s an honor to know a little history behind these great songs.
So if you’re looking for ballads about everyday life, or perhaps catchy pop tunes, there is something on this list for everyone to enjoy.