New German feeling

Soft tones, deep emotions: on German radio at the moment you very often hear songs by melancholy young men. Why?
by Julia Bähr

Germany. These new German melancholic singers are all likeable young men aged around 30. They include Tim Bendzko, Matthias Schweighöfer, Max Giesinger, Mark Forster, Andreas Bourani, Johannes Oerding, Philipp Poisel and Max Prosa. You cannot imagine them ever refusing to appear in a selfie with a fan. Comments on YouTube enthuse about how their songs are so honest, sorrowful and touching. This is hardly ever anything to do with the music: the new melancholy stems from the lyrics. These songs are intended to make it appear that someone is baring their soul. The anguish is there for all to see, with a little hope in between, and listeners look for lines with which they can identify.

“I somehow carry you through the storm home / Wherever that may be, I will definitely find out,” sings their latest representative, Matthias Schweighöfer. The film actor (Rabbit Without Ears) has just released his first album, Lachen Weinen Tanzen (Laughing Crying Dancing). In “Winter” Tim Bendzko sings: “How can you hide that the heart freezes? / Winter is here / Am so remarkably numbed / Adrenaline in lead chains / Winter plays the wrong song.”

Certainty in turbulent times

These melancholy singer-songwriters never distance themselves from their own emotions through irony. The reason they cannot make fun of their own feelings is that they would then elevate themselves above their fans. Accordingly, Philipp Poisel sings to a bouncy keyboard: “Explain life to me / I don’t know how it works”.

In fact, there is a good reason why this kind of music has so many fans in Germany: it offers certainty in politically troubled times. It is all about feelings; controversial topics are not mentioned. Here there are no debates; here everyone snuggles up. As a result, the lyrics fulfil at least one function: they bring people together. Everyone is sad occasionally, everyone sometimes feels unable to cope with life, everyone yearns for love. And the lowest common societal denominator is sometimes a kitschy song – with cello accompaniment.


by Julia Bähr

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