Was ist Schlager?

Schlager is the German word for "Hit". Initially, it has the same meaning, a big success.

Later "Schlager" became the term for a kind of easy listening pop music, trying to please as many people as possible in German-speaking countries and Benelux.

In "Schlager" nearly all kinds of music styles are possible. Songs from the musical genres Country, Rock 'n' Roll, Pop, Swing (and in a few cases Hard Rock) count as Schlager when the English lyrics are exchanged with German or Dutch ones. This also worked in the other direction; some Schlager acquired English lyrics and became a pop song. Had the Band ABBA sung their songs in German, this music would count as Schlager.

Many Schlagers originally come from the USA, UK, and other European countries, especially Netherlands. In some cases the German version is more popular, than the original.

By the way, German Schlagers were exported. Many Dutch Schlagers are German Schlagers with Dutch lyrics. A few German Schlagers also became successful in the USA.

Some Schlager songs are sentimental. Some Schlager songs refer to German folk and German drinking songs. Other Schlager songs are arrangements of classical music.

Schlager songs were very popular from the 1920's till the 1970's. German-language songs from this time period almost automatically count as Schlager. This changed in the 1980's when the "New Wave" reached Germany and more bands began to sing in German. This was called "Neue Deutsche Welle" [New German Wave] and was apart from singer/songwriters the first German music without the "Schlager" label. Germany's answer to the "New Wave" lasted only a few years, but opened the door and encouraged many more bands to sing in German. Nowadays, there are far more diverse German-language music styles in Germany that are not regarded as Schlager.

In East Germany, the situation was different. The East German state had a rule ,"When you want to sing on a record, you have to sing German." So in East Germany there was German pop music beside Schlager long before West-German music developed this way.

Many Schlagers of today are in the style of electronic Dance music, "Disco Fox".

Arrangement and orchestration: Many things are possible, from a small band with drums, bass, and two guitars to a big orchestra with brass and strings. Most titles are performed with vocals, many of them by one main singer, some with two main singers, often accompanied by a choir; in a few cases the choir is the featured vocalist. In the 1980's Schlager musicians began to use electronic instruments and sequencers more and more frequently.

In the 1970's, there were TV shows and sampler records containing both German Schlager and English Pop music. This was possible and worked. The famous German TV show "hitparade im ZDF" featured the most successful pop songs in the German language. Until the coming of "Neue Deutsche Welle" these were Schlagers. It was a show on which the vocal performance had to be live, accompanied by tapes with the orchestral backing from the original recording. Later the ZDF tried to open the show to other music from Germany in English language and also allowed the use of full playback, so the vocal performance was pre-recorded. A few years later, they turned back to semi-playback and exclusively German-language songs. But in the 1990s Schlager was no longer so popular, so the show "hitparade" was discontinued.

To sum up, Schlager is a collective term for different kinds of pop music with German lyrics.


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