Schlager music

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For people with the surname, see Schlager (surname).

Schlager music (German: [ˈʃlaːɡɐ], "hit(s)")[2] is a style of popular music which is generally a catchy instrumental accompaniment to vocal pieces of pop music with easy to understand, happy-go-lucky and often sentimental lyrics. It is prevalent in Central and Northern Europe, and Southeast Europe (in particular Germany,[2] Austria, Albania, Bulgaria, Finland, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Poland, Hungary, Switzerland, Turkey, Scandinavia and the Baltic States), and also (to a lesser extent) in France, Belgium, Netherlands and the UK. In the United States it is also known as 'entertainer music' or 'German hit mix'.

Michelle performing in Berlin, 15 March 2017, where she sang schlagers as well as ballads

The style emerged in Europe after the Second World War, partly as a backlash against American rock and roll, and uses simple patterns of music.[3] Typical schlager tracks are either sweet, highly sentimental ballads with a simple, catchy melody or light pop tunes. Lyrics typically center on love, relationships and feelings. The northern variant of schlager (notably in Finland) has taken elements from Nordic and Slavic folk songs, with lyrics tending towards melancholic and elegiac themes. Musically, schlager bears similarities to styles such as easy listening music.

The German word Schlager (itself a calque of the English word hit) is also a loanword in some other languages (Hungarian, Russian,[4] Hebrew, Romanian,[5] for example), where it retained its meaning of a "(musical) hit". The style has been frequently represented at the Eurovision Song Contest and has been popular since the contest began in 1956,[2] although it is gradually being replaced by other pop music styles.

Over time, schlager music has gradually shifted on to electronic music rather than generic pop music, due to its widespread use of synthesizers throughout its various implementations in the recent decades.

Variations by country[edit]

The Netherlands and Flanders[edit]

Dutch schlager is called levenslied (literally 'life song', i.e. 'song about real life'). It is a sentimental, Dutch-language subgenre of pop music. Typical levenslied lyrics treat subjects such as love, misery, and nostalgia, besides longing for sunny, exotic holiday places. A typical levenslied has catchy, simple rhythms and melodies (in common with many pop and folk tunes) and is structured in couplets and refrains. Traditional instruments in levenslied music are the accordion and the barrel organ. For example Nicole and Hugo.


The roots of Finnish schlager (Finnish: iskelmä) date back to the interwar period, when popular singers included Georg Malmstén and Matti Jurva. A particularly notable song was opera singer Ture Ara's "Emma" in 1929. Schlager tradition had (and still has) an important place in Finnish popular music, and its melodic language has also influenced Finnish rock. Schlager music shares its audience with Finnish tango music, since both are popular among older and even middle-aged Finns. A particular feature of Finnish schlager music were "translation schlagers" (Finnish: käännösiskelmä). Noteworthy Finnish schlager composers include Juha Vainio. According to the polls conducted among Finnish audiences, "Hopeinen kuu", (originally "Guarda che luna" by Walter Malgoni and Bruno Pallesi),[6] recorded in Finnish by Olavi Virta and "Satulinna" (composed by Jukka Kuoppamäki and sung by Jari Sillanpää) are the most popular Finnish schlagers of all time.[7][8]

Germany and Austria[edit]

Austrian singer and presenter Andy Borg and Swiss singer Francine Jordi

The roots of German schlager are old: the word refers to songs by Heinz Rühmann and other movie actors/ singers of the 1930s. The antecessor of the schlager might be the operettas, which were extremely famous in the early twentieth century. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Comedian Harmonists and Rudi Schuricke laid the foundations for this new type of music.[9] Well-known schlager singers during the 1950s and the early 1960s include Lale Andersen, Freddy Quinn, Ivo Robić, Gerhard Wendland, Caterina Valente, Margot Eskens and Conny Froboess. Schlager reached its peak in popularity in Germany and Austria during the 1960s (featuring Peter Alexander and Roy Black) and the early 1970s. From the mid-to-late 1990s into the early 2000s, however, German-language schlager saw an extensive revival in Germany by, for example, Guildo Horn,[2] Dieter Thomas Kuhn, Michelle and Petra Perle. Even reputable dance clubs would put in a stretch of schlager titles during the course of an evening, and numerous new bands specialising in 1970s schlager cover versions and "new" material were formed. In Hamburg, schlager fans still (as of 2013) gather annually by the hundreds of thousands[10] and dress in 1970s clothing for a street parade called "Schlager Move". Due to its popularity, the Schlager Move brand is also used for a number of smaller Schlager music parties in several major German cities throughout the year.[11] This revival is associated with kitsch and camp.

German artist Helene Fischer

Germans view Schlager as their country music and in fact American country and Tex-Mex music are both major elements in the Schlager culture (Is This the Way to Amarillo is regularly played in Schlager contexts, usually in the English original).

Popular Schlager singers include Michael Wendler, Roland Kaiser, Hansi Hinterseer, Jürgen Drews, Andrea Berg, Helene Fischer, Nicole, Claudia Jung, Andrea Jürgens, Michelle, Kristina Bach, Marianne Rosenberg, Simone Stelzer, Christian Lais, Semino Rossi, Vicky Leandros, Leonard, DJ Ötzi and Andreas Gabalier who was voted best 'Schlager' singer in 2012. Stylistically, schlager continues to influence German "party pop": music most often heard in après-ski bars and Majorcan mass discos. Contemporary schlager is often mingled with Volkstümliche Musik. If it is not part of an ironic kitsch revival, a taste for both styles of music is commonly associated with a lower and lower middle class habitus, typically heard in folksy pubs, at fun fairs, and bowling league venues. Between 1975 and 1981 German-style schlager has become more disco-oriented, in fact in many ways merging with the mainstream disco music of the time. Singers like Marianne Rosenberg were recording both schlager and disco hits which sounded pretty much the same.

The song "Moskau" by Dschinghis Khan was widely recognized as one of the earliest form of modern, dance-based schlager, and that again proves that schlager of the 70-s and early 80-s basically evolved into a mainstream disco and Euro-disco. German band Dschinghis Khan was primarily a disco band that performed and recorded both disco and disco-influenced schlager music.


In Sweden, schlager has waxed and waned in popularity since at least the 1930s. It still enjoys a large place in Swedish culture, although it is considered to be too "popular and commercial" by many people. Although the original schlager was heavily influenced by operettas, cabaret- and variety-style music and jazz, this started to change during the 1960s and 1970s when schlager music became more pop-oriented. Since the early 1990s, schlager songs began to include elements of rock and techno. Therefore, modern schlager music little resembles that of the 1940s. Despite this, many old schlager tunes are still popular; they are performed by many artists and at the Allsång på Skansen.

Melodifestivalen, often features modern schlager hits, giving it a second name by some: Schlagerfestivalen

The Melodifestival (which selects the Swedish competitor at the Eurovision Song Contest) is popularly also called Schlagerfestivalen ("the Schlager Festival") or Schlager-SM (Swedish schlager championship), since it has traditionally been characterised by schlager songs. The Eurovision Song Contest has also been called "Eurovisionsschlagerfestivalen" (Eurovision schlager festival) or schlager-EM ("European schlager championship"). The amount of schlager has decreased drastically in recent years, but schlager songs are the most likely genre to win the competition ("Evighet" (English: "Invincible" in 2006 by Carola and "Hero" by Charlotte Perrelli in 2008, for example). Melodifestivalen is the most popular TV program in Sweden. It is broadcast annually, and in 2006 an estimated 47 percent of the Swedish population watched the final. In Sweden "schlager" is often used to refer to Eurovision-participating songs.

Two characteristics of Swedish schlager are a pronounced key change before the final chorus and their three-minute length (the maximum song length permitted at the Eurovision Song Contest). Some Swedes dispute the meaning of "schlager" with respect to Swedish music; it may be used indiscriminately to describe all popular music, "older-sounding" popular music, Melodifestivalen songs, Eurovision songs, songs with a "catchy" chorus or dansband music. Both Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson of ABBA were influenced by schlager music early in their careers.

United Kingdom[edit]

British schlager singer Tony Christie

In the United Kingdom, schlager is often categorized simply as pop.[3] The style has long been popular there, especially between the 1950s and 1980s, with singers such as Tony Christie, who enjoyed success among schlager audiences in both Germany and the UK; Engelbert Humperdinck, most notably with schlager hit "Release Me"; and Petula Clark, who gained her first number 1 in the UK Singles Chart with "Sailor", the English schlager version of "Seemann (Deine Heimat ist das Meer)", originally performed by Austrian singer Lolita. Artists from other countries have also had schlager hits in the UK. American singers Al Martino and Roy Orbison both entered the British charts with schlager hits "Blue Spanish Eyes" and "Only the Lonely" respectively. Billy Fury's "Halfway to Paradise" reached number 3 in the UK Singles Chart. From the Netherlands and the UK, Dutch band Pussycat reached number 1 with the song "Mississippi". German and Austrian singers have also had hits in the UK, such as German singer Nicole reached the UK chart with "A Little Peace" peaking at number 1. The song won Germany the Eurovision Song Contest in 1982. The UK has itself entered many schlager artists into the Eurovision Song Contest, for example music group Brotherhood of Man won for the UK in 1976 with "Save Your Kisses for Me".

German schlager, although mainly sung in German including volksmusik and its modern version volkstümliche Musik, has attracted a small fan base in the United Kingdom, including BBC Radio Manchester commentator Ian Cheeseman.[12] Germany's current top selling schlager singer Helene Fischer released the album The English Ones in 2010 with several versions of her German language hits in English for her English speaking fans of schlager music.[13] British schlager singers including Ross Antony,[14] Tony Christie[15] and Roger Whittaker[16] have appeared on shows such as Musikantenstadl and ZDF Fernsehgarten.

Former Yugoslavia[edit]

The first schlager music in the former Yugoslavia began to appear in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The first (and most influential) festival of schlager music was the Zagreb Festival of Popular Music (later known as Zagrebfest), which began in 1953 and still takes place annually in Zagreb. Many schlagers (Croatian: šlager, uspješnica) performed at Zagrebfest over the past five decades are an integral part of the Croatian and Yugoslav pop-music scene. The first schlager singers were Ivo Robić and Rajka Vali, but over time Zagreb school of schlagers came to include such singers as Vice Vukov, Arsen Dedić, Hrvoje Hegedušić, Ivica Percl, Gabi Novak, Frano Lasić, Jasna Zlokić, Zdravko Čolić, and many others. Main composers of schlagers included Fedor Kopsa, Krešimir Oblak, Ferdo Pomykalo, Miljenko Prohaska, Nikica Kalogjera, Bojan Hohnjec, Vanja Lisak, Zvonko Špišić, Ivica Stamać and Hrvoje Hegedušić.[17] Some Zagrebfest artists (such as Ivo Robić and Tereza Kesovija) would later have successful careers in Germany and France. Other pioneers of schlagers include Darko Kraljić (from Zagreb), who worked in Belgrade. He is best known by his hit "Čamac na Tisi" (sung by Lola Novaković and popular in revolutionary Hungary) and his music for the film Ljubav i moda ("Devojko mala" and "Pod sjajem zvezda", performed by Vokalni kvartet Predraga Ivanovića).


Schlager became popular in the 1950s Turkey. The first, most popular artist to publish schlager in Turkey was Ajda Pekkan. She published a lot of Schlager music, before shifting her genre to schlager-disco pop. Furthermore her stage name "Diva" is caused by Schlager.[clarification needed] There are many singers in this genre today, such as Tarkan, Burcu Güneş, Petek Dinçöz, Aylin Vatankoş, Nilüfer Yumlu, Erol Evgin, Funda Arar and Hülya Avşar.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Creekmur, Corey K., and Linda Y. Mokdad. The International Film Musical. Edinburgh University Press, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d Raykoff, Ivan; Deam Tobin, Robert (2007). A Song for Europe: Popular Music and Politics in the Eurovision Song Contest. London England and Burlington, Vt. USA: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 37–58.
  3. ^ a b Nico Roicke, "Schlager louts: meet Germany's biggest pop stars", The Guardian, 15 March 2011. Retrieved 13 July 2015
  4. ^ "БСЭ". Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  5. ^ "Dexonline". Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  6. ^ [1] Archived 2010-09-29 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ "Iskelmäradio - Kaikkien aikojen iskelmä YLE Radio Suomi". 28 October 2007. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  8. ^ "Eniten kotimaisia hittejä - Iskelmä". Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  9. ^ Alsmann, Götz (8 May 2008). "'Der Schlager hat sich selbst entmannt'" (in German). Der Spiegel. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  10. ^ ""Schlagermove" - Atlantic Alliance". 21 July 2012. Archived from the original on 21 July 2012. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  11. ^ "Schlagermove - Home". Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  12. ^ "Manchester - BBC Radio Manchester - Abba and Austria". BBC. 2008-10-24. Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  13. ^ "Helene Fischer in English: Does It Work? (part 1)". Retrieved 2017-12-19.
  14. ^ "Ross Antony: Shropshire Lad Gives German Schlager A Try". Retrieved 2017-12-19.
  15. ^ "Tony Christie: From UK "Big Voice" to Schlager Stardom". Retrieved 2017-12-19.
  16. ^ "Roger Whittaker: Schlager Star From the UK". Retrieved 2017-12-19.
  17. ^ Gall, Zlatko (31 January 2009). "Hrvatski evergreen: najbolje melodije zabavne glazbe". Slobodna Dalmacija (in Croatian). Retrieved 11 September 2017.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Schlager at Wikimedia Commons