|Cultural origins||1950s, West Germany, East Germany and Austria|
|Music of Germany|
Schlager music (German: [ˈʃlaːɡɐ], "hit(s)") is a style of European popular music that is generally a catchy instrumental accompaniment to vocal pieces of pop music with simple, happy-go-lucky, and often sentimental lyrics.
Typical schlager tracks are either sweet, 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 Finnic, Nordic, Slavic, and other East European folk songs, with lyrics tending towards melancholic and elegiac themes. Musically, schlager bears similarities to styles such as easy listening.
Schlager is a loanword from German (from schlagen, "to hit"). It also came into some other languages (such as Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch, Czech, Finnish, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Serbian, Turkish, Russian, Hebrew, and Romanian, for example), where it retained its meaning of a "(musical) hit".
The roots of German schlager are old. Originally, the word meant a hit or a strike. The first use of the word applied to music, in its original meaning, was in an opening night critique in the newspaper Wiener Fremden-Blatt on 17 February 1867 about The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss II.
One ancestor of schlager music in its current meaning may be the operetta, which was highly popular in the early 20th century. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Comedian Harmonists and Rudi Schuricke laid the foundations for this new music. Well-known schlager singers of the 1950s and early 1960s include Lale Andersen, Freddy Quinn, Ivo Robić, Gerhard Wendland, Caterina Valente, Margot Eskens and Conny Froboess. Schlager reached a peak of popularity in Germany and Austria in the 1960s (featuring Peter Alexander and Roy Black) and the early 1970s. From the mid-1990s through the early 2000s, schlager also saw an extensive revival in Germany by, for example, Guildo Horn, Dieter Thomas Kuhn, Michelle, and Petra Perle. Dance clubs would play a stretch of schlager titles during the course of an evening, and numerous new bands were formed specialising in 1970s schlager cover versions and newer material.
Germans view schlager as their country music, and American country and Tex-Mex music are both major elements in schlager culture. ("Is This the Way to Amarillo" is regularly played in schlager contexts, usually in the English-language original.)
Between 1975 and 1981, German-style schlager became disco-oriented, in many ways merging with the mainstream disco music of the time. Singers such as Marianne Rosenberg recorded both schlager and disco hits. The song "Moskau" by German band Dschinghis Khan was one of the earliest modern, dance-based schlager, again showing how schlager of the 1970s and early 1980s merged with mainstream disco and Euro-disco. Dschinghis Khan, while primarily a Euro-disco band, also played disco-influenced schlager.
Popular schlager singers include Michael Holm, Roland Kaiser, Hansi Hinterseer, Jürgen Drews, Andrea Berg, Heintje Simons, Helene Fischer, Nicole, Claudia Jung, Andrea Jürgens, Michelle, Kristina Bach, Marianne Rosenberg, Simone Stelzer, Daniela Alfinito, Semino Rossi, Vicky Leandros, Leonard, DJ Ötzi, Andreas Gabalier and more recently, Beatrice Egli.
In Hamburg in the 2010s, Schlager fans still gathered annually by the hundreds of thousands, dressing in 1970s clothing for street parades called "Schlager Move". The Schlager Move designation is also used for a number of smaller schlager music parties in several major German cities throughout the year. (This revival is sometimes associated with kitsch and camp.)
Stylistically, schlager continues to influence German "party pop" or "party-schlager" (e.g. "Layla", 2022): that is, 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 folksy pubs, fun fairs, and bowling league venues. In the English-speaking world, the most popular group to have included elements of schlager in their style is probably ABBA, a band that mixed traditional Swedish music, schlager, and pop-rock to create their own sound.
- Schlager and Volksmusik
- Estrada (music genre)
- Levenslied, similar genre in the Netherlands
- Pimba, similar genre in Portugal
- Traditional pop music
- Middle of the road
- Adult contemporary music
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