Schlager music (German: Schlager, synonym of "hit-songs" or "hits"), also known in the United States as entertainer music or German hit mix, is a style of popular music prevalent in Central and Northern Europe, and Southeast Europe (in particular Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Flanders, Republic of Macedonia, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Switzerland, Turkey, Scandinavia and the Baltic States) and also (to a lesser extent) in France and Poland. In Portugal, it was adapted and became pimba music.
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. 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 word schlager (whilst itself a calque) is also a loanword in some other languages (Hungarian, Russian, Hebrew, Romanian, 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 it originated in 1956, although it is gradually being replaced by other pop music styles.
Variations by country
The Netherlands and Flanders
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.
Unlike in the Netherlands, the name 'schlager' is still used in Flanders, Belgium. Flanders hold a major "Schlagerfestival" every year.
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), 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.
Germany and Austria
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. 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. During the 1980s and early 1990s, Schlager was not popular in Germany and Austria. 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, 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 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. This revival is associated with kitsch and camp.
Germans view Schlager as their Country Music and in fact American Country and TexMex 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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. 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. There are many singers in this genre today, such as Tarkan (singer), Burcu Güneş, Petek Dinçöz, Aylin Vatankoş, Nilüfer Yumlu, Erol Evgin, Funda Arar and Hülya Avşar.
The term schlager is largely unknown in North America. The closest term is "easy listening", or more recently "soft rock". While at one time it was fairly popular in Canada and the United States, due to the constant change of fashion in popular culture it has generally fallen out of favour in some circles since the 1970s. In 1970, Warner Bros. Records released a two-LP sampler of tracks from its current non-rock albums called Schlagers. Examples of American schlager style singers would include Pat Boone, Donny & Marie Osmond, the Carpenters, Barry Manilow, Frankie Avalon, and even Elvis Presley during his Blue Hawaii period.
Although the term is not well known in the UK, schlager music is often categorized as pop. Schlager style music has long been popular in Britain, especially between the 1950s and 1980s, with singers such as Tony Christie (who enjoyed huge success among schlager audiences in Germany and Britain) and Engelbert Humperdinck.
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. British schlager singers including Ross Antony, Tony Christie and Roger Whittaker have appeared on shows such as Musikantenstadl.
- Schlager and Volksmusik (genre)
- Levenslied, equivalent genre in the Netherlands.
- Pimba, equivalent genre in Portugal.
- Traditional pop music
- Compare: adult contemporary music, "mainstream contemporary pop music (on the radio) intended for a mature adult audience"
- 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.
- Nico Roicke, "Schlager louts: meet Germany's biggest pop stars", The Guardian, 15 March 2011. Retrieved 13 July 2015
- Definitie Dex
- Guarda che luna Italica
- Kaikkien aikojen iskelmä on Hopeinen kuu YLE
- Satulinna kaikkien aikojen iskelmä Iskelmä
- Alsmann, Götz (8 May 2008). "'Der Schlager hat sich selbst entmannt'" (in German). Der Spiegel. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
- Event listing for Schlager move
- Official Schlager Move Website
- "Manchester - BBC Radio Manchester - Abba and Austria". BBC. 2008-10-24. Retrieved 2012-11-28.
- 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. ISBN 9780754658795.
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- Schlager websites