Story today on NPR about German pop singer Herbert Grönemeyer, one of the more popular singers in Germany in recent years. He has a new album in which he sings some of his best known songs in English. This has always been a dilemma for German singers, whether to record in English, so as to reach a larger audience. Even within Germany there have been periods when radio stations would be more likely to grant air play to German singers if they sang in English, as the overwhelming number of songs played were in English, building that expectation for listeners. Of course this has been in issue in rock music not only in Germany but for all rock singers whose native language is not English. Interestingly, hip-hop, has gone mostly native in non-English cultures, as can be heard in popular German, French, Turkish, etc. hip-hop groups.
Predictably in the NPR interview, Grönemeyer had to address the perennial question from the US when it comes to popular artists in Germany: what about David Hasselhoff,. American journalists may know very little about contemporary German music, but they do know that David Hasselhoff has been very popular in Germany, not just for Bay Watch, but for his singing, hard for Americans to understand. Scott Simon in the interview also brings up the old stereotype chestnut that in Germany there is “taste for some of the darker material than we do in this country or they do in the U.K.” You need only consider the popular SNL skit Sprockets, in which Mike Myers played the very dark and eccentric Dieter (“Touch my monkey!”) to see this idea perpetuated.