The German music scene is never short of surprises, and 2013 was no exception. Highlights from the last twelve months in the world of pop and rock.
Arguably the biggest surprise of the year was the all-new Heino. The legendary Schlager star with his distinctive blonde hair and ever-present sunglasses is Germany’s most recognizable folk musician, so it was a shock to many when he released a rock album. Out went the syrupy ballads about maidens in the mountains, in came cover versions of tracks from the likes of Rammstein and Die Toten Hosen complete with a punky new look.
Not everyone was convinced, not least the musicians who had been Heinofied, but that didn’t stop "Mit freundlichen Grüßen" (Yours Sincerely)sailing onto the album charts at Number 1. Heino went on to become the most downloaded German artist at the time and topped of his new success with a barnstorming appearance at the legendary Wacken heavy metal festival, on stage alongside Rammstein.
Schlager still topping the charts
While Heino's popularity in 2013 may have had more to do with the novelty factor than any genuine favors to music, his success helped push the genre of Schlager to the forefront of the charts. Two of the genre's best known songstresses enjoyed big hits in 2013, namely Helene Fischer and Andrea Berg. Fischer's album "Farbenspiel" (Play of Colors)hit the top spot on the official album chart and shifted in excess of 250,000 copies, while Berg’s latest LP "Atlantis" became her seventh album in a row to sail straight to No. 1.
A good year for hip-hop
Domestic rap talents such as Sido and Prinz Pi both scored No. 1 albums in 2013. Sido's effort, "30-11-1980," was his second shot at the top of the charts - his first being "Ich und meine Maske" (Me and my Mask) in 2008. Prinz Pi enjoyed his first taste at chart pole position with twelvth solo effort "Kompass ohne Norden" (Compass without a North).
In all, a staggering eleven hip-hop artists, both domestic and international, scored No. 1 albums during 2013. The genre's colossal popularity in Germany remains unshaken.
German hard rockers Scorpions were invited by MTV to record a session for the famous Unplugged series. "MTV Unplugged - Live in Athens"hit No. 5 on the album chart after the November release. The mix of some of their best-known hits and brand new material was performed in front of a 3,500-strong audience in Athens. Talking about why the band chose Greece for this special recording, guitarist Matthias Jabs said: "We've got fans all over the world but by far the most hardcore are in Greece."
It's all about Eurovision...
German broadcaster NDR announced in December the first seven artists who will perform in the "Our Star for Denmark" selection show in 2014 to be in with a chance of representing Germany at next year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen. A pre-round especially for young talent will ultimately determine the eighth and final participant next year, but the initial seven include one or two big names.
Oceana is arguably best known to international audiences for her track "Endless Summer," chosen as the official theme song for the 2012 UEFA soccer championships. Also in the running are 50s-influenced three-piece outfit The Baseballs, best known for their doo-wop covers of tracks by Rihanna and Katy Perry.
But perhaps the biggest surprise on the list are doom-merchants Unheilig, currently one of the Germany's biggest bands. How well their dark, melancholy sound will go down in the context of the generally glittery Eurovision remains to be seen given that it’s difficult to imagine Der Graf and co. strutting around in day-glo spandex performing fluffy Europop.
Punk with a conscience
It was a strong year for Germany's premier punk band Die Toten Hosen. At the start of the year they scooped an impressive four trophies at the ECHO music awards. They followed up with their sold-out nationwide "Krach der Republik" (Noise of the Republic) tour. The double-CD live album of the same name was also a Top 3 hit.
Die Toten Hosen used the tour to display their solid social conscience as well. Working together with human rights group Pro Asyl, the band gathered around 30,000 signatures on tour for a petition for a more humane asylum policy in Germany. They delivered the document to the Federal Government in Berlin on the UN's Human Rights Day at the beginning of December. Speaking to the press at the event, lead singer Campino said, "We can't treat news about refugees drowning in the Mediterranean as if it were a traffic update."
German musicians surprisingly made very little impression on the Top 100 Singles Chart throughout the year with the biggest impact made by international artists. Swedish DJ Avicii enjoyed the longest run at No. 1, spending ten weeks at the top with his single "Wake Me Up". He was closely followed by will.i.am featuring Britney Spears with "Scream & Shout" which sat at pole position for nine weeks. The only German artist to score a No. 1 single this year was Cro, who spent a single week at the top of the chart in July with "Whatever".
German talent was much better represented on the album chart. In addition to spells at the top from international artists like David Bowie, Depeche Mode and Justin Timberlake, homegrown talent such as Frei.Wild, Tim Bendzko, Xavier Naidoo and Mrs. Greenbird all had a shot at No. 1 in the last twelve months.