OK, I have a confession to make.
And this is really not an easy one.
So … There is this German pop singer. I really detest his banal, friendship-book-like lyrics, his schlager music style, hate his “I am your favorite son-in-law” attitude. Gives me goose pimples on my eardrum. Kind of my Lord Voldemort of Music, he who must not be named, let alone listened to.
But then something happened and forced me to reconsider … grrrr!
Crime scene, once again, the breakfast table. Sitting together with a little spare time, on our plates all the things children do that have the potential of becoming the source for an unexpected change of perspective. The girls had been singing this song called “Lieder” (“Songs”), My Musical Lord Voldemort’s latest œuvre, for days, almost off by heart. The song had also been permeating my sensitive auricles for weeks, in shopping malls, as background purring in soap operas, or on 40+ radio stations day in, day out, perpetrating the notion that the Lord was doing it again. Ooops style.
The girls’ tweeting at the top of their voices, knowing the lyric’s word by word, if not the meaning, forced (and continues to force) me not only to damage my Spotify playlist image, but also watch the guy’s very unsubtle video on PutPat like a trillion times in a row, and listen a little closer.
Now that really ticked me off! Liquid substance coming for from my lachrymal sacks listening to this kitsch? Ah, c’mon! For no rational reason at all: The melody is mediocre, the arrangement and production middle-of-the-road pop, the lyrics far from anything poetic, intellectually ambitious or sophisticated.
BUT … Voldemort is, in these 3 minutes and 50 seconds, well, not actually telling a story, but implying one. The big story of collective memory, brought to life through a vast number of song titles from the past decades of pop culture. Every single one of these titles hints at a very different memorial story in all the different hearts and minds of its listeners, snowballing emotions that the narrator may be hoping for, but surely cannot know or predict.
It’s a cheap trick, and not particularly well done, judged with the rational part of your self, but it works, with the emotional half. If you put aside your intellectual coolness barrier and let your thoughts take this trip down memory lane. Unbiased and, yes, with the eyes of a child – which is quite fitting in the case of “Lieder”, as most listeners who allow retrogressive tears to well up here probably were in their infancy or adolescence when the mentioned songs were in the charts or en vogue, hence surfaced from the masses of music to become music for the masses and memory makers for many an individual. Including me.
The songs that “Lieder” refers to can be found in the following playlist, and I BET you, you’ll be kick starting your hippocampus within seconds, with images that are completely different from the ones that I have, but I betcha they are there, if you allow them to.
And here’s the list in words, just for the record.
So what do I take from my own personal Lieder Experience, apart from a couple of pudent tears?
Our lives are indeed made up of stories. Not facts, dates and names, it’s the stories that make all of them come to life and live on in our memories, no matter how much time has passed. We will forget the names of people we went to university with, forget the bad marks we got in school, maybe even the name of the girl who dumped us when we were 14. But we will never forget the song that was playing on the radio, on our Sony Walkman or from the loudspeakers at a youth club party when we were feeling sorry for ourselves for whatever reason. Or happy. Or whatever the feeling was. And behind every feeling, there is a story.
So whether it’s Walk like an Egyptian, When Doves Cry, Voodoo Child, Like A Rolling Stone, Just Died In Your Arms Tonight, Bochum, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, What A Wonderful World, Dancing With Tears In My Eyes, Heroes, Unbelievable, Purple Rain, Firestarter, I Will Always Love You, You Are Not Alone, Welcome To The Jungle, Personal Jesus, Insane In The Brain, When Will I Be Famous, König von Deutschland, End Of The Road, Loser, Killing In The Name Of, or Come As You Are … there’s probably a million stories secured in a million hearts and connected to one or more of these songs, maybe even one or more per specific lyric line.
And that’s the sole, but powerful beauty of “Lieder”.
No, allow me to correct myself, there is indeed another beauty to it: It makes me look forward to the day when my two little ones are big and (hopefully) interested enough in all those pearls that He-who-must-not-be-listened-to is singing about, maybe even like one or the other song or story. And probably the song “Lieder” itself will, whether I like it or not, become a new link in my chain of songs worth remembering – not because they were especially great, but because they remind me of special moments of my life.
Like sitting at the breakfast table, morning in, morning out, with two little voices of Germany listening to, watching and reciting this tune, regardless of the tight schedule before school-kindergarden-work. And reminiscing stories, thoughts, dreams and feelings surfacing after ages of subconscious burial.
After all, with music, it’s like with important scents in our lives: Even though in hindsight they might actually stink, they take you back decades in a flash … and memory is indeed a gracious, merciful and forgiving companion.