German Rock in 2007
I knew I had to update my information on German rock bands when I read a newspaper article about a German band that was going to perform in Israel. Of course, a German band giving a concert in Tel Aviv is news in itself, but that wasn't the real point. The fact is that German rock, hip-hop, and metal are enjoying a wave of popularity that hasn't been seen since the Neue Deutsche Welle (NDW) phenomenon in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Rammstein and other German groups have extended their popularity beyond Germany's borders, while still singing mostly or exclusively in German. It is now becoming "cool" (as they say in German) to sing in German, even in Germany! (Until recently, with few exceptions, German bands have sung mostly in English.)
Of course, pop music is always in a constant state of flux. The bands come and go. The music changes. So here's a late 2007 update on the German pop / rock music scene - starting with Tokio Hotel.
German Rock in Israel
Tokio Hotel may not sound like the name of a German rock group, but that's the moniker that four young musicians from Magdeburg chose as an upgrade from the former name "Devilish." They chose the German spelling of the Japanese city and combined it with "hotel" because they're on the road so much. Although the band's songs are usually in German, Tokio Hotel released an English version of "Schrei" ("Scream") and the song "Ready Set Go" in the UK, in an attempt to gain popularity in the British market. But "Ready Set Go" never rose higher than 77 on the UK charts and soon disappeared.
The band has had more success in Germany, Austria, France, and Israel. In fact, they were so popular in Israel that fans there (mostly girls under the age of 18) campaigned, successfully, to bring Tokio Hotel to Israel for a live concert. On October 6, 2007, the four German teenagers in the band gave a concert in Tel Aviv before about 4,000 screaming teenie-bopper fans (who knew their German lyrics by heart!). About 20 of these crazy fans were hurt in the crowd melee in Israel.
The group's label (Universal Music Group, after Sony BMG dropped them) has plans to bring their music to America. I'm not sure the U.S. is quite ready for the androgynous look of Bill Kaulitz, the band's lead vocalist (who claims he just likes to dress and do his hair in a way that has a definite feminine look, "expressing himself through his music as well as through his choice of clothing"). His more masculine looking twin brother, Tom, plays the guitar. Georg Listing is the Bassist (bass guitar). Gustav Schäfer is the drummer (Schlagzeuger).
But it's the music that really counts, and Tokio Hotel was MTV Europe's 5th nominee for Band of the Year. Bill Lamb, About's Top 40 / Pop Music Guide, wrote in Introducing Tokio Hotel: "The band has sold nearly 3 million CDs at home including 2 #1 albums and 4 #1 singles. In addition, they've sold another 3 million in the rest of Europe. Tokio Hotel has reached the top 10 of the pop singles chart in Austria, Denmark, France, Italy, and the Netherlands."
With their flop in Britain, it remains to be seen if Tokio Hotel can make a name for themselves in the U.S. and the English-language market. Rammstein has shown that German lyrics are not always a barrier in America, so maybe they should stick to German. Even during the Tel Aviv concert, some Israeli fans kept screaming "auf Deutsch" when the Tokio Hotel sang in English.
NEXT: More German bands...