If there’s one genre of music that you expect from Eurovision, it’s schlager, the high energy, adrenaline infused, dancefloor filling pop sound that crops up in every contest. To find out more about Schalger though, we needed some experts to talk us through what it really means, and if any one song typifies the look. Step forward the Schlagerboys…
Our Schlagerblog is always searching for the ultimate schlager song and performance. When Ewan and ESC Insight asked if we could discuss “the definition of schlager”, we thought the best thing to do would be to make a list of the things we love to see in a good schlager song and see if we could find any elements that are always cropping up and mark out something as Schlagertastic. You know what, it was pretty easy spot the hallmarks of a classic.
Having a dramatic key-change
Or preferably two. Ideally it needs to be a great big soaring Lord Thomas of G:Son key-change like Anna Book’s “Samba Sambero” and not one of Fredrik Kempe’s clunky key-changes, where the music stops and the then they key-change kicks in (see Måns Zelmerlöw’s “Cara Mia” or “Hope And Glory”). Early key changes are wasted – Trax’s “Du er fuld af løgn” has one for the second line. Bobbysocks “La Det Swinge” changed key for the second verse and thus set the bar; no key change should come before this. The other extreme is a key change coming too late; there should be at least a whole chorus following a key change. Dropping a surprise key change in with ten seconds to go is all very exciting but then it’s over too soon (see Linda Bentzing’s “Alla Flickor”, which reminds us; if you’re going to do a soaring key change, do it properly)
The slow beginning that changes gear into a schlager stompers
Nothing gets us more excited than a song kicking in for the first chorus after a dramatic build up during the first verse. See Shirley Clamp’s “Att Alska Dig”, Fredrik Kempe’s “Finally”, or Hera Björk’s “Someday” for the best examples of how to do this. All the best songs give you a chance to stake your place on the dance floor for the first bit before launching in to a stompathon and mass singalong half way through.
Add in the memorable dance routine
Or at the very least some synchronised strutting. In fact sideways walking can have as much impact as a dance routine, demonstrated in every Israeli entry during the 1980s. Hera Björk understood this when she incorporated a bit of sideways walking into her performance of “Je Ne Sais Quoi” in the second verse.
The best schlager almost always has to be accompanied by a wind-machine. This has been the law ever since Carola shorted out the fuse at Cinecitta in 1991 and had to perform “”Fångad av en stormvind” to blank looks from the audience in the hall as they apparently couldn’t hear a thing. Other iconic uses of wind-machines have included Olivia Lewis’ Eurovision performance of “Vertigo”, and Regina’s wind-machine moment from 2009, when the group stood in the centre of the stage like extras from Les Miserables holding a billowing flag in the air and then letting it float to the back of the stage.
Use of Props
Olivia Lewis demonstrated one should never shy away from props; she chucked just about everything at her performance in Helsinki including blokes in gold body paint playing violins and banging giant gongs, backing singers doing a spot of synchronised fan fluttering, wind-machines and finally the blokes waving a couple of tea towels frantically after the key change. Props are hardly ever a bad thing, even Jari Sillanpää’s angel wings were fab.
To be totally schlagertastic a song generally has to be sung by a schlager diva. Or a drag queen. Blokes only occasionally do schlager successfully, “Stay the Night” anyone?
The outfits are always important. The singer has to look completely fabulous and glamorous. DQ understood this when he sang “Drama Queen” in Helsinki. He also understood that having a frock change was key to schlager success. Dames Cheryl Baker and Jay Aston launched the iconic frock change thirty years ago during “Making Your Mind Up”. Guri Schanke took it to an extreme in 2007 by having three frocks revealed while she sang “Ven A Bailar Conmigo”, and one of these reveals incorporated excellent prop-use, namely bloke dancers waving giant pink feathers in front of her to spare her modesty.
Fabulous shoes are a pre-requisite for any schlager diva. Sandra Oxenryd wore glamorous, thigh-high white boots for “Looking Through My Window” and Anžej Dežan wore shoes the colours of the Slovene flag the same year. The archetypal schlager shoes are clearly The Herreys’ golden boots, although one of the best frock and shoe combos has to be Ani Lorak’s glittery stilettos that matched her silvery outfit and played a key role in her performance in Belgrade as she clambered about on those lightboxes. Velvet Inc also deserve a mention for the fab shoes worn during their performance of “Tricky” in Norway MGP 2009.
The ultimate three minutes of Schlager?
And is there an ultimate schlager performance? Well obviously it’s Carola’s seminal performance of “Evighet” at the Gothenburg heat of Melodifestivalen 2006. It’s unlikely that anything could ever top this performance. Carola struts around the stage, with a catwalk specifically made by SVT for her. She has dancers with flags, huge hair that she tosses around while about fifty wind-machines are set at gale-force level, and “Evighet” has just about the best key-change in the whole history of key-changes. And it’s Carola, for heaven’s sake. Carola is schlager.
Thanks to the boys for that, although I do wonder if there will be some debate in the comments on their choice of Carola as the ultimate schlager, let handbags commence! When that’s all over don’t forget to swing by theSchlagerblog as Melodifestivalen and the rest of the National Finals surprise, amaze and delight The Schlagerboys.