A text about the legacy of Daniel Küblböck (1985 - 2018)

Martin_Canine On September 9th, 2018, Daniel Küblböck, also known as Daniel Kaiser as they called themself on their later albums, jumped off a cruiser into the ocean near Canada. As of September 10th, their body still wasn’t discovered. Due to the low temperature of the water, they are now presumed dead.

To international audiences, Küblböck is best known for playing the titular character of Daniel, der Zauberer (“Daniel, the Wizard”), a fictionalized version of themself. The 2004 film was widely regarded as one of the worst movies ever made, although this circumstance was barely credited to them, but the direction and screenplay by Ulli Lommel. But before this film, which is still largely unknown in German speaking territories, Küblböck was a well known pop star over here that became famous as a participant in the first season of Deutschland sucht den Superstar, the German edition of American Idol. They came in third place, but made the biggest career out of anyone in the cast of that year. Their debut album Positive Energie peaked at number two on the German charts, their single You Drive Me Crazy was a chart topper in Germany and Thailand. The German media gave Küblböck non-stop attention in the years after DSDS, and they were a very polarizing figure. Appearing as a man, his gender bending style, hyped up attitude and open homosexuality wasn’t controversial in a way that it upset people, but many didn’t take him seriously and saw him as a mere gimmick, but he also gathered himself a large fanbase. Although the show DSDS is still very popular, back then it was in a whole nother league, as such talent search shows were completely new and people expected huge superstars to be discovered in it (nowadays they expect the hype to be very short lived, which is often the case). Later on, they appeared on the first season of an even more popular show, as it would turn out: Ich bin ein Star - Holt mich hier raus! (the German edition of I’m a Celebrity - Get Me Out Of Here!), which is still a pop cultural sensation. Like on the previous show, they only came in third place, but their participation in the jungle games is what people remember most. However, after this event, Küblböck’s success story was widely over. Their music sold less, and their later albums failed to chart. Their appearances on the German media became rarer, and focused more on their private life. They had a musical and visual change around the turn of the decade, now having performed songs in a more jazz, country and chanson oriented style with a less colorful and genderfluid, but more fancy, manly outfit. They appeared on a few shows, such as Das perfekte Promi Dinner (a celebrity version of the German edition of Come Dine With Me) and Let’s Dance (Dancing With the Stars). Despite not charting anymore, people still knew who Daniel Küblböck was, although in the last couple of years, they were rarely seen or heard publicly. They were a crucial part of Germany's multimedia landscape of the 2000s, a personality important for both music and TV.

According to Dieter Bohlen, who produced Küblböck’s first and most successful album and is the consistent judge of DSDS, they always had a darker side filled with depression that they kept hidden from the cameras - even during the show - that now took over. While their uplifting, cheerful personality was authentic, they always had moments when the opposite was the case. Other sources say that Küblböck was in fact a woman trapped in a man’s body and that pressure and discrimination led to their suicide (their last selfies showed them in clothes traditionally worn by women). We don’t know for sure.

So, now to make this a bit personal.
I am not gonna lie, I wasn’t a fan of Küblböck’s music. Neither their songs nor their singing appealed to me, whether it was pop or jazz, although that’s a purely personal preference and it’s all a matter of subjective taste. However, I always had great respect for them as a person. When someone who openly lived a lifestyle like Küblböck is publicly exposed to so many people on the daily, many of whom don’t shy away of saying really nasty things, it’s hard to stay strong. But they did. I respected all of their choices, whether it was proudly presenting themselves in a fashion that didn’t fit the norm, or when they decided to make a dramatic change in image and sound because maybe they didn’t always want to play the part of the uber outlandish pop star. It was all very inspiring, and I am sure that there were several German LGBTQ+ teenagers that gained self confidence by witnessing the chart topping success of Küblböck.

Whatever your motifs were, and whether you are a woman or a man, please know you had an impact on the German pop culture landscape, and that maybe without your success there would be less celebrities that can proudly express who they truly are.