Top Ten Herbert Grönemeyer SongsWith over 17.9 million sold records, Herbert Grönemeyer is the best selling artist of all time in Germany, and may I say so, rightfully so. A singer, songwriter and composer, he not only broke several records, he is also widely regarded as one of the country's most creative and greatest artists, and has released several records that are classics in the meantime. His albums "Mensch" (2002) and "4630 Bochum" (1984) are the best selling and third best selling albums in Germany, respectively. Both are absolute masterpieces.
Americans may know him for his works with cinema. He composed the soundtracks of the Anton Corbijn movies "The American" (2010) and "A Most Wanted Man" (2014), and he starred as one of the leading roles in the internationally recognized epic movie masterpiece "Das Boot" from 1981.
Even though I always knew about him (how couldn't I when he's that successful?), and my opinion always was highly positive, I just recently got to dig deeper into his music, as I bought this big, amazing box with his full catalogue called "Alles", which includes 23 discs, including his 13 studio albums, some live albums, the two soundtracks, a remix album, an English language album and two discs of rarities. I can only recommend this box for everyone who wants to hear some truly amazing and legendary German music. What you hear is a highly gifted musical talent at work. The box's only flaw may be that the tracklist says it includes the deluxe 16 track version of "Dauernd Jetzt", when it only contains the regular 12 track version - I can live without the 4 songs, what bothers me more is that the wrong tracklist is a tiny little mistake in an overall more than perfect, not to say mind-blowing product. But so far it seems I am the only one who noticed. People are too busy complaining that a rare and out of print 70s album that he did not write or compose but only performed, and that he himself doesn't even count as a full album, isn't included. That's perfectly fine for me as it isn't really an album by him, he just sang on it and unlike all the other albums, it's not widely available. Overall, for 130€ you get 23 discs of masterful music in a beautifully designed box with lots of bonus material and a thick book (not a booklet, a book) with informative texts.
The days since I got this box, I really became a fan. And I am pretty sure whenever I will upload another updated list of my favorite albums of all time, there will be one or more of his albums on it. It's also stunning that even though the oldest studio album in the box was from 1980 while the newest one is from 2014, he always had a stunning musical quality. He never became tiring, never had a low point in between and also didn't need some time to develop. He started off brilliant and still is. He definitely varied in a bit in between - some songs are very much on the rock side, others more poppy, some are almost soul, some are acoustic, some are happy, others melancholic, many show a true gift in poetic writing, others have a certain "it's funny because it's true" humor - but all these aspects can be found on any album, and it always works.
I saw that nobody has so far created a list about his best songs, so I did that, because he definitely needs one.
(As I write this, it is September 14th, 2017, 1AM Central European time. If any of the data may change, I'm sorry)
The Top Ten
"Bochum" is about Grönemeyer's home city Bochum, and how he appreciates both the positive and not so positive aspects, how it's not exactly a prestigeous city, how it doesn't look exactly good, but how it feels real, has a very natural charm, and how exactly all its little mistakes make its overall aura.
The composition is top notch. It has unusually long verses that are rather laid back at first, but in the second half start to feel like a dramatic built up, before the short but extremely powerful chorus kicks in with a bang - "Bochum, I'm coming from you / Bochum, I'm attached to you / Luck onto Bochum", translated.
When the album "Mensch" was released in 2002, it was his first release after both his wife and one of his brothers died. It is impossible not to hear that in how the music sounds like. At first I thought the title track and big hit from it was all about the odds of human nature. Some lines translate to: "And the human is called human / Because he forgets, because he suppresses / because he swoons and stands still / and because he warms when he tells stories / and because he laughs, and because he lives". This is what I heard and I interpreted it as characterizing humans, but right after this he sings "you are missing", and later on "it hurts frequently" and in combination with the context and some other lines, I now think it's about how he copes with the deaths. That makes the already powerful and soulful song even more powerful.
Remember what I said about what I originally thought "Mensch" was about?
This is what "Männer" is definitely about, but only about males. Men acting tough, men lying on the phone, men being stupid at flirting, men secretly crying, men actually needing lots of tenderness. "Männer", from the megaseller "4630 Bochum", was Grönemeyer's breakthrough hit. The synth heavy song may had luck to coincide with the Neue Deutsche Welle, but no one would now ever associate the work of such a legend of his own with that movement. Its intelligent lyrics that show a great understanding of social life, including both genders, still fascinate, not to mention its catchy pop, and the legacy it had.
What is to say other than this is a perfectly executed love ballad?
The audio sample is a live version, not the studio version from 1980's "Zwo", but do you hear the audience sing along to it so loudly and still it feels so delicate and emotional? This is the German equivalent to songs such as "Up Where We Belong" or "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" - its melody is recognized by millions and it became a true evergreen (though not initially a hit, but his entire catalogue became big after 1984), but it still is fully touching, as it captures the overwhelming feeling of love, with both an authentic performance and heartfelt songwriting.
This song is what I had in mind when I wrote about "it's funny because it's true" humor. The song has Grönemeyer being confronted with his ex's new lover, and how he replaced him. One of the funniest lines translates to "You're just cooking his favorite food / my fist so desperately wants to his face / But it mustn't...". The last line sounds so disappointed. The lyrics are that of a man whose pride is hurt and are an inner monologue of things he thinks about him but wouldn't say out loud.
Okay, this song is about the soccer coach Joachim Löw, and I have absolutely no clue about soccer whatsoever. It's the biggest sports in German speaking countries and fans take it to extremes similar to American Football or Baseball in the US. But I never cared for it. Or sports in general. Yet this song is just awesome and powerful. And not specifically about soccer. Over an anthemic composition, he praises Löw that his moment to shine has come and that he was great.
This moment on the "4630 Bochum" album - which will probably become one of my favorite albums of all time - is the most rock oriented one, with his voice beng unusually rough and husky in the chorus.
The basic content is that while each group has their own drug (cocaine for the high society, weed for the teenagers, valium and speed for the pharmacist), he sticks to alcohol, even though he also exaggarates. I am not sure how much of it is satirical, but a song of this power is grear no matter what it means.
His best song by far. The lyrics are very inspiring and the song has an energetic development.
Definitely one the best songs of Grönemeyer