Amigos - 110 Karat (Review)

Martin_Canine AMIGOS
110 Karat

Schlager has come a long way, starting off as really good in the 50s, with good lyrics about a variety of lively topics and talented composers, then becoming shamefully bad in the 90s and early 2000s by aiming for either mind numbing beerest anthems or tiring, naive mountain themes, before finally opening up to more modern approaches in the 2010s with artists like Helene Fischer and Vanessa Mai bringing in catchy pop melodies, electronic beats and lyrics everyone can relate to (Vanessa Mai’s recent single features rapper Olexesh, which was a HUGE, MASSIVE revolution).

The Amigos are a remnant from the time schlager was most awkward to listen to, after the influence the French chanson once had has fully vanished and before it basically became Germany’s answer to dance pop. In that time, the genre was THE hit for every elderly man’s musical taste, who would watch special festivals on TV on which such artists perform. Looking at the cover, the two men that are Amigos don’t really look like superstars. In their music videos they sing playback (holding, and obviously not actually playing a guitar) in front of a very Sound of Music-ish scenery. The music: karaoke singing over cheaply produced, extremely soft beats Would you have guessed that these guys had 8 (!!!) number one studio albums in Germany before 110 Karat?
In recent years, schlager has often left its comfort zone and got more adventurous. Foreign listeners might consider it to be essentially just pop, but the way from the musical limbo it was the two decades before sure was a massive one. The Amigos weren’t brave enough to leave their sound behind, but then again, why would they when they sell such large quantities - and also, at age 68 and 70, after almost 30 years of the same formula, who knows if they even could?

There is nothing good about 110 Karat. The same key, instrumentation and a variety of two different tempos is used for all of the album. The softest possible guitars, kick drums and synth lines have been used to coat everything into a blanket of grandfatherly feel-good-attitude that will make every elderly woman’s heart swoon. The lyrics appear to be made from templates from greeting cards, randomly stitched together. There’s barely any line more lyrical than “Every day with you is fun / every day with you is beautiful / and even if I once have sorrows / you can understand me so well / In my heart red flowers grow / For you alone because I love you” (In meinem Herz blüh’n rote Rosen). You wanna know why the album is named 110 Karat? Because the woman they sing about is made out of 110 karat of gold. Those not familiar with schlager probably can’t understand the amount of clichés that have been used on this album, but the same formula, words and sounds have been used hundreds of times before, and just as bad. At a certain point, your ears perk up when you hear a song pops up about a woman who moves on from a past relationship - and starts dancing and laughing again (Bella Donna Blue). This is as exciting as it gets - the single most outstanding lyrical moment, the one song that’s not about how wonderful everything is. And it just barely touches upon anything remotely negative, immediately backtracking whenever they mention her former husband was not the greatest man. We never get to know what he did. All we know is that now she moved on. And I’m pretty stunned I’m still caring at this point. Uns’re Sterne strahlen immer noch (“Our stars still shine”) is about how they are still on top although being old. It’s definitely a positive attitude considering their age, but when they use metaphors such as being able to cross bridges without dizziness or building magic castles into the air, we’re in awkwardly kitschy territory again.

There sure is a market for such music, but it isn’t even enough for a guilty pleasure. There’s just too little appeal to it, not even an earworm. Songs that get stuck in your head can be a complete musical mess, they still have something about them that makes you remember them. But 110 Karat is an album that leaves you with a feeling that everything has been said before the CD was even put into the player. You can predict every tone, and every rhyme. Albums like this make me happy I awarded Beatrice Egli’s Wohlfühlgarantie 2 stars instead of one, despite it being a massive disappointment judging by what the genre has been capable of in the last couple of years. While she’s stuck in the same bubble of repetitive, overly happy everything-is-fun-and-fine territory as the Amigos, she at least can sing, and there’s at least something of a very basic pop structure and slight variation - she’s dynamic and charismatic. With Beatrice Egli, I see potential that she could sing the vocals on a good pop album in the near future. With the Amigos… they might as well be friends of your grandparents living on the countryside who happen to have a guitar and a keyboard somewhere in their cottage, and were asked to sing a couple of songs for the family gathering during the main course, while roast pork with dumplings and gravy is consumed in large quantities with barely anybody paying attention to the music. Only with the difference the friends performed for free, and the Amigos were certified multi-platinum.