Lena faces uphill battle to defend Eurovision title

As Düsseldorf prepares to host this year's Eurovision Song Contest this week, Germany's teen singing sensation Lena Meyer-Landrut is hoping to defend her title. But few are expecting her to cruise to victory this time.

Lena faces uphill battle to defend Eurovision title
Photo: DPA

Just 12 months ago, a 19-year-old named Lena became the nation’s darling.

After her surprise first-place finish in the kitschy song contest, Lena Meyer-Landrut was even dubbed “the new face” of Germany. She was praised for her natural and unpretentious manner, supposedly representing a young, relaxed and optimistic generation.

But a year later, Lena-mania has yielded to at least partial disillusionment. She failed to fill most of the concert halls booked for her first national tour and the ratings for the show to pick her song for her second Eurovision appearance were mediocre.

It seems many Germans now find Lena’s attempt to defend her title calculating and insincere. But few could have foreseen the adversity the teen currently faces during her meteoric rise in 2010.


As an 18-year-old high school student, Lena auditioned for German entertainer Stefan Raab’s casting show to determine the country’s candidate for Eurovision 2010. She immediately captivated one of the judges on the show, ageing rocker Marius Müller-Westernhagen.

“You have star appeal,” he told Lena then. “The people will love you.”

He was right. Television viewers fell for the bubbly girl from Hannover, and Lena was a Eurovision favourite the moment she set foot in Norway’s capital Oslo.

When Lena strode onto the Eurovision stage wearing a simple black dress with dark-red lipstick, the decisive moment came. Her dancing appeared somewhat stiff and uncoordinated, but her voice and girlish smile were enough to win her the hearts and votes of millions. The contest was hers.

Toting a German flag, the singer trotted back onto the stage, speechless, holding her head in disbelief. “This is not real,” she uttered into the microphone, voice trembling.

Back then, at the peak of her popularity, she could do no wrong. Fans worshipped her. President Christian Wulff insisted on greeting her at the airport on her return to Germany. Her single “Satellite” shot to the top of the European charts.

Over the course of the next year, Lena raked in music awards and even ventured into film by voicing a character in an animated film.

But Raab’s hasty declaration in the afterglow of Lena’s victory in Oslo that she would defend her title when Germany hosted the competition in 2011 had a boomerang-like effect. Heavily criticized in some quarters, Lena appeared unfazed at first, but is now just hoping not to be embarrassed.

“I try not to think about it,” she recently said when asked about her chances of repeating her Eurovision victory on May 14 in Düsseldorf.

Of course, if she leaves the stage a two-time contest winner, she will silence her critics forever. But if she falters, as many seem to think she will, her image could suffer a fatal blow as the magic of Oslo is irrevocably lost.

Still, she hadn’t entirely lost her plucky nature after practising her new number “Taken by a Stranger” on Saturday.

“I think it will be a great performance,” she said.

DAPD/The Local/adn

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Dancing like there’s no Covid: first German nightclub reopens in Leipzig

For techno enthusiast Philipp Koegler, it almost felt like a normal Saturday night again as he joined 200 fellow revellers at "Distillery", the first German nightclub to reopen since the start of the pandemic.

Dancing like there's no Covid: first German nightclub reopens in Leipzig
A file photo of a disco ball in a night club. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Britta Pedersen

“Tonight, there are no rules,” the almost 30-year-old told AFP, whipping off his mask on his way to the dance floor.

Despite more than a year of closures forced by the coronavirus, it didn’t take long for the thumping beats, low lights and buzzing crowds to reawaken the much-missed club atmosphere.

“It feels like I’ve come back after being away on vacation for a week,” Koegler beamed.

But of course there are some rules to restarting the party, even in Germany where coronavirus infections have declined steadily in recent weeks as the pace of vaccinations has picked up.

The Distillery club in the eastern city of Leipzig, which bills itself as the oldest techno venue in Germany’s former Communist east, is taking part in a pilot project supported by scientists from the Max Planck institute and the local university hospital.

Just 200 club-goers are allowed in instead of the usual 600 and each person must take two different kinds of coronavirus tests earlier in the day, with entry granted only if they test negative both times.

Once inside, the masks can come off and revellers don’t have to socially distance.

Each participant also agrees to being re-tested a week later, to uncover potential infections despite the precautions taken.


Organisers hope the project can serve as a blueprint for further club re-openings to help the hard-hit sector back on its feet after a devastating year.

Although several venues in Germany experimented with open-air parties, club-goer Konny said it “just isn’t the same”.

“In the club, you’re in a different world,” she said.

Growing influence

Distillery manager Steffen Kache expressed pride at being the first club in the country to reopen indoors.

“Everyone is jealous,” he told AFP.

Kache said that if there has been an upside to the pandemic closures, it was that politicians had woken up to the social and economic importance of Germany’s vibrant club culture.

Lawmakers last month agreed to reclassify nightclubs as cultural institutions rather than entertainment venues, putting them on a par with
theatres and museums to provide more protection and tax benefits.

Germany’s nightlife capital Berlin alone – home to iconic clubs Berghain, KitKat and Tresor – usually attracts tens of thousands of foreign visitors each year who generate over a billion euros in revenues.   

Many observers fear that when the pandemic dust has settled, not all of Germany’s clubs will have survived the lengthy shutdowns.

The collaboration with local authorities that made Distillery’s pilot project possible was “unthinkable before the crisis”, Kache said, and evidence of a “reconciliation” between underground club culture and the political establishment.

He said he hoped the next step would be “the nationwide reopening of cultural spots and clubs, without Covid restrictions”.