7 very German things you missed at ‘German Grammys’

Educate yourself a bit about the mainstream music landscape in Germany where even the world-famous Adele is apparently no match for Schlager Christmas hits.

7 very German things you missed at 'German Grammys'
Sorry Adele, Helene Fischer gets ALL THE PRIZES. Photos: DPA

Germany held its 25th annual ECHO music awards in Berlin on Thursday night, which are essentially the German Grammys.

While it might not get the same international attention as its American counterpart, the ECHO awards do serve the world's third-largest music market. That's right: Germany is right up there behind the United States and Japan.

This year TV host veteran Barbara Schöneberger brought the awards to television sets across Deutschland to announce some very German decisions about what the best music is. 

1. Schlager songstress beat out Adele – with Christmas album

International superstar Adele was up against four very German nominees in the battle for Album of the Year.

But it was the beloved Schlager songstress Helene Fischer, who already has an ECHO or more to her name, who was once again picked for having Album of the Year with her Christmas album, appropriately titled “Christmas”.

Fischer took home a total of four prizes in the end, including as well best “crossover” artist.

2. Ed Sheeran picked over Bowie

This one might be a bit of a head-scratcher considering the outpouring of sadness after Berlin's adopted son David Bowie died earlier this year, but somehow the ginger-haired singer-songwriter beat out Ziggy Stardust himself for the category of Best International Rock/Pop Male Artist.

Still, at least ECHO paid tribute to Bowie through its Hall of Fame Award and had the Chamber Choir of Europe do a rendition of Space Oddity.

3. German nationalism got mixed reactions

As German comedian Jan Böhmermann's recent viral video observed, Germans are typically “proud of not being proud” given their not too distant Nazi past, meaning things like flying the national flag can still be a bit touchy.

So when German-speaking Italian band Frei.Wild won for the category of Best National Rock/Alternative Group, it was not such a surprise that the group was met with mixed reactions. Frei.Wild has been supported by neo-Nazi groups and controversy over its perceived nationalistic lyrics got it stripped of its nomination in the same category in 2013 when other groups threatened to boycott the awards because of them.

This year, the band successfully won the title, receiving both boos and cheers as they took the stage.

“Today shows that honesty in the long-run is the best policy. Mistakes can be rectified and, specifically, understanding can come too late, but it certainly does come,” the band said. “We are what we are, and not what many people claim we are.

“This prize serves as a symbol of perseverance, staying power, and resistance to narrow-mindedness and exclusion.” 

4. Belgian DJ Lost Frequencies won Hit Song of the Year

While the style may be a bit too mainstream for the best clubs of Berlin where the awards were held, Germans couldn't resist the catchy beats of Belgian DJ Felix Safran De Laet, aka Lost Frequencies.

5. The Best Video is some kind of noir clone film

Nearly-70-year-old rocker Udo Lindenberg won the Best Video award for his song “Durch die schweren Zeiten” (Through the hard times).

The video depicts the singer as some kind of noir character, strolling through hotel lobbies and jazz clubs, followed by apparent clones of himself.

6. James Bay beat The Weeknd for Best Newcomer

After Ed Sheeran, Germans once again showed their affinity for mellow, romantic, British singer-songwriter types by picking James Bay over Canada's The Weeknd among others.

Bay even teamed up with German singer Sarah Connor to perform a duo of his hit Let It Go.

7. The Weeknd stopped by and dropped some f-bombs

He may have lost to James Bay, but Canada's international it-boy dropped into Berlin to perform his song The Hills and there was no censoring, of course, of the many f-bombs dropped throughout the song – because why would there be? This is Germany, not the Puritanical United States.

But he wasn't the only non-German to show off his musical chops. Irish songbird Enya also showed up to perform the comparatively clean Echoes in Rain.

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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”.