From Bach to Helloween

‘Teutonic’ stereotypes in the history of popular music and heavy metal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Throughout the centuries German popular music has caused various foreign reactions from admiration to outright rejection. Sometimes, international audiences perceived it as too ‘Teutonic’, other times this was exactly the reason for appeal. This article traces ‘Teutonic’ features in 400 years of German popular music history, seeking to identify the emergence and development of ‘Teutonic’ stereotypes as well as their perception inland and abroad. The metal discourse was analysed based on a corpus of nearly 200,000 pages from magazines such as the British Kerrang! and the German Metal Hammer, Rock Hard and Deaf Forever. Stereotypes such as perfectionism, precision and rigidity seem to stem from historical roots, yet their projection onto ‘Teutonic metal’ is over-simplified and often out of context. History suggests that German metal bands were most successful when they exaggerated Germanness. Occasionally bands became successful because their German features made them sound unique, even though they did not promote their heritage proactively. More often, though, bands that were unintentionally perceived as typically German were less appealing to a foreign audience. In the magazines, discussion of Teutonic attributes almost vanished in the 21th century. Global production practices needing to conform to international expectations of ever faster, tighter and heavier records likely made metal artists around the world adopt qualities that previously defined ‘Teutonic music’. It will therefore be interesting to see if or how German stereotypes in metal music will live on.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMetal Music Studies
Volume6
Issue number1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 29 Jul 2019

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Popular music
Heavy Metals
Metals
History
Stereotypes
Johann Sebastian Bach
Music
Deaf
Rock
Music History
Heritage
Rigidity
Admiration
Artist
Discourse
Perfectionism
Sound
Rejection

Cite this

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abstract = "Throughout the centuries German popular music has caused various foreign reactions from admiration to outright rejection. Sometimes, international audiences perceived it as too ‘Teutonic’, other times this was exactly the reason for appeal. This article traces ‘Teutonic’ features in 400 years of German popular music history, seeking to identify the emergence and development of ‘Teutonic’ stereotypes as well as their perception inland and abroad. The metal discourse was analysed based on a corpus of nearly 200,000 pages from magazines such as the British Kerrang! and the German Metal Hammer, Rock Hard and Deaf Forever. Stereotypes such as perfectionism, precision and rigidity seem to stem from historical roots, yet their projection onto ‘Teutonic metal’ is over-simplified and often out of context. History suggests that German metal bands were most successful when they exaggerated Germanness. Occasionally bands became successful because their German features made them sound unique, even though they did not promote their heritage proactively. More often, though, bands that were unintentionally perceived as typically German were less appealing to a foreign audience. In the magazines, discussion of Teutonic attributes almost vanished in the 21th century. Global production practices needing to conform to international expectations of ever faster, tighter and heavier records likely made metal artists around the world adopt qualities that previously defined ‘Teutonic music’. It will therefore be interesting to see if or how German stereotypes in metal music will live on.",
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