They are loud, unsophisticated and often offensive in content. With titles ranging from Sex With a Bavarian to Big Tits Potato Salad, the ballermann subgenre of schlager pop is a big hit in German-dominated nightclubs on the Balearic island of Mallorca, but is more likely cause grimaces of embarrassment or Fremdschamen at home.
Yet this week, German newspapers were filled with detailed analyzes of schlager’s song lyrics, and even the country’s justice minister felt inclined to share his musical tastes after a Bavarian town decided to banish this holiday season’s ballermann hit from its breweries for its sexist tendencies.
Layla, by DJ Robin & Schürze, which has risen to the top of the German singles charts in the last three weeks, is a song about a brothel woman who is “prettier, younger, more cunning” than the other sex workers in his establishment.
Whether Layla is the owner of the brothel or an employee herself is unclear: the song also refers to her as luder, meaning “naughty” or “minx”. With a refrain of “La-la-la-la-la-la-la-Layla, la-la-la-la”, the song’s narrative ambitions are limited.
On Monday, the city of Würzburg announced that it would not perform the song at the annual Kiliani fair, organized by the municipal authorities. “We understand that the song can be catchy, catchy and melodic,” said city spokesman Christian Weiß. “But that doesn’t change the fact that sexist lyrics are unacceptable and not appropriate for our festival.”
In the western city of Düsseldorf, a shooting club responsible for organizing the fair also said it would not play the song. “I’m of the opinion that this song belongs everywhere but our festival site,” club chairman Lothar Inden told broadcaster WDR.
Bild, the mighty German tabloid, jumped on the story as what it saw as evidence of a modern form of censorship. “People are prescribed how to speak, how to write and now how to party. This prudish nanny from the politically correct brigade needs to stop. We are moving towards an anti-fun society.
German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann of the Liberal Democratic Party (FDP) himself a creator of electronic music in his spare timejoined the debate on Twitter“You don’t have to like schlager’s lyrics. You may find them silly and unpleasant. But in my opinion, an official ban is a step too far.
However, neither the authorities in Würzburg nor Düsseldorf have taken the decision to issue a decree that would amount to an official ban. “We are not the guardians of public morals, but the organisers,” an official at the Killiani fair told Bayerischer Rundfunk radio. A spokesman for the mayor of Düsseldorf said there were no plans to ban the song.
In 2021, authorities in Würzburg took a similar step to stop playing the so-called Donaulied or Danube Song after a student started a petition against “beer tent sexism”. The traditional folk song describes a man raping a sleeping woman he meets on the banks of the Danube, although in some modern schlager versions the lyrics are changed to describe their sexual intercourse as consensual.