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“Songs must have a lyrical depth for me”

On 25 May 2022, the “Best Hit” for the best composition will be determined by public voting at the Swiss Music Awards. Nominated for the award presented by SUISA are Zian, Joya Marleen and Lo & Leduc. We wanted to know from Zian and Henrik Amschler what role the lyrics play for the song “Show you”. Interview by guest author Markus Ganz

Zian and Henrik Amschler: “Songs must have a lyrical depth for me”

Zian (left) and Henrik Amschler. (Photos: Jen Ries; Nina Müller)

How important are, in your opinion, the lyrics for a song?

Zian: For me, it’s quite clear: The lyrics are crucial in determining whether a song can last longer or not. All of the songs that people listen to over and over again for decades, are songs that also have a lyrical depth. That’s why lyrics are extremely important. In the short term, their importance may be equal to that of the music, which is in line with SUISA’s royalty split. In the longer term, however, lyrics are arguably more important because they create an additional level.

So, is the music or the sound more ephemeral than good lyrics?

Zian: I believe that the sound underlines the lyrics more than anything else. If you listen to a song, you must find yourself in a sound that supports the lyrics. You can see stand-alone lyrics as poetry, if they are good lyrics. But, after all, we’re aiming to tell a story in three minutes that might have happened over several years.
Henrik Amschler: I don’t think transience is a bad thing. Lyrics per se are not as ephemeral as music, which always follows trends. However, this is highly dependent on the artists and the nature of their music; in dance music, for example, there is no need for depth in the lyrics – it should rather encourage you to dance. With artists like Zian, on the other hand, it is very important what they say in the lyrics, and accordingly the songs are less ephemeral.

By writing English lyrics, you are expanding your potential audience. But wouldn’t dialect texts be a more obvious choice?

Henrik Amschler: You have to remember that both the Swiss music market and the people in Switzerland in general are strongly influenced internationally, especially by the English-speaking world. What this means is, with certain styles, you can start on a different level with English lyrics than you would with lyrics written in dialect. Many Swiss artists have also shown that you first have to be successful abroad in order to be noticed at all in Switzerland, to be taken seriously.

Do you have a typical approach when you write your song lyrics?

Henrik Amschler: In principle, it’s safe to say that we have a pattern. Quite often, Zian presents me with an idea and asks for my opinion. If I’m excited, I’ll say “let’s go”, otherwise we’ll continue to discuss it. In the process, however, I am then more responsible for the musical aspects. Zian is always in the centre, because the lyrics must come from him, from his personality.
Zian: Yes, because the lyrics have to be honest.

So the credibility of Zian’s songs depends on the fact that when you listen to them, you feel that Zian is singing about something personal?

Henrik Amschler: The lyrical intention must always be recognisable in terms of coming from him; as such, he is more involved in the text than I am; I have more of a supporting function. The song “Show You” was born out of a personal story of Zian, like all our songs.

What is usually the trigger point for the lyrics, for a song?

Both: It could be anything.
Zian: Quite often it is any old situation, and then suddenly you feel that there is something there and that you can continue to work on it.
Henrik Amschler: With Zian, even when writing the lyrics, you notice that he is very musical, he is a multi-instrumentalist after all.
Zian: Above all, it’s about having a strong emotion here for me, putting a lot of heart into it.
Henrik Amschler: Often it’s what we feel like doing, what’s in our head and needs to be put into a text, and then we make the music to go with it.
Zian: Quite often, a word is crystallising and then, we feel which world this song belongs to. That can be sad and still take the direction towards “happy”.

Do you then develop the music and lyrics in parallel?

Zian: Yes, up to a certain point, where it is then worth defining the lyrics, because we have defined the world of the song; until then, part of the lyrics still is an incomprehensible “mumbled English”.
Henrik Amschler: Yes, once we’ve established the framework of the song, we go deeper into the lyrics, and deeper into the production.

Do you sometimes still have to adapt lyrics to an advanced production?

Zian: This happens rarely, because at some point the lyrics are finished; striving for perfection is good, but you can’t really achieve it. First of all, it has to be right in terms of the feeling, and of course it has to fit the music, the world that we have created with this song.
Henrik Amschler: For me, it’s quite clear: I always prioritise Zian with his unique voice and profound lyrics.
Zian: But you also have to understand that we are moving in the pop sector, the lyrics should not be too complex and abstract – people should be able to understand them. The more words you need, the less room for interpretation people have when they listen to the song.

“Show You”
Composition and lyrics: Tizian Hugenschmidt, Henrik Amschler.

www.zianmusic.com
www.henrik-hsa-amschler.ch

Swiss Music Awards: SUISA honours the songwriters of the “Best Hit”
In the “Best Hit” category at the Swiss Music Awards, the most successful national songs of the Swiss hit parade of the previous year are nominated. The winning song is determined by the audience voting during the TV show. For the first time this year, SUISA is the presenting partner of the “Best Hit” Award, highlighting the work of the songwriters and lyricists of the winning song. In 2022, the songs “Show You”, “Tribute” and “Nightmare” are nominated in the category “Best Hit”. (Text: Giorgio Tebaldi)
www.swissmusicawards.ch
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On 25 May 2022, the “Best Hit” for the best composition will be determined by public voting at the Swiss Music Awards. Nominated for the award presented by SUISA are Zian, Joya Marleen and Lo & Leduc. We wanted to know from Zian and Henrik Amschler what role the lyrics play for the song “Show you”. Interview by guest author Markus Ganz

Zian and Henrik Amschler: “Songs must have a lyrical depth for me”

Zian (left) and Henrik Amschler. (Photos: Jen Ries; Nina Müller)

How important are, in your opinion, the lyrics for a song?

Zian: For me, it’s quite clear: The lyrics are crucial in determining whether a song can last longer or not. All of the songs that people listen to over and over again for decades, are songs that also have a lyrical depth. That’s why lyrics are extremely important. In the short term,...read more

“Music puts the lyrics into context”

On 25 May 2022, the “Best Hit” for the best composition will be determined via audience voting at the Swiss Music Awards. The nominees for the award to be presented by SUISA are Lo & Leduc, Zian and Joya Marleen. We asked Lo & Leduc about the role of the lyrics for the song “Tribut”. Interview by guest author Markus Ganz

Lo and Leduc: “Music puts the lyrics into context”

Lo and Leduc. (Photo: Maximilian Lederer)

How important are, in your opinion, the lyrics for a song?

Lo: That’s something you can argue about. In our case, however, they are important, I surely have a bigger talent for lyrics than for singing. From our point of view, making music with Swiss German lyrics is generally more challenging than with English lyrics because the former automatically create a bigger distance to the contents. And if you are using lyrics in dialect, you are only making music for a relatively small audience.
Leduc: The lyrics are our primary craft.

Do you have a typical process when writing song lyrics?

Lo: Very different, everything is possible. Most of the time, one of us has an idea, this can even be the refrain or a melody. After that, we usually work individually, sometimes also together. Towards the end, at the latest, we finish all lyrics together. Sometimes one could call this fine tuning, sometimes also: We write a second verse and then have to rewrite the first one. There is no fixed process, the only thing that has become somewhat commonplace is that I hold an archive of lyrics and Luc an archive of photographs.
Leduc: It is almost pathological how I am trying to categorise our moments because I need some structure in order to think and work within the folders. It is often very interesting if you can place a new idea with the other one this way. What is also important is that we bring our own perspectives to the table. With a new approach, you do not just collect ideas but you also filter out the ideas which could become relevant for the song in question. Then we give the song idea a bit of time to brew, and later on simmer it together some more.

The music of the song “Tribut” is from the producer team Jugglerz. How was the cooperation, especially the coordination of music and lyrics?

Lo: This song is a special case. The idea for the lyrics is about ten years old; because it was unfinished, however, it was just lying around. When we began our cooperation with the Jugglerz in 2020/2021, we listened to many beats and draft songs and came across a guitar riff which simply captured us: Hey, that actually fits to a stone old text! So, we took it off the shelves again, rewrote it and adapted it to the music

Was this old version of the lyrics one without music?

Lo: No, but there was already music for it, and we have tried over the last ten years to make a song out of them a few times, but we always got stuck.
Leduc: It is therefore a lovely example that sometimes the time is not right for a song yet. “Tribut” contains the oldest line of the current album “Mercato”, but also the newest: The end of the refrain was the last bit that we wrote for the album, rather wide splits so to speak.

How clear was the definition of the cooperation with the Jugglerz?

Leduc: Sometimes the line how we share the work between music and lyrics is rather sketchy, but we presented clear versions and realised that their drafts matched ours. And then, we kept adapting our lyrics to the new beat they created.

“Tribut” has a multi-layered set of lyrics regarding what songs can express and what they cannot express. What was the starting point for the original version?

Lo: The basic idea is to find the first verse at the outset; the feeling, to write a love song knowing that you cannot give love its due with it, this kind of contradiction. The lyrics read “but love is no song” (aber Liebi isch kes Lied), this opens the world for this song and ends on the note that music is, after all, just a vehicle to capture such feelings but not quite in such a direct manner.
Leduc: With respect to lyrics, everything was available in the very early version. We then increased the aspect of music so that it is a kind of data storage of memories, even if no music is played. In the case of vinyl of tapes, you can even recognise the pauses between the songs and place them into the overall order.

What was the mutual influence of your lyrics and the music of Jugglerz when it comes to the creation of the song?

Lo: First, we adapted the key of their draft beat, which was a 30-second loop without arrangement. We then adapted the lyrics and fixed the arrangement together with Jonas Lang in the studio: the lengths of the stanza, pre chorus and so on. After that, we had to practically rewrite the refrain lyrics because it no longer worked. We had to adapt the lyrics to the music once more in the end where the original version of the draft beat can be heard.
Leduc: It is there that you can see really well that the reminiscence of this original beat led to the song.

Quite often, a set of song lyrics only reveals its impact, its meaning with the song. What does music contribute in terms of effect with respect to the rather self-evident lyrics of “Tribut”?

Leduc: It places the lyrics into context, a very nice example is the moment where it breaks at the end and changes into a parallel flat key. So what you know is practically changing into a kind of a parallel world.
Lo: I believe this happens even beforehand. The mood is not sad but there is a certain melancholy in the music.
Leduc: Yes, I have the feeling that the very consequent trap aesthetics is helping to create some sort of a counterweight to find a balance so that the resulting song is not a nostalgic one, something that happens too often in dialect pop.

“Tribut”
Composition: Jonas Lang (DJ Jopez), Joachim Piehl (Sir Jai), Martin Willumeit (DJ Meska) (Producer team aka Jugglerz).
Lyrics: Lorenz Häberli (Lo), Luc Oggier (Leduc).

www.lo-leduc.ch

Swiss Music Awards: SUISA honours the songwriters of the “Best Hit”
In the “Best Hit” category at the Swiss Music Awards, the most successful national songs of the Swiss hit parade of the previous year are nominated. The winning song is determined by the audience voting during the TV show. For the first time this year, SUISA is the presenting partner of the “Best Hit” Award, highlighting the work of the songwriters and lyricists of the winning song. In 2022, the songs “Tribute”, “Show You” and “Nightmare” are nominated in the category “Best Hit”. (Text: Giorgio Tebaldi)
www.swissmusicawards.ch
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On 25 May 2022, the “Best Hit” for the best composition will be determined via audience voting at the Swiss Music Awards. The nominees for the award to be presented by SUISA are Lo & Leduc, Zian and Joya Marleen. We asked Lo & Leduc about the role of the lyrics for the song “Tribut”. Interview by guest author Markus Ganz

Lo and Leduc: “Music puts the lyrics into context”

Lo and Leduc. (Photo: Maximilian Lederer)

How important are, in your opinion, the lyrics for a song?

Lo: That’s something you can argue about. In our case, however, they are important, I surely have a bigger talent for lyrics than for singing. From our point of view, making music with Swiss German lyrics is generally more challenging than with English lyrics because the former automatically create a bigger distance to the contents. And if...read more

“If everything was easy to understand, the lyrics would be boring”

On 25 May, 2022, the “Best Hit” for the best composition will be determined by public voting at the Swiss Music Awards. Nominated for the award presented by SUISA are Joya Marleen, Lo & Leduc and Zian. We wanted to know from Joya Marleen and Thomas Fessler what role the lyrics play for the song “Nightmare”. Interview by guest author Markus Ganz

Swiss Music Awards: “If everything was easy to understand, the lyrics would be boring”

Joya Marleen and Thomas Fessler. (Photos: Rouven Niedermaier; Emanuel Muhl)

How important are lyrics are for a song in your opinion?

Joya Marleen: Mega important, lyrics are essential! Olivia Rodrigo, for example, has written very beautiful, but also rather crass lyrics that are right in your face, lyrics where everything fits together; Amy Winehouse also impressed me with the very personal honesty of her lyrics.
Thomas Fessler: Yes, lyrics are rather important, not least because their royalty share at SUISA amounts to 50 percent, that is the same share as that of the music.

Do you have a typical approach when you write your song lyrics?

Joya Marleen: I like to start with words that somehow sound good or convey an idea of where the song might be going or what a story looks like. Accordingly, I may have three words that must appear in the song and then the add the feelings that go hand in hand with them. This can be the way the song is then formed. But mostly, I write the melody to the three words first.
Thomas Fessler: These words already contain the mood of the song. The rest is, initially, “yogurt text”: incomprehensible or meaningless text for places where the text is not yet fixed.

The nominated song “Nightmare” shows how important a single word can be and how it can already trigger many emotions. Joya, did the word nightmare spark the lyrics to the song of the same name?

Joya Marleen: Yeah, along with “Hold on, hold on”, it almost lends itself to providing a sailor vibe, a nightmare on a ship, that atmosphere fits well.

Did the music arise from this, from the rocking of these three words, as it were?

Thomas Fessler: Joya had recorded this refrain, the combination of these words and the melody, with her smartphone in a preliminary version and sent it to me. And I thought, uh, this is something special, you can make a great song out of this.
Joya Marleen: At the beginning, the song had a strong reggae influence …

… which is still easy to hear in the rhythmic intonation, in the swaying of these three words …

Both: Yes!

Joya, did you know what this song was going to be about when you heard the word nightmare? Or did the meaning of the song develop bit by bit?

Joya Marleen: I wanted this word to create an eerie mood. That is why I described this person who is waiting for a nightmare because they were bored. The nightmare is essential for them in life, they are looking for a toxic challenge. The song sounds bizarre, but is actually very melancholy, despite the contrasting vocal part “Hold on!”, and this creates a certain tension.

Did the rest of the lyrics then develop in parallel with the music?

Thomas Fessler: Joya also worked on the lyrics during the music recording, here on the sofa in the control room – and then finished them on the train ride home, as she always does … The lyrics have no clear storyline, they rather create a mood, they are lively and fresh, a bit quirky and also a bit chaotic. And that’s also a good thing, because if everything was easy to understand, the lyrics would be boring. You still have to be able to imagine something when you are listening to the song.

“Nightmare”
Music: Joya Marleen and Thomas Fessler.
Lyrics: Joya Marleen.

www.joyamarleen.com
www.571.ch

Swiss Music Awards: SUISA honours the songwriters of the “Best Hit”
In the “Best Hit” category at the Swiss Music Awards, the most successful national songs of the Swiss hit parade of the previous year are nominated. The winning song is determined by the audience voting during the TV show. For the first time this year, SUISA is the presenting partner of the “Best Hit” Award, highlighting the work of the songwriters and lyricists of the winning song. In 2022, the songs “Nightmare”, “Tribute” and “Show You” are nominated in the category “Best Hit”. (Text: Giorgio Tebaldi)
www.swissmusicawards.ch
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On 25 May, 2022, the “Best Hit” for the best composition will be determined by public voting at the Swiss Music Awards. Nominated for the award presented by SUISA are Joya Marleen, Lo & Leduc and Zian. We wanted to know from Joya Marleen and Thomas Fessler what role the lyrics play for the song “Nightmare”. Interview by guest author Markus Ganz

Swiss Music Awards: “If everything was easy to understand, the lyrics would be boring”

Joya Marleen and Thomas Fessler. (Photos: Rouven Niedermaier; Emanuel Muhl)

How important are lyrics are for a song in your opinion?

Joya Marleen: Mega important, lyrics are essential! Olivia Rodrigo, for example, has written very beautiful, but also rather crass lyrics that are right in your face, lyrics where everything fits together; Amy Winehouse also impressed me with the very personal honesty of her lyrics.
Thomas Fessler: Yes, lyrics are rather important, not least because...read more

“Us composers, we are like surgeons for peopleʼs souls”

Romanian composer Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi attracted international attention at a young age. He moved to Switzerland in 2019 and recently joined SUISA. Text by guest author Markus Ganz

Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi: “Us composers, we are like surgeons for peopleʼs souls”

New SUISA member: Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi. (Photo: Markus Ganz)

The music of Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi doesn’t just fit into one category: Born in 1989, the Romanian composes orchestral works, chamber music and choral works as well as soundtracks for film, theatre and games. He is “a true talent who combines creativity and versatility” reads the argumentation for the 2022 International Classical Music Awards Composer Of The Year Award. Among his many awards is the “Golden Eye” of the International Film Music Competition for the soundtrack to the animated short film “Happiness” – 304 composers from 44 countries had applied.

And yet Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi is modest, even humble, in the interview. “Sometimes I feel really small by having such giants of composers behind me, whose works we are analysing during our training.” He also sometimes felt daunted at festivals for contemporary music, but only in the beginning. “There are unknown composers presenting me with such clever theories and algorithms that I can hardly wait to apply them myself. But then I listen to their music and think to myself that they avoid everything that has anything to do with terms like “soul”, “inspiration” or “feelings”. As a consequence, there is often no communication. And that’s what music is supposed to be all about.”

Search for authenticity

Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi’s credo that he was not on a journey of originality, but one of authenticity, fits in with this. “It is not a search for novelty in terms of sound, but one for the most sincere, eloquent and meaningful musical manifestation.” In the context of talking about musical poetry, Stravinsky once said originality was a monster. For Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi, originality has something dishonest about it, as it is always just a means to an end, a tool to succeed … “Authenticity, on the other hand, involves honesty, honesty in the sense of a journey of self-discovery that raises questions. Who am I? Who am I in relationship to other people? Why am I composing music while other people are saving lives?”

It is questions like these that have been on Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi’s mind all the time, ever since he was in Romania for his first year of studies. “One of my teachers, Dan Voiculescu, said that as composers, we were like surgeons for people’s hearts and souls. That was a bit too poetic for me. But, once in a while, there are people who come up to me after a performance of one of my works and admit that the music moved them, some with tears in their eyes. This kind of reaction is one of the main reasons why I continue writing music and perhaps this is what authenticity is all about.” But he does not hide the fact that composing also has a hedonistic side for him. “Of course, I love the thrill of discovery; for me composing is like writing a story that is unravelling itself to me.”

Wages for compositions

For Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi composing also signifies a struggle to “find meaning in something that is not financially rewarding. The bohemian approach only worked until I got married, became the father of a child – and moved to the most expensive country in the world.” This made it all the more important for him to find a solid solution for his earnings from copyright. “As a composer, the royalties you receive from the performance of your music are essential. After several projects in Switzerland and talking to colleagues who are members of SUISA, I realised that I also wanted to join SUISA.”

In view of the high cost of living in Switzerland, however, the pressure to accept commissioned compositions is also great, explains the Romanian in his small studio, into which the piercing sounds of the dental clinic below sometimes penetrate. “Sometimes, just like now, I’m working on five or six projects at once – it’s insane.” In addition, there is a risk that authenticity would then suffer, which he hates. “That makes it all the more important for me to connect with the person I’m working with. If it’s a movie soundtrack or music for a theatre play, it usually leads to a kind of ping-pong of ideas with the director. If it’s purely a concert piece, then I have to play a kind of ping-pong with myself.”

A nightmare for Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi is, in his own words, to bore people with his music or to use compositional effects to compensate for something that was not there. “After so much education and training, I’ve mastered so many composition techniques that it’s easy for me to make something sound complex.” In fact, not only did he study composition in Romania, Great Britain, and France, but he is also currently finishing a second master’s degree (“Composition for Film, Theater, and Media”) at the Zurich University of the Arts and attended countless master classes by well-known composers. “The greatest joy for me, however, is to combine complexity with simplicity, without falling prey to over-simplification. In other words, that joy occurs when you combine the power of simplicity with what we’ve accumulated in a century of contemporary music.”

Diversity of contemporary music

What remains fundamental to Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi is that he wants the listeners to have a reaction to his music, to not remain inert in the face of his music. “It’s also okay under certain circumstances if they get a little bit angry. But angry as a direct result of them feeling something, something that stirs the very core of their being.” The Romanian is certainly not a radical “Neutöner”, or creator of new sounds, but he did use the sound of a chainsaw in his orchestral piece “Tektonum”. “I didn’t do this to amaze or provoke people. No, in that very moment I had to deal with the musical representation of the end of the world. The entire piece is inspired by our cosmogony, and I had to ultimately represent human nature. Then, by chance, I found this chainsaw sound in my instrument library. So, I thought, yeah, that’s a good symbol for what we’re doing.”

Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi seems to have virtually absorbed the many expressive possibilities of contemporary music. With all this variety, one wonders what is typical about his compositions, whether there are any characteristic features, something unmistakable. The composer hesitates briefly and then says: “You are asking about my style. This was a scary word for me even in Romania, because I felt an academic pressure to ‘find my own voice’. I hated the term even then, because it imposed on me that I could be pigeon-holed, that my music could be labelled as ‘post-structuralist’, ‘influenced by Boulez’, or whatever. I got the feeling that I would have to choose something and then to stick to it and limit myself to that. But that’s not my thing. I want to be able to do everything, to be free. If using multiple styles automatically leads to being perceived as ‘eclectic’ or ‘volatile’ then only time will tell if the pejorative nature of these labels was justified.”

Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi’s music is like a roller coaster, his professor Joe Cutler is said to have once told him. “That was true until about two years ago. However, during my master’s project in Zurich, some lecturers made me question a lot of what I was doing. One of them told me: ‘Sebastian, some of your musical pieces are impressive. But they don’t move me.’ That came as a shock to me and made me question everything.” He said he realised that sometimes he just wanted to please his lecturers. “Stephan Teuwissen, who taught me music dramaturgy in Zurich, told me: ‘Stop looking for dads. I don’t want disciples, I want a challenging adversary.’ So, I must search for my own music in my own way and find the freedom to reinvent myself again and again. If this means that I evolve from one style to the next, then so be it. But if someone asks me what my style is, then the answer is that it is what each piece requires.”

www.sebastianandrone.com, official website of Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi

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Romanian composer Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi attracted international attention at a young age. He moved to Switzerland in 2019 and recently joined SUISA. Text by guest author Markus Ganz

Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi: “Us composers, we are like surgeons for peopleʼs souls”

New SUISA member: Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi. (Photo: Markus Ganz)

The music of Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi doesn’t just fit into one category: Born in 1989, the Romanian composes orchestral works, chamber music and choral works as well as soundtracks for film, theatre and games. He is “a true talent who combines creativity and versatility” reads the argumentation for the 2022 International Classical Music Awards Composer Of The Year Award. Among his many awards is the “Golden Eye” of the International Film Music Competition for the soundtrack to the animated short film “Happiness” – 304 composers from 44 countries had applied.

And yet Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi is modest, even humble, in the interview....read more

“Adiós”: Caribbean-style summer hit with a cembalo | plus video

At the “Swiss Music Awards” 2019, together with four co-composers Loco Escrito can hope for the sought-after concrete blocks in the category “Best Hit” for the song “Adiós”. The musician and music university lecturer Hans Feigenwinter talks about where the strengths of the song lie in a video with his song analysis. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; Video by Sibylle Roth

Nicolas Herzig – Loco Escrito’s real name – seems to have found the success formula for summer hits. After he hit the Swiss Charts with “Sin Ti” in 2017, he outdid his success last year: The single “Adiós” stayed in the Swiss Charts for 29 weeks and climbed all the way to 4th position. The song thus counted among the three most successful Swiss tracks in 2018 and has been nominated for the award as “Best Hit” at the Swiss Music Awards.

Varied and thrilling dramaturgy

Hans Feigenwinter thinks that one interesting aspect of the song was the instrumentation of the stanzas. He is a musician himself and lectures musicology at the music universities in Basel and Lucerne. He thoroughly analyses the song in the video.

For Nicolas Herzig and co-composer and producer Henrik Amschler it was paramount that “Adiós” should remain varied and contain a thrilling dramaturgy. In an interview given in writing, Amschler stated: “Since the song does, for example, not contain a classical bridge with a change of chord after the second chorus but three parts, it was important to us that each part was special in its own way.” The various song parts have therefore also their respective and different moods, as Amschler adds: “The first section of the second part is rhythmical and animates you to dance. The first section of the third part, on the other hand, is spheric and very emotional.”

(International) songwriting team work

In addition to Amschler and Herzig, three other musicians were involved in writing the song “Adiós”. Composer Sandro Dietrich from Graubünden and Latin Rapper, singer, percussionist and music producer Lou Geniuz, aka Lou Zarra, from the same Swiss canton, laid the musical foundation which was already very much developed according to Amschler. With regards to the lyrics, Nicolas Herzig was supported by Columbian musician Jonathan Ruiz Meija. “It was therefore up to Loco and me to continue with the song, to adapt it and to complete it,” writes Amschler.

The songwriters and the producer have deliberately renounced on using too many instruments. “We had actually planned to use more instruments, for example in the chorus”, explains Henrik Amschler. “At the end of the day, however, we decided to reduce in order to provide the vocals with more space by way of various harmonies.” Nevertheless, “Adiós” surprises with interesting sounds, such as a harpsichord or cembalo-like sound – something that is rather unusual for pop music according to Hans Feigenwinter.

“Swiss Music Awards”: SUISA awards the songwriter of the “Best Hit”

“Adiós” is one of the three songs that have been nominated for the “Best Hit” at the next “Swiss Music Awards” which will be awarded at the Culture and Congress Centre Lucerne (Kultur- und Kongresszentrum Luzern KKL) on Saturday, 16 February 2019. SUISA is a “supporting partner” of the event. For the fourth time, the “Best Hit” award is also issued to composers and lyricists of the winning song on behalf of SUISA. The nominated songs are:

  • “079” by Lo & Leduc (songwriter: Lorenz Häberli, Maurice Könz, Luc Oggier)
  • «Adiós» by Loco Escrito (songwriter: Henrik Amschler, Sandro Dietrich, Nicolas Herzig, Jonathan Ruiz Mejia, Luigi Zarra)
  • «Us Mänsch» by Bligg feat. Marc Sway (songwriter: Marco Bliggensdorfer, Fred Herrmann, Marc Sway)

www.locoescrito.com
www.henrik-hsa-amschler.ch

Hans Feigenwinter comes from Basel. During his early years, he played in pop and indie rock bands. Lateron, he studied piano at the Swiss Jazz School in Berne and has since been active as a pianist and composer in various formations. In addition to solo concerts, he is currently performing in the trios Hans Feigenwinter ZINC and Feigenwinter Oester Pfammatter. He is a lecturer at the music universities in Basel and Lucerne. www.hansfeigenwinter.ch
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“079”: A tragicomic hit story | plus video“079”: A tragicomic hit story | plus video Lo & Leduc and their co-composer Maurice “Dr Mo” Könz have made history with “079”: Last year, the song stayed an entire 21 weeks at the top of the national charts – and thus broke a Swiss record. “079” is one of the three nominated songs for the “Best Hit award at the “Swiss Music Awards” 2019. Musician and lecturer for musicology, Hans Feigenwinter, analysed the hit composition. Read more
“Us Mänsch”: Last minute hit with loads of energy | plus video“Us Mänsch”: Last minute hit with loads of energy | plus video “Us Mänsch” by Bligg and Marc Sway was one of the most successful Swiss songs last year. This despite the fact that the song only made it to the Bligg album “KombiNation” last minute. Now, the song is nominated for the “Best Hit award at the “Swiss Music Awards” 2019. Musician and music university lecturer Hans Feigenwinter has analysed the composition of “Us Mänsch”. Read more
Award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards | plus videoAward for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards | plus video The newcomer Nickless and the renowned producer Thomas Fessler won the first award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards 2016. The winning song “Waiting”, jointly composed by the two, didn’t appear out of thin air but is the result of lots of teamwork. At the occasion of the Swiss Music Awards 2017, SUISA will honour the performance of composers and lyricists with an award again. Read more
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At the “Swiss Music Awards” 2019, together with four co-composers Loco Escrito can hope for the sought-after concrete blocks in the category “Best Hit” for the song “Adiós”. The musician and music university lecturer Hans Feigenwinter talks about where the strengths of the song lie in a video with his song analysis. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; Video by Sibylle Roth

Nicolas Herzig – Loco Escrito’s real name – seems to have found the success formula for summer hits. After he hit the Swiss Charts with “Sin Ti” in 2017, he outdid his success last year: The single “Adiós” stayed in the Swiss Charts for 29 weeks and climbed all the way to 4th position. The song thus counted among the three most successful Swiss tracks in 2018 and has been nominated for...read more

“Us Mänsch”: Last minute hit with loads of energy | plus video

“Us Mänsch” by Bligg and Marc Sway was one of the most successful Swiss songs last year. This despite the fact that the song only made it to the Bligg album “KombiNation” last minute. Now, the song is nominated for the “Best Hit award at the “Swiss Music Awards” 2019. Musician and music university lecturer Hans Feigenwinter has analysed the composition of “Us Mänsch”. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; Video by Manu Leuenberger

Bligg and Marc Sway have already written some songs together. For the single “Us Mänsch” they took to the microphone together for the first time. Not without success: The single was awarded platinum status in 2018.

Why is the song so attractive for the audience? Hans Feigenwinter who lectures musicology at the music universities in Basel and Lucerne and is a pianist and composer himself, reckons: “There is a lot of energy, it is a very passionate rap.” In his song analysis which can be watched in the video, he recognises something solemn in the piece: “I had to think of a sermon.”

Last minute hit

Apart from Bligg and Marc Sway, Bligg’s long-term producer and co-composer, Fred Herrmann, contributed to writing “Us Mänsch”. In a written interview, Fred Herrmann described how the song was created:

““Us Mänsch” was a typical last minute hit! It was the very last song which we wrote and produced for the album “KombiNation”. Bligg said that he still had a cool idea for some lyrics with a play on words in relation to “Us Mänsch” which he was very keen to realise. Since we were already lagging behind the time schedule rather significantly, we worked simultaneously. While I worked on the composition and the production, Bligg was honing the lyrics into shape and recorded his vocals. He kept sending me new vocal tracks he had recorded which I either implemented straight away or questioned and asked for improvement. It was a real ping pong party! Somehow we had put the song together, but we found that the refrain needed to be recorded by a male singer with a raucous voice. We quickly thought of Marc Sway whom we both have known very well and for a very long time! Mister Sway came to the studio for two hours each and the refrain was ready! The beauty about composing is that every now and then, completely unpredictably, you manage to create a song where everything is just perfect.”

“Swiss Music Awards”: SUISA awards the songwriter of the “Best Hit”

“Us Mänsch” is one of the three songs that have been nominated for the “Best Hit” at the next “Swiss Music Awards” which will be awarded at the Culture and Congress Centre Lucerne (Kultur- und Kongresszentrum Luzern KKL) on Saturday, 16 February 2019. SUISA is a “supporting partner” of the event. For the fourth time, the “Best Hit” award is also issued to composers and lyricists of the winning song on behalf of SUISA. The nominated songs are:

  • “079” by Lo & Leduc (songwriter: Lorenz Häberli, Maurice Könz, Luc Oggier)
  • «Adiós» by Loco Escrito (songwriter: Henrik Amschler, Sandro Dietrich, Nicolas Herzig, Jonathan Ruiz Mejia, Luigi Zarra)
  • «Us Mänsch» by Bligg feat. Marc Sway (songwriter: Marco Bliggensdorfer, Fred Herrmann, Marc Sway)

www.bligg.ch
www.marcsway.ch

Hans Feigenwinter comes from Basel. During his early years, he played in pop and indie rock bands. Lateron, he studied piano at the Swiss Jazz School in Berne and has since been active as a pianist and composer in various formations. In addition to solo concerts, he is currently performing in the trios Hans Feigenwinter ZINC and Feigenwinter Oester Pfammatter. He is a lecturer at the music universities in Basel and Lucerne. www.hansfeigenwinter.ch
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“079”: A tragicomic hit story | plus video“079”: A tragicomic hit story | plus video Lo & Leduc and their co-composer Maurice “Dr Mo” Könz have made history with “079”: Last year, the song stayed an entire 21 weeks at the top of the national charts – and thus broke a Swiss record. “079” is one of the three nominated songs for the “Best Hit award at the “Swiss Music Awards” 2019. Musician and lecturer for musicology, Hans Feigenwinter, analysed the hit composition. Read more
Marc Sway: “You write more songs than fit on an album” | plus video“You write more songs than fit on an album” | plus video When we visited him in his studio in January 2018, the long-term SUISA member Marc Sway allowed us a peek into his creative activities and his professional life as a musician. Mid-October 2018, his single “Beat of My Heart” was released as the precursor for his next album whose creation process was one of the main subjects in the video interview. Read more
Creative teamwork at SUISA’s 2018 Songwriting Camp | plus videoCreative teamwork at SUISA’s 2018 Songwriting Camp | plus video SUISA organised the second edition of its Songwriting Camp in cooperation with Pele Loriano Productions. Like the premiere last year the camp again took place at the Powerplay Studios in Maur. A total of 36 musicians from eight different countries attended the three-day event in June 2018, creating 19 pop songs in a wide range of musical styles. Read more
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“Us Mänsch” by Bligg and Marc Sway was one of the most successful Swiss songs last year. This despite the fact that the song only made it to the Bligg album “KombiNation” last minute. Now, the song is nominated for the “Best Hit award at the “Swiss Music Awards” 2019. Musician and music university lecturer Hans Feigenwinter has analysed the composition of “Us Mänsch”. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; Video by Manu Leuenberger

Bligg and Marc Sway have already written some songs together. For the single “Us Mänsch” they took to the microphone together for the first time. Not without success: The single was awarded platinum status in 2018.

Why is the song so attractive for the audience? Hans Feigenwinter who lectures musicology at the music universities in Basel and Lucerne and is a...read more

“079”: A tragicomic hit story | plus video

Lo & Leduc and their co-composer Maurice “Dr Mo” Könz have made history with “079”: Last year, the song stayed an entire 21 weeks at the top of the national charts – and thus broke a Swiss record. “079” is one of the three nominated songs for the “Best Hit award at the “Swiss Music Awards” 2019. Musician and lecturer for musicology, Hans Feigenwinter, analysed the hit composition. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; Video by Sibylle Roth

How “079” found its way into the Swiss charts is already a remarkable story. In February 2018, Lo & Leduc offered the song and the respective album “Update 4.0” for streaming and downloading, free of charge, on their website – “because of joy” as they said in an interview at the time. The audience liked the song so much that it sold more and more and was streamed ever more increasingly. That way, “079” made it to number 1 of the Swiss single charts and held the top spot for 21 weeks.

The song was written by Lorenz Häberli (Lo), Luc Oggier (Leduc) and the Berne composer, DJ and performer Maurice Könz, better known as Dr. Mo. The latter wrote the melody to which Lo & Leduc added the lyrics. “The lyrics and the music were created completely independently of each other”, tells Dr. Mo in relation to the creation process of the piece in a written interview. Both elements had already nearly been finished when they were finally combined. “We had tried to combine the lyrics with another beat, respectively to write another set of lyrics for the beat”, Dr. Mo writes. “These ideas, however, were quickly dismissed. When we then combined those lyrics with that beat, we knew immediately that everything fits perfectly.”

Original, moving, somewhat absurd

Last but not least, the story that the song is about contributed to its success. “It is a tragicomic story. It is original, it is comprehensible, it is moving; it all has something absurd about it”, says pianist and composer Hans Feigenwinter who lectures musicology at the music universities in Basel and Lucerne. His analysis of the song can be seen in the video.

The fact that searching for the right words can be rather time intensive in certain cases, is shown by Dr. Mo on the basis of a specific example: “The search for a suitable personal pronoun lasted the longest. We were unsure whether the story can be understood if two different singers perform it from a first person perspective, all the while are depicting the same person. We thus also thought about telling a story about “him” so that the confusion about the personalities could be remedied. This, however, created problems with the conjugation, rhymes and emotional access. We finally decided, and rightly so, that we would have to impose the first person perspective onto the listener.

“Swiss Music Awards”: SUISA awards the songwriter of the “Best Hit”

“079” is one of the three songs that have been nominated for the “Best Hit” at the next “Swiss Music Awards” which will be awarded at the Culture and Congress Centre Lucerne (Kultur- und Kongresszentrum Luzern KKL) on Saturday, 16 February 2019. SUISA is a “supporting partner” of the event. For the fourth time, the “Best Hit” award is also issued to composers and lyricists of the winning song on behalf of SUISA. The nominated songs are:

  • “079” by Lo & Leduc (songwriter: Lorenz Häberli, Maurice Könz, Luc Oggier)
  • «Adiós» by Loco Escrito (songwriter: Henrik Amschler, Sandro Dietrich, Nicolas Herzig, Jonathan Ruiz Mejia, Luigi Zarra)
  • «Us Mänsch» by Bligg feat. Marc Sway (songwriter: Marco Bliggensdorfer, Fred Herrmann, Marc Sway)

www.lo-leduc.ch
www.drmo.ch

Hans Feigenwinter comes from Basel. During his early years, he played in pop and indie rock bands. Lateron, he studied piano at the Swiss Jazz School in Berne and has since been active as a pianist and composer in various formations. In addition to solo concerts, he is currently performing in the trios Hans Feigenwinter ZINC and Feigenwinter Oester Pfammatter. He is a lecturer at the music universities in Basel and Lucerne. www.hansfeigenwinter.ch
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Award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards | plus videoAward for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards | plus video The newcomer Nickless and the renowned producer Thomas Fessler won the first award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards 2016. The winning song “Waiting”, jointly composed by the two, didn’t appear out of thin air but is the result of lots of teamwork. At the occasion of the Swiss Music Awards 2017, SUISA will honour the performance of composers and lyricists with an award again. Read more
Marc Sway: “You write more songs than fit on an album” | plus video“You write more songs than fit on an album” | plus video When we visited him in his studio in January 2018, the long-term SUISA member Marc Sway allowed us a peek into his creative activities and his professional life as a musician. Mid-October 2018, his single “Beat of My Heart” was released as the precursor for his next album whose creation process was one of the main subjects in the video interview. Read more
Creative teamwork at SUISA’s 2018 Songwriting Camp | plus videoCreative teamwork at SUISA’s 2018 Songwriting Camp | plus video SUISA organised the second edition of its Songwriting Camp in cooperation with Pele Loriano Productions. Like the premiere last year the camp again took place at the Powerplay Studios in Maur. A total of 36 musicians from eight different countries attended the three-day event in June 2018, creating 19 pop songs in a wide range of musical styles. Read more
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All comments will be moderated. This may take some time and we reserve the right not to publish comments that contradict the conditions of use.

Your email address will not be published.

Lo & Leduc and their co-composer Maurice “Dr Mo” Könz have made history with “079”: Last year, the song stayed an entire 21 weeks at the top of the national charts – and thus broke a Swiss record. “079” is one of the three nominated songs for the “Best Hit award at the “Swiss Music Awards” 2019. Musician and lecturer for musicology, Hans Feigenwinter, analysed the hit composition. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; Video by Sibylle Roth

How “079” found its way into the Swiss charts is already a remarkable story. In February 2018, Lo & Leduc offered the song and the respective album “Update 4.0” for streaming and downloading, free of charge, on their website – “because of joy” as they said in an interview at the time. The audience liked the...read more

New Jersey, just south of Berne

Polo Hofer receives the FONDATION SUISA Prize 2017 in the category “lyrics author”. Christoph Trummer writes in his guest contribution about the factors distinguishing the works of the award winner from others.

New Jersey, just south of Berne - Polo Hofer FONDATION SUISA Prize 2017

Polo Hofer, winner of the FONDATION SUISA Prize 2017 has found his way into popular culture and has translated rock and roll as a way of life for the German-speaking part of Switzerland. (Photo: Patric Spahni)

If you wanted to be brief, you’d say: The FONDATION SUISA Prize is a recognition award for outstanding creations. In 2017, it will be awarded to a lyricist for the first time. Polo Hofer was nominated for the award. What else did you expect the jury should do?

Of course, we’ll gladly dedicate more than just these few words to this worthy award winner and his works.

Those who were born after 1970 and grew up in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, are likely to find it hard to imagine their schooldays, youth and life in Switzerland as such without Polo Hofer and his songs and lyrics. Some of his works, ranging from “Bin i gopfriedstutz e Kiosk” (“Am I a blimmin’ kiosk”) to “Bim Sytesprung im Minimum e Gummi drum” (“For that bit on the side as a minimum a condom”) have turned into one-liners; you cannot possibly imagine everyday language being without them. Even those whose parents don’t even own a Polo Hofer CD can sing along to “Alperose”.

Song lyrics turned into popular cultural assets

These lyrics are now part of popular culture, in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, for sure. Since his early days with the band Rumpelstilz, Polo’s discography has been serving as a means to tell the story of a rather eventful Swiss history. The “Summer 68”, when (apparently) it was the done thing to travel to Kabul to smoke weed. The wild 70ies, years of upraise, with Rosmarie to Spain, free love next to the “Teddybär” (“Teddy Bear”). The dark side of dreams in the form of a “Silbernaadle töif im Arm” (“A silver needle deeply plunged into the arm”). And already then, dulled by consumerism, in full swing with the “Waarehuus Blues” (“Warehouse Blues”).

Polo’s lyrics are, sometimes, explicitly political: “Da isch nüt vo Grächtigkeit / So wie’s i dr Verfassig schteit” (“Um WAS geits?”) (“There is no justice / as it’s written in the constitution”, song: “WHAT’s this about?”). He does, however, also narrate world history as a personal story, when an old love affair finally gets a chance as the Berlin wall comes down (“Wenn in Berlin bisch”) (“When you’re in Berlin”). Plus, he criticises society with role prose, whose poetry stems from conversations at the regulars’ table in the pub, for example when the farmer’s son of the Lochmatt sums up the empty promises of a life in the bright city lights: «Lah mi vergässe bim rote Wy» (“Let me forget with a glass of red”). That’s popular in its very essence, but it also has side effects.

Sometimes the loud role of Polo National smothers the fact that he also has other qualities as a lyricist. For example, when he ponders about his own mortality in “Im letschte Tram” (“In the last tram”) or when he negotiates the literal sense of God, all the world and his brother in “I dr Gartebeiz vom Hotel Eden” (“In the garden pub of the Eden Hotel”) without getting lost in intellectual deliberations.

Rock and roll – translated for Switzerland

Some of Polo Hofer’s great songs are congenial translations: Tom Waits’s “Jersey Girl” into “Meitschi vom Wyssebüehl” (“Girl from Weissenbühl” – a Berne suburb), Todd Snider’s “Alright Guy” into “Liebe Siech” (“My dear chap”), and Dylan’s “Leopard-Skin Pill- Box Hat” into “Schlangelädergurt” (“Snake leather belt”). With that, you find out about another one of Polo’s various roles, which make him so significant (not only) for music performed in dialect in Switzerland: He is a translator. Not only a translator of song lyrics but one of the most important translators of rock and roll and popular culture into our culture, into our customs and habits.

Polo Hofer has managed to turn desires, but also the lustfulness of the young with its pubescent obscenities, the rebellion against a stale and settled system, in brief: the rock and roll way of life for the German-speaking part of Switzerland into sound. D’Stüehl ewäg, mir sy giggerig u wei schwoofe (Get the chairs out of the way, we’re in the mood and want to dance). He was inspired by, and found some of his topics in the rock and roll catalogue of legends and brought it to Switzerland: We would probably not get into a ride with Bobby McGee on the highway, but hitchhike with Rosmarie from Paris to Gibraltar. Wyssebüehl is closer than New Jersey.

Polo Hofer as a central figure of our story has opened doors through which many others could pass, even if they didn’t even know his music at all. And now he receives an award for this work. As such, the FONDATION SUISA Award 2017 is a kind of “Lifetime Achievement Award”. We congratulate you from our hearts!

www.polohofer.ch

The FONDATION SUISA Prize is a recognition award for outstanding creations. FONDATION SUISA bestows this award to authors and publishers rendering outstanding contributions to the enrichment of the cultural heritage of our country with their creations. The award, valued at CHF 25,000.00 is granted in a different category each year.

Christoph Trummer won the FONDATION SUISA Prize 2011 in the category “Singer/Songwriter”. Our guest author was born in 1978 and grew up in Frutigen (BE). Apart from his musical activities, he is President of the Association for Music Creators Switzerland.

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All comments will be moderated. This may take some time and we reserve the right not to publish comments that contradict the conditions of use.

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Polo Hofer receives the FONDATION SUISA Prize 2017 in the category “lyrics author”. Christoph Trummer writes in his guest contribution about the factors distinguishing the works of the award winner from others.

New Jersey, just south of Berne - Polo Hofer FONDATION SUISA Prize 2017

Polo Hofer, winner of the FONDATION SUISA Prize 2017 has found his way into popular culture and has translated rock and roll as a way of life for the German-speaking part of Switzerland. (Photo: Patric Spahni)

If you wanted to be brief, you’d say: The FONDATION SUISA Prize is a recognition award for outstanding creations. In 2017, it will be awarded to a lyricist for the first time. Polo Hofer was nominated for the award. What else did you expect the jury should do?

Of course, we’ll gladly dedicate more than just these few words to this worthy award winner and his works.

Those...read more

Lyrics for a song: “Anything goes – if it has success”

The FONDATION SUISA dedicates its CHF 25,000 recognition award to lyricists of musical works this year. But what makes a song text a success? Guest author Markus Ganz in an interview with Jean-Martin Büttner

Lyrics for a song: “Anything goes - if it has success”

“Song texts usually don’t work on paper”, says journalist Jean-Martin Büttner. (Photo: Dominic Büttner)

Jean-Martin, what do you make of song lyrics including the line “A Wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom”?
Jean-Martin Büttner: This is an example for coded song lyrics. “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard secretly deals with black drag queens and sexual practices, at least in its 1955 original version. To understand this, you got to know that the singer had a triple disadvantage: Richard was black, gay and from the South of the USA. The American political scientist, Greil Marcus, explained its amazing effect rather accurately in an interview. Even if they did not understand the lyrics, listeners would still be able to sense from the mere joy of Little Richard’s singing that it was about something naughty. It might sound strange but this is a central part of rock music – not because it says something but because it expresses something.

In its book “AWopBopaLooBopALopBamBoom” which had become a classic in rock literature, Nik Cohn wrote in 1971 that these words “summarised what Rock’n’Roll really was about” rather masterly. He also wrote that Rock’n’Roll lyrics were some sort of a “secret code of teenagers”. Youth culture is, however, subject to constant change. Does this mean that these lyrics are caught in their era?
I believe that this applies to each set of song lyrics and also for many poems. Only the greats such as Shakespeare, Rilke or Dylan can write lyrics which transcend their own era. These lyrics by Little Richard are clearly trapped in its time, albeit because it had to be coded into nonsense in order to escape the censorship of white radio stations. Ironically, this also holds true for explicit, vulgar and drastic hip hop lyrics which don’t omit anything. Calling women champagne bitches and writing hymns about your own sneakers wears off extremely quickly.

What significance has this song text by Little Richard retained?
“Tutti Frutti” is a historic text. But you also have to understand that Nik Cohn had an anti-intellectual attitude vis-a-vis the interpretation of Rock’n’Roll. And that his book was one of the first on rock music. I still love it today because he wrote in such a radical style. Nik Cohn, who was an Irish Jew and thus an outsider from the beginning, wrote sentences such as those according to which there were never proper lyrics in Rock’n’Roll. I believe that he meant this as a provocation but not just that. It was his way of attacking artists such as Dylan or the Beatles which, in his opinion, had ruined Rock’n’Roll with their textual cockiness.

Is the act of ennobling the song lyrics by the Nobel Prize in Literature to Bob Dylan thus also a loss for the tradition of lyrics that have been pushed “ad absurdum”?
Not at all, luckily there is no institution that decides what is or isn’t a proper song text. Besides, Dylan himself has written surreal lyrics, which might well play on words and are funny but don’t really make any comprehensible sense, such as “Subterranean Homesick Blues” from 1965. In this song, Dylan – who never actually denied it – leans back on Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business” – which is not far from Little Richard; Dylan was thus closer to Nik Cohn’s hero as the latter wanted to admit. Dylan even once said that his professional goal was to play piano with Little Richard.

“Poetry is always a vocal art, too. Poets recited their texts as early as in ancient times.”

Nevertheless: Haven’t song lyrics increasingly lost their original character?
Yes, the question for the meaning. I have always rejected the absurd notion that rock music had to remain music for the youth, something it had originally been. It has rather turned out to be a kind of culture which grows with its authors, has aged with them. Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash or Leonard Cohen are or have been relevant way beyond their pension age. Besides, poetry is always a vocal art, too. Poets recited their texts as early as in ancient times.

Little Richard has – not least – provoked, something that has become difficult nowadays …
This gesture has lost its impact long ago. Lady Gaga is a good example as her provocations became such a major part of her marketing. Her final provocation, to show herself without make-up, shows how desperate she has become. Nowadays, it is rather heart-warming that David Bowie triggered a scandal when he said he was homosexual – and it wasn’t even true. Such shock effects, from Alice Cooper to Marilyn Manson, have worn themselves out completely. The consolation: Good music remains good.

In rock music, the lyrics depend very much on other aspects such as sound or phrasing, and only makes sense because of that. Do lyrics still have the same meaning as they used to have back then?
I don’t cease to be amazed how little attention people pay to the lyrics. It probably has always been that way. In fact, the Beatles mainly wrote trivial lyrics along the lines of “She Loves You”, even though their irony and their lyrical talent would have allowed them to do so much more at the time. It is interesting that especially within the hip hop genre lyrics play a central role, while the music is monotonous and repetitive. What also stands out is the development over the last decades where hip hop is no longer sung or rapped just in English, but, in Switzerland, for example, increasingly in German, Italian and French. In line with this development, it is only logical that the importance of lyrics has increased again. For example Peter Fox (Seeed): His solo album “Stadtaffe” [city monkey] is a hymn dedicated to his home town Berlin – and only because of the German lyrics, Berlin citizens could identify themselves with the song.

“Lyrics aren’t a school subject. It should be left to each individual what they make of the song lyrics.”

This example also shows that the background of a text is sometimes the prerequisite to understand it. But can an author really expect from his audience that it grapples with its song lyrics?
Lyrics aren’t a school subject. It should be left to each individual what they make of the song lyrics. A friend of mine has been a hip hop dance instructor for a long time. She did not realise that the pieces she used often contained misogynist lyrics, as she only played them to provide music for dancing. But that’s ok.
On the other hand, I keep noticing during concerts that due to the lack of knowledge of the lyrics misunderstandings pop up. A classic example which even US-Americans misunderstood is “Born In the USA” by Bruce Springsteen. The piece deals with the fate of Vietnam veterans but is full of ambivalence as it starts with a fanfare and Springsteen is shown on the cover of the album in front of a US flag. Left-wing message, right-wing chorus. Reagan only heard the latter and was enthused, Springsteen distanced himself in a peculiar mumbling manner. The record made him a millionaire.

But doesn’t something from the original message stay on?
Greil Marcus, whom we mentioned earlier, described in his essay why everything that Springsteen sings remains without any consequence. Irrespective of how often the artist sings about a broken family and the poverty in the USA, it was striking that nobody ever responded. This silence was proof that all of his statements remained without effect. How could it be otherwise? I have asked the comedian Eddie Izzard, whether comedy could actually change anything. He said: only politics changes things, that’s why he was standing for Parliament. If you want to change something, you have to change the law.

Writers of song lyrics often say that – by way of their texts – they are trying to trigger an association within their audience so that they can create their own stories from that…
An important role during the 1960s was the fact that black youths listened to James Brown who sang: “Say it loud – I’m black and I’m proud”. That was an instruction to a black identity – telling you that you could be someone who exists, who is important in the USA, because you get a voice – even if you are part of a minority.

He gave people courage to stand tall and self-confident…
Exactly, many song lyrics played an important role for the civil rights movement. Songs have always played an influencing role, also during the movement against the Vietnam War. Why, of all things, was it “Sloop John B” by the Beach Boys that became a hymn for the GIs in Vietnam, even though this cover version only contains the story of a quarrel on a ship? Because the chorus says: “Why don’t they let me go home, this is the worst trip I’ve ever been on”. No wonder that this hit the right tone in Vietnam. Or: “Nowhere To Run” by Martha and the Vandellas was phrased as a love song, but became the slogan for left-wing protesters against the government.

A text can also receive a completely new meaning…
An example for this is the piece “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd, which has been redefined in South Africa among white and black pupils as a hymn against Apartheid. German cultural scientist, Diedrich Diederichsen once said, pop music was an open channel. The good thing about it: You can do what you like. If the audience decides that a song means this or that, then that’s the way it is.

“One of the most famous examples of a song which didn’t have any meaningful, serious lyrics initially, is ‘Yesterday’ by Paul McCartney. The original text for this song was ‘scrambled eggs, baby I love your hairy legs’.”

Many musicians have expressed themselves against Donald Trump in the last months, but up until his inauguration there were few explicit songs…
The English journalist, Julie Burchill, once wrote that nothing would castrate a political message as efficiently as a pulsing backbeat. Bob Dylan realised this quickly and ceased to create songs pointing fingers, he was well ahead with his thinking. His explicitly political songs such as “Now Ain’t The Time For Your Tears” have aged in a worse manner than his songs which simply state a general unease against the war such as “Masters of War”. I think that great artists don’t think in weeks or years, and that’s why all great political songs are not specific. Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is a universal song, especially as humour and irony are added to it – something that protest musicians unfortunately include very rarely.

Many songwriters confess that their lyrics don’t get written until after the music has been completed. How do you explain that?
One of the most famous examples of a song which didn’t have any meaningful, serious lyrics initially, is “Yesterday” by Paul McCartney. The original text for this song was “scrambled eggs, baby I love your hairy legs”. Brian Eno mentioned during his press conference in Geneva last year that the majority of artists sing anything during their rehearsals, some sort of a scat song. From this emerges a chorus or a hook, from which the actual lyrics are developed. Many musicians use this process, for example Bono, or Mick Jagger. Writing lyrics, by the way, is also hard for authors, who are famous for their texts. Randy Newman for one said to me in a conversation that he wrote melodies with more ease than lyrics – the latter were a nightmare.

But aren’t song lyrics often secondary, and only have the purpose to carry the melody?
This can be deceptive as the example of ABBA shows. You could, of course, argue that “I do, I do, I do, I do” does not constitute song lyrics which belong into the Hall of Fame. But “Knowing Me, Knowing You” is a piece which sweetens a bitter message with an enchanting melody. The lyrics are about a divorce and is one of the favourite songs of Elvis Costello. “The Day Before You Came”, the last, desperately sad ABBA single, also combines an excellent set of lyrics with an extremely sad musical piece.

As we all know, many song texts pop up by chance, on the spur of the moment …
The most famous example for a song which practically happened by accident is “Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple. To put it simply, the band was watching across the lake, how the casino in Montreux was on fire – and wrote a gripping, but actually rather descriptive song about the event in the blink of an eye. Bob Dylan sometimes falls into such a creative rush, too: He wrote all of his lyrics for “Time Out Of Mind” within two weeks even though the verses are rather long.

This is more the modus operandi of singer songwriters who reduce the story down to the bare minimum. You do, however, sometimes also find the other extreme with them, where the lyrics are basically simply wrapped in music….
You notice that when the lyrics overwhelms the music in such a way that the music becomes a pretext. In the case of a good songwriter like Dylan that’s another matter. “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”, for example, formulates a cascade of words – and still works because the language becomes an instrument of rhythm. The Beatles-Song penned by John Lennon “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is the opposite of that: Despite its length of nearly eight minutes, it consists of one single sentence with variations. This shows how much freedom you have as a lyricist. There’s a great quotation by Max Frisch: “Anything goes – if it has success”.

«You must stop imagining that lyrics can be read: they don’t usually work on paper, they are dead.»

This could be used as the guideline for song lyrics about love, still the main theme in pop music. A love song can appear clichéd with respect to the choice of words, and yet work magnificently. What makes the difference?
An example how the same text can have a completely different impact depending on instrumentation and interpretation is “I Will Always Love You”. The song has not been written by Whitney Houston but Dolly Parton. And her original version dating back to 1974 is grand, even though the lyrics are incredibly trivial: The recording lives off the performance.

The same song lyrics can also have different meanings in different interpretations…
A good example for this is “You Can Leave Your Hat On” by Randy Newman. In its original version, this love song is lurking, the protagonist a stalker, you get scared of him. In Joe Cocker’s version, however, the song about a sexual offender turns into a hymn for sex and freedom – and as such, it was used for the film “9 1/2 weeks.”

The lyrics of two love songs can be nearly identical regarding the choice of words and yet one can seem corny whereas the other is captivating. Why?
You must stop imagining that lyrics can be read: they don’t usually work on paper, they are dead. One of the reasons for this is that the technique of repetition is important for song lyrics; texts by writers like Nick Cave look absurd on paper.
One of the great exceptions, however, are the song texts by Leonard Cohen. An explanation for this phenomenon is that he wrote three books and two poetry volumes before he entered a studio for the first time. He started playing the guitar because he thought he could reach a wider audience as a consequence. The magic of song lyrics usually appears when being sung, just remember Marvin Gaye’s “Hitch Hike”. His singing imparted a kind of lascivious elegance.

By way of singing the lyrics, it is also possible to break the stereotype of a text or add an ironic note …
Lyle Lovett does exactly the opposite in his song “She’s Leaving Me Because She Really Wants To”. The text in the title is coined by its typical irony but he sang it in a grizzling, absolutely non-ironical sounding country song. What constitutes the breach here is that he performs an unconventional text which is a persiflage on the genre, in a completely conventional style.

The songwriter and producer Roman Camenzind once said that you could write an authentic song text only in your own mother tongue ...
That’s a great thesis, even if there are examples that show that the opposite is true. In the case of Rammstein, I am fascinated by the fact that concert-goers sing along to the German lyrics, even in places like Mexico City or New York. Singer Till Lindemann once told me that the majority would only sing along phonetically and not understand the phonetic implications and play on words of “Du hast” – one of their song titles. English is treacherous in this respect, anyway. It’s like when you play the guitar: You can quickly get to grips with guitar chords, and it sounds alright. But then it gets complicated rather quickly. And that’s what you find in the case of lyrics of authors whose mother tongue isn’t English.

And in Switzerland?
We do have some amazing lyricists such as the songwriters Kutti MC, Endo Anaconda (Stiller Has), Kuno Lauener (Züri West) and Carlos Leal (Sens Unik); The reality in Switzerland is, however, that the dialect is rather restrictive in terms of the audience; the conditions in Germany are completely different.

If you want to live off your music in Switzerland you have to try to find a wider audience with an international language. Is this inevitably at the expense of authenticity?
Yello are a good example that using English can be a success. Dieter Meier has written many lyrics with Dadaistic nonsense, but his English is – regarding the accent and the humour – definitely very Swiss. You also feel how the personalities of the two shine through very strongly, something which creates authenticity. In a special way, the Young Gods are successful because Franz Treichler sings his English lyrics with a French accent; but it is his voice that’s important, not the lyrics. For me, these are the two most important Swiss bands because they have maintained their identity despite their international aura. Bands that sing French lyrics such as Sens Unik have more luck as they have an international language as their mother tongue.

Jean-Martin Büttner (born 1959) grew up bilingual in Basel (German and French). He studied psychology, psychopathology and English in Zurich and wrote his dissertation on “Singers, songs and compulsive words. Rock as a narrative form.” (the book with the original title “Sänger, Songs und triebhafte Rede. Rock als Erzählweise”, published in 1997 is sold out). In the middle of the 1980s, he regularly wrote for the Swiss music magazine Music Scene which was run by the interviewer Markus Ganz at the time. Since 1987, he has been employed by the Swiss daily, Tages-Anzeiger. He works as an editor for the cultural and domestic affairs department and is the daily’s correspondent for the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and Switzerland’s Parliament (Bundeshaus) editor. Since 2010, he has been writing on various subjects, including regular articles on music.
Recognition award for lyricists
FONDATION SUISA dedicates its CHF 25,000 recognition award to lyricists of musical works this year. Works in all languages will be considered. The entire works of the nominees will be judged, not just individual lyrics. All participants must prove that there is a relationship of their works with the current Swiss music creative scene. It is also possible that third parties nominate candidates. An expert panel will judge the submitted nominations based on the Award regulations. Closing date will be 24 February 2017. Further information, including the regulations and the entry form can be downloaded from the FONDATION SUISA website.
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The FONDATION SUISA dedicates its CHF 25,000 recognition award to lyricists of musical works this year. But what makes a song text a success? Guest author Markus Ganz in an interview with Jean-Martin Büttner

Lyrics for a song: “Anything goes - if it has success”

“Song texts usually don’t work on paper”, says journalist Jean-Martin Büttner. (Photo: Dominic Büttner)

Jean-Martin, what do you make of song lyrics including the line “A Wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom”?
Jean-Martin Büttner: This is an example for coded song lyrics. “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard secretly deals with black drag queens and sexual practices, at least in its 1955 original version. To understand this, you got to know that the singer had a triple disadvantage: Richard was black, gay and from the South of the USA. The American political scientist, Greil Marcus, explained its amazing...read more

Award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards | plus video

The newcomer Nickless and the renowned producer Thomas Fessler won the first award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards 2016. The winning song “Waiting”, jointly composed by the two, didn’t appear out of thin air but is the result of lots of teamwork. At the occasion of the Swiss Music Awards 2017, SUISA will honour the performance of composers and lyricists with an award again.

The first award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards was granted to a newcomer and a “veteran”: The 21-year-old Nickless from Zurich, and the producer Thomas Fessler received the award for the jointly composed song “Waiting”.

On top of the necessary inspiration, a lot of work went into the song over a long period of time. “Waiting” reached 14th place in the Swiss single charts in April 2015 and was granted the Swiss Music Award in the category “Best Hit” in 2016.

For the first time, and in collaboration with SUISA, composers and lyricists were honoured in the course of this award category in 2016. By introducing an award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards, the audience would realise that songs don’t appear out of thin air but that a lot of work, heart and soul, said producer Thomas Fessler during an interview. Nickless was particularly happy about the recognition he received for the work as a consequence of receiving the award.

Andreas Wegelin, CEO of SUISA, adds: “Behind every big hit there are composers and lyricists. It is important for SUISA that the work of these authors will be honoured at the Swiss Music Awards.” As a consequence, the award will be granted to the songwriters of the winning title in the category “best hit” in 2017 – for the second time.

The following artists and songs are nominated in the category “best hit” and thus also for the award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Award 2017:

“Angelina”
Composers and lyricists: Andreas “DJ Arts” Christen, Dabu Bucher, Gianluca Giger
Artist: Dabu Fantastic

“Thank You”
Composers and lyricists: Arie Storm, DJ Antoine, Eric Lumière, Fabio “Mad Mark” Antoniali
Artist: DJ Antoine

“Monbijou”
Composers and lyricists: Joachim Piehl, Lucien Spielmann, Manillio
Artist: Manillio

The award for songwriters is granted in the name of SUISA, the Cooperative Society for Music Authors and Publishers at the occasion of the Swiss Music Award ceremonies on 10 February 2017 in the Hallenstadion in Zurich.

Nickless, website
571 Recording Studios, website
Swiss Music Awards, website

SUISA is a member of the Press Play association. The association, founded in 2012, is official sponsor of the Swiss Music Awards.

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The newcomer Nickless and the renowned producer Thomas Fessler won the first award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards 2016. The winning song “Waiting”, jointly composed by the two, didn’t appear out of thin air but is the result of lots of teamwork. At the occasion of the Swiss Music Awards 2017, SUISA will honour the performance of composers and lyricists with an award again.

The first award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards was granted to a newcomer and a “veteran”: The 21-year-old Nickless from Zurich, and the producer Thomas Fessler received the award for the jointly composed song “Waiting”.

On top of the necessary inspiration, a lot of work went into the song over a long period of time. “Waiting” reached 14th place in the Swiss single charts in...read more