I have always been admiring the song of the German singer/songwriter Judith Holofernes. She used to be the front girl of Wir sind Helden until the group ended their project some time ago. Her musical style is pretty much standard guitar pop – but the big deal is about her lyrics. She can build up images in your head by using very much non-standard metaphores for her songs. And in doing so, she can not only deliver her message, but she can do it in a way that fits the music and doesn’t come with a weird metric.
The most prominent examples of this are the songs Denkmal and Kamikazefliege. In my opinion, Denkmal should become a standard topic in every German lesson. When you hear the lyrics for the first time, you won’t think of it as a love song. But it is a love song, with very unusual images in it. Kamikazefliege is most obviously a love song, but with very strong lines that contrast the very slow, very silent guitar chords heavily. Just let me google the lyrics for you. And just let me emphasize the line:
“Wer will nicht lieber aus Liebe als gar nicht zugrunde gehn?”
(“Who wouldn’t prefer to perish because of love, rather than not to perish at all?”). The question is – is there someone who actually lives a life that romantic?
But of course, Judith has quite an unusual voice. She’s a fine and talented singer with a voice that will stick to your mind in a way that I can’t properly describe. Her cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is the most beautiful version of this song I ever heard. She can deliver the slow, sensual songs in a way that makes her sound sad, hurt and silent (if anyone ever could sing a song “silently”… there was no pun intended). Go to Außer dir or Bring mich nach Hause for nice, but not exclusive examples of this. Then again, she has up-tempo songs like Aurélie or Was uns beiden gehört that range from perfect fun to songs full of pure energy that easily transmits to the listener.
Of course, everyone’s taste in music is highly different, especially different from mine. But I encourage everybody to try out and find your own favourite Holofernes-song. You’ll enjoy them for their fine music and the poem-like rhythms if you don’t speak German, and you’ll encounter many highly unusual images and metaphores if you do speak German. There’s much to find, deep down inside those lyrics.
Now, Judith finished a solo-work of which the first two songs have been released on youtube:
Maybe, I haven’t had the opportunity to get used to this new music. In some way, these songs don’t click with me yet (and I’m still not sure what to think of the videos – but all of her music videos have been somewhat strange, or “inventive”). On the one hand, there’s everything I loved and liked about her “classical” songs of the mid past decade. On the other hand, the songs are… different. Obviously, this is one way of showing her evolution. She is older, she’s a mother, she’s working without her band, she’s the boss of how the songs are recorded and mixed etc etc. And maybe, I haven’t grown accustomed yet to this evolution of hers that shows in her music.
I am going to give her new songs a chance, and most probably I’ll be one of the loyal customers who will buy the new record no matter what. Just realizing that there’s new Judith-Holofernes-music out there – this makes my day again and again 🙂