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From Bach to Helloween: ‘Teutonic’ stereotypes in the history of popular music and heavy metal

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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 its 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 twenty-first 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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Keywords: German metal music; Teutonic metal music; culture; history; nation; performance; production

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Huddersfield

Publication date: March 1, 2020

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  • Metal Music Studies is the journal of the International Society for Metal Music Studies.

    The aims of the journal are:
    • To provide an intellectual hub for the International Society of Metal Music Studies and a vehicle to promote the development of metal music studies;
    • To be the focus for research and theory in metal music studies – a multidisciplinary (and interdisciplinary) subject field that engages with a range of parent disciplines, including (but not limited to) sociology, musicology, humanities, cultural studies, geography, philosophy, psychology, history, natural sciences;
    • To publish high-quality, world-class research, theory and shorter articles that cross over from the industry and the scene;
    • To be a world leader in interdisciplinary studies and be a unique resource for metal music studies.
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