Schlager (German "Schlager", literally "hitter" or, more loosely translated, "a hit") is a style of popular music that is prevalent in northern Europe, in particular Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the countries of the former Soviet Union, but also to a lesser extent in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Typical schlager tracks are either sweet, highly sentimental ballads with a simple, catchy melody or light pop tunes. Its lyrics typically center on love and relationships, and feelings. The northern variant of schlager, most notably in Finland, has taken elements from Nordic and Slavic folk songs, with texts tending towards melancholia and elegiac themes. Musically the Schlager has some similarities to other styles like Easy Listening-Music.

The style has been frequently represented at the Eurovision Song Contest, and has been popular since it started in 1956, even though it is increasingly replaced by other pop music styles. While at one time music of this style was also fairly popular in the UK and USA, due to the constant change of fashion in popular culture, since the 1970s schlager has fallen out of favour.


A particular feature of Finnish schlager music ("Iskelmä") are the so-called "translated schlagers" ("Käännösiskelmä"), being songs translated into Finnish from other languages. There are also noteworthy Finnish schlager-composers including Junnu Vainio.

The roots of Finnish schlager tradition have been retrospectively traced into interwar period, when popular singers included Georg Malmstén and Matti Jurva. A particularly important song was opera-singer Ture Ara's smash hit "Emma" in 1929. Later schlagerstars in Finland include Eino Grön, Katri Helena, Tapani Kansa, Annikki Tähti, Kirka, Ilkka "Danny" Lipsanen, Olavi Virta, Marion Rung, Reijo Taipale, Teuvo Valo and Topi Sorsakoski.

Schlager tradition has had and still has a very important place in Finnish popular music and its melodic language has influenced also Finnish rock. The schlagermusic has most of the time shared its audience with Finnish tango music, both being popular among middle aged people and some younger adults,also.

Germany and Austria

During the mid-to-late 1990s and into the early 2000s, however, German-language schlager saw an extensive revival in Germany. Even reputable dance clubs would put in a stretch of schlager titles during the course of an evening, and numerous new bands specialising in covering original '70s schlager tunes as well as performing "new" '70s-ish material were formed. In Hamburg, schlager fans still (as of 2006) gather annually by the tens of thousands and dress up in freakish '70s wear for a street parade called Schlager Move. This revival has always been associated with ironic kitsch and, to a certain extent, gay culture (see Camp (style)).

Stylistically, schlager continues to influence the German "party pop" genre to this day, i.e. the music most often heard in après-ski bars and Majorcan mass discos. Partly due to this and due to the older, more downscale audiences of schlager-based television shows and radio networks, the schlager genre is increasingly, though subtly, associated with the lower strata of the population.

Contemporary schlager is often mingled with Volkstümliche Musik.


In Sweden schlager has been a popular form of music since at least the 1970s, even though it has had its up and downs. It is often considered to be too "popular and commercial" by many people, but still enjoys a large place in Swedish culture. The Swedish Melodifestivalen that selects the Swedish competitor at the Eurovision Song Contest is popularly called "Schlagerfestivalen" (The Schlager Festival) since it has traditionally been characterized by schlager songs. The amount of schlager has dropped a bit in recent years, but schlager songs are the most frequent single genre to win the competition. Melodifestivalen is the single most popular TV-program in Sweden. It occurs annually, and in 2006 an estimated 47% of the Swedish population watched the finals. In Sweden, "schlager" often refers to Eurovision participating songs.


Yugoslavian schlagers started to appear in late 40s. One of the pioneers of schlagers is Darko Kraljević, born in Zagreb, lived in Belgrade. He is best known by his hits "Čamac na Tisi", sang by Lola Novaković, big hit in revolutionary Hungary, and music made for the film "Ljubav i moda" (Love and fashion) such as "Devojko mala", later covered by Yugoslavian band VIS Idoli. Kraljević's schlagers symbolized the entrance of western European culture and capitalism into liberal communism in Yugoslavia.

ee also

* Schlager and Volksmusik (genre)
* Compare: adult contemporary music, "mainstream contemporary pop music (on the radio) intended for a mature adult audience"
* Roland Kaiser

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