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Music / Nina Hagen

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Catharina "Nina" Hagen (born 11 March 1955) is an iconic German singer - the face, heart and soul of 80's Berlin punk rock. She's known for experimenting with different styles (gospel is a recent favourite, as she's suddenly found Jesus), usually with definite opera, Dark Cabaret reggae, synth pop and classic rock influences. When she still lived in East Germany, she scored her first popular song with the poppy "Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen". Her fashion style is extremely flamboyant and her mannerisms are downright clownish, and her vocal range spans at least four octaves. She has a reputation of being a Cloud Cuckoolander and was for a time a favorite to be invited to various talk shows where she would spout weird views and Ice-Cream Koans. While her voice used to be extremely versatile in the 70's and 80's - she was capable from jumping between three octaves like it was nothing ("Naturträne"), could sing opera, scream and growl, and imitate all sorts of freaky voices, nowadays her voice has become extremely low and raspy due to years of extensive smoking.

Career highlights include her first rock hit "Unbeschreiblich Weiblich" back in 1978, her drug-fueled relationship with Dutch punk artist Herman Brood, and her much lauded performance as Mrs. Peachum in a 1999 concert version of The Threepenny Opera. Also, she was Sally in the German dub of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Yubaba in Spirited Away. She also provided the theme song to the anime film Tenchi Muyo! in Love, "Alchemy of Love."

Her work includes the following tropes:

  • Ambiguously Bi: "Wenn Ich Ein Junge Wär" references homosexuality (which was a big deal in the 70's), and "Aufm Bahnhof Zoo" is about her making out with a woman in a public bathroom.
    Ob blond,
    Ob schwarz,
    Ob braun
  • Child Hater: "Unbeschreiblich Weiblich" is about how she doesn't want to have children in order to fulfill her "duty" as a woman. The song was her way to cope with having had two abortions, the first one at age 14, and a miscarriage at the age of 17. Ironically, she had 2 children later in life.
  • The Comically Serious: "Du Hast Den Farbfilm Vergessen." The first verse may even sound like her boyfriend brutalized her, but in the chorus it becomes clear that Nina is threatening to break up with her boyfriend because he forgot to pack the color film when going on vacation, so all the photos turned out black and white.
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority: Deconstructed in "TV-Glotzer (White Punks on Dope)." The lyrical "Punk" self spends all their time watching TV because everybody else has left them, books are too boring and they've got nothing better to do.
    Ich bin so tot!
    War das nun schon mein Leben?
    Meine schöne Phantasie!
    Meine Schaltstellen sind hinüber
  • Nightmare Fuel: Her "Herman Was His Name" video can become unnerving, mostly the part where her face is superimposed over a skull.
  • The Quincy Punk: Her old style, in many ways.
  • Spoken Word in Music: Occasionally. For example, "Der Spinner," "TV-Glotzer."