Ever wondered what makes schlager oh so very schlager? Why is it so popular in Europe, and what makes it a nail-on-the-head genre for karaoke? Fasten your schlager belt and hit play on this song – we’re going in!

The popular Swiss schlager band Calimeros singing “Sommer, Sonne, Honolulu" ("summer, sun, Honolulu").

What is schlager music?

Schlager (meaning “hits”) is especially popular in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland but the Nordic countries also. Essentially, it’s European popular music revolving around love, feelings, relationships, and a little more feelings. The brain penetrating, sentimental lyrics address another human, an animal, a vehicle, or, as the popular Italo schlager-band Roy Bianco & Die Abbrunzati Boys from Germany demonstrate here, the city of Naples.

Roy Bianco & Die Abbrunzati Boys: "Bella Napoli" (“beautiful Naples”).

The ingredients for schlager

Schlager really took off and evolved after WWII as a German backlash against American rock and roll. Mostly gooey, very rhythmic, and simple, clichéd lyrics accompany the often pompous and sonorous rhythm. No wonder schlager is called "easy music".

The Nordic version of schlager is sometimes more wistful, carrying traces of folk songs and even tango. For example, the melancholic “Satulinna” sung by Jari Sillanpää is one of the most popular Finnish schlagers of all time.

Jari Sillanpää: “Satulinna” (“dream castle”).

With the popular use of synthesizers, modern schlager with its almost manic upbeatness often merges with Eurodisco and Eurodance. Especially The Eurovision Song Contest is the place to hear different kinds of versions of schlager:

Verka Serduchka representing Ukraine at the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest with the electric song "Dancing Lasha Tumbai".

The Eurovision 1985 winner Bobbysocks representing Norway with “La det swinge” (“let it swing”).

According to The Schlagerboys, the dramatic key-change is one of the most important hallmarks of an epic schlager. These singers sure know how to do the key-change:

Swedish schlager queen Carola performing "Evighet" (“eternity”) in the semi-final of Melodifestivalen 2006.
Vicky Rosti and Finnish schlager “Sata salamaa” (“a hundred lightnings”) at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1987.

Schlager karaoke at Golden Hits, Stockholm

Because of its earworm nature, schlager is an inevitable choice for karaoke. With three dance floors, a cocktail, and a karaoke bar, the Singa-powered entertainment venue Golden Hits in Stockholm caters to around 1,400 customers per evening.

Main entrance to entertainment venue  Golden Hits in Stockholm.
Golden Hits in Stockholm.

According to restaurant manager Ville Norqvist, schlager is very popular both in karaoke and on the dance floor.

“Around 80% of all karaoke songs during an average night at Golden Hits are schlager. All age groups sing it. Everybody says they don’t listen to schlager, and it’s not their thing – yet out of three of our dance floors, the schlager one is always the fullest,” Norqvist says.

Although you can sing anything from Abba to Mötley Crüe at Golden Hits, Norqvist has a pro tip for selecting a successful karaoke song:

“If you want to sing Celine Dion, you really have to know how to sing, but if you choose, for example, a Swedish schlager by Pernilla Wahlgren, you don’t have to be that good of a singer. People pick songs like Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’. It’s a helluva fast song, and the words swing by really quickly. In schlager, if you get lost with the lyrics, you can simply whistle or hum.”

Norqvist also has a theory on why learning new schlager songs or schlagers in different languages is so effortless.

“Schlager songs are like kids’ songs for adults. The songs can talk about almost anything: ‘I want to dance in the moonlight’ or ‘I want to pick cherries in your garden’ or ‘ I want to eat pizza and pasta’. For example, the Swedish schlager ‘Michelangelo’ is just lyrically nonsense,” Norqvis laughs.

If you're a karaoke beginner, you might want to check out Singa's 10 Easy Karaoke Songs for Beginners.

Golden Hits restaurant manager Ville Norqvist taking the sun in on a terrace with beverages
“Before Singa, we had the analog system of paper slips and song booklets with song numbers and CDs. I don’t want to go back to that. Now the customers scan the QR code and get Singa on their phones to choose the karaoke song they want to sing,” restaurant manager Ville Norqvist says.
DJ hosting at Golden Hits Stockholm and holding a lit handheld firework with a Singa karaoke ad next to him.
Golden Hits has three dance floors: one for schlager, one for the 90s to 00s pop, and one for house. "Our schlager DJs did recently a mix of the Luxembourgian Eurovision song ​​'Poupée de cire, poupée de son' combining the Swedish, Finnish, Dutch, German and Japanese versions."

Top schlager karaoke songs

Restaurant manager Ville Norqvis has first-hand experience in the most popular song choices. Here are the top schlager karaoke songs at Golden Hits:

In English:

In Swedish:

For more Eurovision songs that became huge karaoke hits head here.

Woman singing schlager karaoke at Golden Hits Stockholm with Singa-powered lyrics in background.
Schlager is the most popular genre for karaoke songs at Golden Hits. 

Where pop begins and schlager ends

By now, you might be thinking: wait a minute – aren’t a lot of these pop songs? They sure are, but they are also schlager. All in all, schlager has more in common with what is considered awarded pop music than many realize.

“Schlager in Sweden, Germany, and other European countries… is it so different from what Lady Gaga and Madonna are doing? I think even Britney Spears’ music is American schlager. The queen of pop in Sweden is Carola, and the queen of pop in the US is Madonna,” Ville Norqvis says.

Seems that pop music owes to schlager. Many of today’s best pop songs have schlager’s 3-minute climatic formula running deep inside their core. Check out this mashup of Charlotte Perrelli’s 2008 Eurovision song Heroand Lady Gaga’sPoker Face.

Charlotte Perrelli feat. Lady Gaga - “Hero Face” (mashup).

In conclusion, although many won’t publicly want to admit it, schlager seems to be the most real thing out there. With its unapologetic campness and next-level cheesiness, it doesn’t try to be better than it is. Once you’ve heard a schlager song, you won’t be able to shake it off. What’s more pop than that?

Since you’re now most likely bitten by the schlager bug, here is a bonus selection of popular schlager songs on Singa. Enjoy! 🎤🎶