Berlin without Borders? Urban Anthems in Twenty-First-Century Popular Music


Patricia Anne Simpson


Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies


Popular Berlin “anthems” both attest and contribute to the social, political, and cultural tensions that accompany the complex process of identity formation in the urban capital and the projection of its global image. An integral aspect of its cosmopolitan identity, Berlin hosts an international party scene that incorporates the city's history of divisions and borders into a discourse about its own brand of “hipness.” This article analyzes several Berlin-based musicians and the songs that reflect a process of deterritorialization, recoding, and reterritorialization, consciously inserting Berlin-specific signifiers into the syntax of cultural globalization. These contemporary anthems acknowledge social realities while recoding musical genres in the service of a more multicultural, creative, and tolerant metropolis. The marketing and mainstreaming of edgy, urban soundscapes include the dislocations characteristic of a globalizing capital. Increasingly, songs about Berlin engage in remapping the local, provincial, and subcultural onto Berlin as a world media city.



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