'A Swedish Speech Therapist Imitating Ali G.' Lena's Accent Is Really, Really Weird
Lena-mania is spreading like a virus. The talent-seeking television show "Our Star for Oslo" carried it into the living rooms of Germany. And now it threatens to infect the whole of Europe with the imminent Eurovision Song Contest , the kitschiest, campest competition ever, which sometimes seems to be a test of how well (or indeed, how badly) other nations can sing in English. The final takes place next week in Oslo, Norway.
Ever since Swedish popstars Abba triumphed at the contest with "Waterloo" (with near-perfect accents) in 1974, there has been a strongly held belief that to win you need to adopt the language of the nation that pretty much refuses to adopt any other. And maybe that helps explains why 18-year-old Lena Meyer-Landrut has, perversely, captured the hearts of the nation, by singing in my mother tongue.
Photo Gallery: Our Star for Oslo
But contrary to the opinions of die hard fans who insist her accent is brilliant, Lena sounds really, really weird. Her attempts to adopt the street language of London -- itself a hybrid of US slang, Jamaican argot, and East End vernacular and beloved of British pop stars like Adele and Amy Winehouse, who seem to be Lena's heroines -- end up with her sounding like a Swedish speech therapist imitating Ali G.
Lena's Accent not Mockney, Jafakean, English or German
"Oi don't give a shit," she declares in "Love Me." And although she likes the smell of fresh hay, as she tells us in "Touch A New Day" she won't "inhay it." I think she means inhale, but I'm really not sure.
Lena's isn't a mockney accent, the affectation of London's working-class Cockney tone that the likes of Blur's Damon Albarn were accused of using. Nor is it the full-on "jafakean," the fake Jamaican accent you often hear on the top decks of North London buses, as the preferred slang of the school kids who like to sound like they're from the ghetto. Instead, it is a mixture that borrows from the two, then adds a shot of mixed-up European, presumably made up of her native German and what sounds like Scandinavian. In fact, the Scandinavian accent could be a cunning plan to win over the Oslo crowd.
The mispronounced words aren't in themselves a crime. After all, Icelandic musician Bjork's accent is, well, idiosyncratic. And The Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan's Irish lilt added to her angular songs. In fact, now that I think of it, she sounds a bit like Lena.
Lena's Real Crime Is Poor Imitation
What is a crime however, is that the songs on her new album -- "My Cassette Player" -- are a hotch-potch of Adele's pop songs, Amy Winehouse's soulless soul, ersatz R'n'B and Lily Allen's plastic ska-pop -- all of which she copies badly. It's imitation, rather than invention.
And then there are the lyrics. "Who took my cassette player?" she asks desperately. To which I have to reply: Who has a cassette player these days anyway?
The song that opens the album, "Satellite," which catapulted her to victory in the talent contest for Oslo, is similarly mysterious. Lena's testament of love is so odd it verges on voodoo. She'd leave on the porch light, wear blue knickers and paint her toenails for her love. And I have to say, I don't think I'm the only one who'd fear for their safety getting too close to someone that obsessed. Saying that you're leaving on the porch light for someone is more the kind of thing your mum says.
She can be quite self-destructive too. Proof: In "I Like To Bang My Head" she declares quite openly that she, er, likes to bang her head. In addition to her aforementioned love of hay, she embraces nature by comparing herself to a bee in the song "Bee" and a caterpillar in the rain in "Caterpillar In The Rain." Although in her case a caterpillar is a "Kite-air-pillar." I was glad I had the lyric sheet on hand to translate Lena-glish into English.
It's probably prudent for Germany to think of the ongoing effects of Lena-mania. Thousands, perhaps millions of young German school kids will be taking their English lessons from Lena, which could eventually render them as unintelligible to the English-speaking world as Guido Westerwelle , the current foreign minister. Oh Germany, what have you done?