Amerika ist Wunderbar

Rammstein is one of the most popular German-language bands in the world. Their single “Amerika” was released in 2004 and quickly became a Top 10 hit in Europe. According to Wikipedia the band is best known for their theatrical stage performances which showcase outrageous pyrotechnics. They’ve even survived a number of lawsuits from fans who have suffered burns at Rammstein concerts. Kinda brings a whole new level of meaning to the phrase “face melting guitar solo”!

Thanks to Adam Shaker for sharing this video in the late class.

The verse is sung in German and the chorus is in English. Here’s the translation:

We’re all living in America,
America is wunderbar.
We’re all living in America,
Amerika, Amerika.

When I’m dancing, I want to lead,
even if you all are spinning alone,
let’s exercise a little control.
I’ll show you how it’s done right.
We form a nice round (circle),
freedom is playing on all the fiddles,
music is coming out of the White House,
and near Paris stands Mickey Mouse.

We’re all living in America…

I know steps that are very useful,
and I’ll protect you from missteps,
and anyone who doesn’t want to dance in the end,
just doesn’t know that he has to dance!
We form a nice round (circle),
I’ll show you the right direction,
to Africa goes Santa Claus,
and near Paris stands Mickey Mouse.

We’re all living in America,
America is wunderbar.
We’re all living in America,
Amerika, Amerika.
We’re all living in America,
Coca-Cola, Wonderbra,
We’re all living in America,
Amerika, Amerika.

This is not a love song,
this is not a love song.
I don’t sing my mother tongue,
No, this is not a love song.

We’re all living in America,
Amerika is wunderbar.
We’re all living in America,
Amerika, Amerika.
We’re all living in America,
Coca-Cola, sometimes WAR,
We’re all living in America,
Amerika, Amerika.

As the Rammstein video makes clear with its parody of American material culture and sarcastic lyrics characterizing America as being domineering, for many people around the world globalization is experienced as an unwelcome intrusion into their lives. The implication here seems to be that globalization is homogenization, when different people consume the same products they become more alike.

But this is exactly the point that Ian Condry argues against in his article on Japanese hip hop. He finds that the form of hip hop remains the same in Japan – the fashion, the ethic, the musical style – but the content is very much Japanese. His “genba globalism” argues for a way of understanding the rapid movement of people, commodities, and ideas from the point of view of the people who are affected by the imported elements. So it is for the Japanese fans that their participation in hip hop culture is done for Japanese reasons and is remade into a Japanese thing.

What are your thoughts on globalization? How is your own life affected by the borrowing of foreign ideas? How is the immigration of people from other lands changing (or not changing) the US? What is your impression of the Rammstein video and the way it characterizes American material culture abroad?

Leave your comments below…

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About Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson is a project cataloger at The Mariners' Museum library. He has a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and was formerly a professor at ODU. You can find him on Twitter @m4ttTh0mps0n.
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11 Responses to Amerika ist Wunderbar

  1. Looks like embedding for this video has been disabled by the publisher. Just follow the link in the screen to YouTube and watch it there. I’ll wait.

  2. Remus Borisov says:

    I love music videos like the Rammstein one. They tend to make videos satirizing media manipulation of the masses. A friend of mine showed me one of their videos depicting Snow White as a junkie which made more sense than the traditional version. Globalization brings traditions into question as displayed in the “Amerika ist Wunderbar” music video. I tend to feel a lot of the same sentiment about globalization and America’s role or influence. I don’t really identify with my current generation’s lack of remorse for parasitic consumerism and general apathy. The golden rule in Amerika is “Those with the gold make the rule.” What if the rules are made to make you and keep you dependent on what the rule-makers sell? That is the point that really needs to be brought up more often in political discussions rather than the GOP’s old one-hit-wonder, abortion.

  3. Chris Cummings says:

    Music videos such as this one brings out the negative stereotypes that are true to American culture such as fatty foods, big cars, and a lot of money. Rammstein depicts it in their video very well. In my society today the knew to do is be the originator, the creator, and original. Everyone is trying to express themselves in the most individualistic ways possible in order to stick out and be heard, though many of the ways they go about doing this aren’t appropriate rather, but neither is every seen in the Rammstein video.

    good example of music changing in american society as we speak :

  4. Sean Murray says:

    It’s hard to put a pinpoint on the stereotype of American culture. If America is a country full of people with lots of cars, money, and expensive clothes than i guess I’m not “American” at all. Unless one is referring to the political aspect of American culture than it doesn’t make much sense to me. I understand that there are materialistic suburban high rollers that flaunt their money around like it’s nothing but when I think of America and the places that I have grown up and lived throughout my life I think of a bunch of hard working people earning what they have and doing all that is possible to provide for their family. It seems like us as a class continue to put Americans under the materialistic/selfish stereotype but none of us admit to falling into that category. If none of us are like that than how can it be the “American culture”?

  5. James W. Anderson says:

    Just curious as to what Remus thinks the democrats one-hit wonder is? Or do the dems have a catalog of top 40 hits? Either way, after reading the lyrics to Rammstein’s song I immediately thought of a Morrissey song from 2004 appropriately titled “America is not the world”. Roughly the same idea. “And I love ya, I just wish you’d stay where you is… (a rip on our improper grammar?) Not sure, I’m sure some blokes in England are just as grammatically challenged. “Where the president is never black, female, or gay, and until that day you’ve got nothing to say to me”. Well I guess in the eyes of the former Smiths front-man, we can go back to telling him what to do. But when did this become a new phenomenon? Man has always been good at killing each other, and allowing the winner to make the rules. The only thing I can say in defense of this idea is that at least the U.S. in recent years has been a little more civil than the Hitlers, and Hirohitos we have replaced. At least we get a nearly unanimous vote from congress (Well, we used to, before the Libya one-hit wonder) before we invade declare our wars on middle-eastern countries, as compared to those invasions of muslim countries 1,000 years ago. At least the slavery of our history wasn’t as bad as Roman slavery. I guess my question is do we think we are any better than previous societies where “the winners” have always made the rules? If anything the U.S., though not perfect, has been a little more fair in trying to attain resources and protect interests than say Genghis Kahn. Do I defend everything the U.S. does at home and abroad? Absolutely not. Do I think it’s ok if McDonald’s wants to put up a restaurant on the Champs-elysees? Sure. Is printing money cool because the dollar is the world’s reserve currency? Nah. Should we make deals with Canada and Mexico for cheap oil? Why not? In my opinion, another thing history has taught us, is that if you give someone an inch, they take a foot. So where is that going to leave us in a hundred years? Who knows!! Though I do think we need to pull ourselves back politically from imposing our wills on every single country possible. We don’t need multiple military bases and embassies in every country. We don’t need alliances where we pay the majority of the bill for everything with no results. We don’t need to extend our young men and women to hostile environments for unjust reasons. We need to return to the America that the rest of the world loved and respected at one time. I just hope it’s not going to take another WWII situation (WWIII?) to where we are viewed as a just people. It would only set another precedent to be the world police again, and result in also being the world walmart, again. Though I do love those roll-back prices!

  6. Kara Rochester says:

    America in itself is a place of imitation. Our foods, fashions, and music are all inspired by other nations and cultures around the globe. The problem is that America has this glamourized Media. The gatekeepers of the media are corrupt and seeking soley to entertain; the news will do whatever it takes to get the best ratings, and therefore make the most money. The problem is that our society allows these gatekeepers to form ideas for them, by paying attention to what the media says to pay attention to, by doing what the media tells them we should do. It seems as if individualism has been lost in this spiral of silence, in which people are afraid to speak out with what they really believe because they seek to be accepted by the majority. Americans look down on the ways of life in other countries, simply because they have different values and interests than those brainwashingly held by so many Americans.

  7. CHELSEA C RODRIGUEZ says:

    I think what the Rammstein video is trying to say is that America is entering other countries in the world and helping to influence their cultures. For example, the cheeseburgers and sodas seen in the scene with the monk boys. Overall i think the video touched on globalization in a way that they can make fun of America without really stepping on anyones toes too much. I did think the video was really weird though & the singers voice made me bust out laughing so i couldn’t really take it that seriously.

  8. Gail Martin says:

    The video’s view of Globalization is that they see America as being oppressive to other peoples. I can see how some of the world views us that way because of our attempts to police the world and interfere in matters that many countries feel we should butt out of.

  9. America itself is a melting pot. There are Americans from all over the world, and across the world. Rammstein should think of WHY American customs are so easily spread. We as Americans are all from different lifestyles, cultures, ethnicities, and races. A standard American is very hard to determine in our society due to our diversity. Hell of a band regardless.

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