Sunday, February 10, 2008

Nena: 99 Red Balloons

1983 music video by Nena, singing about an accidental nuclear war caused by a misinterpreted radar signal that misidentified balloons floating in the sky.

Biography by Alan Severa

After one year as vocalist for the Stripes (who disbanded after just one unsuccessful album in 1980) Nena Kerner assembled a new band in Berlin, called Nena, with herself as vocalist, Carlo Karges on guitar, Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen on keyboards, Jürgen Dehmel on bass, and Rolf Brendel on drums. Their debut single "Nur Geträumt" became a number one success in the German speaking countries after the band's first TV appearance on the "Musikladen" TV program on August 21, 1982. From then on, however, Nena became one of the most successful pop stars Germany had ever seen, including the unique success of the original German language version of the second single "99 Luftballons" in the U.S. in 1984. In mid-1985 however, for no apparent reason, sales of Nena's next records and attendance numbers on the 1985 tour dropped, which led to the eventual end of the band in mid-1987.

Since 1989, Nena has consistently continued working as a solo artist, releasing albums of songs composed mainly by herself and befriended musicians she chooses as co-authors. She has chosen not to have a permanent band (as had been the case in the '80s), neither in the studio nor on tour. Her first solo tour came in 1993, then pregnancies led to a minimum of live appearances (Nena has four children) until 1997. Since then, she has been touring (mainly Germany) once or twice a year (remarkably backed predominantly by U.S. musicians in addition to Germans). Throughout the '90s, she was to be seen regularly on German TV (including hosting a variety show series called Metro during 1993). She has stayed true to her unique musical blend of melodic vocals (reminiscent of Connie Francis) paired with a rock style ranging from the variety of the Beatles to the harder sounds of the Rolling Stones or even the Ramones (with the harder rock sound being her preferred style when on tour). Since 1990, she has also additionally made a number of albums specifically for children and done voiceovers or contributed songs to cartoon movies and one cartoon series.

After her ambitious, electronic based album of 2001, Chokmah, failed togarner deserved attention, in 2002 Nena decided to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her breakthrough with an album of new versions of her hits, Nena Feat.Nena. To everyone's surprise, the audience response was sensational, actually replicating the runaway success of 20 years before. The following double album of new material in 2005, Willst Du Mit Mir Gehn, (half of which premiered a heavier rock style) again went platinum, indicating that she had indeed established a strong basis among a new audience.

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