Amerika: The Anthem Against Americanization

Updated: Jul 3

This is the second instalment of a two-part series in which I analyse Rammstein’s music and its political statement. The first part can be found here. Today’s piece focusses on the 2004 song Amerika (America) and Americanization.

"Before Paris Stands Mickey Mouse"

Since the end of the Second World War, the United States of America has been the dominant global power. It can be argued that, from a cultural perspective, the US was the dominant global power long before the Second World War. Either way, they’re running the show today, in all perspectives: Economically, Culturally & Militarily.

…and when you’re #1, everybody wants to take a shot at you.

That’s exactly what Rammstein do in Amerika. Though, they don’t go after the US for anything major - nothing beyond a critique of their dastardly imperialist cultural utopia.

The main thrust of the band’s message, as with any good song, can be found in its chorus (which is sung half in English, half in German, bear with me):

“We’re all living in Amerika,

Amerika ist Wunderbar,

(America is wonderful)

We’re all living in Amerika,

Amerika, Amerika!”

As I’ll go on to explain with further excerpts, the song posits that the nature of the Americanizing cultural machine, we’re all now living in America in some form or another. America’s cultural expansion, aided by globalisation & mass media, has diminished or erased all organic semblance of German culture – indeed, of any culture for that matter.

Till Lindemann, the Rammstein lyricist & vocalist, alludes to American cultural artefacts such as Coca-Cola & Mikey Mouse throughout the song – acerbically declaring his love for them.

Moreover, Lindemann spends the majority of the opening verse likening American international dominance to a dance the other countries must perform:

“Wenn getanzt wird, will ich führen

(When people dance, I want to lead)

Auch wenn ihr euch alleine dreht

(Even if you dance alone)

Lasst euch ein wenig kontrollieren

(Let us control you a little)

Ich zeige euch, wie es richtig geht

(I’ll show you how to do it correctly)

Wir bilden einen lieben Reigen

(We’ll form a lovely Roundel)

Die Freiheit spielt auf allen Geigen

(With freedom playing from all violins)

Musik kommt aus dem Weißen Haus

(The music comes from the White House)

Und vor Paris steht Micky Maus

(And before Paris stands Mickey Mouse)”

Whilst some of the intensity may be lost in translation, the broad critique is still pretty biting. Terms like freedom are so often harped on about by Americans, who seemingly don’t see the irony in their own assumptions.

Rammstein’s Amerika is a fantastic reflection of America and its culture from a people who, whilst ideologically aligned, still see them very differently to how they see themselves.

Moreover, the final line of the verse is, for me, the most impactful. It evokes a rather interesting image; the Americanization of Europe – in a way that, at a glance, is rather benign, some would even argue is enjoyable – but shows that, in the same way that the British replaced native architecture in so many of its colonies, America is doing the same in its ‘cultural colonies’.

Finally, there is one final piece of this song I would like to flag up for discussion. As the song continues, the chorus repeats and extends. As is often found with repeating or extended choruses, the lyricist will add or change a line, so as to keep it fresh. Lindemann, in the final chorus, changes the words slightly:

“We’re all living in Amerika,

Coca-Cola, sometimes war,

We’re all living in Amerika,

Amerika, Amerika!”

It is important to remember the timing of this song; 2004. At this point, the US was three-years deep into the War on Terror, as well as having passed the Patriot Act. The Anglophone-West was gripped by this new form of terrorism while fighting an unwinnable war in the Middle East. This line was perhaps a gesture to the passing of the proverbial torch from the Germans to the Americans, as the stereotypical ‘aggressors’ of the world.

Furthermore, the coupling of Coca-Cola and war in the same sentence serves to highlight the fine line between leisure and violence in American culture. Almost to assert that one can go from sipping a coke, to fighting a war, like that – the transition is just that easy in the American Utopia™.

This two-part series on Rammstein’s music has attempted to uncover and discuss some of the concepts put forward in two of their best-known tracks.

The two are quite obviously political, but I believe that it is important to unpack some of the notions put across in the media we consume.

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