After dismal performances in recent years at the Eurovision song contest, Germany's steering clear of its kitsch pop crooners this year and instead teaming up with music channel VIVA to find a cooler act.
Among the competition on Friday: Berlin-based electropunk band Mia.
Eurovision, the popular annual Europe-wide music event, has become something of a national embarrassment for Germany in recent years. Not only has the country come away empty handed from the competition for the past 22 years, but the quality of its kitschy pop-singing candidates too has been in steady decline.
Last year marked an all-time low with shock-haired, Botox-injected Lou Hoffner (photo) coming in an agonizing 13th at the finals in Latvia with her clap-your-hands ditty "Let's Get Happy" penned by none other than German veteran producer and Eurovision perennial Ralph Siegel (he has written songs for 15 German Eurovision candidates since 1976--with only one lucky hit).
Thumbs down for "Schlagermusik"
But things will be different, and many hope better, this year.
As the contest to shortlist a German entry for this year's Eurovision in Istanbul looms, the country's competition organizers have decided to depart from decades of German "Schlagermusik," the sentimental, hand-swaying music often produced by Siegel and often performed one-time Eurovision crooner Michelle, and bring in some new blood instead.
In a first, public broadcaster ARD has joined forces with the music television channel VIVA to search for slick young acts to fight it out at the preliminaries, which will be broadcast live on Friday.
Eurovision organizer Jürgen Meier-Beer has stressed that the German Eurovision bid needed an image makeover.
"We have to win back young spectators who we lost in the last preliminary contest. After all, it's the younger generation that determines international music trends," he said.
Embracing a market-friendly policy
The tie-up with VIVA has also changed the way Germany sends candidates to its Eurovision selection round.
Where once closed-door juries in the all-powerful music industry sent their favorites to the preliminaries, now it's young music fans themselves who decide through their CD purchases which groups get to the selection.
The idea is that record labels send videos of their artists to VIVA. The channel then broadcasts the clips on a special weekly TV program called "Euroclash," giving the artists exposure. Those who make it highest on the German charts go to the preliminaries.
The new market-friendly concept has already ensured that "Schlagermusik" fare is out of the running. Instead the finalist group features prominent artists and runs the gamut from techno, house, soul and electro pop.
German rapper Sabrina Setlur
Techno group Scooter, Berlin-based Electropunk band Mia, Mannheim-born half-Iraqi pop singer Laith Al-Deen, rapper Sabrina Setlur (photo), house and techno DJ Westbam and Afrika Islam with his trademark techno à la hip hop style are among the 12 acts that will fight it out for a chance to represent Germany in Istanbul in May.