Helene vs. Udo – Love vs. Life

Is it really like that? Do German Schlager songs really cover a smaller thematic variety than other musical genres? We highlight the diversity of lyrics with the help of artificial intelligence using an example.

A beautiful saturday evening: with a glass of wine, the sun shining and the German Schlager classic “Griechischer Wein” (Greek Wine) by Udo Jürgens, one of the German artists of the last 100 years, sounding from somewhere in the neighborhood – I am enjoying the evening sitting in the garden with my daughter and my wife. We are talking about this and that – suddenly a beep – 6 p.m.: the news. After politics, football, Corona and so on, the presenter ends the news block and leads on to the current hit of one of Germany’s most successful artists, Helene Fischer.

The song starts and an idea pops up in my head. Whoever knows me also knows exactly that I can’t hold thoughts to myself for too long and that I have to act upon them. No sooner said than done, the wine is replaced by my laptop and I fire up semantha’s web interface.

A stereotype in German music is this:

“In German Schlager, the lyrics are always about the same thing. One song is like the other… ” 

This is a hypothesis that I would like to examine today.

Here’s what I’ll do: On the one hand, I compare the semantic similarity of the lyrics by Helene Fischer, who is probably one of the most popular artists in the field of modern pop these days. On the other hand, I compare the semantic similarity of the lyrics by Udo Jürgens, who is generally referred to as a singer-songwriter. 

My goal is to create a clear example of how semantha can be used as a semantic platform. 

Info: semantics is the meaning of a word, sentence or a whole text regardless of the words used. Our software semantha® understands just that. She is able to compare many text documents on the level of meaning or to find similar content in very little time.

So, let’s go! I will compare the lyrics song by song, semantha shows the results in a matrix. Lyrics with highly similar content are shown in a green field. Lyrics with great semantical differences result in a red field and everything in between is yellow or orange.

For example, the songs “Keine war so wie du” (There’s Nobody Like You) and “Der Teufel hat den Schnaps gemacht” (The Devil Distilled the Booze) are rather dissimilar and result in a red field (something the titles already suggested). “Keine war so wie du” and “Gestern war es noch Liebe” (Yesterday, it Has Been Love) show more similarity in their meaning and thus result in a green field – they are both obviously about love. 

When comparing all of Udo’s lyrics with each other, the result is a colorful picture with all possible colors between red, green, orange and yellow.

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Fig. 1: The results matrix for the lyrics by Udo Jürgens: a pretty diverse selection of documents.

Now I’m really excited! If the stereotype is correct that German Schlager – and in this particular case Helene’s songs – are always about similar topics, more green fields should appear than with Udo Jürgens before.

Now I upload Helene’s lyrics in semantha as a PDF and let her compare them. While our AI does the math for a moment, I am waiting eagerly for the image that will appear in front of me. And there it is! I am speechless! A huge green spot forms in front of me! In between a few red outliers, but most of it is green. I did not expect it to be this obvious!

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Fig. 2: The results matrix for the lyrics by Helene Fischer: semantha identifies the topics as very similar.

I can clearly confirm the thesis based on this small experiment: According to semantha songs by Helene are far more similar to one another in terms of their content than those by Udo.

Dear Helene, I hope you are not offended by semantha‘s assessment. I think your fans are very happy that your songs are just the way they are.

helene, helene fischer, lyrics, semantic similarity, semantics, singer, songwriter, udo jürgens

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