I’ll lean out the window: “Never in Love” will be traded as the “XOXO” of the 2020s in a few years. Yes, there are obvious differences: Casper’s 2011 decade classic was the rapper’s third album and as such was an elaborate, conceptual artistic skinning. Paula Hartmann, on the other hand, has just presented her debut, which is more of a “classic” album in the sense of a collection of songs. At a time when streaming numbers, tiktokability and features are the actual musical currency, that is already a statement. Especially since the LP (yes, “Never in Love” is only available on vinyl and cassette in addition to the stream!) is curated so wonderfully coherently that the ten tracks flow into one another as if from a single source.
It is above all Hartmann’s painful street poetry that is immensely gripping: “Flap as big as a frog / lungs full of smog / I live in the highest tower in a city / built from scrap.” Or: “We’re young, what should happen to us? / Trust you – sky blue spots as a souvenir.” Or: “Give me something for the fear and I’ll believe in it for a moment / for a vodka.” The concise, harsh and yet so deeply sensual language images that the artist releases into the world with her child’s voice somewhere between rough rap and lovely Karg singing, go deep under the skin and convey the attitude to life of Generation Z in all layers free.
That has “XOXO” class: For a long time there was not such good, aptly descriptive and at the same time so open, deep-reaching lyrics in German-language pop: raw, direct, desperate and yet so defiantly hopeful, Paula Hartmann wrested an indisputable right from the dark emptiness around her to a great, naive hunger for life. The record is a permanent ride on the blade of our society; and it is sometimes rust-rotten, sometimes mercilessly ground to scalpel sharpness. In almost every line you will always find new, gripping images – “Never in Love” has everything that an instant classic needs: “Predetermined breaking point heart with a base fracture”.
In addition, the rapper and producer Biztram has tailored a remarkable outfit for the tracks. Spartan and often almost sketchy, this is alive, and here we are again with “XOXO”, from the panopticon of broken mirror shards, which let the interpreter’s roots shimmer as silvery, cracked excerpts and at second glance show an ingenious wealth of detail. Whether it’s cold scratched tomb disco grooves or clap-handed old-school hip-hop, hyper-rave or foggy piano pain – everything has been stripped down to its own sound. And although we are clearly dealing with a “big city record”, “Never in Love” does not need a backdrop: Paula Hartmann shows her pictures! In the end, this leaves the listener completely with and in this record, which constantly digs deeper and deeper. Honestly: I’m in love with shock!!
Our annual charts were put together by the music critics of the “Freie Presse”. You can find all previous placements HERE.