With her ninth solo album, the singer is refreshingly unpredictable even at the age of 67
It gurgles, rubs, roars, scratches. Nina Hagen is back. After eleven years, the once self-proclaimed godmother of punk has recorded a new album. “Unity” is yet another proof of the singer’s range. Whether harder tones, calm pop, excellent funk or lulling ballads – the 67-year-old has put together eleven songs that are a mix that is well worth listening to. The artist’s ninth solo album will be released on Friday (9 December).
“The album is the fulfillment of a dream,” says Hagen in an interview with the German Press Agency in Berlin. “During the time of Corona, my circus horse-like performances could no longer take place. There were no more live concerts, but the production of the album continued diligently. More patience was required at the time. Patience was the yoga exercise of the hour.”
The Bible and Jesus as constant companions
By her own admission, she has never asked herself the question of the audible influence of different styles of music. “Each song gets what it would like, what it needs, or what we think it might need.” The album was produced by Warner Poland, who has been bandleader and guitarist von Hagen for decades. “We wrote several songs together and had sessions.” This resulted in a large collection of recordings and samples.
The Bible and Jesus are her constant companions, both on the album and in conversation. As a Christian, she believes in love above all else. “Love cannot be killed. We should take advantage of that,” says Hagen.
With “Shadrack” she also resorts to biblical material with the opener of the album. Add to that a slightly spherical intro, a couple of slapped cymbals, a cool funk run and Hagen’s seemingly endlessly deep voice takes over the narration.
Spread over the songs, Hagen’s voice spans octaves between creaking lows and cackling highs with its own coloratura competence. She still uses everything that justifies the term sound.
There’s a lot about solidarity and togetherness on the album. In “United Women Of The World” Hagen sings about female power and strength. The title song “Unity”, created with the help of US funk specialist Georg Clinton, is a support for the Black Lives Matter movement. “The events affected the whole world and I was deeply affected by the spirit that seems to prevail in America, namely aggression, murder and manslaughter, injustice and inhumanity. That’s why I’m particularly happy that a lot of great people took part on the album.”
She is digging through old stocks for the “Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty”. The text is a collage of a speech by Hagen on disarmament. “It’s our tongue, which never gets cold, that advocates the absolute abolition of all nuclear weapons. That’s the only way. You have to keep propagating that,” she says.
Criticism of capitalism and plenty of borrowing from colleagues
Pop rhythms with a spherical voice accompany her criticism of capitalism in “Money, Money, Money”: “Big cities stink / billboards flash”. Hagen describes the depths of togetherness (“relationship boxes always break”) in the chorus of “Gib Mir Deine Liebe”. With the rocking “Venus Flytrap” she takes you on a weird tour through space.
For the album, Hagen has again used a lot of material from other artists. “16 tons” and “Redemption Day” are included. There is also a German version of Bob Dylan’s classic “Blowin in the Wind”. “I’ve been making covers for as long as I can remember,” says Hagen. Humanity needs songs to sing together. “We need it as a society that we don’t just have to endure these casting shows.”
She hopes “that in the whole musical bouquet of flowers on offer on the album there will be songs that everyone already knows and you can blare along.” The bouquet has become a weird mixture, crazy like Nina Hagen herself. “I just tried to get something nice together with the help of all my real good friends.”