Künstliche Welten

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Künstliche Welten is a particularly fantastic song by German synthpop duo Wolfsheim. The title, translated literally or figuratively, means "Artificial Worlds." This three-and-a-half-minute song was a moderate radio hit in its native Germany, and it spent a number of weeks atop the DAC. As per usual with European synthpop hits, it has been a club favourite in North America since its release in 1999, first as an album track on Spectators, then as a single, released as an MCD with the album version, a radio mix, and an a capella version of the song recorded with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

The song is quickly paced and its lyrics are full of fantasy, or flights of fancy, depending on your interpretation of them. I'm not completely fluent in German, so I implore any native or fluent German speakers to forgive me any grammatical gaffes in my translation, which is to follow as I describe the song's music video in the paragraphs below.

As the video begins, we see a small group of adolescent German boys idly playing an impromptu game of football in a snowswept alley, presumably in the band's native Wilhelmsburg neighbourhood in Hamburg. The view then cuts to the interior of a small apartment, where another young boy is watching television as his mother irons clothing nearby. The boy is playing with a small toy truck and on the television, we see Peter Heppner (vocals) and Markus Reinhardt (programming), riding in the cab of a lifesized version of the boy's toy truck, driving through various areas of Hamburg. Throughout the whole of the video, everything is in black and white except for scenes in which Peter and Markus appear, or in which the boy's point of view is used.

"Schau nicht so viel Fernsehen. Du machst dir noch die Augen kaputt," the boy's mother admonishes. Nevertheless, he smiles brightly as he watches.

The camera view zooms in on the TV and we now see Peter and Markus in full view, inside the cab of the truck. Peter begins singing.

Check the pipelinks for the lyrical translation.

Ich komm' zu dir
Halt' deine Hand
Wir gehen gemeinsam durch dies wunderbare Land
Das ich für dich erfand
Mit mathematischen Verstand

Ein Wunder hier
Ein Traum gleich dort
Grad' noch hier und doch schon fort
Ich zeige dir mein Angesicht
Doch du siehst mich nicht

The boy, delighted, dons his anorak and stocking cap, and sprints out of his apartment. He catches up to the truck carrying Peter and Markus and climbs up into the back. He settles in and looks back around, smilingly passing by factories, a hospital, burned-out buildings, other cars, poor people smoking cigarettes, a wedding, and a very pretty fräu driving a red convertible. She shiningly smiles back at him. Peter and Markus are sometimes walking around the scenes the truck passes, in between cuts of Peter wistfully singing in the truck's cab.

Ich weiß genau was dir gefällt
Ich schaff' dir eine neue Zauberwelt
In der kein Regen fällt
In der nur deine Wahrheit zählt

Ich zeig dir Berge
Zeig dir Seen
Hier brauchst du alles nur mit meinen Augen sehen
Und nicht zu verstehen
Keine Angst du kannst ruhig mit mir gehen

The sky darkens as night falls, and now the truck carries the boy past a car accident and eventually arrives at a border crossing. The patrolman stops the truck and dutifully inspects it. Shining his flashlight into the truckbed, he finds the boy, and demands to know what he's doing there.

In ein großes All
Ganz für dich allein
Hier kannst du endlich mal du selber sein
Im Neon-Sonnenschein
Fang ich dir deine Wünsche kein

The boy looks into the patrolman's eyes imploringly, and suddenly he's back in his apartment, being shaken awake by his mother. "Wach auf! Wach auf! Geh' jetzt ins Bett," she says.

The song seems to be about the power of imagination, and the value of dreams. Perhaps it's a gentle reminder not to ignore our dreams, or maybe it's a perceived notion on the importance of sleep, because it's the only place where we're allowed to live out our dreams. Whatever your take on the song, Künstliche Welten is an extremely pretty pop song, with a video that is a complement to the lyrics. When I first heard this song in 2000, I didn't know a word of German (and I'm still not at all proficient with it), but this song is so catchy and infectious that I was able to sing along to the all-German lyrics after a few weeks of listening to it all the time. German, normally considered a "vulgar" language, is actually made pretty by this song. Wolfsheim's few other songs sung entirely in German (Kein Zurück, Auf Ein Wort, and Kissing The Wall, among others) also seem to make the language sound more romantic than it's usually perceived as, which makes it an excellent choice as a starter's foray into European (particularly German) synthpop.

Node the song, not the lyrics. Inspired in part by sam512's The Scientist.


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