Lena Meyer-Landrut has a strange English accent in the song she sang at the European Song Contest, ‘Satellite‘.
As far as I can judge, sometimes the vowels are a failed attempt at estuary English, and sometimes they sound like Yorkshire English ‘Love, I got it bad for you’. There’s nothing wrong with having a mixed accent, but this one seems to vary throughout the song, with the weird ‘ay’ in ‘just the other day’, it irritates me. ‘Can’t go a minute without your love’ is very odd. ‘I even painted my toenails for you’ actually reminds me of the voice of Lauren Luke, who does make-up videos (she’s from South Shields).
Spiegel Online had an article in English by a British writer, Mark Espiner, who totally rubbished Lena’s accent. I thought he went much too far. I was also surprised to see real English on Spiegel Online.
But contrary to the opinions of die hard fans who insist her accent is brilliant, Lena sounds really, really weird. Her attempts to adopt the street language of London — itself a hybrid of US slang, Jamaican argot, and East End vernacular and beloved of British pop stars like Adele and Amy Winehouse, who seem to be Lena’s heroines — end up with her sounding like a Swedish speech therapist imitating Ali G. …
Lena’s isn’t a mockney accent, the affectation of London’s working-class Cockney tone that the likes of Blur’s Damon Albarn were accused of using. Nor is it the full-on “jafakean,” the fake Jamaican accent you often hear on the top decks of North London buses, as the preferred slang of the school kids who like to sound like they’re from the ghetto. Instead, it is a mixture that borrows from the two, then adds a shot of mixed-up European, presumably made up of her native German and what sounds like Scandinavian. In fact, the Scandinavian accent could be a cunning plan to win over the Oslo crowd.
In fact, Espiner seems even more incensed by Lena’s imitation of other singers than by her accent (and he obviously doesn’t like Amy Winehouse).
Now Axel Stefanowitsch has entered the fray at Wissenslogs, with Wir sind Englisch. He rightly says that we need an expert to comment on Espiner’s remarks on London and Jamaican accents (he quotes the German version of Spon).
Stefanowitsch links to Tagesspiegel and Guardian columns by Espiner, in which he reports mainly on theatre. But it seems to me, looking at these articles, that as an Englishman giving his view of Berlin, or writing in the Guardian about Berlin, Espiner is drawn by his job to make generalisations, which I don’t think always work.
Stefanowitsch points out that British English speakers don’t have a right to decide how English is spoken. He thinks Espiner probably regards Oxford English as the only correct form.
This is all correct, but it doesn’t seem likely to me that the kind of weird mixed English Lena sings in Satellite is going to take over the world.
Axel says that his English is a mixture of what he learnt at school in Germany and England, and Lena’s English will be a reflection of her language learning biography:
Ich würde mich ja um eine stimmige Aussprache bemühen, wenn mir ein gutes Vorbild einfallen würde. Aber wie gesagt, Englisch wird weltweit von konservativ geschätzten 700 Millionen Menschen im inneren und äußeren Kreis als Muttersprache oder früh erlernte und alltägliche Zweitsprache gesprochen. Warum sollten Meyer-Landrut, ich, oder andere deutsche Englischsprecher sich also auf eine bestimmte Varietät festlegen? Meine Dialektmischung reflektiert meine Sprachlernbiographie (Schulzeit in Deutschland und England, Studium in Deutschland und Texas), und Meyer-Landruts Dialektmischung wird eben ihre Sprachlernbiographie reflektieren.
But there is an interview with Lena on the Eurovision Song Contest site, and her English accent is not at all mixed there.
LATER NOTE: The Verein Deutscher Sprache thought Lena had no chance at Oslo (quoted by a commenter at Wissenslogs). Walter Krämer says Lena definitely has the talent to win, if only she weren’t singing a song in English that has no connection to Germany and doesn’t invite anyone between Lisbon and Moscow to hum along or dance along (but Schunkeln isn’t really dancing, it’s the arm-in-arm swaying Germans sometimes do in beer tents):
Seit 2002 singen die deutschen Sänger und Sängerinnen meist englisch und schneiden damit deutlich schlechter ab als in den Jahren zuvor, bemerkt der VDS. „Lena Meyer-Landrut hätte wirklich das Talent, den Wettbewerb zu gewinnen“, sagte der Vorsitzende des VDS, Walter Krämer. „Ihr englisches Lied hat aber überhaupt keine Verbindungen zu Deutschland und lädt niemanden zwischen Lissabon und Moskau zum Mitsummen oder Mitschunkeln ein“, kritisierte der VDS-Vorsitzende.