Music Video of the Day: 99 Luftballons by Nena (2002, dir. Marcus Sternberg)

I guess I should bring Nena forward from 1984 to 2002 first.

While often considered to be a one-hit wonder, they did have some success with a few other songs in German. However, you know how these things always go. One minute you are on top of the world, then your lead singer is caught with their underarms unshaven, the follow-up songs/albums don’t do well, and ultimately internal differences cause the band to come to an end.

I’m not kidding about the shaving bit. Apparently it was big news when Nena toured the UK in 1984 that her armpits weren’t shaved. A woman from continental Europe without shaved armpits is totally unheard of said no one except of course by British red-top press at the time. In response, she shaved them, and has kept them shaved ever since. She even brought it up in her mémoires when she said, “Can a girl from Hagen, who dreams of the big wide world and is in love with Mick Jagger, have no idea that girls can’t under any circumstances have hair under the arm? Yes she can. I simply had no idea!” I can’t wait to see the nonsense people wrote after watching Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus. Taking one look at that, and thinking that it generated so much buzz makes me see an animated GIF in my head of Cyndi Lauper face-palming with a poster of Wendy O. Williams of The Plasmatics behind her and holding a picture of Dale Bozzio of Missing Persons. The music video even references this armpit thing around three minutes and twenty-three seconds by giving us a clear shot of her shaved armpits.

Nena is one of those bands like Alice Cooper where people tend to think that they are seeing a solo artist when in fact the lead singer just happens to share the same name as the band. Nena the band disbanded in 1987. Nena herself went on to a solo career, but it didn’t quite come together till 2002 when an album was released to celebrate a 20th anniversary (I’m not sure what the starting date is here). That explains the existence of this music video. The album that was released was comprised of newly arranged versions of her hits from the 1980s. That brings us to 2002.

The first thing you’ll notice about this song is that it is the German version, not the English one. You’ll also notice that it is more like something you would expect from Sheryl Crow, Shania Twain, or another female pop-singer of the era. I certainly get making it sound nostalgic, but updating the sound kind of bothers me. It just doesn’t sound right to my ears.

I get pairing it with images that start empty and melancholy, then progressively get more empowering from the middle finger bit onwards. I am not sure what the deal is with the colors other than that they act as a reference to the multi-colored balloons and smoke from the original music video. If you are familiar with her songs, then you’ll notice she is walking by their titles that are on the boardwalk railing. You’ll also notice that the last song is 99 Luftballons followed by the name Nena. It’s a nice touch that I certainly missed the first time around. I was too distracted by the merry-go-round at the beginning that made me think of the cover of Dave Matthews Band’s album Under The Table And Dreaming and the black guy who is doing the Limp Bizkit Rollin’ thing with his arms. I guess since Nena is still around today it is appropriate since she has kept Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’.

Director Marcus Sternberg appears to have been doing music videos since the mid-90s. They seem to be mostly with European bands–probably German ones.


99 Luftballons versions:

1. 99 Luftballons by Nena (1984, dir. Bert van der Veer)
2. 99 Red Balloons by Nena (1984, dir. Bert van der Veer)

One response to “Music Video of the Day: 99 Luftballons by Nena (2002, dir. Marcus Sternberg)

  1. Pingback: Music Video of the Day: 99 Luftballons by Nena (2009, dir. Philippe Rouget) | Through the Shattered Lens

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