Rammstein Interpreted: Frühling in Paris
We've all wanted to fall in love in Paris. Walk the streets, perhaps with an umbrella to shield us from a drizzle that bleeds like our love.
Ok, bleeding – that's starting to get into Rammstein territory. Rammstein does not record the traditional romantic ballad, the type that gets played at weddings. They sing about sometimes unspeakable obsessions such as… well, let's just say burying a beloved under stone is one of the more speakable.
A song that provides one of the closest renditions of a ballad is the narrative "Frühling in Paris," or "Spring in Paris." From the 2009 "Liebe ist für alle da" recording, "Frühling in Paris" song takes a look at a young man's first experience with love – or lust, as the case may be. This is Rammstein, after all.
All lyrics © Rammstein
Once upon a time…
She came to him "in a dress made of light." This young, awkward boy was nervous, but he never regretted their liaison. The theme of "no regrets" is so strong in the song that Till Lindemann sings about it in two languages: "Je ne regrette rien," from Edith Piaf's song of the same name, and "Ich hab es nie bereut," the German equivalent.
The springtime lovers are separated only by language. The narrator states, "It was only her language I didn't understand." What's to misunderstand with love? Or lust?
This young man didn't know his own body because he was "too shy to look at it." I picture an awkward boy, nothing like the rock star Till Lindemann. Maybe someone like Christian "Flake" Lorenz, the keyboardist who seemed to grow into his own body for about a week in 1997 before becoming skinny and gawky again.
Not all is right with this couple. Their dysfunction stretches beyond the mere fact of the boy's awkwardness. The narrator states vehemently that he regrets nothing. Yet what could there be to regret?
The second verse suggests a possible reason for regret. Lindemann sings, "Die Lippen oft verkauft, doch weich," translated as, "The lips [are] often sold, but still soft." It appears this is not a story just of young love after all – nor of simple lust. Either the young man is paying money for his first encounter, or he's fallen for a lady who normally takes payment. Indeed he states that he begins to freeze when he leaves her lips. Perhaps he is so smitten that no one will do after the Parisian woman. Or maybe all women pale in comparison to a Parisian courtesan.
Mein Herz Brennt
My Heart Burns
Wo Bist Du?
Where Are You?
Stirb Nicht von Mir
Don't Die Before I Do
Frühling in Paris
Spring in Paris
Liebe ist für alle da
Liebe ist für alle da
The abnormality of the couple's exchange extends beyond the fact that she is likely a courtesan. They argue, vehemently it seems. The narrator admits that she flung barbed words into his face, but with a "tongue bristled with lust." Does this suggest this shy, awkward young man has angry sex with a courtesan? This is Rammstein, so such a convoluted situation is far more likely than any romantic notion of falling in love under the cherry blossoms in Paris.
Right after the scene in which she shouts words bristling with lust at him, he states it's only the language he doesn't understand. Apparently angry words, even in French, are discernible. Yet he states, "I didn't regret it." Did something beyond an argument and potential angry sex happen?
The crux of the entire song is the chorus. Till Lindemann shows off his skill with languages here. He quotes the old Edith Piaf song, singing in French first that there's nothing, then that he regrets nothing.
He states first, though, "No, there's nothing at all." The question is left in the air as to whether nothing exists or if this is simply the first half of the phrase that comes directly after, "No, I regret nothing." True this opacity of meaning comes from the original song. However, Rammstein is known for their word play. In their most famous song, "Du Hast," Till Lindemann starts singing what deliberately sounds like "Du hasst," "you hate" rather than the "You have…" which later gets finished, "You have asked me." I repeat, his emphasis of the long "s" that changes the meaning of the song is intentional.
Relevant to "Frühling in Paris," the fatality in the first phrasing, "No, there's nothing at all" seems deliberate considering he says he began to freeze when he left her lips. Indeed, directly after he states that when he left her skin "Spring bleeds in Paris." This is another premeditated play on words. "Spring bleeds," "Der Frühling blutet-" and the traditional "Spring blooms," "Der Frühling blühte" are very similar.
More than just wordplay is happening in the song, though. What does the narrator mean with "spring bleeds in Paris?" Who is bleeding? There is blood with virginal women, but not virginal men. Or does a city covered in pink and red blossoms look like it's bleeding to a disappointed young man?
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The song ends on a melancholy note. A whisper in the narrator's lap, introducing a subtle sound. Does she ask him not to hurt her, perhaps? Or not to abandon her? For he does. At the very end of the song he "leaves her skin," and spring bleeds in Paris.
In the end, there is some doubt as to what happens to the woman. Though she still shouts at him, her words are no longer bristling with lust. Instead, she "bows low." Is she hurt? Or is she resigning herself to the fact that he is leaving?
Going back to how the narrator describes himself, as "shy" and "awkward," it is possible these are all tortured imaginings. Maybe as his first carnal experience he pays a courtesan, and he makes up all the drama to give the exchange some meaning. The only satisfaction he ever expresses comes just before the final chorus. He states, "Speaking a lot and saying nothing – and it felt good." It was only her language he doesn't understand, so maybe he understands to her the exchange means nothing. But for that brief moment, he is satisfied. He will regret nothing.
Though Rammstein recorded is an exciting, inspiring blend of sounds, the best way to experience Rammstein is live. They put on a choreographed, energetic show full of all the bells and whistles – literally fireworks and sirens.
Rammstein only performed "Frühling in Paris" live during the Liebe ist für alle da tour. The song came sixth in their set, after a dark dungeon-inspired number and before their SMBD hit.
For all the fact of their industrial monstrosity of a stage, the song starts intimately, with a single light bulb illuminating Till Lindemann and bassist Oliver Riedel accompanying him on acoustic guitar. Lindemann's voice is deep, showing the smooth texture that has actually developed more as he's aged. Granted his movements can be jerky – and are often campy – but you are entranced by the dichotomy of a band that just exploded baby dolls now creating a secret café on stage.
The lyrics on my tattoo are, "Frühling blutet in," meaning "spring bleeds," and "Je ne regretted rien," or "I regret nothing." I interpret the first phrase as "Youth is painful." Put together with the second phrase, it means to me that youth is a rite of passage, sometimes painful -- and the passing of youth is painful -- yet I regret nothing of my choices.
The melody draws the audience, staying mellow through the first chorus. In French-speaking countries he allows the audience to sing "Oh non, rien de rien;" Lindemann, though, is not one to force the audience to take over his job, so his voice returns by the second line.
In the second verse, as the song is beginning to build its conflict, the anticipation also builds up. The lights come up, and Lindemann sings with more energy. The electrifying moment comes with the beginning of the second chorus: an explosion goes off and a massive curtain plummets to the ground, revealing the entirety of Rammstein's stage. The entire band kicks in, and Lindemann's voice reaches its pinnacle, that vibrant timbre with a melancholy back melody.
The band doesn't seem to take the song so seriously after that; when I saw them at the Main Square Festival in Arras, France, Lindemann executes a silly little ballerina twirl while Flake is plucking out music box notes on his keyboards. By the end of the song, Rammstein's trademark pyrotechnics have fired up, literally.
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None of this detracts from the powerful dichotomy of the song: the gentle beginning evident even in the studio version of the song that builds to an exciting high point halfway through – an energy the song sustains. This polarization is evident in the narrative as well, though not as polarized as in the sound and performance: the idea of finding first love in Paris is romantic unless she's a courtesan but they understand each other anyway but why does she shout…
Rammstein is poetry set to a symphony with an exploding stage and moments of pure camp. I became a fan a decade-and-a-half ago after seeing them live, because the entirety of their multi-faceted nature comes through on stage. Fitting it was because of the live performance that I fell in love with such a polarized song.
Because this band and extremes in general have been such a part of my adulthood, I decided to design a painterly-style tattoo and have my allegiance declared. Will I still be rocking to Rammstein when I'm 80 and my skin is no longer so firm. I hope so. And if not, they'll still be the band of my youth, that I followed around Europe and the U.S. "Ich hab' es nie bereut," I've regretted nothing.
Rammstein in Paris performing "Frühling in Paris"
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