smow Song Contest 2021

After a long, challenging, year the smow Song Contest finds itself exactly where it was: Rotterdam.

Not just the location, but the stage, the decoration, the costumes, even the bier en frieten exactly as they were twelve months ago.

The decisive, defining, difference between the 2020 smow Song Contest and the 2021 smow Song Contest being the new understandings, the new perceptions, the new perspectives, the new vitality, the new passions, the new desires, the new old new, articulated by the contest’s motto: Open Up!

smow song contest 2021

That smow Rotterdam are once again hosting the smow Song Contest is one of the few things in our current age which isn’t and wasn’t decreed by Covid; rather is the logical consequence of smow Rotterdam’s emphatic victory in 2020 smow Song Contest. That smow Rotterdam are once again hosting the smow Song Contest is however particularly satisfying, allowing as it does for reflections on all that has occurred since we last virtually gathered on the banks of the Nieuwe Maas.

While the motto Open Up! allows those same reflections to move upward and onward; much as the Nieuwe Maas having flowed into the North Sea shrugs of the constraints of its confinement and enters an unchartable, inexhaustible realm of unpredictability and discovery, so global society as 2020 flows into 2021, 2022, 2023 and beyond.

But how to translate such into a smow song contest?

After much deliberation the smow Song Contest coordinating committee decided to employ an expanded understanding of “Open Up”, to consider it as opening upwards, rising, and to take the 2021 smow Song Contest to the uppermost open space, the highest natural point, the pinnacle, of the 13 smow towns. Which also has something of the allegorical about it.

That only very few of the highest points feature in music of any sort, the heights of the peaks were taken as the basis for song selection: the respective height in meters* being applied to Chartmasters’ list of the most streamed artists ever on Spotify, and those artists’ uppermost i.e. most streamed, track subsequently nominated to represent the respective smow town. Given the naturally volatility in Chartmasters’ listings the final selection is as of noon on Thursday May 20th 2021.

Open Up! also defining the 2021 smow Song Contest concert: whereas traditionally the smow towns perform alphabetically, the 2021 concert is a moving on up from the lowest highest to the highest highest. Which, yes, is a journey, more or less, from north to south through the ever expanding smow commonwealth.

smow Song Contest 2020 2021 …. Waiting for the livestream to begin…..

smow Song Contest 2020 2021 …. Waiting for the livestream to begin…..

Berlin, Großer Müggelberg, 114.7m: Bob Marley & The Wailers – Three Little Birds

Although both the Arkenberge and the Teufelsberg rise above the Großer Müggelberg, they are man-made and thus the honour of being the highest natural elevation in Berlin is the Großer Müggelberg’s. But only just, the Ahrensfelder Berge being but 20 centimetres shorter. The length of a school ruler. Situated in Treptow-Köpenick on the south-eastern edge of Berlin, the etymology of Großer Müggelberg is unclear; however, amongst the more popular theories are an abstraction of the Indo-Germanic mighla, mist, cloud, or of the Scottish muckle, large, big, great, or that the name is an ironic mocking by those learned in wizardry of those who aren’t, and that the secrets of the Großer Müggelberg are, thus, only accessible to those chosen, wizardly, few. And which also might explain why no matter how often the Ahrensfelder Berge are measured, they never surpass the Großer Müggelberg.

Hamburg, Hasselbrack, 116.2m: NF – Let You Down

Despite being famed for its harbour Hamburg isn’t all wharves and canals, it also has moors, forests and a few elevations, the highest of which, Hasselbrack, is situated in Neugraben-Fischbek, on the southern edge of Hamburg directly on the border to Niedersachsen. And is a peak which you may have difficulty finding. For, on account of the presence in the area of the relatively rare, and exceptionally shy and sensitive, Boreal Owl, the responsible agencies do all they can to discourage too much human activity on the Hasselbrack; consequently, there is not only no managed route to the summit, but no signposts to guide you.

Cologne, Monte Troodelöh, 118.04m: Bebe Rexha – I’m a Mess

While there is on first glance something comforting, yet depressingly, dishearteningly, inevitable, in Cologne’s highest point having a carnival-esque name, Troodelöh sounding like that sort of cry that resounds round marquees at three o’clock in the morning; the name of the highest point in Cologne doesn’t come directly from the highest point of cultural life in Rheinland. Much more Monte Troodelöh is named in honour of Messrs Troost, Dedden and Löhmer, the first men to scale the Monte. In November 1999. That it sounds like that sort of cultured Kölsch cry that resounds round carnival marquees at three o’clock in the morning, being however no coincidence.

Leipzig, Galgenberg, 162.6m: Meghan Trainor – All About That Base

While many may have expected to see Fockeberg at this juncture, that is a man-made elevation; one begun in 1947 as a depository for the rubble of War and continually added to by the building mania of the DDR. And thus a poetic witness to recent history in Leipzig. But a man-made elevation. The highest natural elevation being a witness to more ancient history. Situated near Liebertwolkwitz in the south-east of the city and hard on the geopolitically important border to Markkleeberg, the Galgenberg was not only once the site of executions, hence the name, but during the Völkerschlacht of October 1813 Franz I of Austria, Alexander I of Russia and Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia gathered on the Galgenberg to observe Napoleon begin what would become his retreat. A meeting commemorated on the neighbouring, and 4 metres shorter, Monarchenhügel.

Düsseldorf, Sandberg, 164.7m: Tyler, the Creator – Earfquake

Situated to the west of Düsseldorf the Sandberg, is, as its name implies, a Berg of Sand: sand, deposited by the North Sea in the age when the North Sea reached to Düsseldorf. And where, unless we all make a few major adjustments to our lifestyle and habits, it may will once again reach. May Will return to reclaim its sand. Until it does the denizens of Düsseldorf can continue to take great pride in the fact their highest peak is 46,66 centimetres higher than Cologne’s.

Frankfurt, Berger Warte, 212.4m: Jorge & Mateus – Ranking

Atop the Berger Warte (hill) stands the Berger Warte (lookout tower), a construction strongly reminiscent of the sort which is traditionally home to a young lady with particularly long hair; however, the Berger Warte (lookout twower) has a door and a staircase and so any young Princes wandering the Berger Warte (hill) and being enchanted by virginal singing emanating from the Berger Warte (lookout tower), needn’t employ the young lady’s particularly long hair as a makeshift ladder by which to reach her. Should however still keep a sharp look out for a vindictive old lady.

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Stuttgart, Bopser, 485.5m: George Michael – Careless Whisper

As with Berlin and Leipzig, the highest natural peak in Stuttgart isn’t the highest highest, the Bernhartshöhe and the Birkenkopf are both higher; however, the former is man-made and while the latter is natural to a height of ca. 470 meters, the toppermost 40 metres is War-time rubble. A man-made extension of a much more refined and rational genre stands atop Bopser: the Stuttgart TV Tower, completed in 1956 as the first such TV Tower in Germany and one of the very first towers realised by the civil engineer Fritz Leonhardt, who is, inarguably, one of the more pertinent reminders that without engineers architects are little more than highly-trained drafters, two-dimensional artists who dream of attaining a third.

Chemnitz, Adelsberg, 508.4m: De La Ghetto – Sensacion del Bloque

As every child knows, south of Chemnitz is…… ??? No-one was ever there. Or more accurately no-one has ever come back from the dark forests and foreboding hills one can view from the safety of Chemnitz Adelsberg and its eponymous elevation. Or at least the relative safety of Chemnitz Adelsberg, for the Erzgebirge, as every child knows, is nomadic, is in constant motion, and who knows when it will devour Chemnitz……but one day it will……

Konstanz, Rohnhauser Hof, 570m: Michael Silverman – Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Opened in April 2021 and therefore making their smow Song Contest debut, smow Konstanz is famously based in the so-called Hohes Haus, which at some 25 metres is one of highpoints of Konstanz Altstadt. There’s that allegory again. The topographical highpoint of Konstanz is however to be found in the vicinity of another house, the so-called Rohnhauser Hof, an 18th century Herrenhaus in Dettingen in northern Konstanz built by Franz Anton Bagnato, an architect who through his close association with the Teutonic Order and Prince-bishop Franz Konrad von Rodt was responsible for a great many representative buildings in and around late 18th century Konstanz.

Munich, Warnberg, 580.5m: Vampire Weekend – A-Punk

Rising in Solln on the southern edge of Munich the Warnberg was once crowned by a motte and bailey castle, a relatively rustic fortification, which in the course of time was increasingly refined until in the 17th century the Gutshaus which today stands atop the Warnberg was erected. A Gutshaus that after passing through the hands of numerous Bavarian gentry landed in the late 19th century in the possession of the priest Joseph Weis who established within it a convent and girls’ school. And thus a return of the Warnberg to a religious function it had practised from the 12th until the 18th century and which allows the Warnberg to claim not only the title of the highest elevation but also that of the oldest ecclesiastical domicile in the Bavarian capital.

Kempten, Höhenegg, 915m: Grateful Dead – Friend of the Devil

Situated in Mariaberg in south-western Kempten, and offering views over both Kempten and the Alps, the path to Höhenegg takes you past the so-called Mulzer-Föhre, a solitary Scots Pine – and solitary Scots do – planted in memory of Max Ritter von Mulzer, one of the most successful, i.e. deadliest, German pilots in the Great War: von Mulzer taking down nine opponents in a six month period in 1916. Before in September 1916 he, and as irony in its bitter way decrees, died after crashing during a routine, non-combative, flight.

Schwarzwald, Muckle Macmuckulty, 978.65m: No Doubt – Don’t Speak

Muckle Macmuckulty isn’t the name of the highest point in Villingen-Schwenningen. But, as far as we can ascertain, the highest point in Villingen-Schwenningen doesn’t have a name. We know its height. We (believe we) know where it is, on the western edge of Villingen-Schwenningen near Vöhrenbach. But it’s name? Which is, surely, a local tourist marketing authority competition crying out to be staged. We’re getting the ball rolling with Muckle Macmuckulty, and are already looking forward to our prize of two weeks all-inclusive Schwarzwald holiday next summer.

Freiburg, Schauinsland, 1283.9 m: Nina Simone – Feeeling Good

While one can wander to Freiburg’s highest point, one can also let the Schauinslandbahn take the strain. Opened in 1930 the Schauinslandbahn was the first continuous gondola cable car in the world, and is still the longest of its type in Germany, extending some 3.6 kilometres up, up and ever further up. To a height of 1283,9 metres; thus making Schauinsland the only of the 13 smow elevations to be outwith the 1000 artists listed by Chartmasters, the only one, as it were, to rise above the selection criteria. Having briefly considered disqualifying Freiburg as the easiest solution; more sober, more principled, consideration produced the compromise to employ the difference between the Schauinslandbahn’s lower terminus and its summit terminus, a difference of some 746 metres.

The 2021 smow Song Contest Playlist, and all Radio smow playlists, can be found at the smow Spotify page

* Decimals below 0.5 being rounded down, above 0.5 being rounded up, and of 0.5 rounded to odd. Where the most streamed song was/is a co-production with others we ignored it and selected the highest placed “solo” track.

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