Bongo Girl

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The second of Nena's solo albums, Bongo Girl, has the distinct feeling of a summer holiday album. The contrast in atmosphere to the previous album is striking and again reflects personal events. After the sad loss of their first child in 1989, Nena and her partner, Benedict Freitag, went on to become parents of twins in 1990. During the pregnancy, Nena recorded her first collection of classic German children's songs, Komm Lieber Mai, and the newfound good times obviously inspired the mood for the new album. Written and recorded with a team consisting mostly of good friends of long standing (including Jürgen Dehmel and Rolf Brendel from the Nena band of the '80s, Frank Becking from that band's precursor, the Stripes, and even the twins' father, Benedict Freitag) plus a few new acquaintances, the music turned out distinctly relaxed and upbeat. Stylistically there could be no more doubt as to Nena's "home base" in mid-'70s mainstream pop (although her band had been firmly but rather misleadingly put in the new wave category by the German media in the '80s). This being 1992, however, that was probably perceived as a certain weakness (not being fully in tune with current fashionable trends), compounded by some of the songs straying too far into the realm of worn-out clichés. Although lacking in originality, about 50 percent of the songs (such as "Ich Kann Nich Mehr," "Weit Über Den Ozean," and others) are very pleasingly carried through on Nena's melodic strength and the sense of fun that pervades the album. Added to that is the album's obvious high point, the title track, "Bongo Girl," with its driving mix of African chants and Latin American percussion. The song stands out as atypical, but more importantly also as a dynamic high that one could even gladly imagine being stretched out way beyond its four-minute span. Lyrically, the songs continue in the vein of confident optimism about matters big and small, but the very fact that Nena had managed to retain that spirit through her difficult times in the late '80s is what makes this album specifically poignant. Commercially, however, the album met with a certain continued indifference which led to her record contract not being renewed. Nena reacted to that challenge with resilient indifference of her own, carrying on with her career with scant regard for those who would only think of her in terms of an anticipated comeback to her superstar status of 1983-1984, which she obviously felt was not her top priority.

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