The album title sure makes you wonder: Made in Germany? That could stand for all kinds of concepts or angles. (By the way, unlike half of the preceding Cover Me album, this one is not sung in English but, as usual, in German!) Nothing too intellectual or conceptual at all, in fact, the title track just intends to be a feel-good statement about where you come from and where you feel at home, in Nena's case, of course, Germany. End of story. (The sound? By turns romantic, dark, forceful, comparable in atmosphere to "Atomic" by Blondie.) Actually, though, it's no mean feat to write a catchy, unproblematic, feel-good song about a country that's been dissected by countless (and justified) highbrow ponderings concerning its role in history. Nena pulls it off, though, and puts it in the midst of an album that sees her return to simple pleasures all around, which is what these songs are basically all about. Euphoria is the main theme throughout. It zaps right in with the powerful "SchönSchönSchön," bouncing along on the "Green Onions" groove with some synth stabs and some Duane Eddy guitar for good measure. Nena's voice comes on full and strong (as throughout this album), singing about the pleasures of "you and me" and, basically, the thrill of it all, plain and simple. It doesn't stop there; most of the first half of the album continues on that theme, but other subjects also start creeping in, and in the second half the mood shifts from happy-go-lucky to somber and philosophical (all the while keeping things light and lucid, nevertheless). The simplicity is the big surprise here, after a rather ambitious decade of branching out into realms of music she hadn't attempted before, Nena obviously felt more like going into holiday mode this time. A bit of a "spiritual holiday," one could call it, though, because the lyrics are laced with all kinds of references to "what it all might mean" (love, time, life, separation, togetherness, joy, pain) but the language stays simple, often even a bit childlike.
Nena is, of course, no stranger to children's songs. This album was made after the children's album Himmel, Sonne, Regen und Wind. With hindsight, that album was remarkable for the exquisite care that obviously went into the (very natural) quality of the sound. All the more puzzling is the general tendency of the production on Made in Germany, which generally has a slightly synthetic feel to it. It's not an ideal fit for all the songs (except for a few in the first half that lamentably tend toward a kind of '80s nostalgia sound, quite untypical of Nena's usual style spectrum, and not the strongest material here). Moreover, Nena's touring band is strangely not the main "sound carrier" here -- many of the instruments were played by Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen, Derek von Krogh, and Reinhold Heil (all of them professional keyboarders), who, together with Nena, also produced the album (and co-wrote most of it). So, maybe a case of too many cooks (of the same kind?). That said, it's still an enjoyable album with a number of highlights and stylistic flavors. Apart from the opener and the title track (as described), first single "Wir Sind Wahr" (We're for Real) is a very welcoming, grand, and elegantly beautiful song, a poetic highlight of the euphoric strand of the album. "Ich Bin Hyperaktiv" (I'm Hyperactive) speed rocks its way forward to debunk the concept of the "hyperactive child" being a medical condition in need of treatment. "In Meinem Leben" (In My Life) provides a touching glimpse of autobiographical thoughts on Nena's life so far. "Schmerzen" (Pain) has a meditative, Indian undercurrent to it; "Ganz Viel Zeit" (Lots of Time), with Nena's 19-year-old son Sakias on (laid-back and soulful) lead vocals for the first time, continues the album's gradual elegant "comedown" vibe in the last quarter. This leads into the final "Nachts Wenn Es Warm Ist" (At Night When It's Warm), a Thommie Bayer song reflecting on the feelings of separation and reunion that people experience at railway stations. An unexpectedly simple, straight-ahead album, both lighthearted and thoughtful in equal measure.