A History Of Umlauts In Pop Music

Lady Gaga didn’t think one video for “Yoü and I” was enough, so she has also created six “fashion films” about each of the vid’s assorted characters. She’s shown us the Nymph and the Bride and, today, she released the third video in the series about her mermaid alter ego, Yüyi. The film, called “Haus of Ü Featuring Yüyi,” shows Gaga as a mermaid writhing in a director’s chair, smoking a cigarette, and being carried out of a trailer. And yes, she has gils. Lots of them.

But what I find most notable about this video: all those umlauts!Lady Gaga has yet to comment on why the song has this vowel treatment, leaving us to conjecture that it’s a nod to Lüc Carl—the musician, bartender and author of The Drunk Diet who is also her ex-boyfriend. The song is thought to be about him, as he hails from Nebraska—the state name she utters over and over again in the song.

But Lady Gaga isn’t the first musician to pay homage to the Germanic dots. Here, a timeline of highlights:

  • 1970. Blue Öyster Cult begins heavy metal’s love affair with the umlaut. Journalist Richard Meltzer says he suggested an umlaut to the band for their name because “metal had a Wagnerian aspect anyway.”
  • 1975. Motörhead forms. Frontman Lemmy Kilmister later fesses up, “I only put it in there to look mean.”
  • 1979. Punk rockers Hüsker Dü name themselves after a German board game.
  • 1981. Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe said in an episode of “Behind The Music” that he was holding a bottle of Löwenbräu beer when he came up with the band name. Clever.
  • 1984. Director Rob Reiner sends up the whole phenomenon with the mockumentary “This Is Spıñal Tap.”
  • 1990. Jam banders Rusted Root adopt a triple umlaut over their ‘e.’
  • 1992. Björk goes solo. We’ll give her a pass since her Icelandic name just happens to be spelled with dots.
  • 1995. Rapper Jay-Z releases his debut album, Reasonable Doubt, as Jaÿ-Z.
  • 1998. Electronic outfit Röyksopp evokes the image of the atomic bomb by playing on the Norwegian word for mushroom top, ‘røyksopp.’ They choose umlauts instead of an ø.

What do you think—do umlauts in band names and song titles amuse you? Or is it played out?

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