Sandra Lauer started her musical career in 1979 as the lead singer for German disco trio Arabesque. Although the group achieved great success in Japan and Russia, substantial success at home alluded them. After the group broke up, Sandra began a solo career with her boyfriend, Michael Cretu, producing. They used the singing and writing talents of Hubert Kemmler, who recorded under the name Hubert Kah, with most of her material including a call-and-response between Sandra and Kemmler
“(I’ll Never Be) Maria Magdalena” or “Maria Magdalena” was released in March of 1985. The song topped the charts in Germany and 20 other countries and the top ten in five other countries. At the time, Sandra outsold Madonna and was nicknamed the “Pop Princess.” Sandra went on to release 18 Top 20 hits between 1985 and 1992.
The song was remixed in a techno style in 1993 to promote her second compilation, 18 Greatest Hits, and again in 1999 to market her remix/ballad collection, My Favourites.
Sandra and Cretu married in 1988 and eventually embarked on a musical collaboration that was quite different from Sandra’s solo synth-pop. In late 1990, Enigma released “Sadeness [Part I],” which included Sandra’s breathy vocals mixed with Gregorian chants. The song is spoken and sung in French and Latin, basically asking the Marquis de Sade to explain his sexual desires. At the time, it was a far cry from Wilson Phillips.
(I’ll Never Be) Maria Magdalena 4’00
Party Games [Instrumental] 3’21
(I’ll Never Be) Maria Magdalena [Extended Mix] 7’12
(I’ll Never Be) Maria Magdalena ’93 [Radio Edit] 3’58
(I’ll Never Be) Maria Magdalena ’93 [Club Mix] 6’01
(I’ll Never Be) Maria Magdalena ’99 [Original Version] 3’58
(I’ll Never Be) Maria Magdalena ’99 [Remix Version] 3’59
The music video features Sandra singing in front of her backing band. She sways, she closes her eyes, she flicks her ponytail around. Above all else, she looks beautiful. The guitar player is actually lip-syncing to Hubert Kah’s vocals.
Like most Americans, I had never heard of Sandra, even though she was as big as Madonna–or even bigger, in some parts of the world. My first recollection of Sandra is her American and British compilation, Everlasting Love. Her cover of Robert Knight’s “Everlasting Love” had already been a hit in German and Europe, but was remixed by PWL Studios (famous for Dead or Alive, Hazel Dean, Divine, Bananarama, Mel & Kim, etc.). I actually picked up a used copy of the album while browsing through Half Price Books in Fort Worth. My interest was piqued when I read that Hubert Kah–whom I was familiar with for his single “Angel 07″ from 1986–sang backup vocals on the album, and since I remembered the PWL remix of “Everlasting Love,” I decided to take a chance on it.
“(I’ll Never Be) Maria Magdalena” has that German synth-pop sound that I like so much: brash, precise, and mathematical. I remember being surprised that Sandra had such a high-pitched voice, but her songs always had some lyrical bit that would pull me in, such as:
Why must I lie
When will you wake up and realize
I can’t surrender to you
Play for affection and
Win the prize
I know those party games too
Over the next few years, I collected most of her albums, but her music matured after the release of the first few Enigma albums, shifting from synth-pop to a more mellow sound.