Sandra Ann Lauer, commonly known under her stage name Sandra (German pronunciation: [ˈzandʁa]; born 18 May 1962) is a German pop singer, who enjoyed a mainstream popularity in the 1980s and early 1990s with a string of European hit singles, produced by her then-husband and musical partner, Michael Cretu, most notably "(I'll Never Be) Maria Magdalena" (1985), "In the Heat of the Night" (1985), "Everlasting Love" (1987), "Secret Land" (1988), "Hiroshima" (1990) and "Don't Be Aggressive" (1992). Her albums Into a Secret Land (1988) and Close to Seven (1992) have won Sandra a high critical acclaim.
Prior to embarking on a solo career, Sandra was the lead singer of an all-female disco trio Arabesque, which had a massive following in Japan and Russia. Also, between 1990 and 2001, she provided vocals on album releases of the very successful group Enigma, which had top 10 hits in North America and United Kingdom. A cult star with a devoted fan base, Sandra remains one of the most popular singers of the 1980s in Continental Europe. During the height of her popularity, she even managed to outsell Madonna in a number of countries around the world. With sales in excess of 30 million records worldwide, Sandra has established her position as the most successful German pop female vocalist.
1962–1984: Early life and Arabesque
Sandra Ann Lauer was born in the German town of Saarbrücken, close to the French border. Her father, Robert, who owned a wine store in Saarbrücken, is French and her mother, Karin, who worked in a shoe store, is German. She also had an older brother, Gaston, a paraplegic who died in 1995. Sandra showed an early interest in music and dancing, starting to learn classical ballet at the age of 5, which she would continue for ten years, and receiving guitar lessons when she was 10 years old. In 1975, at the age of thirteen, Sandra went with her mother to see Young Star Festival, a Saarbrücken talent competition. She was only a member of the audience, but when all participants had finished performing and the jury was discussing the results, Sandra walked onto the stage, persuaded the DJ to put on the German version of a song made famous by Olivia Newton-John and started singing. The impromptu performance gained considerable recognition and led to the release of her first single, which was a children's song about a pet dog, "Andy mein Freund". The single, however, performed poorly on charts at that time dominated by disco mania.
In 1979, now seventeen, Sandra joined Arabesque, a disco group consisting of Michaela Rose and Jasmine Vetter, and would become the band's lead singer. At that time Sandra met a keyboardist named Michael Cretu. They found that they share the same birthday, albeit five years apart, and became good friends. Arabesque became successful with their cheerful music and flamboyant, sometimes daring costumes, winning a massive following in Japan and scoring a top 10 hit in Germany in 1981 with "Marigot Bay". After nine albums, emerging differences in musical interests of group members and decreasing popularity of disco music signaled the group's break-up. Sandra and Michael Cretu, at that point already romantically involved, moved to Munich, where Michael created his own studio, Data-Alpha, named after a song from his solo album Legionäre. Their first single together was 1984's "Japan ist weit", a German cover of the Alphaville song "Big in Japan". However, the song failed to enter any charts and only 125 copies of the single were sold.
1985–1992: Peak of international career
Sandra won international success in 1985 with a song "(I'll Never Be) Maria Magdalena", which topped the charts in 21 countries worldwide and reached top 10 in further five. Her first album, The Long Play (1985), reached number 12 in her home country of Germany and was a top 10 success in Scandinavia. The follow-up single, "In the Heat of the Night", continued her international success, reaching number two in Germany and top 10 positions in many European countries. The song also earned Sandra second place at the Tokyo Music Festival in 1986. "Little Girl" became the third single from the album in 1986, with the music video filmed in Venice, but met with moderate success. Shortly after the release of The Long Play, Sandra moved to London for six months, where she worked with singing instructor Helena Shelen and took drumming lessons to practice her timing. She also joined a language school, where she worked on her English skills, while she spent weekends in Munich recording new songs.
Sandra's second studio album, Mirrors, was released in October 1986, with "Innocent Love" chosen as the first single, followed by "Hi! Hi! Hi!". Both songs were synthpop up-tempo offerings and met with considerable charts success in Europe. Two further singles from the album, ballad "Loreen" and another danceable song "Midnight Man" met only with moderate success. In 1987, Sandra released a cover version of "Everlasting Love", which had been her favourite song since childhood, to a great international success. The single was a top 10 hit in German-speaking countries and charted within top 20 internationally. The song was included on Sandra's first retrospective album, Ten on One (The Singles), which met with success and spawned another top 10 single, "Stop for a Minute".
Sandra and Michael married in January 1988 and relocated from Munich to the Spanish island Ibiza to work on what would be Sandra's third studio album. Into a Secret Land moved from electro-pop to more sophisticated areas of pop, what was showcased by the first single, "Heaven Can Wait", a top 20 European hit. Second single, "Secret Land", met with even greater success and is now considered one of Sandra's biggest hits while "We'll Be Together", released as the third single to a big success, was the first song co-written by Sandra. In order to promote Sandra's music in Anglosphere, another compilation was released at the end of 1988, Everlasting Love. The album failed to enter charts, but included a PWL remix of the title track which charted at number 45 in the UK. 1989 saw the release of the final single from Into a Secret Land, "Around My Heart", which became another chart hit, while at that point the album itself was her best-selling offering. With animal rights and nature conservation high on her personal agenda, Sandra took part in recording a song "Yes We Can" together with 15 other musicians as a part of the project Artists United for Nature.
Sandra's fourth album, Paintings in Yellow, was released in March 1990 and became her highest-charting album in her home country. "Hiroshima" was released as the lead single and eventually became one of her biggest chart hits. Danceable "(Life May Be) A Big Insanity" and ballad "One More Night" were released as the second and third single off the album, respectively, but met with modest success. At the end of 1990, Sandra accepted an award for the best-selling German artist at the World Music Awards in Monte Carlo. Also in 1990, the singer contributed vocals to four songs for her husband's musical project Enigma, including a worldwide number 1 hit "Sadeness".
In early 1992, Sandra's fifth album was released, Close to Seven, which continued more mature, less dance-oriented musical style. The album was a remarkable international success as was its lead single, "Don't Be Aggressive". However, the second single, "I Need Love", was Sandra's first since 1984 to fail to enter charts. Later in 1992, a new compilation was released, titled 18 Greatest Hits. It included most of her previous single songs and a re-recording of "Johnny Wanna Live", originally from Paintings in Yellow, which was released as a single and became a minor hit in Germany and the Netherlands. 18 Greatest Hits was another commercial success and marked the end of Sandra's most successful period of her career.
1993–2006: Comeback attempts
In 1993, Sandra released a new version of "Maria Magdalena" with a techno arrangement and futuristic music video. The re-recording turned out a flop, signaling her declining popularity. Nonetheless, she sang in three songs on Enigma's next album, The Cross of Changes, including hit single "Return to Innocence".
While pregnant with twins, Sandra recorded and released Fading Shades in 1995. The album saw a new writer-producer Jens Gad working alongside Michael Cretu and consisted of mostly pop-oriented material. A cover version of "Nights in White Satin" by The Moody Blues was released as the first single, becoming one of Sandra's lowest-charting singles in Germany, although it was a hit in Israel. The album met with lukewarm commercial and critical reception, and the second single, "Won't Run Away", failed to make any impact on music charts. After giving birth to twin sons Nikita and Sebastian in a Munich hospital through Caesarean section in July 1995, Sandra decided to put her career on hold to raise children. However, the following year she participated in recording two songs for Enigma's third album.
1999 saw the release of My Favourites, a double disc album featuring remixes of Sandra's older songs and some of her favourite ballads. It was a success, charting within top 20 in some European countries. A new version of "Secret Land" was released as a single, accompanied by a music video in which Sandra sported a new, shorter hair. Her vocals again appeared in two songs on Enigma's 2000 album The Screen Behind the Mirror as well as the project's 2001 single "Turn Around". 2001 also saw the release of Sandra's brand new single, a ballad "Forever", which was a minor chart success in Germany. It foreshadowed her next studio album, The Wheel of Time, eventually released in spring 2002, after several delays. The album was a chart success and met with positive critical response, producing two more singles, "Such a Shame", originally performed by Talk Talk, and another ballad "I Close My Eyes". In 2003, the DVD The Complete History was released, featuring all of her music videos, and became a commercial success. The same year, Sandra contributed vocals for Enigma's Voyageur album, what would mark the last time she worked with the project.
After several years of break, in 2006, Sandra teamed up with a Swiss singer DJ BoBo for a duet "Secrets of Love" from his Greatest Hits album. The single was a big hit, reaching top 5 in Switzerland and top 20 in Germany. Sandra subsequently took up performing live again and began working on her next album. In late 2006, Reflections was released, an album consisting of remixes of Sandra's biggest hits, and met with minor commercial success. A new, ballad version of "Everlasting Love", with re-recorded vocals, was released as a promotional single in Germany while the remix of "Around My Heart" proved to be a big radio hit in Poland.
2007–present: A new musical direction
The highly anticipated new studio album, The Art of Love, was released in February 2007, charting within top 20 in German charts and enjoying a minor success internationally. For the first time, Michael Cretu did not participate in recording the album, as he was reportedly busy with new Enigma recordings, instead letting Jens Gad produce the entire work. Sandra now participated actively in composing and writing the album, therefore lyrics were more personal and reflected struggles in her personal life. "The Way I Am" was the album's lead single, peaking at number 50 in Germany, while the second single, "What Is It About Me", failed to chart. However, her version of the The Hooters' "All You Zombies" became a big radio hit in Poland. In November 2007, it was announced that Sandra and Michael were getting divorced and Sandra spent the following year touring Europe.
A new Sandra album, titled Back to Life, was released in March 2009, showcasing an up-tempo material, influenced by Latin pop, dance and R&B. "In a Heartbeat" and "The Night Is Still Young", the latter featuring Thomas Anders of Modern Talking, were released as singles and both met with modest success in Germany. The album itself was moderately successful too and generated mixed reviews. Later in 2009, a three-disc compilation album titled The Platinum Collection was released, featuring all of Sandra's hit singles as well as some album tracks and extended versions. The release did not chart.
2012 saw the release of Stay in Touch, Sandra's tenth studio album. Produced by a German DJ duo Blank & Jones, the album incorporated 1980s sound into songs, reproducing the pattern of Sandra's early albums. "Maybe Tonight" was released as the first single, peaking only at number 77 in Germany, while the second single, "Infinite Kiss" failed to enter charts. However, the album was a modest chart success internationally and received warm response.
Sandra and Michael Cretu were married on 7 January 1988 and, in July 1995, became parents of twin sons, Nikita and Sebastian. They separated in November 2007, citing "personal and professional differences". While Michael has been living in Germany since May 2009, she has continued to reside in Ibiza and married music producer Olaf Menges in 2010.
- The Long Play (1985)
- Mirrors (1986)
- Into a Secret Land (1988)
- Paintings in Yellow (1990)
- Close to Seven (1992)
- Fading Shades (1995)
- The Wheel of Time (2002)
- The Art of Love (2007)
- Back to Life (2009)
- Stay in Touch (2012)
- Enigma (musical project)
- Arabesque (group)
- on Facebook
- on YouTube