In light of the recent flurry of interest in Nyusha and Serebro, and by that i mean reviews on The Singles Jukebox and at least one person voting for them in the ILX end of year poll who wasn't me, i have decided to do a primer thread concentrating on the last fifteen years of Russian and Ukrainian pop. Selections will be fairly arbitrary but should cover quite a lot of ground.
Tatu aside, Russian pop has never really enjoyed much international attention but there has always been lots of terrific music being made for domestic consumption. If nothing else, it offers a window on a country that's much more willing to embrace a multi-ethnic and gay-friendly identity than most new reports suggest.
By all means chip in with your own favourites whenever you like. No need to stick to strict alphabetical order.
It's a niche concern but if you like gloomy women singing over italo-disco and rudimentary electro-pop, this could be the thread for you. Аs and Бs to follow this evening.
Eastern European Chart Music
― хуто-хуторянка (ShariVari), Tuesday, 11 June 2013 11:55 (five years ago) Permalink
― Sébastien, Tuesday, 11 June 2013 12:02 (five years ago) Permalink
А is for Акула (Akula / Shark)
It's always a little strange seeing Oksana Pochepa playing "i love the 90s" disco events as she's only about 28 now. She made her debut as 13-year-old lead singer of dubious girl group Малолетка (whose name i would strenuously advise against Googling at work, home or anywhere else) and formed Akula with Серге́й Жу́ков (Sergei Zhukov) from the excellent techno-pop group Руки Вверх! (Ruki Vverkh!) a couple of years later. Their second album Без любви (Bez Lyubvi / Without Love) is a minor classic. As an expression of teen ennui it's as bleak, and arguably as good, as anything Tatu ever produced. She apparently dated Mel Gibson briefly but shouldn't be confused with fellow Russian singer Oksana Grigorieva - the woman who took him to court for being a complete fucking psychopath.
А.Р.М.И.Я (A.R.M.I.Y.A / Army)
Probably best known for failed Eurovision entry Алло, Алло (Allo, Allo), a song whose alarming golf-porn video bears all the subtlety of the eighties sitcom it shares its name with, А.Р.М.И.Я are about as shameless as Ukrainian chart pop gets. They're also, on occasion, very good. Мы сделали это (We Did This) is their finest three minutes by some distance.
Алсу (Alsou) - Tatarstan's queen of enormously popular but slightly dull ballads.
А-Студио (A-Studio)- Kazakh dance-pop super-producers who are one of the few bands from the wider region to have actually had a minor hit in the UK - the moderately good SOS.
― хуто-хуторянка (ShariVari), Tuesday, 11 June 2013 19:01 (five years ago) Permalink
Б is for Барто (Barto)
Russia is a country where few genres ever really go out of style - trance-pop and italo disco are as big as ever - so it's not surprising to find groups like Барто still making terrific electroclash about ten years after it was (unfairly) dismissed as passe everywhere else. Their politically-charged lyrics are something of a rarity, outside of the punk / metal scene. The DIY aesthetic they work with has been hugely influential on lots of new internet-focused acts like Aнгела лондон (Anzhela London) and the awesome чика из перми (Chika Iz Permi).
Вера Брежнева (Vera Brezhneva)
Never the most talented member of Menudo-style Ukrainian pop bootcamp ВИА Гра (VIA Gra), Vera was the only member smart enough to keep in the good graces of their despotic producer Константин Меладзе (Konstantin Meladze), who also happens to be the best Russian-language songwriter of the last twenty years. Thanks, in part, to hits like Любовь спасёт мир (Love Will Save The World), she's one of the biggest stars in Russian entertainment at the moment. Лепестками слёз, the ballad she did with Dan Balan of O-Zone, is absolutely gorgeous too.
Татьяна Буланова (Tatyana Bulanova)
This is what classic Russian pop is all about - absolute dejection and plinky synths. Very few singers do disappointment as well as Tanya Bulanova and белая черемуха (Belaya Cheremukha / White Cherry Blossom) is as gracefully tragic as it gets. The template has been used a million times but rarely, if ever, bettered.
Никола́й Ба́сков (Nikolai Baskov)
The other great strand of Russian pop is maximalist high camp, which is where Nikolai Baskov come in. Baskov is a well-respected classical tenor, receiving the title of People's Artist of the Russian Federation from Dmitry Medvedev (the highest honour the state can bestow on musicians and actors), which makes his completely OTT pop career all the more entertaining. права любовь, with Oksana Federova (who afaict has never dated Mel Gibson), is a glorious blancmange of a single with everything but the kitchen sink thrown in. You stop to think which US hit he's ripping off and he starts ripping off another. Baskov, like many Russian singers, is an active gay rights campaigner in his spare time.
― хуто-хуторянка (ShariVari), Tuesday, 11 June 2013 20:07 (five years ago) Permalink
i'm really glad you're putting this together, it's hard for me to find this stuff because of the language barrier. i'm a fan as nyusha's work as well as some of the singles by polina gagarina, another big pop act who i'm sure you'll cover later on.
i quite like this treya track that came out a few months ago (cute model in the video too):https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrDPj_KPtfE
― chilli, Wednesday, 12 June 2013 00:38 (five years ago) Permalink
I like that! It's in a similar area to Barto. I haven't been paying much attention to Treya tbh as the stuff i'd heard previously, like NLO, wasn't great.
― хуто-хуторянка (ShariVari), Wednesday, 12 June 2013 07:41 (five years ago) Permalink
awesome! definitely keeping an eye on this
― dyl, Wednesday, 12 June 2013 16:56 (five years ago) Permalink
A brief addition to yesterday's:
Блестящие have been around forever (since 1996) without ever being consistently great but they did serve as a launchpad for the wonderful Жанна Фриске (Zhanna Friske) and have had some fine singles over the years. My favourite is probably Восточные Сказки (Vostochnie Skazki / Eastern Tales) the song they did with Arash.
One of the verses runs something like "hey pretty girl, i like you a lot - i have three wives already and you will be the fourth", to which they reply "well i have five husbands and i love them all dearly but maybe you can be the sixth". Amazingly, it's not the most racist song that'll get posted in this thread.
If you can ignore the fact that he spent much of his career pretending to be Indian or Arabic (he is Swedish-Iranian), there's quite a lot to like about Arash. At the height of his fame he was one of the biggest pop stars in Europe while singing almost exclusively in Farsi.
Should also mention Ди́ма Била́н (Dima Bilan), i suppose, but i guess Eurovision winners probably don't need much introduction.
― хуто-хуторянка (ShariVari), Wednesday, 12 June 2013 17:17 (five years ago) Permalink
В is for ВИА Гра (VIA Gra)
Константин Меладзе(Konstantin Meladze), Georgian svengali behind Ukraine’s VIA Gra, is widely regarded as the benchmark other Russian-language pop songwriters should aim to live up to. Nyusha, for example, is often praised for her ability to write material that has a “Meladze feel” to it – a signature anthemic drama that’s difficult to define but easy to identify. He’s a fairly tough man to work with, though.
If the rumours are to be believed, get married (Анна Седокова / Anna Sedokova), pregnant (Алёна Винницкая / Aliona Vinnitskaya) or ideas about song-writing credits (Светлана Лобода / Svetlana Loboda) and you'll be shown the door. While this has probably contributed to a decline in the quality of the music (a super-group of Anya, Aliona and Sveta would knock Sugababes 2.0 into a cocked hat) the Donbas region isn't exactly short of Amazons who can hold a tune and they have remained extremely popular for over a decade.
бомба, a song from the Vinnitskaya years used to excellent effect in Lukas Moodysson’s traumatic masterpiece Lilya 4-Ever is classic, haunting Meladze electro-pop. For contrast, океан и три реки (Okean I Tri Reki / Ocean And Three Rivers), which pairs Anya with Meladze’s brother Валерий Меладзе (Valerii Meladze), shows his lighter side.
Meladze's shrewd business sense didn't extend to picking a name the band could use in jurisdictions that respect intellectual property law so they are known as Nu Virgos in the rest of Europe.
The three key things to know about Vitas are:
1. He can sing very high2. He is hugely popular in China3. He was arrested last month for assaulting a police officer who wastrying to question him about running over a cyclist (the cyclist is fine, btw)
Although not quite as interesting as Klaus Nomi, his remarkable classically-trained counter-tenor voice is a tool he can use very effectively at times. опера #2 (Opera #2) is a good showcase for it.
The Russian pop industry is as rapacious as any other when it comes to exploiting youth (as will be seen throughout this thread) but it has a better record than most of not discarding singers as soon as they hit 35. Валерия, with twenty years as a star under her belt, hasn’t been consigned to the heritage circuit yet. I will gloss over her English disco album aimed at breaking the UK market to save the blushes of all involved and focus on Таю (Tayu / Melting) which is, perhaps, her most stirring ballad.
Described by conspiracy-theorist-par-excellence The Vigilant Citizen as part of a plot to "bring the Illuminati agenda to Eastern European pop music", Винтаж's video for Деревья (Derev'ya / Trees) is one of the rare occasions (along with Detroit airport) when you could be forgiven for wondering if he has a point. Whatever you wish to read into the new age / occult symbolism and lyrics about being beaten by satyrs, the song is stunning. They usually trade in slightly less sophisticated italo-influenced pop, like single Виктория (Viktoria), but are one of the most interesting major groups around at the moment.
One of the great names from the golden era of cheap Russian techno-pop, sophistication isn't necessarily the first thing you'd associate with Вируc. I'm pretty sure most of their best songs, including the Vengaboys-ripping ручки (Ruchki / Pens) could be played with two fingers. Their Wiki entry claims "after several more less popular tunes they disappeared in the never-ending sea of techno-based Russian pop music" which is rather unfair, though. Their album чтобы солнце грело (Chtobie Solntse Grelo / The Sun Was Warm) is fantastic. However uncomplicated their sound might have been, lead singer Olga elevated songs like Попрошу Тебя (Poproshu Tebya / I'll Ask You) brilliantly.
― хуто-хуторянка (ShariVari), Wednesday, 12 June 2013 18:43 (five years ago) Permalink
Г is for Полина Гагарина (Polina Gagarina)
If Полина Гагарина did anything of note between winning Фабрики звёзд (Fabrika Zvezd / Star Factory), Russia's version of Pop Idol, in 2005 and releasing Спектакль окончен (Spektakl' Okonchen / The Show's Over) in 2012, i have to confess it passed me by. She was one of the unobtrusive singers whose ballads you skipped over on the Now!-style союз (Soyuz) compilations every six months. That all changed last year and, once again, it was Konstantin Meladze pulling the strings. Спектакль окончен, which someone has usefully subtitled into English and Spanish in the clip above, is another fabulous piece of melodrama and Polina absolutely nails the vocal. It was deservedly the biggest hit of her career.
I'm not sure i'll ever have another musical 'wtf?' moment comparable to playing Grand Theft Auto IV for the first time and hearing one of the characters drive up in a car banging Глюкоза on the stereo. Only ever moderately popular (and i'd imagine less so with gangsters) Наталья Ионова (Natalya Ionova) and her group started off by making woozy electronic surf-pop with a strong fairground-ride vibe on songs like Невеста (Nevesta / Bride) before moving on to retro-disco hits in the vein of Танцуй, Россия (Tantsui, Rossiya / Dance, Russia). Her voice is an acquired taste but they're definitely fun live.
Город 312 (Gorod 312 / City 312)
Kyrgyzstan's Город 312 have been stuck in a groove of pleasant soft-rock balladry for the last couple of years but their 2005 album 213 Дорог is worth an occasional airing - mostly for the utterly charming single Весна (Vesna / Spring). After about five months of bleak winter, Russians make a big deal of spring and the charts are generally full of songs celebrating its arrival. This is one of the best.
― хуто-хуторянка (ShariVari), Thursday, 13 June 2013 19:12 (five years ago) Permalink
Д is for Дискотека Авария (Diskoteka Avariya / Disco Crash)
'Three aging white guys making novelty rap' isn't the most alluring of elevator pitches but the Beastie Boys made it work for a number of years and damn it if Дискотека Авария didn't too. Авария's formula of 'Х.Х.Х.И.Р.Н.Р' (hip-hop, house and rock 'n' roll) made them unlikely icons, eclipsing even Tatu at the height of their domestic fame. They were often exceptionally good, too - Песенка разбойников (Pesenka Razboinikov / Thieves' Song) being a fine example of their knack with memorable hook. The chorus chant of "потому что мы банда!" (because we're a gang!) is still used over lolcat macros today.
иван дорн (Ivan Dorn)
Model, actor, film director and pop superstar - дорн is probably the closest thing Ukraine has to a Justin Timberlake and one of the few former-CIS stars who could have a realistic shot at successfully crossing over to the US, should he want to. When he lets his interest in contemporary pop and British dance music overcome his unfortunate taste for Jamiroquai-style jazz-funk noodling, he's excellent.
Pretty much interchangeable with вирус, tbh, but none the worse for that. Singles like дождик (Rain) are as endearing now as they were ten years ago.
дельфин (Delfin / Dolphin)
Often filed in the hip-hop section of record shops, дельфин probably owe more of a debt to the Russian tradition of spoken / sung poetry than rap, per se. They're one of the most relentlessly maudlin bands i've ever encountered. Excellent, though. The typically downbeat весна (Vesna / Spring) was paired with video footage from the Moscow Olympics in a surprisingly affecting way.
― О боже, какой мужчина (ShariVari), Friday, 14 June 2013 18:56 (five years ago) Permalink
E is for Елена Есенина (Elena Esenina)
Anyone counting down the days to the next Nyusha album would be well advised to check out Елена Есенина's Кругосветное путешествие (Krugosvetnoe Puteshestvie / Trip Around The World) while they're waiting. Although her debut CD doesn't appear to be terribly popular - i picked it up about 50 roubles in the bargain bin at Soyuz - it's probably the most consistently enjoyable Russian album i've heard in years.
― О боже, какой мужчина (ShariVari), Friday, 14 June 2013 19:12 (five years ago) Permalink
Ё is for Ёлка(Yolka / Fir Tree, Christmas Tree)
Trumpeted early on as the saviour of Russian-language pop (in a similar way to Nyusha) i'm not sure Ukraine's Ёлка ever really lived up to the billing. Her self-described "heavy R&B" can be effective in small doses though. Город Обмана (Gorod Obmana / City Of Deception) from her 2005 debut album stands up well.
― О боже, какой мужчина (ShariVari), Friday, 14 June 2013 19:27 (five years ago) Permalink
Thank you for this thread. This is fantastic.
― carl agatha, Friday, 14 June 2013 20:21 (five years ago) Permalink
― О боже, какой мужчина (ShariVari), Friday, 14 June 2013 21:17 (five years ago) Permalink
Ж is for Жасми́н ((Zhasmin / Jasmine)
Relatively slim pickings for Ж but Dagestan's Жасми́н is worth mentioning in passing. Her light, sentimental pop has never really stuck with me but she's a good example, like Dima Bilan, of a singer from the North Caucasus achieving massive popularity in the rest of Russia despite any lingering hostility to the region that may exist in some quarters. Dagestan, like all of the Russian republics, also has its own, almost completely independent, local pop scene.
― О боже, какой мужчина (ShariVari), Saturday, 15 June 2013 06:54 (five years ago) Permalink
З is for Земфира
Bashkortostan’s perpetually grumpy Земфира likes to style herself as the antithesis of the glossy modern pop singer but has exerted a fascination over the media and public for thirteen enormously successful years. Early single СПИД (SPID / AIDS) remains her most affecting work, its bleak chorus of "А у тебя СПИД, и значит, мы умрем" (‘and you have AIDS / and so we will die’) striking a chord during a period in which HIV rates in Russia rose dramatically against a backdrop of cuts to healthcare provision.
Звери (Zveri / Animals)
Звери managed to win the Muz-TV award for "best rock act" six years in a row between 2004 and 2009, took a three year break, and won it again on their return in 2012. Admittedly, that might be a reflection on the quality of Russia's other pop-rock groups but it's not entirely undeserved. Drawing heavily on Britpop, but in a much less obnoxious way than most of their contemporary British counterparts, and adding a dash of traditional Russian drama, they've been one of the country's most engaging guitar groups for the best part of a decade. Все, что тебя касается (Vse, Chto Tebya Kasaetsya / All That Concerns You) is an early favourite.
― О боже, какой мужчина (ShariVari), Saturday, 15 June 2013 07:15 (five years ago) Permalink
И is for Инфинити (Infinity)
There isn't a vast amount to distinguish Инфинити from a dozen similar groups but their slick, effective electro-house highlights how Russia's commercial dance music has evolved since the era of stripped-down techno-pop. They're also significantly better than anyone else i could think of beginning with 'И'.
K is for Ки$$Ки (Ki$$ki / Pu$$y)
Russia has more than its fair share of problems with racism but it's not the white-nationalist hellscape the Western press occasionally makes it out to be. If it was, there'd probably be more songs like Наши парни молодцы (Nashi Parni Molodtsi / something like Our Fine Young Men) by Ки$$Ки. I can only get the gist of the lyrics but they boil down to the girls demanding upstanding Russian lovers and detailing why other nationalities won't do. The Japanese want to reclaim the Kuril Islands, Arabs want them to wear veils and Indians can only offer trinkets instead of affection. At one point in the video an African man tries to lure them away with exotic fruit. All to the tune of banging Scooter-style Eurodance. It's terrible and hugely offensive but i can't help kind of loving it.
кино(Kino / Cinema)
Stretching a little further back but you can't really talk about Russian pop without talking about кино. Despite its place in the Western imagination as a musical backwater where downtrodden workers would trade internal organs for third-generation samizdat copies of Like A Prayer, the dying days of the Soviet Union played host to a flourishing indie-rock scene. кино's Виктор Цой (Viktor Tsoi) was Russia's Morrissey or Ian Curtis (something he managed without being a challopsy racist) but vastly better and much more influential at home. Цой died in a car crash in 1990 but lives on as the great, untouchable Russian rock idol.
― О боже, какой мужчина (ShariVari), Saturday, 15 June 2013 14:43 (five years ago) Permalink
Л is for Ленинград (Leningrad)
Perhaps the Russian rock act with the biggest presence outside their home country, thanks to their influence on Gogol Bordello and collaboration with the Tiger Lillies, Ленинград are, none the less, the black sheep of the family. Drawing heavily on a ‘gopnik’ identity (the Russian equivalent of pejorative terms like ‘chav’ and ‘NED’), their obscenity-laced, vodka-soaked ska punk enraged Moscow's former mayor Yuri Luzhkov so much he effectively banned them from every large venue in the city.
Світлана Лобода (Svetlana Loboda)
Kicked out of ВИА Гра months after joining for wanting to write the songs, Лобода has gone on to have a successful solo career - both in her native Ukraine and in Russia. She was unlucky to finish 12th at Eurovision 2009 with Be My Valentine but Постой мужчина (Postoi Muzhchina / Wait, Man) remains her finest three minutes.
Former member of boy band Smash, Лазарев's English-language solo career has seen him positioned as a flamboyant cross between JC Chasez and Adam Lambert. Which, to be honest, is only marginally more camp than standard for male Russian pop stars, despite the Duma's current moral panic about "gay propaganda".
― О боже, какой мужчина (ShariVari), Sunday, 16 June 2013 07:50 (five years ago) Permalink
Forgot to mention Анжела Лондон (Anzhela London)
Mirroring the debate in the US about Farrah Abraham, Анжела Лондон's dark electro divided opinion between those thinking it was forward-thinking avant garde pop and those believing she's just completely incompetent. The difference was that London's videos went viral, garnering millions of Youtube views (likes and dislikes split roughly 30/70) rather than being a predominantly music-crit phenomenon. Although amateurish, songs like Инфракрасный do seem more deliberate than My Teenage Dream Ended, with musical and visual nods to witch house. She does seem to really enjoy being an irl pop star if recent releases like Хейтеры Сосите (Я Умею Петь) (Suck It Haters, I can Sing) are anything to go by.
― О боже, какой мужчина (ShariVari), Sunday, 16 June 2013 12:33 (five years ago) Permalink
M is for Мёртвые Дельфины (Myortvii Defini / Dead Dolphins)
As mentioned earlier, despite the racial and political prejudice that still exists in some circles, Russian music fans have traditionally been quick to embrace acts from the Caucuses. Myortvii Delfini’s hymn to the ruins of Grozny, Мертвый город (Myortvii Gorod / Dead City), may have been near the knuckle but achieved significant critical and commercial success. Horrifyingly, bass player Александр Помараев was murdered by a professional hitman two years ago - thought to be connected to a dispute over his advertising business.
мин нет Min Net (lit: No Mines, slang: Oral Sex)
Tatu's former manager Ivan Shapovalov gets a bad rap but, creepy as he is, he's nowhere near to being the worst person in the Russian music industry. Step forward Алексе́й Митрофа́нов (Aleksei Mitrofanov), 'brains' behind мин нет. A key member of Russia's ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic party for many years, he managed to combine a career in the music and film industries with his role as one of the country's leading far-right politicians. Literally, in the case of his porn film that paired a Yulia Timoshenko lookalike with a double of Mikheil Saakashvili. Designed to rip off Tatu, мин нет were recruited through a nationwide casting for blonde, teenage virgins. Perversely, their album Peace? Da! is genuinely sweet and nowhere near as crass as everything else about them would suggest. It's rough, low-key electro-pop with rap influences. Through a sequence of events i can't even begin to imagine, Mitrofanov's cash-in book about two lesbian Tatu fans went on to be turned into a film with Misha Barton (You And I). Aleksei Mitrofanov, ladies and gentlemen:
In contrast, Ukraine's Mirami look positively innocent - but what wouldn't? The Eurodance girl group took the unusual step of concentrating on breaking the Polish market, rather than the Russian one - something they accomplished with great success. Singles Sexualna (ft MTV presenter / rapper Vova Zi'Lvova) and Miramimania are hugely enjoyable, summery pop-house.
― О боже, какой мужчина (ShariVari), Sunday, 16 June 2013 13:21 (five years ago) Permalink
lot of great discoveries from this thread, thanks! that vintazh video in particular is amazing
― chilli, Monday, 17 June 2013 01:23 (five years ago) Permalink
Glad you're enjoying it.
Н is for Нюша (Nyusha)
I have a similar conversation with Russian acquaintances about once a month:
"Why do you listen to Russian music? It's terrible.""It's not terrible, there are some great singers""No it's terrible""What about Ню́ша?""Well ok, there's Ню́ша but..."
It's difficult to pinpoint quite why she, rather than other, broadly similar chart acts has managed to combine commercial success with an almost unprecedented level of critical praise but it's thoroughly deserved. Выбирать чудо (Vybirat Chudo / Choose A Miracle) from her debut album is particularly great.
Елена Кипер (Elena Kiper) was the poet who wrote most of the lyrics on Tatu's debut album 200 По Встречной. After a falling out with Ivan Shapovalov, she formed Ничья. They had one (pretty good) album which sounded remarkably like 200 По Встречной.
Ten years and very little else separates Натали's Вот Как (Vot Kak / Here's How) and current hit О боже, какой мужчина (O Bozhe, Kakoi Muzhchina / O God, What A Man).
Her simple (O Bozhe apparently took as hour to write), infectious synth-pop is as big now as it ever has been.
Ми́ка Нью́тон (Mika Newton)
Ми́ка's international hit Angel wasn't particularly representative of her work - which tends to be significantly better than the tepid ballad she finished third with at Eurovision last year. Аномалия from her debut album of the same name is a bit like a more endearing Avril Lavigne.
― О боже, какой мужчина (ShariVari), Monday, 17 June 2013 20:20 (five years ago) Permalink
According to an email I received at work this morning, Warner Music has acquired Gala Records Group - how many of these are Gala artists? Just curious.
― 誤訳侮辱, Monday, 17 June 2013 20:33 (five years ago) Permalink
A few, I think. They have Dan Balan and Maksim, who are both big stars. Russia is cracking down on copyright at the moment - there was a big deletion sweep on the equivalent of Facebook (vk.com) at the weekend. I still wouldn't invest a penny in a Russian label, though. The market for legit sales is so small relatively few stars release albums any more.
― О боже, какой мужчина (ShariVari), Monday, 17 June 2013 20:46 (five years ago) Permalink
O is for Оскар (Oskar)
Russia isn't a particularly devout country when it comes to religion. Only 2-3% of people attend a church regularly (compared to 30% + in Ukraine and more than half of Poles) but the cultural position of the Orthodox church gives it a disproportionate amount of political weight. This goes some way to explaining how laws banning "gay propaganda" managed to get passed something like 439-0 (with one abstention) in the Duma this month. At the same time, it's difficult to think of many countries with a pop scene so heavily indebted to international gay culture - from cabaret to disco to house. This is generally reconciled through a combination of denial and turning a blind eye. Russia's gay pop stars pair off with starlets in need of publicity, hire their irl partners as "business manager" and nobody asks too many questions. Оскар took a different approach.
Gambling on the belief that young Russians would reject the homophobia of their parents, he made his identity as an out, gay man central to his identity as a pop star. This paid off - almost overnight he was one of the biggest stars in Russia with a string of No.1 singles and a magnificent hit album - бег по острию ножа (Beg Pa Ostriyu Nozha / Run On A Knife-Edge).
между мной и тобой (Mezhdu Mnoi I Toboi / Between You And Me), probably my favourite ballad of the last decade, was particularly successful. This might have been of interest to Moby's lawyers, had Russia had a functional IP system at the time, as it's taken pretty much note-for-note from Everloving.
What followed next was one of the most spectacular career suicides in pop history. Reverting back to his Chechen birth name of шамиль (Shamil), which he happened to share with Shamil Basaev - leader of the Chechen rebel forces, his next single "Jihad" didn't go down quite so well.
It wasn't pro-rebel but was evidently interpreted that way by some, death threats started to flood in and he fled for London before settling in the US. After spending some time on the college lecture circuit, he went back to music, releasing two astonishing English-language singles - Make Love To America and How To Find Bin Laden.
He's now back in Russia and releasing music as Shamil.
― О боже, какой мужчина (ShariVari), Tuesday, 18 June 2013 19:54 (five years ago) Permalink
This thread rules
― polyphonic, Tuesday, 18 June 2013 19:56 (five years ago) Permalink
I have hopes for the next few, but they're nostalgia-driven and dated! Greatly anticipating Э.
― ljubljana, Wednesday, 19 June 2013 02:08 (five years ago) Permalink
I know next to nothing about this topic, but here's what the machines I operate came up with as an introduction to Russian Pop (via Rdio): http://rd.io/x/QUPlBzNur14/
― glenn mcdonald, Wednesday, 19 June 2013 02:32 (five years ago) Permalink
Ljubljana, definitely feel free to post your own suggestions as well! I'm probably forgetting half of my own favourites so the more the merrier.
п is for пелагея (Pelageya)
Doing for Russia's folk heritage what Fairport Convention and Pentangle did for Britain's, Пелаге́я Ха́нова (Pelageya Khanova) augments traditional arrangements, and songs that sound like they should be traditional arrangements, with rock influences wonderfully. With a voice so beautiful, she could be singing over anything and i'm not sure anyone would mind though. Пташечка (Ptashechka) is typically spellbinding.
Ева Польна (Eva Polna)
Former lead singer of Гости из будущего (Gosti Iz Budushego / Guests From The Future), Польна has been a fixture in the charts since the late 1990s. Nothing in her band's back catalogue can touch last year's solo effort Je t'aime (Я тебя тоже нет), though. Cribbing her title from Serge Gainsbourg, she delivered one of the finest heartbroken electro-pop performances of recent years.
Given Russia's enduring love of the genre, it's fitting that the first major export hit of the modern era was a twinkling, nine-minute-long, Oakenfold-approved trance-pop classic. ППК may not have gone on to do much of note afterwards but, for a few weeks in 2001, two guys from Roston-on-Don making bedroom dance music based around Soviet sci-fi samples were in the charts all across Europe. Resurrection is as glorious now as it ever was.
Quite a few of Plazma's Youtube videos have been excitedly subtitled "RUSSIA'S MODERN TALKING" which tells you pretty much everything you need to know about Plazma. Drawing inspiration from the German masters of straight-faced camp, You'll Never Meet An Angel is enormously entertaining.
Алла Пугачева (Alla Pugacheva)
The grande dame of Russian pop, Алла Пугачева has probably sold more records than the rest of this list put together. Generations of Russian kids have been trying to work out why. Her chintzy, sentimental pop has always been delivered with a healthy dose of charisma, though.
Tatu's emergence at the height of the Napster boom was a open goal for aspiring Russian pop stars. Simply title your single "new Tatu" and, within days, you'd have hundreds of thousands of people downloading it. Пропаганда's debut hit Мелом (Melom) was one of the most notable counterfeits. Over the years the slightly grim, kitchen sink feel of their early records has morphed into retro disco (Super Detka) and sparkling electro pop like 2011's Знаешь (Do You Know). Unusually though, everything seems to have been masterminded by lead singer Вика Воронина (Vika Voronina) rather than label bosses.
Потап / Потап и Настя (Potap I Nastya)
It's fair to assume that Ukrainian rapper Потап is unlikely to ever feature on the cover of XXL but his ability to craft immensely catchy simulcra of US R&B pop, and his gift for picking collaborators, mean he'll probably outsell most of the Class Of 2013 this year. His first big hit was a guest appearance on girl group XS's fabulous Штольня (Shtol'nya) but he really found his stride as foil to Настя Каменських (Nastya Kamenskih) on singles like в натуре (V Nature / In Kind) and Лето (Leto / Summer)- upping the silliness and stepping into the space left vacant by Diskoteka Avariya. Nastya could probably do better for herself, tbh, and her eventual solo career should be worth waiting for.
― О боже, какой мужчина (ShariVari), Wednesday, 19 June 2013 21:07 (five years ago) Permalink
Thanks ShariVari! Just a couple of oldies then...
Club band with three female vocals belting out quasi-disco. They made it big-ish for a while, but hated lip-synching and discovered that "New Year's Eve television concerts are a complete pile of puke". They're celebrating their twentieth anniversary of performing mostly in St. Petersburg and Moscow clubs.
Sorry for the quality of the video - this my favourite shout-along song, любовь, любовь (love, love)
Lead singer Аня Кипяткова (Anya Kipyatkova) says that "the advertising department of Pepsi-Cola forbade us from using the word "Pepsi" as the band's name. Both in Russian and in English. We added a hyphen and that was the end of it."
― ljubljana, Wednesday, 19 June 2013 22:47 (five years ago) Permalink
Ой, I meant to hyphenate the Cyrillic version too. Sue me.
― ljubljana, Wednesday, 19 June 2013 22:48 (five years ago) Permalink
― i wanna be a gabbneb baby (Hungry4Ass), Wednesday, 19 June 2013 22:50 (five years ago) Permalink
Thanks Ljubljana! I'll have to look for more stuff by them.
I mentioned that i had probably missed some of my favourites and have just realised i didn't mention N.A.T.O earlier.
N.A.T.O was Ivan Shapovalov's first major post-Tatu project and a fairly good example of why, if he isn't the worst opportunist in Russian pop, he comes fairly close. Her identity was a mystery - she was a veiled woman singing Central Asian folk songs over electro beats - but nobody was even really sure which part of the region she was from. Journalists immediately accused her, and Shapovalov, of glorifying Chechen / Ingush "Black Widows" - the wives of rebels killed in the war who were detonating suicide bombs on the metro and at rock concerts fairly frequently at the time. Shapovalov responded by delivering a blistering j'accuse to the press about how shameful it was that an innocent woman who happened to wear traditional Muslim dress was being singled out by racists in the media. Which would have been fine had it not been for a couple of minor issues like:
1. Shapovalov scheduling her first concert for the 11th of September.2. Shapovalov printing airline-shaped tickets for said concert3. Shapovalov having her flanked by balaclava-clad men with replica Kalashnikovs whenever she was seen in public
Which is obviously terrible. Her calling card Chorjavon is one of the most extraordinary things i've ever heard though. An updated version of a traditional Tajik song about four doomed brothers going hunting (implicitly in this case, for Russian soldiers) in the mountains, it's an astonishing, propulsive thing that serves as a reminder that, for all his manifest awfulness, her manager knew what he was doing sometimes.
― О боже, какой мужчина (ShariVari), Thursday, 20 June 2013 11:51 (five years ago) Permalink
Thank so much for this thread. I put Serebro on my year-end list last year and have been eagerly awaiting Nyusha, so I'm in your target audience here.
If anyone's interested, I've been putting together a spotty (no pun intended) Spotify playlist with this stuff as it's shared, put in a vaguely listenable/mix order. Most of it is available on Spotify. I've gotten to about M so far. Best discovery is that Sergei Lazarev has a collab with T-Pain (it's not very good). Will gladly share editing with anyone who wants to add to it since I literally know nothing about this.
― cr4bdbgs, Thursday, 20 June 2013 18:37 (five years ago) Permalink
Awesome! Thank you for the Spotify list!
Ruslana also has a song with T-Pain. It's also not very good.
I'll be away in Ireland for a few days but will aim to polish off the rest of the alphabet next week.
― О боже, какой мужчина (ShariVari), Thursday, 20 June 2013 18:42 (five years ago) Permalink
My silly favorite has always been Ivanushki International.
― justfanoe (Greg Fanoe), Thursday, 20 June 2013 20:22 (five years ago) Permalink
Руки Вверх! (Ruki Vverh! / Hands Up!)
One of the great techno-pop groups of the late 1990s, Руки Вверх! were incredibly effective at combining downbeat, emotive lyrics with party-centred Eurodance. They had a small amount of success in Germany but their biggest impact outside of Russia came when ATC covered песенка (Pesenka) as the million-selling Around The World (La La La La La). The video for Он тебя целует (On Tebya Tseluyet / He Kisses You) is still played frequently on Russian music TV stations and has a rather sweet gay / trans theme.
Ге-е-ей, серце моє!
Eurovision winner, orange revolutionary, member of parliament and Ukrainian national icon, Ruslana's career would have been extraordinary even if the music hadn't been as wonderful as it was. From the defiantly nationalistic West of the country, she combined contemporary pop with elements of the Hutsul mountain people's folk music superbly. Коломийка (Kolomyika) is one of the last decades most joyful singles - there was so much bouncing when she played it live in Kiev's central square during the celebrations to mark Ukraine's 15th year of independence i thought we were all going to crash through into the subterranean mall underneath.
Reflex might have made off-the-peg breathy dance pop but in their fourteen years of popularity they've had quite a few excellent singles, most notably 2004's Non-Stop. They were moderately popular in Germany for a while, particularly with the tabloid Bild (which i'm sure had nothing to do with the fact they were led by two beautiful blondes who occasionally posed for Russian Playboy).
Avril Lavigne was as huge an influence on Russian teens asthose in the rest of Europe, with a wave of female-led pop-rock groups appearing in her wake. Although not dissimilar in style to a lot of their contemporaries, Ранетки are unique in having their own long-running soap opera series on TV. I'm not sure they've ever bettered the excellent early single О тебе (About You).
― Inte Regina Lund eller nån, mitt namn är (ShariVari), Monday, 1 July 2013 20:53 (five years ago) Permalink
С is for Серебро (Serebro / Silver)
Nyusha might be getting the critical attention but, when it comes to overseas interest, it's Серебро making the money. Popular in Russia since 2006, their big international break didn't really come until 2011's Мама Люба (Mama Lyuba). The video (in the first post of the thread) was one of the most simple and memorable of recent years. Although nothing more than the girls mucking about in a car and miming to the single, the prevalence of dashboard cameras in Russian vehicles meant it was incredibly easy to parody. Within months there were dozens on Youtube - including a rather cute one made by a bunch of gruff Turkish dudes. It went on to chart everywhere from Poland to Belgium. Curiously, recent single Мальчик (Malchik / Boy), which relocated the mucking about to a plane, bombed in Russia but spent weeks at No.1 in Italy when re-released as Gun.
Екатерина Шалаева (Ekaterina Shalaeva) was, for an album at least, one of the strangest and most entertaining pop stars Ukraine had to offer. After an early attempt at a rock opera / concept piece failed to get anywhere she reinvented herself as an Eminem-inspired English-language rapper - not letting the fact that she couldn't really rap get in the way. The end result, X-amine Your Zippa, was closer to P!nk in spirit and blended some terrific pop songs with a delightfully idiosyncratic use of language that encompassed some rather obscure British idioms ("bonk", "whizz", etc) with a rather more basic sense of grammar. Rough is probably my favourite song on the album but Corporate Logic is close. She was very successful in Ukraine and Poland but couldn't agree the financing for an ambitious second album and emigrated to the US shortly afterwards. She's still making music there.
― Inte Regina Lund eller nån, mitt namn är (ShariVari), Tuesday, 2 July 2013 19:06 (five years ago) Permalink
Sorry for the delay, i shouldn't have started watching Law & Order on Netflix.
Anyway, i should definitely have mentioned Ю́лия Са́вичева (Yulia Savicheva) in the С section.
One of the first big stars discovered through the Фабрика звёзд (Fabrika Zvyozd / Star Factory) talent show, Yulia has been consistently popular for a decade. Although she's usually not quite as punchy and dramatic as some of her rivals, she does have an appealing sincerity and a lot of very good songs. Если в сердце живёт любовь (Esli V Serdtse Zhivut Lyubov' / If Love Lives In The Heart) was an early highlight. 2006's магнит (Magnit) album was also excellent.
― Inte Regina Lund eller nån, mitt namn är (ShariVari), Saturday, 13 July 2013 19:51 (five years ago) Permalink
Т is for Тату́ (Tatu)
Тату́ hardly require an introduction but i couldn't leave out one of the greatest pop groups in history. They might have been formed by a shady, exploitative manager but they'll sit forever in the pantheon of truly great rebel bands. Debut 200 По Встречной (200 Po Vstrechnoy / 200 km/h Against The Traffic) was promoted in a crass, salacious manner but strip that away and you have an album about defiance and escape as powerful as any i can recall. It's would have been easy to ascribe their brilliance to Ivan Shapovalov's music and Elena Kiper's lyrics but neither was involved in their second, equally superb, effort Люди Инвалиды (Lyudi Invalidi / Disabled People) - although, rather oddly, Dave Stewart, Sting and Richard Carpenter were. The real key was always the interplay between Lena and Yulia's emotive vocals. They're still recording separately - Lena making decent, overblown gothic pop and Yulia making disappointing electro.
тема (Tema / Topic)
тема were the bootleg Тату́. As the name of their album Просто Я Фанатка (Prosto Ya Fanatka / I'm Just A Fan) suggested, there was never really any attempt to pretend that they weren't, in effect, a tribute act designed to look and sound exactly like their idols. They kind of pulled it off on occasion, too. радиация (Radiatsiya / Radiation) is great.
― Inte Regina Lund eller nån, mitt namn är (ShariVari), Saturday, 13 July 2013 20:36 (five years ago) Permalink
You may be interested in thishttp://farfrommoscow.bandcamp.com/http://www.farfrommoscow.com/
― Studied keyboard mash (tsrobodo), Saturday, 13 July 2013 20:41 (five years ago) Permalink
Yes! It's a really cool site. The guy who runs it messaged me on VK after i did a piece on Russian pop for the Guardian a while back. He's great.
― Inte Regina Lund eller nån, mitt namn är (ShariVari), Saturday, 13 July 2013 20:44 (five years ago) Permalink
That's great, did he talk about any purpose that project is working towards beyond the obvious? I mean I've found a ton of great tracks browsing through those compilations these past few years and it's barely been publicised.
Not that my interest means much outside itself but it seems like the kind of thing that music bloggers go gaga for.
― Studied keyboard mash (tsrobodo), Saturday, 13 July 2013 21:04 (five years ago) Permalink
He's an academic at UCLA's school of Slavonic studies, iirc. Russian pop culture is his specialism and this is a way to get some of the stuff at the margins out to a wider audience.
― Inte Regina Lund eller nån, mitt namn är (ShariVari), Saturday, 13 July 2013 21:12 (five years ago) Permalink
Yeah gathered that much, just feel it could be reaching a much wider audience.
― Studied keyboard mash (tsrobodo), Saturday, 13 July 2013 22:59 (five years ago) Permalink
Should probably have mentioned rapper Ти́мати (Timati) in passing. The self-style "Black Star" isn't particularly good but he'
s very popular and has the money to bring in collaborators like Snoop, P. Diddy, Busta, etc.
У is for Ульи (Ul'i / Hives)
Only ever moderately popular but still well regarded in Russia's alternative rock circles, Ульи have been going since the late 90s with a mixture of indie, punk and bardic influences.
Ф is for Фабрика (Fabrika / Factory)
For unwavering quality over the course of the last decade, i'm not sure there's a pop group in Russia that can match Фабрика. That said, they haven't overly taxed themselves with only two albums (both classics) since they finished in second place on 2003's edition of Фабрика звёзд. Although most of their songs are upbeat modern pop, they're unusual in incorporating influences from Soviet-era musicals at times as well.
― Inte Regina Lund eller nån, mitt namn är (ShariVari), Saturday, 3 August 2013 10:57 (five years ago) Permalink
Damn it, there was meant to be more Fabrika:
Жанна Фриске (Zhanna Friske)
Best known in the west as Alice from the Night Watch films, Фриске has been a huge star as a singer, actress and general it-girl since her days in girl-group Блестящие. She usually sticks to bubbly reggae-tinged pop like her delightful eponymous single from 2008 - a song that bears more than a passing resemblance to her US counterpart's Stars Are Blind.
Митя Фомин (Mitya Fomin)
Former lead singer of the entertaining Hi-Fi, Фомин took his brand of camp electro-pop solo a couple of years ago with great success. He drafted in the Pet Shop Boys for Огни большого города (City Lights), a reinterpretation of Paninero, and scored one of his biggest hits to date.
― Inte Regina Lund eller nån, mitt namn är (ShariVari), Saturday, 3 August 2013 11:24 (five years ago) Permalink
Ц is for Центр (Tsentr / Centre)
I haven't posted much Russian rap music, largely because not much of it is any good. Domestic hip-hop is very popular though - it used to take up as much space as Russian rock in record shops, back in the days when there were still record shops to take up space in. Центр are fairly typical - nothing special, quite dated from an international perspective, but definitely listenable.
Ч is for Чика из Перми (Chika Iz Permi / Chick From Perm)
"Мои пророки - это нации клубов, Диджеи, геи и Паша Дуров"
With no official singles or albums, Чика из Перми exist pretty much exclusively through occasional Youtube clips and club appearances but they're probably my favourite Russian pop group in a decade. As far as i can tell, they were initially formed when the lead singer, Alice, asked one of her friends to help her record an electro-pop song to promote the sushi bar she's a waitress at. The excellent Роллы (Rolls) was the result. With a variety of different women fronting the videos, most of the songs are semi-affectionate, semi-vicious parodies of Permian party girls and their home town's culture of weekend nihilism. The closest they've come to crossover success was causing a minor moral panic with я каждый день бухаю, a cover of a punk song about youth alcoholism.
Катя Чехова (Katya Chekhova)
The recent Nyusha material, with more of a trance / house feel than the R'n'B pop of her debut, reminds me a little of Катя Чехова at times. There's a similar combination of dancefloor focus and a strange sense of detachment. Крылья (Wings) is particularly good. idek what's going on with the dancers in the clip above.
One of the best pop-rock stars to break through in the late 90s / early 00s Yulia Chicherina's debut album Сны (Dreams) still stands up really well today.
'Electro versions of traditional Ukrainian folks songs' doesn't necessarily sound like a winning concept but in the hands of Katya Chilly something that could have sounded quite crass and gimmicky becomes absolutely remarkable. Her 2006 album я молодая (Ya Molodaya / I'm Young) is a classic.
― Inte Regina Lund eller nån, mitt namn är (ShariVari), Friday, 16 August 2013 20:41 (five years ago) Permalink
Katya Chekhova video was missing:
― Inte Regina Lund eller nån, mitt namn är (ShariVari), Friday, 16 August 2013 20:47 (five years ago) Permalink
I remember bits of it from first time around but was led back to it from the recent wave of Vitas' '7th Element' from 2001 slowly randomly going viral again due to its complete brilliance
― Milton Parker, Tuesday, 22 September 2015 22:33 (three years ago) Permalink
the Tim & Eric "Angel Boy" sketch has got to be based off Vitas
― frogbs, Wednesday, 7 February 2018 19:42 (eight months ago) Permalink