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A beginner’s guide to Russian Pop

by Erdene Batzorig February 2, 2016
A beginner’s guide to Russian Pop

Though its appeal may be region-specific, this genre is as accessible as it is fun

The Russian pop genre is pure entertainment, but it isn’t on the radars of many music lovers. For people wanting to get into it, a recommended starting era would be the golden age of R-pop: the early ‘00s.

Korni.

Korni.

For one, don’t expect James Blake-like nuances or other alternative elements in the mix. This is mainstream pop music. It’s music you can dance to, pure and simple, tailor-made for slumber parties. Their entertainment industry reveals a lot about the Russian culture at the time.

Since it was still a transitioning period, you can see both leftover traditions and new styles coming into play. Beautiful girls would come up on a huge stage, often in skimpy outfits and perform in front of hundreds of seated people. The camera would dolly over the crowd, showing off these very ordinary and calm people clapping and enjoying the energetic music from their seats. Though they were very rigidly and neatly organized, not all performances were alike.  

The early ‘00s brand of pop was very dramatic and theatrical. It was very sensual and sexual. In fact, sex appeal was absolutely paramount.

When watching the music videos of the era, gratuitous close-ups are everywhere, wind seductively blowing through the singer’s hair. These are usually accompanied by some new, untested dances too, though these are mostly made up of swaying rather than actual moves.

Russian pop also uses duet songs to convey an intimate dialogue between two singers. Good examples of this are Irina Toneva (of Fabrika fame) and Pavel Artemyev’s “Ponimaesh”, Philipp Kirkorov and Masha Rasputina’s “Roza chainaya” and VIA Gra and Valerie Meladze’s “Pritiazhen’ja Bol’she Net”.

Though the Cyrillic alphabet may be bit difficult to follow and decipher, music-lovers should still dive into Youtube to check out the following Russian pop artists:

 

Fabrika

This girl group reigned supreme in the genre after their release of Девушки

фабричные, or Factory Girls in 2003. The group was formed through a singing competition similar to American Idol called Star Factory. Although they lost to the band Korni, they  nonetheless went on to achieve great success.

 

Korni

The crowned winners of Star Factory’s first season, this pop group’s beautiful lyrics are what truly define them.  

 

VIA Gra

This group is a prime example of the sex appeal mentioned earlier. Their music is very suggestive, as evidenced by their name. Though an intentional reference, their name does not simply mean Viagra; instead, the first three letters serve as an acronym for “vocal-instrumental ensemble” in Ukrainian.

 

Philipp Kirkorov

He is a legend of the genre. His career, spanning upwards of 30 years, has proven that the man is simply unstoppable. In many people’s eyes, he is seen as the godfather of R-pop.

 

Alla Pugacheva

Her hit song “Million Roses,” a song originally composed by Latvian composer Raimonds Pauls and since immortalized by Pugacheva, is among the most famous Russian songs in the genre’s rich history. She is truly an icon, her voice as gentle as it is powerful.

 

Nikita Malinin

A heartthrob of the genre, his song “Kotenok” swayed and broke the hearts of many Russian girls.

Known for her spunky style and eccentric persona, Glukoza is one of Russia’s most popular pop singers.

Known for her spunky style and eccentric persona, Glukoza is one of Russia’s most popular pop singers.

 

Glukoza

Finally, there’s Glukoza. Simply put, Glukoza was Sia before Sia was Sia. When Glukoza first debuted, no one knew who she was or what she looked like. Her music videos featured a computerized version of herself going about with her two faithful dobermans, often doing various awesome things in the process.

She did not achieve success after her initial debut but in 2003, Glukoza rose to fame with her song “Nevesta.” At the time, she was very different from all the female artists in the genre; unlike other pop stars like VIA Gra, she didn’t rely on her sexuality to promote her music. Her music was a mix of pop hits and empowering anthems. She was spunky and had an appealing boyish charm, ensuring her enduring status as an idol.

Her song, “Sneg Idet” is a particularly powerful love song. Though some of the poetry may be lost in translation, its lyrics are still effective:

“And it is snowing, and it is snowing,

It is beating on my cheeks.

I am very ill, I have a fever,

I am standing and waiting for you like a fool.”

In short, Russian music is perfect for those fun, drunken nights, especially for singing in comradery. Put your arms around each other, sing off-key, feel the love and the vodka flowing and you will find yourselves harmonizing out of nowhere. It’s bizarrely beautiful.

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