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About Russian Pop-Music
April 11, 2008 14:36

Pop Music in USSR

'Prosnis' i poi' (Perfomed by Larisa Mondrus)
Modern Russian pop music owes much to city romance, as well as to Russian people’s song in general. However, when Soviet power came to rule, overall extermination of everything “bourgeois” started in music along with all other spheres. For a few decades a specific genre was established in culture: it was the song bright and cheerful, called to help “live and build”. However, this genre also saw creation of many remarkable songs, in particular those by composers Isaak Dunayevsky, Oscar Feltsman, Vasily Solovyov-Sedoy, and others.

Thanks to singers like Klavdiya Shulzhenko, Mark Bernes, and Nina Dorda intimate and lyrical intonations were kept alive in Soviet song.
'Landyshy' (Perfomed by Nina Dorda)


Eduard Khil
As compared to American pop-music, that of the Soviet country was peculiar for being more lyrical, renouncing marked sexual implications, having taboo on foul language, being subject to censorship and at the same time boasting vivid and expressive lyrics. The latter was in a way due to the non-commercial character of art in the USSR and lesser usage (sometimes simply absence) of advanced music technology for the same reason.

Soviet pop music turned to be closer to traditional pop music widespread in Romanic countries, such as Italy and France.

In the 1950-60s, the heyday of lyrical variety genre, there sprang up a great number of popular singers, namely Joseph Kobzon, Eduard Khil, Valery Obodzinsky, Lev Leshenko, Muslim Magomaev, Maya Kristalinskaya, Lidiya Klement, Anna German, Edita Piekha, and Margarita Suvorova.
'Chelovek iz doma vyshel' (Perfomed by Eduard Khil)

In the 1970s official Soviet variety art was undergoing the epoch of the so-called vocal and instrumental ensembles (or pop groups). Especially popular were folk stylizations and “ethnic bias”: Byelorussian ensembles Pesnyary, Syabry, Verasy, Russian Ariel, Uzbek Yalla, and Azerbaijani Gunesh, as well as Samotsvety, Tsvety, Plamya, and many others.
'Uvezu tebya ya v tundru' (Perfomed by Samotsvety)

Soviet and Russian Pop Music in 1980-1990s


Alla Pugacheva
The early 1980s marked an upsurge in the Russian-language Soviet music. Vladimir Matetsky started his cooperation with Sofia Rotaru and their songs in the Russian language, such as Lavender, for example, along with their covers in foreign languages gained international fame. Alla Pugacheva became one of the most popular singers in the country of that time. Her cooperation with the talented Latvian composer Raimond Pauls turned very successful. His songs performed by Alla Pugacheva present an excellent example of high-level pop music. Numerous compositions, in particular Million alykh roz (Million red roses) created in that period later became nearly classical paragons.
'Aisberg' (Perfomed by Alla Pugacheva)

In the 1980s Soviet pop music was embellished with names of Yury Antonov, Valery Leontiev, Anne Veski, Yak Yola, Evgeny Martynov, Valentina Legkostupova, Aleksander Malinin, Aleksander Serov, Vladimir Kuzmin, Laima Vaikule, Irina Ponarovskaya, and Larisa Dolina.
'Polyot na del'taplane' (Perfomed by Valery Leontiev)

Valery Leontiev
Pop group Zemlyane gained love of the people with their hit 'Trava u doma' (Grass Near My Home). Yuri Chernavsky wrote songs for feature films with many composers. Vladimir Presnyakov debuted among the beginning singers. Sergei Minaev’s parody covers of foreign pop songs enjoyed popularity.

In spite of its flourishing and unusual popularity Russian and Soviet music production, unlike that of Europe and the USA, was operating in comparative isolation from the market, i.e. under conditions of poor commercialization, lack of developed high-budget promotion, etc., which, however, had some positive effect on its subjective features, such as greater warmth, lyricism, and affinity to people. At the same time internally the variety music business was not void of competitiveness, mainly on the personal level, with some influential family clans formed there.

Somewhat in the same period a new music term set in: popsa (i.e. pops) stands for low-grade, shallow, trite and vulgar sort of pop music. Another term got widely spread, namely fanera derived from “phonogram” and prompted by unscrupulous lip-synching at concerts of pops stars who were apt to fool the audience this way.

Perestroika of the late 1980s brought changes to pop music as well. It was heyday for Igor Talkov, Oleg Gazmanov, Igor Nikolaev, groups Lube, and Car-men. The end of the 1980s saw the appearance of Laskovy Mai project – the boys band won extreme love of unpretentious teenagers; it is now notorious for the fact that “clones” of the band toured simultaneously in different places and gathered fees all over the huge country.
'Chistye Prudy' (Perfomed by Igor Talkov)


Philipp Kirkorov
In the early 1990s another boys band, Malchishnik (from which the now famous Delfin emerged later) scored a scandalous success. Bogdan Titomir after leaving Kar-men also became one of the marked figures of Russian pop music of the early 1990s. Extremely popular was also the ultra-pops Na-Na boys band under direction of Barry Alibasov, formerly a member of theIntegral band.
'Faina' (Perfomed by Na-Na)

In the early 1990s, when the country was overcoming acute economical and political crisis, Russia and Moscow in particular still remained important makers of Russian-language music production. Lots of well-known pop music hits that were written in that period remain popular till date.

The second half of the 1990s saw the appearance of such popular groups as Ivanushki International, Ruki Vverkh, Chai Vdvoem, etc. Philipp Kirkorov still gathers full concerts halls several thousand strong and enjoys big time in spite of his spoiled reputation (in particular, personal insult of a female journalist in public).
'Kroshka moya' (Perfomed by Ruki Vverkh)

Pop Music of the 2000s


By the 21st century Russian show business has become quite a powerful structure, with a great many recording companies, two large-scale music TV channels (MTV and Mus-TV), and established system of promotion and distribution. The number of performers, who show up on TV screens for a little, is permanently growing, just like the level of the surface quality of musical production, whereas the substance of it remains rather poor.

A few Russian pop projects have gained international popularity; for example, T.A.T.U band or singer Vitas are in great demand in Eastern countries.

Among the projects currently considered most commercially successful there are the bands Diskoteka Avariya and VIA Gra along with performers Dima Bilan, Valeriya, and Alsu.

TV-projects of the so-called Star Factory that are spread in other countries as well go a long way with refreshing the ranks of Russian-language pops singers.

International Fame of Russian Pop Music

The fall of the Iron Curtain gave Russian language pop music a chance to go out to the world music market. However, the debut of Russian-language performers on the world arena was and still is hampered by several factors. First of all, in the beginning of the 21st century the world market of music industry, including pop culture, was already replete with English-language production, which was aggressively penetrating to the markets of non-English-speaking countries, including developed European countries.

In the early 1970s Sophia Rotaru became the first Soviet singer who was invited by and recorded an album in the West European studio Sony BMG Music Entertainment in the German language.

From 1994, when Russia was represented at the Eurovision Song Contest by the singer Judith, Eurovision became the debut venue for Russian performers on foreign (European, in the first place) stage. Russian pop music made a breakthrough after the performance of Alsu in 2000, when she took the second place at Eurovision. Still more successful were t.A.T.u., whose song was on top of foreign pop charts for several weeks and sold quite a big number of CDs. The band took the third place at Eurovision-2003.

In 2006 Dima Bilan took the second place at Eurovision, and in 2007 the Serebro band was the third on the winners’ list. In 2006 twin girls Nastya and Masha Tolmachevs came out on top of the children Eurovision. In 2008 Dima Bilan again represented Russia at the contest and won it, bringing the contest to Russia in 2009.

The Russian pop singer Vitas enjoys great popularity in China, the fact making him rank first among all Russian singers by the total number of fans in the world.

Look also: Russian Music

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