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3 Best Russian-Language Songs of the 2010s Posted by on Dec 9, 2019 in Culture

Picking the top songs of the decade is tricky—how do you even determine what makes a “top” track? Is it its popularity, impact, or commercial success? In putting together this list, I’ve selected tracks that I thought were representative of Russian-language music of the “teens” in some way. Naturally, my choices are subjective and by no means universal. I’d love to hear from you! What would you include in your list of the top 5 or 10 Russian-language songs of the last decade? These do not need to be from Russia per se, as long as they come out between 2009 and 2019.

headphones

Photo by Malte Wingen on Unsplash

Моне́точка — 90 (“Девяно́стые”)

I have mentioned Monetochka (Моне́точка, “little coin”) on this blog before. This young woman got her first fans while still in high school by posting her tracks on social media. In this way, Monetochka is representative of this new generation of artists who got their breakthrough thanks to the Internet and social media. The artist’s lyrics and image are ironic to be point of being post-modern and often make light of societal idiosyncrasies.

This track, “Девяно́стые” (“the nineties”), lampoons myths and stereotypes about the 90s in Russia. That decade is supposed to have been brutal in its violence, lawlessness, and corruption, which is now often used by the Russian authorities to justify the crackdown on civil liberties. Warning: the song has a couple of instances of explicit language.

bullets

Photo by Ryan on Unsplash

To give you a better idea of the message, here is the chorus:

В девяно́стые убива́ли люде́й
И все бе́гали абсолю́тно го́лые.
Электри́чества не́ было нигде́,
То́лько дра́ки за джи́нсы с кока-ко́лою.
Понавесили кресто́в на корешей,
Пиджаки́ земляни́чные нагла́дили.
И на та́нцы — кровь у всех из уше́й,
Ведь то́лько «Ла́сковый Май» пел по ра́дио.

[Loose translation:
They used to kill people in the 90s,
And everyone was running around buck naked.
There was no electricity anywhere,
Only fights for jeans and Coca-Cola.
The goons were wearing a ton of crosses
And ironed crimson jackets.
Everyone’s ears were bleeding at the dances
Because they would only play Laskovy May on the radio.]

Some cultural notes: Monetochka is describing the “new Russian” (но́вый ру́сский), a person, usually a man, who got rich quickly through questionable or criminal means after the collapse of the USSR. A stereotypical “new Russian” wore a purple or red jacket and a large cross. “Ко́реш” is a slang word for “friend.”

Blue jeans and Coca-Cola are examples of goods that were unavailable in the USSR and became available—and coveted—after its demise.

Laskovy May (“Ласковый май,” “gentle May”) was a boys band of the late 80s or early 90s.

Ива́н Дорн — Стыцамэ́н

Иван Дорн (Ivan Dorn, Ukrainian: Іва́н Дорн) is a Russian-born Ukrainian artist who performs in Russian, Ukrainian, and English. He started out at part of duo but has been a solo artist since 2010. His music combines the sounds of pop, funk, jazz, R’n’B, and other styles. Dorn has been criticized for not taking a clear political stance on the Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine and has tried to counter allegations of pandering to his audience in Russia.

The song “Стыцамэн” (“Stystaman”) comes from Dorn’s debut solo album. The name is somewhat nonsensical and, as the singer has explained, refers to a superhero who tried to get through to a person who only listens to low-quality pop music and show them other genres.

disco ball

Photo by Regina Valetova on Unsplash

The lyrics are simple and optimistic; here is a sample:

Те, кто слы́шит мой soul,
Заполня́ют танцпо́л,
Остальны́е стесня́ются.
Не надо стесня́ться!

[Those who hear my soul music
Fill the dance floor,
And the rest are being shy.
There’s no need to be shy!]

Скриптони́т и Чару́ша — Ко́смос

Skryptonite is the stage name of the Kazakhstani rapper Adil’ Zhalelov (Ади́ль Жале́лов, Kazakh: Әділ Жәлелов). The artist combines rap, trap, and hip hop sound. He is also known for his peculiar mumbling, slurring delivery. (If you can’t make out the words, no worries—neither can I!) I have included a rap song because Russian rap has come to occupy a niche once held by Russian rock—”deep,” philosophical lyrics and societal criticism.

space

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

This song, “Ко́смос” (“Space”) is a collaboration with the Russian actor Darya Charusha (Да́рья Чару́ша). It is one of Skryptonite’s few songs without obscene lyrics! Here is the beginning of the song:

Ты па́хнешь как любо́вь.
Ты сумасше́ствие с пе́рвого взгля́да.
Ты па́хнешь шокола́дом,
Па́хнешь как цветы́.

[You smell like love,
You are insanity at first sight.
You smell like chocolate,
You smell like flowers.]

Over To You!

Now it’s your turn. What Russian-language songs would you put on your personal “top 10” chart? Remember they have to be from 2009–2019. The most popular suggestions will be featured in our “Top Russian-language songs” playlist.

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About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available on her translation site and on Twitter at @intorussian.


Comments:

  1. Tim Hildreth:

    Spasibo, Maria, for these new Russian songs to enjoy. I really like a couple of songs by the singer Sergey Lazarev who represented Russia in the Eurovision song contest a few years ago with You are the only one (in English https://youtu.be/gHgxi57Um0w). But this is a fun song of his in Russian https://youtu.be/qPMypN6lQU0.

    • Maria:

      @Tim Hildreth Thank you, Tim! At this point, I’d say Lazarev’s a veteran of Russian pop music. I’m impressed with his ability to stay active and relevant for the past 15 or so years (I guess even before then, as a child actor).