An incredible number of artists have participated in the Eurovision Song Contest over the years. Some of them we never hear from again after the contest, and very often that’s just as well. Others have this special something which makes them unforgettable. At least that’s the way it works for me. In this weekend series I will share with you some of the artists I’ve “found” through the contest and that have become part of “my music”.
There are many different reasons why an artist catches and keeps my attention, anything from a cool performance to a song that just fits perfectly in with my taste in music. Very often, though, the voice plays a big part. Certain voices just manage to touch my heart. In this series I will take a closer look at some of the artist who, for me, have gone on to have a “life after Eurovision”. Most of these have found their way into my absolute top league, and their albums are on heavy rotation on my cd player.
And nothing makes more sense than to start this series of my unforgettable artists with the most unforgettable of them all; Mumiy Troll, who represented Russia in the 2001 Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen. They performed their own song, the amazing Lady Alpine Blue, securing a respectable 12th place, earning a total of 37 points.
In 1981, thirteen year old Ilya Lagutenko was already writing and recording music in his hometown of Vladivostok. At fourteen he started the band Shock with his good friends Vladimir Lutsenko and Alik Krasnov. In 1983 they changed their name to Mumiy Troll, inspired by the character in Tove Jansson’s children’s books. They released their first album, Novaya Luna Aprelya (New April Moon), in 1985, and had great local success, with their music being played in all the clubs in Vladivostok.
Nothing much happened with the band for a few years after this; Ilya did military service, and worked in China and England, becoming fluent in both Mandarin and English. In 1996, while living in London, Ilya was inspired by the britpop scene, and decided to get the Mumiys back together again.
In 1996 they released their “second debut album”, “Morskaya” (Nautical). This new sound had never before been heard in Russia, and the mix of traditional Russian rock, current Brit-pop and Ilya’s characteristic voice was an immediate success. Their next album, “Ikra” (Caviar), was released only six months later, and served to cement their success. “Ikra” presented a more traditional Russian rock sound, and the immense popularity the band experienced had never before been seen anywhere in the former Soviet Union.
By this time, the band’s line up was as we know it today; Ilya on lead vocals and guitar, Yuri Tsaler on guitars, Evgeni Zvidenniy on bass and Oleg Pungin on drums. These four now embarked on an adventure throughout both Russia and the neighbouring countries. 1998 turned out to be a fantastic year for the band; a grand tour, loads of positive press, videos played on tv almost nonstop and two new album releases.
In early 2001 they were asked by the Russian broacaster whether they would be interested in representing the country in the Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen. After having a chat with their Latvian friends from Brainstorm, who had represented Latvia in Stockholm the year before, they accepted the proposal. Renars and the other guys in Brainstorm evidently told the Mumiys that the Eurovision Song Contest was a lot of fun, and a great way of presenting your music to the European audience.
To me, their entry is the best song ever to be performed on a Eurovision Song Contest-stage. And I find it even more amazing in Russian (above). “Lady Alpine Blue” has (just about) everything a great song needs; a pulsating beat, a lovely, almost hypnothizing melody, great musicians and a pretty darn close to PERFECT voice! Their lyrics were once described, by Moscow News Weekly, as “playing with words and sounds”, which also the lyrics to “Lady Alpine Blue” is an example of. In the same article Moscow News Weekly explained the band’s quality lyrics with Ilya’s education as a linguist.
In 2002 they released the album “Meamury” (Memories), an album that sold really well in Russia and the neighbouring countries. For instance, it sold to gold in Latvia only a few weeks after it’s release. “Meamury” is my favourite of their albums; there is not a single track on this album that I don’t love!!
At this piont Mumiy Troll had become a household name in Russia, and they won several awards for both albums, singles, videos and also as best band. The song “Eto po lubvi” (Because of Love, below) won the “Best song of 2002” award. This is also my personal favourite of all their amazing songs.
Mumiy Troll has continued to be a very popular band in the former Soviet Union, while working steadily on gaining recognition in other countries as well. Their music isn’t easily cathegorized, but when trying to label it most people end up using two or more of these words; rock, experimental, alternative, pop, charismatic, melodic and individual. If you ask the members of the band themselves, they would most likely use the word “rockapops”, which is a term Ilya came up with back when he lived in London.
Ilya Lagutenko is often described as “something of a character”, and much of their popularity as a live band stems from his charismatic and fascinating performances. In addition to the former Soviet Union Mumiy Troll has always had quite a large fan base in Scandinavia.
From 2003 to 2008 they worked a lot on soundtracks for films and tv, and the greatest success in that field came when they recorded “Kung Fu Fighting” (below) for the Russian version of “Kung Fu Panda 2”, in which Ilya also was the voice of the monkey.
On July 7th 2007 Mumiy Troll released their eleventh studio album, AMBA. And for the first time ever they announced that there would be an English version of the album. The background for this is thought to be their rapidly growing fan base in North America.
In recent years they have toured in North America for months at a time, both in the USA and Canada, and among other performances and concerts they were musical guests on the “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” (below) on CBS. This is a nightly show that has 2 million viewers.
This past spring they toured in the US again, at the same time releasing their second album in English; Malibu Alibi. The songs on this album were actually written while the band was taking part in the sailship Sedov’s global voyage back in 2013. On this voyage they would write, rehearse, record…and in every port the ship called in to, they would play a concert, sometimes on deck, sometimes on the pier.
On their official web site you can find most of their songs, and you can also buy their albums, both digitally and the the physical CD’s.
“Lady Alpine Blue” is not the best song by Mumiy Troll (cuz that’s “Eto Po Ljubvi”, above), but to me it is the best song BY FAR in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest. No other song is even close. The fact that Ilya Lagutenko just happens to personify the expression “sex on legs” is just a bonus…
A previous version of this article was published on escNorge.net in 2010.