December 12, 2021

Russia Wrapped: A Year of Music in Review

Russia Wrapped: A Year of Music in Review
While in-person concerts were limited this past year, Russians continued to produce and consume new music.  Photo by James Stamler via Unsplash

The Russian music scene can be difficult to penetrate, especially if you don’t understand Russian. But the good thing about music is that you don’t necessarily need to understand all the words in order to enjoy it (but, if you are learning Russian, it can be a great way to learn new words and practice pronunciation). At a time of the year when everyone is debuting their Spotify Wrapped charts, it's a great opportunity to take a look at some of the most popular new releases to have come out of Russia within the past 11 months. 

While the music streaming service Yandex Music is not available in the United States, they have released information about what their (primarily Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian) listeners have been interested in during the past year.  

According to Yandex data, the number one song of 2021 is “Little Bird” by the hip-hop duo HammAli & Navai. It’s a pretty sad song to take the number one seat, describing the emotions of a girl being used by her significant other, but perhaps that describes the general vibes from the past year? 

The second most-streamed song is titled “Venus-Jupiter” by Vanya Dimitrienko. Dimitienko is an interesting individual because he’s actually only sixteen years old. He first gained fame by uploading his videos on Tiktok, and later by participating in a televised talent competition. The song is based on the eternal clash between Russia’s two great cities: Moscow and St. Petersburg. While the two cities aren’t really that far away from each other (an overnight train ride will do the trick), to this singer and his lover, the difference feels about as far as two planets. 

The third most streamed song is “Federico Fellini” by the hip-hop duo Galibri and Mavik. The title of the song honors the celebrated Italian film director of the same name. The lyrics actually don’t make very much sense, but the song is very catchy! The music video is pretty awesome as well, set in a Russian village when a car full of city-dwellers come over for a party. 

Yandex also named a few specific artists for accolades

Mari Kraimbreri in a pink outfit with silver chains and long blonde hair.
Female singer of the year, Mari Kraimbreri.
Photo by Nikita Nevanov under CC BY-SA 3.0 

Mari Kraimbreri took the title of top female artist of the year. While her dance-pop hit “Ocean” was released last year, it has continued to be hugely popular this year. 

Morgenshtern performing in Moscow (2018) Photo by Okras under CC BY-SA 4.0
Morgenshtern performing in Moscow (2018)
Photo by Okras under CC BY-SA 4.0

Unsurprisingly, the male artist of the year is the famous rapper Morgenshtern. Even Spotify could back up this title by naming him the most listened to artist out of Russia.

Yandex named the pop duo Artik & Asti as Group of the Year and their album Millennium X as Album of the Year. This was a bit of an interesting choice for fans, given that the singer (who goes by the stage name Asti) announced in November that she would be leaving the group and starting her own solo career. 

Yandex Music also honored the pop musician GUMA with the title of Newcomer of the Year. She impressed many Russians with her hit single “Glass.”   

Alternatively, Yandex gave a nod to rock star Zemfira with the Comeback of the Year award. For the first time in eight years, she released a new full-length album, titled Borderline. Not only that, but she composed the entire soundtrack for the Russian movie, The North Wind, and released an EP! Even in her softer ballads, Zemfira still rocks just as hard at forty-five as she ever has. 

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