Listening to your favorite artists is a really powerful tool in learning a language. Translating lyrics from Russian and reciting songs gradually enriches your vocabulary. I often use it in my lessons, as singing doesn’t only let you mechanically memorize new words — you also learn them in context.
The problem is that it’s hard to find a band or a singer whose style you will like and that will evoke the desire to sing along. In order to solve this problem, I decided to write this article, where I will give you a closer look at the most popular Russian musicians.
Here is what you will find:
- Russian modern pop musicians
- Variety singers
- Russian rock bands
- Russian rap singers
- Russian electronic musicians
- Russian classical musicians
I won’t talk around groups that were popular decades ago and have disappeared. Neither will you see well-worn ‘Tro-lo-lo’ viral songs. Instead, I’ll show you what sort of bands and singers Russians really listen to.
What Kind of Musicians are Popular in Russia?
What’s your idea of the modern Russian band? If you are hoping for Slavic motifs, I’m going to disappoint you. Russian singers follow global trends. There are tons of genres including electronic, pop, rock, rap and many others. Music videos are also made with high production value.
So, let me get you acquainted with the most listened to singers of the country. I’ll leave the links to the official channels of bands so you can refresh your playlist.
Russian Modern Pop Musicians
We’ll begin with modern pop music. Though I’m personally not a huge fan of the genre, I can show you some really popular bands and singers. Although many Russian singers are trying to copy Western celebs, I picked up those that have their own unique style. Check them out.
#1 Монеточка (The coin)
Монеточка (The Coin) is the cutest girl in all Russian show-business, and probably in the world. Her songs are very pleasant. You should listen to her lyrics to understand that she stands out from the army of cloned pop-stars. She is very young (born in 1998) and her first songs were made for teenagers like her. But the lyrics touch topics pertaining to people of all ages. That’s why, from 2017 on, her songs have blazed up Russian charts.
#2 Ivan Dorn
Ivan is a very talented Ukrainian artist. He experiments in different genres: pop, funk, hip-hop and electronic music. Once he had won the Russian audience, he switched to the West. His recently released “ODT” album got a prestigious EMA MTV award. His ambition is to conquer American charts, and I think he has a great chance of doing so.
#3 Звери (Animals)
This band makes music in the middle ground between rock and pop music. I totally love their lyrics, particularly because this is what I listened to as a teenager. Generally, I like these “Green Day” style bands; they can cheer up even my saddest days.
This is a classic pop singer. Don’t expect to see much sense in her lyrics, but maybe that’s for the better; her songs are excellent for dancing to at a party. They are also very cool for beginning learners, as the lyrics can be easily translated and learned. As a pop-symbol, she has a great sporty body and, on her YouTube channel, shares advice about healthy living.
Another example of classic popular singer working in the best traditions of the genre. Nice music videos with tons of beautiful ladies in tight costumes. Her image reminds me of Britney Spears. The couplets of her songs are easy to memorize and sing along. So, it’s great practice for language starters.
As a part of Soviet heritage, Russia has a special genre – variety singing. This doesn’t mean that such performers don’t produce music videos, but they are much more popular for their singing on stage for the public or on TV shows. These singers are considered “old school” and have many fans among people over 45.
#6 Alla Pugacheva
This woman is Russian Madonna. She became popular in the times of the USSR and performed many songs, that are familiar to every Russian citizen over 50. Unlike many of her colleagues, after the collapse of the USSR, she not only managed to save her status, but made a meteoric rise in Russia.
Nikolai is a former Opera singer with outstanding vocal talents. Having left opera singing in 2000, he switched to pop and built a well-known name through TV channels. Nowadays, he’s experimenting with new genres on YouTube. Not so long ago he made a 20-minute musical which has Russian subtitles.
- Любовь – не слова (Love is not just words, Russian subs)
- Два венца на карете (Two wreath on a carriage, Russian subs)
Russian Rock Bands
We’re finally coming to my favorite part. I can speak about Russian rock bands for hours, but here I’ll just show you my favorites and their top songs. Pay attention, some of them are provided with Russian or English subtitles.
When my friends at school were excited about fancy pop singers, my brother showed me DDT (a band founded before my birth) and my musical taste has changed forever. This is true poetry: sharp and focused on the most compelling questions of the day. I really advise you to try to translate the lyrics because the way the songwriter uses the Russian language is incredible. The official channel of the band is not very big, so I have left a couple of links to my favorite songs:
Zemfira is not just a band’s name, but also the actual name of its leader. I would say her genre is a soft or ballad-style rock. She is a very brave and uncompromising woman, who often challenges common public opinions. She’s become one of the most influential women in Russia, having produced six albums, made a film, and a musical movie. Here are the songs you might like.
The most provocative Russian band of all time. Its leader, Sergey Shnurov (writer of almost all their songs), sarcastically depicts modern values: money, power, office work, addiction to selfies, etc. Warning! The lyrics contain a huge amount of cursing, so be careful if you want to include the phrases into your daily vocabulary. However, the profanities are not used to insult or humiliate someone, but to make the lyrics more expressive.
- В Питере – пить (To drink in St. Petersburg, Russian subs)
- Сиськи (Boobs, Russian subs)
- Вояж (Voyage, Russian subs)
Another cool Russian rock band. I’m in love with their love ballads and songs on pressing social issues. Sometimes they hide the true meaning under a thick cover of metaphors, but some of the songs are more straight-forward. I also highly advise you watch their concerts where they play with an orchestra.
- Чёрное солнце (Black Sun, English subs)
- Лётчик (The pilot, English subs)
- Три сантиметра над землей (Three cm above the land)
- Лайки (Likes)
Russian rap is becoming more and more popular among native speakers. It contains all the attributes of the genre, including rap battles. Some of these were even largely publicized by mass-media. For a language learner, rap in Russian sounds really difficult. But if you get into it and analyze a song or two, you will get a huge amount of cultural information that will never be available in a classroom.
This guy is known as the Russian Eminem. He will most likely never be popular abroad since his lyrics are in Russian, but he has talent and ambition to propel Russian rap to a new level. His lyrics are complicated and have many allusions and references to current events in the country. Even I, a native speaker, need to listen carefully to understand the main idea. I totally recommend this musician to everyone who likes rap.
Каста performs real Russian gangster rap: sometimes very brutal, sometimes sarcastic. This is what JAY-Z’s rap would look like if he was born in Russia. Every time they address a social problem they get to the core of the matter. If you want to know what worries Russian people these days, listen to Каста.
Russian Electronic Music
This is a rave-band from St. Petersburg that has the courage and potential to become world-famous. Their song Skibidi has already gained world popularity. This is not just because of their unique music, but also thanks to their viral punk-style music videos. They are sarcastic, provocative, and professionally-made at the same time. Some will say that they resemble “Die Antwoord”. They are much more than that. For evidence, watch the “LollyBomb” video showing the North Korean leader French-kissing an atom bomb.
Have you heard anything about Slavic folk Drum-n-Bass? If not, you really need to listen to Neuromonakh Feofan, a singer with a beard hiding his face under a big hood. His songs are a wild mixture of folk motifs with cutting-edge Neurofunk. Personally, I can’t sit in one place when I hear his music: my legs begin dancing by themselves!
#15 Tesla Boy
This band sings in English and I would have never guessed that they are Russians if I didn’t know that from their interviews. Even Lady Gaga has some of their songs in her playlist. Their style is similar to Coldplay or The Zolas and borrows some of the best Western trends and tendencies.
Russian Classical Musicians
In the 19th century, the Russian classical school of music gave to the world outstanding composers and musicians, such as:
- Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka
- Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky
- Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin
- Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov
- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
I found a very cool video where a gentleman is playing classic songs we all know, but probably don’t guess that they were created by Russian composers.
What do you think, what artists should be included in this list? What are your favorite bands and musicians? Share in the comments below! Remember, your comments help other students, like yourself, make progress in Russian.