Alsou Biography 1983-
Alsou Safina Tenisheva was born in the Russian region of Tatarstan, in Bugulma, on June 27, 1983. Alsou means “the rose water” in the Tartar language. Like most people in the Soviet Union, Alsou grew up in poverty with her two brothers, Marat and Renard. In fact, until the age of 8, she lived with her grandparents in Siberia.
Soon, the collapse of Communism changed the young girl’s life. In the early ’90s, she moved to Moscow as her father became vice president of Russia’s biggest oil company, LUKoil, and, as a result, an exceedingly wealthy man.
This job took him to every corner of the world and he took his family with him. When Alsou was 9, she and her family moved to New York City. Two years later, they relocated to Denmark and then to London, England, in 1996.
Essentially, Alsou grew up in the British capital. She went to boarding school there and remained with her older brother Marat when the parents were once again called away. When Alsou was 15, Marat went to Moscow to celebrate his wedding in 1998.
A talented piano player, she was aware she could belt out a mean song and decided to emulate Whitney Houston by singing the hit “I Will Always Love You.” This proved to be the most important day of her life. A friend of her mother’s rushed up to Alsou and told her she had an acquaintance in the music business whom she should meet right away.
She was later introduced to the Russian producer Valeriy Belotserkovsky at his studio. She once again sang the Whitney Houston song (originally Dolly Parton’s) and he was so impressed that he cut her off in the middle of the piece to offer her a deal.
They started working on music at once and soon had a video ready for the Russian public in February 1999. The video was for the song “Zimniy Son” and in it she pretended to be Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. This retro-styled song, written by Russian singer and songwriter Alexander Shevchenko, was incredibly popular.
In September 1999, her first album, Alsou, was released by Real Records. Not only did it sell over one million copies, it garnered her attention from the big boys.
Two months later, Alsou signed a long-term international contract with the Russian division of Universal Music. It didn’t take long for Alsou to start working on some new material. In May 2000, she entered the singing competition Eurovision with her new song, “Solo.” Although she came in second in a contest seen by over 260 million people worldwide, the song, when released a month later, became the highest-selling single in Russia’s history.
In the fall of 2000, Alsou teamed up with Latin heartthrob Enrique Iglesias to record the duet “You’re My No. 1.” It outdid “Solo,” selling even more copies. 2000 was a year for international exposure for Alsou, and she took full advantage of it.
Alsou changed her image from a demure family-friendly artist to a raunchier performer. She appeared dancing sexily in black leather in her video for “Before You Love Me,” the first single from her debut English language record. In 2001, the song topped out at No. 27 on British charts and became No. 1 on MTV Europe.
In June 2001, this first English language album, again called Alsou, was released. Produced by Simon Napier-Bell, George Michael’s former manager, this record was going to be hyped. Alsou was flown all over Europe, as she promoted her latest opus on TV shows and radio interviews.
Real Records, the company that released her first album, had an idea about releasing a special edition of that album with new Russian songs on it. Universal didn’t approve and a legal battle ensued. Consequently, Alsou’s manager Valeriy Belotserkovsky terminated the deal with Universal.
Alsou left her British home and returned to Russia, where she started studying acting. The special edition Alsou album was released by Real Records in November 2001, and the following spring, Real released a new Russian language record, Mne prisnilas Osen’.
Alsou got herself a new manager, Alexander Shevchenko, and to represent her in the Western Hemisphere, she chose Denis Ingoldsby, the co-producer of Travis and Craig David. Still interested in her, Universal Music followed suit by releasing the dance CD Run Right Out Of Time.
In summer 2002, Alsou was part of an ambitious concert project called the Trilogy. In 10 days, she gave three completely different concerts: a traditional performance of her old material, an intimate affair with a classical orchestra, and a huge Europop show. Newspapers called the Trilogy “an important social and cultural event.”
A new Russian album, 19, was released in January 2003. Soon after, Alsou started recording new English songs in London and Los Angeles. Not only did she work with celebrated producers, she wrote 12 songs and did a duet called “I Wish I Never Knew” with rap star Nelly.
This CD, Inspired, was released in 2004. Currently single and living in London, Alsou wants to start acting. With her kind of drive, it’s only a question of time…