Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, turned 62 yesterday. Public opinion polls assure us that the people of Russia are quite fond of their head of state, despite the checkered reputation Putin enjoys abroad, especially in the West. The country's mounting economic problems don't seem to bother most Russians, either. The proof, it seems, is in the music.
Yesterday, in a mix of satire and homage, news media around the world covered the spectacle surrounding Putin's most recent birthday. But the party has been going on for years already. If “Russia under Putin” were a human being, she'd be an adolescent now, pushing fourteen. Throughout this time, the Internet has been a treasure trove of artistic expression of Russian citizens’ feelings about their president.
Expressing themselves in song comes naturally to most Russians, so it's no wonder that music about Putin abounds on the Internet. While some of the songs are critical or offensive in nature (slamming Putin for corruption, abuse of power, and greed), many others laud “VVP” (the president's initials) for his manliness, bravery, and no-nonsense je ne sais quoi.
RuNet Echo looks back at the 10 best examples of foot-tapping, hip-thrusting Putin-love to have appeared online. A “cult of personality” never sounded so good.
1. Who Could Be The President? (2006)
This laid-back reggae track gives us a brilliant mashup of Putin's real words, excerpted from a public speech (and taken wildly out of context, of course!). The song treats listeners to a Putin not shy about extolling his own virtues. “Who could be the president? Who could be me? Because nobody wants to do the dirty work. Because nobody wants to be caught in the Kremlin. We need strong authorities—strong presidential authority. Who could be president? Me!”
2. Go Hard Like Vladimir Putin (2014)
An amazing monochrome rap video praising Putin's hard-hitting, no-compromising side. We don't really know what AMG (aka Jason Lewis), a rapper from Ohio, and the Russian President have in common, or why AMG looks up to VVP. But it's an instant hit.
3. One Like Putin (2002)
This one is a classic. A sexy techno anthem to the machismo that is the president. The ladies in the video say they're done with their boyfriends (so disappointing!) and the only man they could ever settle for is someone like Putin. This is one of the longest-running Putin tracks of all time, and it's still as good as it was the first time we heard it.
4. Putin Can Do Anything (2013)
A cute cartoon accompanied by a riff on a Russian children's song (the original is “Daddy Can Do Anything”). (Yes, we know.) Putin emerges as an all-around talented man: he can go to space, play the piano, climb mountains, breakdance, pilot an airplane—there's really nothing he can't do. Bonus feature: a super-sad, but hilarious, Yanukovych character. Also, the choir at the end. It's worth watching all the way. We promise.
5. Putin Super DJ (2008)
Sorry, Mr. Jackson, but when Mr. Putin, the new super DJ in town, gets behind the turntable, we're gonna dance 'til morning. He's a superstar! “We all dream of being like him,” sings Andrey Gubin, who used to be a legitimate pop singer in Russia. Yeah, it's sad to watch the stars fade, but the track is still kind of catchy!
6. Go Forth, Vladimir Putin! (2012)
A more traditional song with an accordion, balalaikas, and back-up choir, not to mention the obligatory mentions of Russian villages, love, and bad weather. No matter how dark the sky, singer Vladimir Slepak rasps, we shall overcome all our problems, as long as we're moving forward with Putin at the helm. History in the making!
7. VVP (2012)
This one is secretly our favorite. Tadjik singer Tolibdjon Kurbankhanov praises Putin in a very earnest, but monotonous techno-number, set to a series of depressing, unspectacular shots of Russian cities in the winter. (This is the icy, dilapidated paradise you've come to know and love, foreigners.) “VVP, he saved the country, he elevated Russia!” The rest of the text is more poor rhymes and broken rhythms. It's so bad it's almost too good, and Kurbankhanov tries so hard. Bonus: Balalaika solo!
8. Stir It Up, Muddle It Up (2012)
Another example of brilliant sampling skills. This track mixes up soundbites from Putin, Medvedev, and other officials, as well as quotes from popular culture with a catchy refrain. The gist is, Putin has got to be president, and we will do anything we can—stir up trouble and muddy the waters—to keep Vova (Putin) in power. This almost sounds like satire, but not quite. Also, Putin wears a crown, because why not.
9. The Song of Putin (2010)
This one has a more raw, garageband sound, but it still works. Some rapping, some distorted guitars, and more praise for Putin. The authors walk us through VVP's epic biography, from his early years to his ascent to power. The guitar riffs are nice, and the refrain is to die for: “Bro, don't sweat it! Everything's gonna be ace!”
10. Vova Is Rocking It (2010)
This hilarious cartoon music video is built on the classic R&B canon: the soloist, the hip-swinging backup girls, and the harmonies. Dress Code, the band behind the song, presents Putin as an epic hero, who is more awesome than James Bond, Superman, or Harry Potter, and saving the day is basically his day job. (We won't ask what he gets up to at night.) Nothing but respect for the man who is our Luke Skywalker and our Terminator, rolled into one.