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Review: Manizha — «Russian Woman Show»

«A cosmopolitan world-class product», «interest in different genres from soul to trip-hop, the ability to navigate perfectly in them and make hits» — these are quotes from my review of the 2017 album of the then little-known singer Manizhi. The artist’s stylistic preferences at that time seemed wide and not too formed — and who would have thought that over the next four years they would not become more definite. On the contrary, webpage to the musical omnivorousness of Manizhi, song statements on social and political topics were added: all these «Nedoslavian women» declared that the singer was not going to entertain, but to talk about the problems of refugees and the struggle of Western and Eastern mentalities.

All this social and musical activity, however, took place far from the front pages of the main news sites — Manizha remained an indie singer, followed by a small core of fans and sympathizers. Everything changed in the spring of 2021, when Manizha was sent to Eurovision from Russia with the strange song «Russian Woman». The promo campaign was held on a first-channel scale: the whole country learned the history of the Manizhi family, got acquainted with the worldview of a Russian Tajik woman and the difficulties she faced in Russia. At the same time, the musical component again faded into the background: the competition song «Russian Woman» was a hybrid of ethnic chants, site bilingual recitative and not quite obvious message. What kind of singer Manizha, the townsfolk did not understand.

After the competition, the artist was supposed to start a different life: despite her ninth place at Eurovision, the very participation and TV promotion gave Manizha a great impetus to increase her popularity. But she has not yet been able to take advantage of this: many planned concerts were canceled due to coronavirus restrictions, and the repertoire remained omnivorous and incomprehensible, which is also recorded in the new release.

«Russian Woman Show» is a live disc, webpage but only five tracks. On the cover, Manizha hides behind the pianist and composer Kirill Richter, although he took part in only two out of five compositions. The main attention should be paid to them: «The planes are flying away» — a piano cover version of a song from the repertoire of Alla Pugacheva. Manija brilliantly copes with the dramatic ballad, making a weighty claim to be ready to occupy the empty niche of the Prima Donna. However, the following numbers have nothing to do with romance-like pop music — in them Manizha demonstrates the same bilingual mixture of ethnicity, psychedelics, indie rock, which is not very clear, for example, to Pugacheva’s fans. For advanced listeners, we can recommend the composition «Stand Up», which looks especially advantageous against the background of the notorious «Russian Woman», which concludes the disc. A rare case, but even numerous repetitions of this song from Eurovision did not make it more listenable.

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