This year, the ubiquitous ‘Despacito’ became the first foreign-language number one in over twenty years. The last non-English language track to sit atop the charts was Los Del Rio’s ‘Macarena’, all the way back in 1996. Perhaps ‘Despacito’ is just the first in a long line of future foreign-language hits. As American and British pop music continues to sound more homogeneous by the day, it’s only natural that pop fans should start looking further afield for their fix.
Enter Ukraine’s Luna. Her stylish, minimalist brand of pop is causing a stir not only in her homeland, but overseas too. Latest single ‘Oгонёк’ (‘ogon-yok’), translating roughly to ‘little light’, is a shiny and chic exercise in unsettling Europop.
Luna’s Russian language single sizzles with a creeping sense of unease, the creaking synths creating a disquieting sense of foreboding. On ‘Oгонёк’, Luna (real name Kristina Bardash) sings of abandonment and solitude, declaring “This quiet light has been extinguished / burned out without a sound”. But even with no knowledge of the Russian lyrics, Luna gets the message across through the sparse arrangement. The hissing percussion and desolate synth swoops hint at isolation and loneliness while the hushed spoken word verses suggest an introverted sadness.
What Luna manages to do on ‘Oгонёк’ is transcend language barriers through pop music. The fizzing synth arrangement of the track sounds at once familiar and yet foreign, there being an underlying current of oddness – or otherness- that unsettles and allures at the same time. If foreign-language pop music is really about to see a resurgence, Luna should undoubtedly be near the top of every pop fan’s playlist.