Former Leningrad vocalist makes anti-protest music video. Was it ordered by the Kremlin?
On May 15, Alisa Vox, the former vocalist of Russian rock band Leningrad released a new music video titled Malysh (original Russian: Малыш; translation: Baby or Child), in which she criticizes schoolchildren who go out to protest and advises them to start working on themselves instead. On social networking sites, people immediately assumed that the video had been filmed by the state. Oppositionist leader Alexei Navalny accused Vox of being paid by the presidential administration. In an interview with Meduza, a source close to the singer also claimed that Malysh had been a “state order”. Sources told television station Dozhd that the video had been ordered by former Kremlin employee Nikita Ivanov.
WARNING: This article contains two instances of strong language.
Alisa Vox’s music video of the song Malysh appeared on YouTube on Monday, May 15, 2017. The song’s lyrics focus entirely on the subject of schoolchildren participating in protests. During the song’s chorus, the singer is depicted as teacher who reprimands students “promised mountains of gold and euros.” “It is never too late to learn from mistakes. Since the heart wants changes, begin with yourself,” the song continues.
Leningrad founder Sergei Shnurov, who ceased working with Vox in March 2016, wrote about Malysh in two posts on Instagram. Shnurov criticized Vox in verse and criticized the manner in which the video was produced, calling “everything” from makeup to lighting to camera angles to the montage “blotchy.” He described the song’s lyrics and rhyme as “preschool-esque and uninteresting.”
On May 16, oppositionist leader Alexei Navalny announced that the Malysh was filmed on the Kremlin’s money. “[They] decided to allocate three suitcases [full] of money [to] the producers of popular pop stars to write [anti-protest] songs,” wrote Navalny.
An anonymous source closely acquainted with Vox and her musicians told Meduza that Malysh was commissioned by the state. According to the source, Vox and her band were asked to “create opposition” and paid about two million rubles (approximately $17,276). Counting on similar offers in the future, the musicians agreed and came up with a way in which to “do this effectively.”
In an interview with Meduza, Vox said that she is “tired of these questions” and is “taking time out” and “going into radio silence.”
“I didn’t write a song about politics. I don’t understand why the fuck they’re getting me tangled up in [this],” the singer said.
In an earlier interview with RBK-TV on May 16, Vox said: “With experience I came to understand that it’s impossible to live in society and yet be free of it. And if there is some kind of [hot topic] in a society that requires [attention] in my work, I would rather speak on the topic than keep silent. I worry about the fate of those who are deceived and misled. Climbing lanterns at the very least endangers one’s life, because one could just fall [off].”
Two sources in the presidential administration told Meduza said that the Kremlin had nothing to do with the video. One of them called Alexei Navalny’s remark that the text of the song was “written” by Putin’s first deputy chief of staff Sergei Kiriyenko “nonsense.” Another suggested that the video was the work of a certain groups of politicians who had “stayed out of the [administration]” and “are trying to do something.”
In a May 17 interview with television channel Dozhd, two sources close to the Kremlin identified the client and author of the music video as Nikita Ivanov, a former employee of the presidential administration and Federation Council member from Ingushetia. Ivanov has also been a member of the Ministry of Internal Affairs’s Public Council in recent years.
Meduza was unable to determine who filmed the music video, though it did establish where the filming took place. The music video for Vox’s song Derzhi was filmed in a similar setting by St. Petersburg-based studio Monsters Production. The same studio produced commercials for Sealeks and Alikaps – medications to increase male potency – featuring Sergei Shnurov, as well as music videos for Vari Strizhak, who repertoire includes songs whose titles translate as “The militia go into battle” and “The imperial spirit, or God save the king!”. Derzhi was directed by Vadim Vatagin who, in an interview with Meduza, claimed that Malysh had nothing to do with the studio. According to him, Monsters Production works in St. Petersburg, while the video in question was filmed in Moscow. As it turns out from Instagram posts about the music video, filming took place at R-Studios near the Rogozhsky cemetery in Moscow. One of the wings of the building where the studio is located is occupied by Sarik Andreasyan’s company Enjoy Movies.
Both Vox and her PR Manager told Meduza that they did not know who filmed the music video. “I did not ask them what they were called,” the singer said. Musician Artem Panteleyev, who plays the keyboard in Vox’s band, told Meduza that he did not participate in the making of the music video. Another source told Meduza that the endeavor did not include the people who ordinarily perform at the singer’s concerts.
Meduza managed to talk to Oleg Belousov, who played the role of a guitarist in the video. He said that he learned about filming on an employment website calling for “bearded, muscular dudes.” Belousov said that he received a recording of the song a day before filming. He acted in the video, though he plays the guitar in real life. “We just happen to look good, thank God,” he said.
“Honestly, the music video is weak, the lyrics are weak,” says Belousov. “I came to the site, her director came out, we filmed [the music video].” Belousov was paid 5,000 rubles (approximately $86.12), twice as much as the actor is ordinarily paid for a day of shooting.
“On Facebook [people were quick to] find a photo and wrote a post along the lines of ‘how could a good guitarist like Oleg Belousov act in such shit? Doesn’t the money smell?’” he added. “I can say [the following]: I have a family [to support]. If they call me again, I’ll go and [participate].” Belousov also does not know who produced the music video.
The song Malysh can currently only be heard on YouTube. Unlike other songs released by Vox, the song is not featured on any other digital platforms, including Google Play, Yandex.Music, and iTunes. Representatives of online songwriter and performer platform Heaven11 could not find the song in their database. Vox told Meduza that she wrote the song herself.