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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Ovation for Pop Awards Ceremony

The Russian pop industry lacks many basic features of international showbiz, among them an institution like official, objective charts.

Nobody can really measure an artist's popularity. Record sales do not say much because most music is distributed on pirate tapes. In the absence of real charts have appeared numerous unofficial hit parades, compiled by newspapers, magazines and radio stations. All these charts are apparently heavily manipulated, and not necessarily by their creators. Fan clubs send in hundreds of postcards to chart-makers in order to maintain their idol's top position.

The latest addition to the pop vanity game is the annual Ovatsia Awards, proclaimed by organizers as a Russian Grammy Awards. That is like calling singer Lika Star a Russian Madonna; there is almost nothing in common between the two awards.

Unlike the Grammys, where nominees and award-winners are selected by open vote of a grand jury, Ovatsia uses a method that welcomes all kinds of falsifications. Tens of thousands of postcards were printed and put on sale at 250 rubles each, so anyone could buy a card (or a thousand cards), fill them in and send them to Ovatsia's promoters, a private firm. The rest is pure lobbyism.

The list of nominees (three in each category) was shamelessly manipulated. For example, Alla Pugacheva and Valery Leontyev, unquestionably the two biggest Russian pop vocalists, were both absent from their categories. Naturally, the two pop heavyweights did not bother much about prizewinning and took no steps to secure their place among the nominees. Consequently, they were replaced by far lesser-known artists, who took such steps.

To avoid scandal, organizers hastily created meaningless special awards for them. Pugacheva was given the "Living Legend" trophy, and Leontyev got merited for "Artistic Quality." A moderately successful Igor Krutoy got into the top three among "Pop Composers," apparently because of his influential position at Ostankino, where incidentally the Ovatsia Awards will be shown this weekend.

In distributing awards the organizers have tried their best to please everyone and not leave a single pop celebrity without a prize. Some results of the dealings are funny. For instance, pop singer Alexander Buynov, who has been around for 20 or so years, receives "The Best Newcomer" Award. Pop group Na Na were given "Best Pop Song" award for "Faina," a hit recorded in 1991.

To paraphrase a well-known formula, one can say that every nation's pop music gets the awards ceremony it deserves. As rotten and ridiculous as it is, Ovatsia adequately reflects the state of Russian pop industry, which I would describe as unprofessional, corrupt and ignorant of quality. It seems that our pop elite has abandoned its international ambitions and now concentrates on satisfying the low-level demands of the local market.

There was a very symbolic detail at the Ovatsia ceremony: Only the front rows of the Rossiya Concert Hall were occupied by artists and music-related people. The rest of the venue belonged to those who could afford paying 500,000 rubles for a ticket. Apart from the nominees, no musicians, critics, concert promoters or DJs have been invited -- their space was given away to the mob.

Yury Shevchuk, the only Ovatsia-winning rock musician, fell down through the cardboard stage when receiving his prize. Later he joked: It was too hard to bear the show.