I would like to begin by apologizing to the "hardcore" Enigma fans whom I may have offended by my article, especially towards the end. I'm not a fan who has to love everything Enigma does just because it's Enigma, so I try to provide an honest perspective about the music of both good and bad, which is simply my own opinion.
Regardless of whether you agree with me or not, I respect the opinions of other Enigma fans and their admiration and love for the same music that I have enjoyed for over two decades. I'm always open to having conversations about Enigma with fans who enjoy the same music as well. ---Dustin
You may be wondering... "What Is Enigma?"
Enigma is a musical project founded in Germany by Michael Cretu, David Fairstein and Frank Peterson in 1990. Cretu is both the composer and the producer of the project. His former wife Sandra often provided vocals on Enigma tracks. Jens Gad co-arranged and played guitar on three of the Enigma albums. Peter Cornelius also contributed to Enigma during the 1990s.
In December 1990, after eight months of preparation, Cretu released Enigma's debut album, "MCMXC a.D.", which received over 60 platinum-level sales awards worldwide,
and topped the charts in 41 countries, becoming the most successful Virgin records act of those times.
Although from the late 1970s onward, Michael Cretu already had his own music career on his hands and apart from some collaboration efforts with several other musicians, the album was Cretu's first commercial success through the single "Sadeness (Part I)," which juxtaposed Gregorian chants and sexual overtones over a dance beat that was
highly peculiar to the ears of the public at that time.
Before the album was released, Cretu was cautious of the response towards the upcoming album, decided to forgo mentioning his and most of the personnel's real name and credited himself as Curly M.C., while the album sleeve contained little information about the background of the project, furthering the mystery about the creators of the album and leading to speculation whether Enigma was a band, a person or a group.
Enigma means "mystery" and when the album debuted no one knew who the people were behind the album. Their true identities were not exposed until a crop of lawsuits surfaced regarding samples used on the albums "MCMXC a.D." and "The Cross of Changes".
Enigma's music is best described as "mood" music although most people today regard this style of music as "New Age". If you're looking for music that is calming, thought provoking, peaceful, reflective, spiritual, stylish, maybe a little sensual, and definitely enigmatic laid on bed of electronic sounding club and dance beats- Enigma is worth a listen. Enigma's success is no fluke event. Cretu has stated that he wanted to blend mainstream pop music with ethnic / worldly tones and that he knew the result, if successful, would prove that music is language of the world.
Worldwide statistics for Enigma’s debut album, its equally popular preceding single, the Gregorian chant-driven ‘Sadeness (Part One)’, plus subsequent albums The Cross Of Changes (1993), Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi! (1996), and The Screen Behind The Mirror (2000), are truly staggering: more than 50 number one chart positions and 85 platinum awards! 100 million album sales down the line (and counting), is it any wonder that Enigma is the most successful German pop music project ever?
Enigma's first two studio albums also led to the creation and popularity of bands and musical groups that follow similar styles. MCMXC a.D. was named as one of the most important and influential album of mainstream New Age music. The album not only popularized the "Enigmatic" music style but also introduced some technical changes in music production. With MCMXC a.D., Michael Cretu developed the technical features and intentions of sampling. Though samples were in use long before, Cretu built his own music around whole sequences of previously recorded parts.
Enigma and Deep Forest are also to be considered by many to have brought the tribal chant genre to the ears of the public and are responsible for the term "new age" in the mainstream public's consciousness circa 1990 and beyond.
Delerium's "Karma" album and Jen's Gad's "Achillea" and "Enigmatic Obsession" albums also reference the work of Engima.
1 "MCMXC a.D."
I was introduced to the sounds of Enigma nearly two decades ago (in 1990) when my mother first brought home the album "MCMXC a.D.", put the CD into our living room stereo surround-sound system and BLASTED the album through our entire house.
I remember my mom would play the album over and over and I fell in love with the album the moment I first heard it. I had never heard Gregorian chanting, or a Frenchwoman seductively whispering before. There was something magical about that piece of music; something relaxing, yet stimulating. At the ripe age of 11, I had never heard anything like it before but I was definitely captivated by it as was the rest of the world.
Aside from loving the singles "Principles Of Lust", " Mea Culpa" and "Sadeness", I'm also crazy about "Callas Went Away" and "Knocking On Forbidden Doors". I like the birds in the background on "Callas Went Away". You can hear horses walking, its a slower song, yet it still retains sensuality and mystery and the beat is hypnotic... and when the synth plays
parts of "Sadeness" you'll instantly see why I love this song.
"Knocking On Forbidden Doors" is very mysterious and makes full advantage of stereo sound fading in and out from left-to-right. The instruments are so creatively used that it actually sounds like they are "knocking" on doors. Laid over a highly addictive beat, the Gregorian chants appear half-way through the song and it slows down, then picks back up; you don't know what to expect... then "knock knock knock" ... to me this is one of the best songs on the album!
Music video for the hit single "Sadeness (Part 1)" from the album "MCMXC a.D."
2 "THE CROSS OF CHANGES"
In 1993, Cretu was given an offer by producers to compose the full soundtrack of the motion picture Sliver, but he was unable to accept the offer due to his unique style of
music production and the amount of time it takes to create an album didn't line up with the production of the motion picture.
Instead, he came up with "Carly's Song" ("Age of Loneliness" in the album and video releases) and "Carly's Loneliness," which were used in the movie and credited in the motion picture soundtrack as well.
By the time Enigma's second album was released my mother had moved on. She
played NuShooz, Technotronic, Fleetwood Mac... and I had moved on too... to Weird Al
and Paula Abdul. My mother was also responsible for my introduction to Paula Abdul
which is a story for another day.
I remember in 1993 Taco Bell ran a promotion giving away a compilation CD titled "Do Something" and it was available in a variety of genres for free with any food purchase. One of the songs on the compilation was "The Return to Innocence", which I had no idea at the time was by Enigma.
I remember being disappointed that my local Taco Bell location had run out of supplies so I never did get a copy of "Do Something", but I always remembered "The Return to Innocence" and after hearing the song on the radio I eventually put two and two together and knew who was responsible for it.
Music video for the hit single "Return to Innocence" from "The Cross of Changes"
I had the MCMXC a.D. album on cassette tape but aside from it, that was the end of the Enigma experience for me until 1998. I had moved out of state to live with my Father in another part of the country and I only owned E1 on cassette as a kid. I eventually moved back home with my mother and moved out on my own in 1998. After successfully getting established and setup on my own I set out to start my own music collections... and of course that involved reconnecting with Enigma.
My favorite song on the album is "The Eyes Of Truth" which is 7:15 in length and really allows you to absorb yourself in the music. The song featured samples of Mongolian Folk Music plus the classic Enigma flute and dance beats. In 1999, the song was popularized from its artistic use in the worldwide trailer for the motion picture "The Matrix".
I believe the common theme of "The Cross of Changes" is evolution.
3 "LE ROI EST MORT, VIVE LE ROI!"
In 1998 Enigma's third album "Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi!" had already been released for two years, but I went to a local store a bought a copy after previously buying E1 and E2 on CD for my collection as well. (Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi! is French for "The King is dead. Long live the King.")
I'll admit it... E3 was not my favorite Enigma album at the time which probably comes as a shock to most hardcore fans who often refer to E3 as the defining moment in Enigma history. I'm not a fan who thinks he has to like everything an artist records simply because I'm a fan of the artist. I like the story in the album, embracing "The Child" in us. The music flows beautifully but I initially didn't "get it" and songs like "T.N.T. For The Brain" and "Beyond The Invisible" were way beyond me. It is a refreshing album to listen to, and is completely different from E1 and E2.
The album grew on me and I enjoy listening to it immensely now. It took me many years to embrace and understand E3 since it was such a departure from the first album, but now that I understand the creative masterpiece that it is, possibly because my ear for music has changed- I do understand why the album is loved so dearly by Enigma fans; I also understand why the album wasn't a commercial success. The songs were not broad enough in appear for the mass commercial market at that time; and the singles were not radio-friendly enough for mainstream media.
My favorite songs on the album are "Shadows In Silence" and "Almost Full Moon". I also like "The Roundabout" and "Why!". "Morphing Thru Time" is actually a pretty cool song too and Cretu sings in this track as well. The b-side to the "Beyond the Invisible" single called "Light of Your Smile" is an incredible song as well. Perfect for reflection.
Two singles were released from the album: "Beyond the Invisible" and "T.N.T. for the Brain". A planned third single, "The Roundabout" was scrapped at the last minute for unclear reasons, even though a remix had already been created by DJ Quicksilver which still remains unreleased.
Music video for "Beyond the Invisible"
This album continued Enigma's trend, giving it a slightly more modern, futuristic sound by combining the elements of Enigma's first album, MCMXC a.D., and their second album, The Cross of Changes. Michael Cretu, producer of the project, considered Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi! to be the child of the previous two albums, with the first being the father and the second being the mother, as indicated by the 19-second track, "Third of its Kind".
Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi! was nominated in the 1998 Grammy Awards for Best New Age Album and Johann Zambryski's album art design earned him a nomination for Best Recording Package. That's one thing Enigma is well known for- the artwork and packaging is always the best quality, although none has matched the three dimensional album cover from Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi!
4 "THE SCREEN BEHIND THE MIRROR"
I fell in love with Enigma all over again in 2000 when "The Screen Behind The Mirror" (E4) was released. The single "Gravity of Love" had massive commercial appeal, the music video that was filmed to promote the single was excellent and the remixes were excellent. Pure "new age" pop perfection. The album was crafted with the same care, in my opinion, as the first Enigma album. I think that's why E4 resonates so well with me.
The second single "Push The Limits" was also an amazing track with amazing remixes, although the music video fell short of my expectations, the music has always been what's most important to me. Everyone interprets the visuals of Enigma's sound differently; but Thomas Job's vision on the video for "Gravity of Love" was 100% right on. 100%!
"The Screen Behind The Mirror" is a perfect album in every way the first Enigma album was perfect. The album contained a meaningful story deeply woven in, the album used new and familiar sounds, it has the right amount of vocals, samples and world sounds. Parts of the album are upbeat and fast, parts are slower and cause you to reflect before picking back up again. The artwork was also incredible. Eleven years later E4 still sounds current, bold, fresh. Sampling Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" on "Gravity of Love" was pure genius... and that summarizes E4 to me- a flash of genius.
As I listened to the Enigma albums over the years, as a child, a young adult and now as an adult the one thing that always mystified me was that most, not all, but most of the music on the Enigma albums were created by one man- Michael Cretu. "How does one man pull all of these beautiful sounds out of his head and create these masterpieces by himself?" That is one question that has plagued me for years. Listen to these albums with that in the back of your mind and you too will be amazed at the talent that this man possesses. We tend to take music for granted. Most albums have a dozen or more people who have contributed to its production- and on Enigma's albums its usually less than three or four people with the bulk of the work performed by Cretu himself.
I genuinely have a hard time picking songs I like on E4 since I love them all and together they are a masterpiece. If you were to remove any one song from E4 the album wouldn't be the same. The only other album I feel that way about is E1.
In addition to "Push The Limits" and "Gravity of Love", my other favorites are "Smell Of Desire", "Traces (Light & Weight)", "The Screen Behind The Mirror", "Endless Quest" and "Between Mind & Heart"... and seriously you should listen to "Camera Obscura" which has Cretu singing an upbeat anthem with a choir joining him adding further tension to the track... its an amazing listen!!!
The lyrics on "The Screen Behind The Mirror" album make sense and help the album come full circle. The last time I heard Enigma lyrics this well thought-out was on the very first Enigma album. Take a look at the lyrics to the two singles from the album:
Gravity Of Love
o Fortuna, velut Luna
o Fortuna, velut Luna
Turn around and smell what you don't see
Close your eyes … it is so clear
Here's the mirror, behind there is a screen
On both ways you can get in
Don't think twice before you listen to your heart
Follow the trace for a new start
What you need and everything you'll feel
Is just a question of the deal
In the eye of storm you'll see a lonely dove
The experience of survival holds the key to the gravity of love
o Fortuna, velut Luna
The path of excess leads to the tower of wisdom.
The path of excess leads to the tower of wisdom.
Try to think about it…
That's the chance to live your life and discover what it is
What's the gravity of love
o Fortuna, velut Luna
Look around, just people, can you hear their voice
Find the one who'll guide you to the limits of your choice
But if you're in the eye of storm, just think of the lonely dove
The experience of survival is the key to the gravity of love.
o Fortuna, velut Luna
o Fortuna, velut Luna
Push The Limits
Basic instincts, social life
Paradoxes side by side.
Don't submit to stupid rules
Be yourself and not a fool.
Don't accept average habits
Open your heart and push the limits.
Open your heart and push the limits.
Open your heart and push the limits.
One of the things I really like about E4 is that the lyrics are necessary but secondary to the music. The lyrics were well thought-out and planned, very intentional- but they don't overpower the music. The music is the forefront of "The Screen Behind The Mirror" album, and if I had to introduce someone to Enigma who had never heard any of the albums before- I would definitely recommend E1 and E4.
L.S.D., L.S.D. REMIXES
In October of 2001 Enigma celebrated the first four albums of Michael Cretu's musical project with Love Sensuality Devotion: The Greatest Hits, greatest hits album. I believe this release coincided with the renewal of Cretu's contract extension with Virgin/EMI to produce an additional four albums beginning in 2003 with Voyageur.
Most record labels decide to renew their artists contracts (or drop them from their roster) after a Greatest Hits compilation is released. I seem to remember there was a huge management shake up at Virgin/EMI and one of the Executives there happened to be a fan of Cretu / Enigma and he's the one responsible for extending Enigma's contract before he (the Executive) officially left Virgin/EMI. I can't remember his name, but I'd like to say "thank you".
The remix album takes 3 songs from the first album, MCMXC a.D., 4 songs from The Cross of Changes, 4 songs from Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi!, 5 songs from The Screen Behind the Mirror, and featured a new single "Turn Around" and an intro titled "The Landing".
A light show was held at the Munich Planetarium in conjunction of the release of the compilation albums. It was mentioned that other Planetarium's from around the world might also hold light shows to the sounds of Enigma, but this never materialized.
TURN AROUND (SINGLE)
I still remember when "Turn Around" was released to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Enigma. The song was included on the "Love Sensuality Devotion: The Greatest Hits" album accompanied by a longer remix on "Love Sensuality Devotion: The Remix Collection".
As a standalone single, "Turn Around" takes some of the best elements of the previous Enigma hits and blends them with electronica club beats.
Michael Cretu's voice is digitally altered to sound like a robot, and there is a woman quietly whispering the names of past Enigma song titles... the combination worked well and the extended remix was even more thrilling. A video was also filmed to compliment the Greatest Hits release.
After how successful I thought "The Screen Behind The Mirror" was, what a masterpiece that album turned out to be, "Turn Around" was like the icing on the cake for me and made me anticipate E5 that much more.
In 2003 Enigma released "Voyageur" their fifth album. E5 was a departure from standard Enigma fare. The intro Enigma sound was cut short, and the signature shakuhachi flutes, Gregorian chants and tribal chants found on earlier albums were all but gone. As a fan it pains me to say this but E5 sounded like Cretu "phoned in" his performance since the "Voyageur" album contains no real storyline and the second half of the album is all over the place with no real direction. Additionally, with the exception of the first single also called "Voyageur" (which I love), the wrong singles were used to promote the album which contributed to the albums lackluster success.
Songs like "Total Eclipse Of The Moon" have no business on the album and offer no Enigma-ish contribution aside from pathetic lyrics and Cretu singing. The first five songs all fit a common sound theme, but once you get to "Total Eclipse Of The Moon" (aside from the brilliant song which is titled "Look Of Today", this voyage begins to drift off into the sunset never to return.
Music video for the single "Voyageur" from the Enigma album titled "Voyageur".
The singles released were "Voyageur", "Following the Sun" and "Boum-Boum". I really like "Boum-Boum" and think its a great song and I really appreciate what MC was doing on this song and I too thought it would be a good third single; however it almost didn't become a single after the massive "Following the Sun" flop. I remember there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the release of the single and whether or not it was actually going to happen or not. Ultimately, Nebula Music released the single with Virgin Records which also contains the music video. In my opinion the video has absolutely nothing to do with the song, which was a disappointment because its such a good song.
I remember after the single for "Voyageur" was released an Enigma Fan Site, or Enigma's management had asked the fans to vote on what the next single off of "Voyageur" should be. The fans have had an affection for Ruth-Ann Boyle since E4 and elected to vote for song "Following the Sun". In my opinion this is the worst song on the album and I ALWAYS skip it. For me "The Piano" is the last song on the album, not "Following the Sun". The fans don't always know what is commercially appealing, and voted for what they loved (as to be expected) instead of what was actually going to commercially translate into more business for the record label, and Enigma.
I would have released "The Look of Today" as a single in place of "Following the Sun", and here's why. It's Enigma with a Euro/electro/club sound to it. Michael's voice sounds mysterious and you can't stop listening. It's a new sound mixed with a familiar one and it works.
You know it's a hit when you can hear an endless stream of remixes to the song in the back of your mind... remixes that would have sold well on a CD/digital single release and helped bring Enigma back into the minds of mainstream conscience.
This song would have surely charted well on the Club charts and would have been played in clubs thereby exposing Enigma to a whole new generation of young people who have never heard of Enigma translating into new record sales. It was broad enough to also be played on mainstream radio. I think the lyrics are also thought-provoking and catchy.
The Look Of Today
I'll show you inside and you will see,
feel what just money can bring. Can you see?
That's the look,
that's the look,
that's the look of today.
You have a problem I could help,
buy it and be yourself.
Cause you know, that's the look, that's the look, that's the look of today.
That's the look,
that's the look,
that's the look.
So many trends just fade away
Before you can wear it, it's passé. Can you see?
That's the look,
that's the look,
that's the look of today.
You are so stylish, you are so vain,
sometimes I think you have no brain.
But you know, that's the look,
that's the look, that's the look of today.
I think part of the problem is after the management shakeup at Virgin/EMI, I don't think the new crew put in place to promote the album knew how to properly promote Enigma or New Age music. I also don't think that Michael Cretu's lack of promotion helped any either so Virgin/EMI probably assumed since Cretu who is the artist- isn't going to promote, why should we?
HELLO & WELCOME (SINGLE) / 15 YEARS AFTER (BOX SET)
In 2005 Virgin Records released a "15 Years After" box-set containing 8 discs, 5 of them original studio albums created from 1990 to 2003, 2 DVDs and a bonus CD of Enigma's songs covered by Rollo Armstrong. The remixes by Rollo were a complete disappointment. They don't sound anything like Enigma. I'm not even sure what they are. A waste. They sucked even more because this is Enigma we're talking about; the name is synonymous with QUALITY and the remixes are absolute shit. I've never been so disappointed with a bonus CD before in my life as I was with the Rollo remixes. If it weren't for Cretu's real-life signature on the package and the inclusion of the song "Hello and Welcome" I would have demanded a refund.
For the fans, the notable reason for buying the boxset was that Michael Cretu personally visited the EMI factory in Uden, Netherlands to sign a thousand copies of the box set. The thousand signed copies had Cretu's initials ("MC") signed with a silver marker. I proudly have one of these in my collection.
The thing that most excited me about the "15 Years After" box-set was that it contained the highly-sought after, unreleased standalone single called "Hello & Welcome". To me, "Hello & Welcome" was going to be the BIG COMEBACK song for Enigma.
"Hello & Welcome" was intended to be the walk-in music for the German boxer, Felix Sturm of whom Cretu is a big fan. The single was to tie-in with Sturm's fight with Maselino Masoe for the WBA Championship title. But due to an injury that Sturm picked up just weeks before the fight, the single's release date was pushed further back until the day before Sturm's rescheduled match.
An incredible video was filmed to promote the song, however Virgin seemed to lose interest in promoting the song after Sturm was injured and the single had to initially be postponed. The single includes the music video and two similar remixes, "Thunderstorm Mix" and the "After The Storm Mix".
"Hello & Welcome" is one of my all-time favorite Enigma songs. I have to admit, I was a little taken back when it was announced that (E6) "A Posteriori" was space-oriented when "Hello and Welcome" was so perfect and would have fit better in a different musically styled Enigma album.
Music video for the single "Hello & Welcome"
6. A POSTERIORI
In 2006 Enigma released "A Posteriori" (E6) which focused on the collision of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies and had more of a space-like theme throughout the entire album. While not as misguided as the "Voyageur" album, its sound still did not resonate in my mind as a proper Enigma album. There was hardly any worldly influence or charm from the first album, and I prefer Enigma to blend cultural sounds with earthly sounds, not sounds from outer space.
E6 is cohesive and is worth listening to, although the "A Posteriori Private Lounge Remix" album is just as imaginative, if not more so than the "A Posteriori" album. You'll definitely want to listen to "The Alchemist [The Alchemist's Vision by Ralf Hildenbeutel]" remix off the Private Lounge album. There were no music videos to promote the album, and no physical single releases.
I remember seeing "Hello and Welcome" on the tracklist when E6 was first announced, and I thought to myself "how is that song going to fit into a space-theme?" It turns out that Cretu used the "After The Storm Mix" of "Hello and Welcome" on the "A Posteriori" album.
I was disappointed that "Goodbye Milky Way" wasn't released as a single on the album. Its one of the most original sounding and uses some unfamiliar sounds that resonate well. The lyrics are great and the music is simple and perfect. It was originally going to be the first single from "A Posteriori" but a month after the single was announced, it's release on CD and other formats was cancelled, except for digital download.
7. SEVEN LIVES MANY FACES
In 2008 Enigma released "Seven Lives Many Faces". The first glimpse I had of E7 was a 60 second promo video on YouTube which was a little misleading... the video contains a sample of the track "La Puerta del Cielo" but omits Margarita Roig's vocals. Watch the video and then listen to the preview of the "La Puerta del Cielo". (the video was removed from Youtube)
Keep in mind this snippet was released before E7 and before "La Puerta del Cielo" was made available in its entirety. I was hoping the song would have gone more in the direction of the promo video since I really like that section of the La Puerta del Cielo (just my opinion); however I am just as pleased with the song the way it is on the album, but the actual musical instrumentation on that song is so amazing, I wish there was an extended version of it that had more of the instrumentation on it.
Margarita Roig did an OUTSTANDING JOB with the vocals. I was very surprised... and inspired. When I first heard her *with* the music I was blown away. A true compliment.
The first 2 singles on the album are "Seven Lives" and "La Puerta del Cielo." They were both released together as a double A-side CD single and the videos for each song use recycled scenes from previous Enigma videos: "Push the Limits" for "Seven lives" and "Age of Loneliness" for "La Puerta del Cielo". A third and final single was released digitally for "The Same Parents" with the music video taken from the DVD release that accompanied the album.
When your record label releases a double-A side as your lead single it's a pretty good indication that your label has no interest in promoting your album. Why would a record label release your two best songs on the same CD? They have no clue how to promote Enigma, or have given up, or don't care. I think Cretu knows Virgin/EMI has started to lose interest in Enigma which is why so much effort has cropped up recently (i.e. The Social Song, see below) to try and generate some new interest in the project.
E7 is really good. It's still not quite E1 or E4 in my book but its pretty close. There's no real storyline in "Seven Lives Many Faces" but the cultural influences are back. At first I didn't understand the dog panting in the song "Seven Lives" and it annoyed me but after so many times listening to the song it doesn't bother me so much anymore.
I was so impressed with "Seven Lives" and "La Puerta del Cielo" that I bought 5 copies of "Seven Lives Many Faces" when it was officially released and obviously kept one for myself and gave the others to friends and family- including my mother who introduced me to Enigma back in 1990. When I told her I was writing an article about Engima she mentioned how she really liked the album "Seven Lives Many Faces" and said she thought it was as good as if not better than E1.
Music video for the Enigma single "Seven Lives" from the album "Seven Lives Many Faces"
The opening song "Encounters" is one of the more amazing openings to an Enigma album. "Seven Lives" is a strong lead single... very hard hitting. "Touchness" is a nice reflection of " Sadeness" from the first Enigma album... I just wish it were longer than 3 minutes. I think that is one of the key ingredients of success on the first album which has been underutilized on every Enigma album since: the songs are long enough on the first album that you can totally get into it before the track is over... it doesn't start, climax and end in 3 minutes time... on E1 the first track, although divided into 3 sections is 11 minutes long and fades from song to song to song seamlessly. I thought "Touchness" was such a good song that it deserved to be a little longer. Other tracks on the album could have been omitted to pull this off while still keeping with the common theme of the album.
"The Same Parents" was great the first couple of times I listened to it but now I skip it. I like the premise of the track- "in the beginning we all had the same parents- we're all brothers and sisters- so why do we fight and go to war with each other?" I think the vocals on the song are rather annoying and out of place which is why I skip it even though I like what the song stands for and the instrumentation on the song is also great. I'm not sure what I would change about it... but the concept of the song is a good one and again I must emphasize that the instrumentation on the song is great. I also think it's neat that Michael allowed his son/s to help voice a part on the song.
"Fata Morgana (Instrumental)" could almost be a sister or cousin of "Touchness" but this song has a surprise element of hip-hop beats infused with a woman whispering "take me now" with a guitar playing... its one of the standout tracks on the album.
A lot of the fans didn't like the lyrics in "Distorted Love". Lyrics such as "Touch me... I'll be your daddy. Smell me... I'll be your mommy" just didn't make sense to them; and I think the song is genius. I mean, after all, isn't that what Enigma is about? Mystery... things that don't make sense? Fans that don't get the song are took it too literal, and as long as you do that you'll never be able to make sense of it.
"Je t'aime Till My Dying Day" is a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful love song. You'll definitely want to play this one at a wedding, or if you're having a romantic evening at home with a loved one, it's a perfect fit.
After listening to "Seven Lives Many Faces" several times now, you can tell that a lot of experimentation was blended together to make an album without telling a real story. The essence of a story is there; it's trying. I think the message of the album is "love".
To me, part of the success of the first album (E1) was the story; a story of love, religion, confliction; you can almost hear how delicately they crafted the story on the first album; whether intentional or unintentional there's only 7 tracks, two of which are 10+ minutes each. The longest track on "Seven Lives Many Faces" is "The Same Parents" at 5:20. This isn't to say that the album is bad because it has multiple short tracks, or that the attention to detail wasn't there, but E5 and E7 don't flow as well as E1, E2, E3 and E4.
The real star of the album "Seven Lives Many Faces" is Margarita Roig who steals the show on the song "La Puerta del Cielo", which is a song that's so good, I wish had been just a little longer. She also sings on the song "Between Generations" which is about a woman who wants to marry her daughter to an older man, but her daughter is already in love with a younger man. So the song addresses this dispute in Margarita Roig's Catalan dialect which only people over 60 are proficient in. It's a great song to listen to on E7.
Enigma's "The Platinum Collection" was released in 2009 as a three-disc box set. The first CD contains most popular Enigma tracks from the previous years, the second CD is an album of remixes from the songs on the first disc, and the third CD contains never released before tracks and outtakes composed and produced by Michael Cretu. The artwork is recycled from the "Enigma: 15 Years After" boxset.
The first disc features the three singles from E5, none from E6 and the two singles from E7. Disc 2, the remix collection features two remixes from E5 and one from E6 and none from E7. As a fan who's sick and tired of Virgin/EMI continually releasing / recycling the same old remixes with each "new" release the third disc featuring unreleased gems on The Platinum Collection is a breath of fresh air.
The unfinished / unreleased tracks on disc 3 provide the listener with an idea and an understanding of the creative process behind Engima's songs.
As a fan and collector, this disc alone was worth the price of the boxset. I hope that future releases will include new, original content instead of the same old songs and remixes that have been released over and over again from years past.
MMX - THE SOCIAL SONG (SINGLE)
"MMX - The Social Song" is a single Enigma released on December 15th 2010 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the musical project.
In October 2010 Michael Cretu invited the fans to record themselves and vote for a vocalist to create the song via the internet.
Latvian Fox Lima's "Fei Mea" was the most voted and became the lead vocal for the social song. The three runners up, J. Spring from Spain, Mark Joshua from Brazil and Rasa Serra from Lithuania provided the backing vocals to the song.
Fans from all over the world were involved in voting on the production of the song and its final mix as well as designing its cover and creating the official video. Cretu released the song to the fans as a free download at www.enigmasocialsong.com with a promise of more interactive projects in the future.
"MMX" is the first song created for and by the fans via internet.
As I've said before, Enigma's "in-between" singles ("Turn Around", "Hello and Welcome") always blow me away and have become two of my favorites. When Michael Cretu first announced this "Social Experiment" I was delighted, and as it would turn out, once again not disappointed. I think the song is beautiful, and stays true to the very spirit of Enigma. This proved Michael's theory correct: music is a true worldwide language.
I think it was a brave idea of Cretu's to allow the fans to participate, which is obviously why other producers have never tried such a feat. I also think that, with the very realistic possibility that E8 may be the last of Enigma's commercial albums for a while unless Virgin/EMI re-signs with Cretu, the "Social Song" was an innovative publicity stunt to try and attract new interest in Enigma... which according to the Social Song website it did:
■ According to NextBigSound.com the Enigma Social Song experiment reached more than 100,000 new fans on various Social Networks to date.
■ Almost 50,000 people liked Enigma’s new Facebook page (starting from zero), from which more than 36,000 visit Enigma's Facebook page monthly.
■ Enigma has more than 380,000 views of those videos that have been submitted to their YouTube channel.
■ You listened more than 75,000 times to Enigma audio files on SoundCloud. Obviously, the final “MMX (The Social Song)” is the most streamed one.
■ Enigma’s YouTube channel has reached #1 of the most viewed YouTube channels in the category Music in Spain.
■ Google Analytics shows that close to 120,000 people from more than 150 countries have visited the landing page www.EnigmaSocialSong.com so far. More than 3,300 comments on posts have been approved.
■ Over 11,000 are following Enigma on iTunes Ping (starting from zero).
■ Close to 1,000,000 people viewed Enigma's MySpace channel.
■ And last, but not least Enigma's Social Song experiment has close to 10,000 “Social Song” downloads so far.
* The numbers stated above refer to the period of the event only (10/10 – 03/11) and do not measure any so-called soft facts (e.g. engagement).
I think it would be neat if Enigma produced an entire album this way, however if this was the only experiment, or if there will be more to come in the future, I am looking forward to it with excitement just the same.
I'm saddened that the Social Song didn't occur leading up to or during the release of E8 because all of the publicity and new fans and interest from The Social Song would have been helpful in promoting the forthcoming Enigma album.
Music video for MMX The Social Song (This official video was created by the fans)
FORTHCOMING ALBUM: E8 / THE FUTURE OF "ENIGMA"
I believe E8 will be the last Enigma album for an extended period of time. No one really knows for sure if it is going to be last album, but I have personal doubts because:
Enigma's first chapter ended with the fourth album so the second probably will end with the eighth. After E8 is released its possible another Greatest Hits package will be released. This is usually when record companies will re-sign an artist or drop them from their roster. If that happens, Cretu can try to negotiate with other labels or opt to release Enigma albums independently or retire the project entirely.
My E8 Wishlist
In my own dream world, my ultimate wishlist for Enigma's 8th album... would see all of the original collaborators on E1 help Michael Cretu develop and produce tracks for E8. I'm talking the "mother of all collaborations" to include Michael Cretu, David Fairstein, Frank Peterson, Sandra, Jens Gad, Peter Cornelius, Louisa Stanley, Ruth-Ann Boyle and Andru Donalds.
Could you imagine how incredible the album would be with all of these people working together? That would be a fine way to wrap up the Enigma project, or at least bring it full circle. I mean seriously, bury the hatchet with Frank Peterson and get back together - for the sake of music - for the fans.
E1 had loads of sexual overtones, French speaking, Gregorian chanting, church references, bells, sounds from centuries long ago... BRING IT ALL BACK! I'm not saying you have to repeat yourself- but surely you can create something new out of something old. That's what sold well. That's what the people wanted to hear. Go back to the original samples, the original files you worked on back in 1989 / 1990 when you first put together "MCMXC a.D.". The potential contract renewal / extension (with another 1 to 4 Enigma albums) is at stake!
All I'm saying is go back to the original sample collections, take another listen for E8. Fan's aren't asking for an exact copy of E1 again... but whatever you did on E1 worked and since Enigma could truly use another massive worldwide hit again, I don't think this is a bad idea; it's not a bad place to start.
Sampling is and has been a large part of what contributed to Enigma's success in the first place... get back to sampling. Some of the songs that sounds the most interesting make use of samples.
Enigma revolutionized "New Age" music. Think about it. The word "New Age" music. Michael Cretu, David Fairstein and Frank Peterson ushered in a new age- a new era of world music. The world needs another Enigma album to remind us, to reunite us as one in the world, during these ever increasing turbulent times.
Ethnic Chants, the Falling Star Effect, the Moaning and Breaths, Chimes, Church Organ, Ambient Noises (Rain, Thunder, Ocean, Horses), Nervous Hi-Hats, Snares, Choirs, Reversed Beats, Reversed Vocals, French Whispering, Sudden Crossfades- they're all part of the Enigma formula- what makes Enigma, well... Enigma.
Why Enigma's Latest Music Is Not So Popular and How I Would "Fix" Enigma
The point of Enigma, hence the name of the project, is that it was supposed to be shrouded with secrecy; and over the years that has eroded. To a point, we've come to know what to expect, and there's no mystery. I've already mentioned past "mysteries" (Margarita Roig, sampling Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana", playing music and vocals in reverse) that pleasantly surprised me... I think we need more surprises.
Michael Cretu took the wrong direction when he said that he wants to be original and make every album unique and ''original'' (E5/6/7), but what he did is, completely moved away from Enigma's original feeling and uniqueness of it's sound. That's where the main problem lies. MC wanted to be original and made a mistake. He already was original with his sound, he only should try to compose it better with today's sounds, not completely change the direction and feeling of his synths and melodies.
First of all, and I hate to be the one to say this, but stylistic world music has now become more of a niche market. Radio Stations simply do not play or give Enigma's style of music a chance on mainstream top 40 radio anymore- at least not in the United States (and let's leave the politics of the U.S. aside please, because a lot of the music I listen to is from Europe).
Unless the Enigma project receives full support from not only the record label but also radio stations who reach the mainstream record-buying/downloading public, there's a slim chance of E8 becoming a global success.
The press release for E1 states the album was completed in 8 months time (with David Fairstein and Frank Peterson). Cretu's agreement with Virgin/EMI states 2-3 years between albums by contract, and we all know that Enigma needs another worldwide hit but I can't help but wonder if, in two/three years time (especially on the last 3 albums), maybe there's too much time in between releases for second-guessing and doubt, which is why the albums have less focus? Or maybe Michael hurried through them? Or neither? Spend a year and create just to create- not with the goal of making hits. That's what happened with E1... it took 8 months and Cretu didn't know what to expect so he released the album as Curly M.C. not expecting the album to take off like it did.
I know from studying the music business for two decades that three-years in-between album releases is suicide in the music industry. Think about it: the average shelf life of a pop-star at best is 5 years. In 5 years time a pop star will release 2-3 full albums and a Greatest Hits package and that's generally the last you every hear from them.
(Remember Paula Abdul or The Spice Girls). Paula Abdul waited 3 years in-between her massive "Spellbound" album in 1992 and by the time she released "Head Over Heels" in 1995 her audience had moved on. Sure, there are exceptions; but this is how its worked in the Industry for years and years. The same has happened for Janet Jackson. She waited three years between "The Velvet Rope" in 1997 and "All for You" in 2001 and "All for You" didn't chart as well as her previous album. So she waits another three years and releases "Damita Jo" in 2004 and struggles even further. Did you know she's released an additional two albums since? Probably not unless you're a Janet fan since they didn't get any promotion.
What I'm saying is... three years is A LONG TIME and the general public has forgotten about Enigma. Lack of radio airplay had contributed to this. So has lack of other promotion such as touring. Most artists try to make an album release a huge EVENT with weeks and months of TV and radio promo, and a world tour.
We get a press release that Enigma's releasing an album, maybe a lackluster music video and that's it. How is that going to sell records... especially to a public who's forgotten who you are? The fans in 1990 are all grown up now with families of their own. This isn't a bad thing- there are generations and generations of people the entire world over who have never been exposed to Enigma.
Now is the BESTTIME to release a new album if all sides can commit to proper promotion and publicity. I'm just not sure that Virgin/EMI knows how to properly promote New Age music and the Enigma brand, and based on their track record with the last 3 albums... I'm not sure that they care either.
Enigma needs a groundbreaking / breakthrough new single with a kick-ass music video and club friendly remixes by some of the top DJ's and remixers (Oakenfold, BT, Kaskade, ATB). Michael Cretu and Virgin/EMI need to commit to promote E8 with every ounce of marketing muscle they have. They also need the support of mainstream radio, clubs and DJs. It wouldn't hurt to have the lead single tied in with the soundtrack of a summer-blockbuster (theme song to the new 2012/2013 Bond film maybe?) Maybe another Social Song experiment tied to MTV/VH1 aimed at teen/young adults would help break Enigma into a new age demographic while still appealing to its fan base. After all, these kids have no idea what Enigma is; they're only being fed Rap and R&B tunes.
P.S. - I really enjoy b-sides, bonus tracks, 2 disc sets... throw in a juicy bonus for your loyal fans and get them talking... get them excited... and they'll promote with word of mouth for free. (Also, I'm bummed there weren't any remixes from E7!!!)
I know in past interviews Cretu has said he's opposed to doing collaborations with big name celebrities; however I think now is the best time to reconsider this. First, it will add something new to the project for the Enigma fans. Second, you have an instant built-in fan base from whomever you choose to work with which will help boost sales and promotion. I'm not suggesting Madonna- but if you used Madonna in one of your productions (as an example), she comes with a guarantee of a certain level of promotion by default based on who she is, and by default X number of fans will buy the album/single just because Madonna contributed on it. I want to state again that I am NOT suggesting Madonna as a potential collaborator on an Enigma album. Maybe the collaboration should be a secret; that would add to the fun / mystery for Enigma fans and the fans of whomever was chosen for a collaboration. Perhaps it could be revealed for the first time in ... concert. More details on this below in a moment.
I do think it would be interesting to collaborate with Kylie Minogue, Kristy Thirsk, Sarah McLachlan or the lesser-known Monalisa Young who could provide some awesome background vocals for the project. Or... for the new age fan, what would an Enigma-Enya collaboration sound like? Maybe an Enigma/Deep Forest/Enigma collaboration? That would surprise the hell out of fans. It could work, and reinvigorate the brand... just please... less of Andru Donalds and Ruth-Ann's vocals.
The release of E8 should also come with an announcement of the first Enigma world tour. Everyone who's been involved with the project, who wants to be involved should be involved. Cretu, Ruth Ann, Angel X, Andru Donalds, Sandra- should all be there singing live. The show could be in a theatre-like style with ethnic dancing, monks, and so on. It would be neat to include the key social song participants and bring them out on the road too. You'd only have to play major markets - Germany, Paris, Spain, UK, Los Angeles, New York, but this would really help publicize the new album and garner the attention of new fans, and old and spark a new interest in Enigma. And yes, I would enjoy a complimentary pair of tickets and a chance to shake Mr. Cretu's hand for the suggestion.
Overall, I think that poor radio promotion, lack of touring, poor music videos and selecting the wrong singles, along with a lack of mystery and misguided albums have all contributed to the downfall of Enigma over the last three albums.
Let me ask you something...
When was the last time you heard Enigma in a movie, television show, or movie trailer? When was the last time you thought to yourself "Wow (song name here) would have been perfect for (name TV show/movie here)... ??? Enigma's publishing company needs to be actively pursuing licensees, not just sitting and waiting for people to come to them. If M.C.'s publishing company was more aggressive in seeking movie trailers, soundtracks and TV shows that featured his Enigma songs, this would help boost an interest in Enigma! But this hasn't been happening. At least not that I've experienced lately in the US.
Trailer for "The Matrix" movie (Enigma's "Eyes of the Truth" makes an appearance at the end)
Delerium's album "Karma" is proof that "new age" music is alive and well. The duo's collaboration with Sarah McLachlan, on the song "Silence", became the band's biggest hit single 10 years after their formation.
The song was such a hit for Delerium they released it again as a remixed compilation disc in 2004 and the song was remixed again in 2006, 2008 and 2009- providing fans with new takes on a song they love so dearly. Enigma continues to release the same old recycled remixes over and over and over again. I'll be the first to admit it... Enigma was the one and only "New Age" artist I ever had listened to (aside from Enya's "Orinoco Flow" / "Caribbean Blue" singles. "Silence" is proof that New Age music can become popular once more.
Delerium's "Silence" featuring Sarah McLachlan from the album "Karma"
Will Mr. Cretu be able to create something BIG for Enigma once more?
Yes, I with no doubt in my mind believe that Enigma can fuse and blend amazing, intriguing cultural beats into a relevant worldwide hit album once again... but it will take the right single, released at the right time, with the right promotion to succeed.
Whether the stars will realign and allow this magical combination to create a second globally successful hit phenomenon, and whether that single will ever see the light of day is indeed an Enigma of it's own.
(Special thanks to Wikipedia for helping me with my research for this article, which I had been wanting to write for several years now.)