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“Az egyik legjobb szilveszteremet Budapesten töltöttem” – exkluzív interjú Alexandra Stannel

A decade ago, Alexandra Stan took the music industry by storm with her breakthrough hit, Mr Saxobeat. The song topped the charts in many European countries, made its way onto the US Billboard 100, and even Selena Gomez covered it at her live shows. Since then, the Romanian pop princess has been unstoppable. She’s released 4 albums so far, and her fifth one, which she told us about in detail, is coming out in only a few months and is shaping up to be her most colourful one to date.

The first single off the record, I Think I Love It came out last June, followed by 4 new songs this year, including the Latin-vibe Tikari, and a collaboration with Paul Damixie called Bandit.

We caught up with the songstress on her promo day in between interviews for a chat via Zoom, although she immediately noted that even physically, we’re not that far away from each other after all:

I’m actually really close to you guys, I’m in Târgu Mureș in Romania, and there’s a lot of Hungarian people living here. It’s close to Hungary.

Alexandra told us about how she reflects on her career so far, her new album, her biggest inspirations, the Romanian version of Masked Singer, she let us know what her favourite Hungarian dishes are, which Hungarian words she knows, and even sent a message to her Hungarian fans – exclusive interview with Alexandra Stan.

This is a really special occasion because this is your very first Hungarian interview!

“I think so, yes. I had concerts in Hungary, in Budapest, but I don’t know if I’ve ever had interviews there.”

You’ve been in the music industry for more than a decade now. Looking back, how do you reflect on your career so far?

It’s crazy because I feel as if it was my first year!

“It’s been several years of my career and I’ve released 4 albums, this next album that I’m going to release is gonna be my fifth one, but still, I feel like it’s a new beginning for me. I feel like it’s a new chapter, I feel like I have the same energy, like I have nothing to lose. It’s crazy how fast ten years went by.”

What was the most defining point in your life and your career?

“I had many moments that changed my career, but the first one and the most important one was the release of my first album, and my first single Mr Saxobeat. It was one of my biggest ones, probably my biggest one to date. It was the one that brought me here, put me on the map and made me famous everywhere in the world. I got to travel everywhere and got to do everything because of that first single, which was very strong. Then I also had other albums, for example Unlocked, my second album was very special to me because it was so colourful, and I got to work with many producers. It definitely gave me more experience in music. That was also one very important moment in my career.”

What’s your favourite and what’s your least favourite song that you’ve ever released?

“I don’t think I have a least favourite… Probably on the first album I have one or two songs, maybe Crazy or Ting-Ting… It’s not that I don’t like those songs, but they’re just a little bit more… silly? I was in my first year of writing songs, they were my first attempts as a writer, so the they were not very professionally written, maybe the lyrics were a little bit silly…”

But I cannot say that I don’t like my songs because they’re like my kids, you know. I like all of them!

What was the fastest song that you’ve ever finished?

“The fastest song? Well, I have many songs that I wrote just like that, for example my last one, Tikari. It happened really fast. I went into the studio and the producer had a beat. I started to write something to it, then we called LiToo, the guy who’s on the song. He helped me with the lyrics and we just wrote the song in 1 hour, then I also recorded it really fast.”

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Alexandra has released 4 albums so far: her 2011 debut, Saxobeats was followed by Unlocked in 2014, her third one, Alesta came out in 2016 and her latest one, Mami was released in 2018. With each record, we got to see a different side of hers and she experimented with various genres of music. Luckily, we don’t have to wait for her next one much more, as it’s going to come out early next year and is titled Rainbows. So, is it finished, or is she still working on it? We asked her about that, as well.

My new album is almost finished, I have one or two tracks that I have to cut the vocals for again. But the whole album is kind of finished, I would say 90%.

“Plus, you know, I have to do the photoshoot, I still have to film some videos, and I have to do the graphics. I have something in my mind now, me and my team are preparing everything, from the makeup and stuff like that. We wanna come out with a really nice concept.”

Of course, the COVID situation is affecting the creative process, as well, for example shooting videos or going into the studio.

“We were waiting for this crazy COVID situation to end, we hoped it would be finished soon because we wanted to film more and stay in the studio more, but in Romania, everything changed now and sadly, the situation got worse. We will see how we manage to do it, probably with a smaller team of just a few people.”

How would you describe your album in 3 words?

“Love, music, colours.”

And why did you choose the title Rainbows? What does it mean to you?

“First of all, because this year, I turned 31, and on my birthday, I went to the mountains, to a place called Maramureș. It means magic land, it’s here in the mountains, in the middle of the country.”

I saw a rainbow, a full rainbow on top of the mountains, and it was right on the day of my birthday. I figured, in my last 10 years, I evolved a lot as a person and as an artist. But especially as a person.

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Happy Birthday to me! 🏔🧚🏼‍♀️🌳💞

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“I wanted to have all kinds of experiences. Some people told me “you need to dress this way” or “you need to choose only one path, if you’re gonna make dance music, just stick with it” or “if you’re gonna make pop, just stick with it” or “if you’re gonna dress elegantly, just stick with that”.”

I tried to do that for some time, but then I figured I cannot do that because I’m a rainbow-head, 100%.

“One day I wake up and I wanna be a tomboy, the next day I wanna dress like a cute little girl. Sometimes I’m a gay girl, sometimes I’m a gay boy in my body, so it’s very important for me allow myself to experience all this frequency and all these experiences, as a person and as an artist. Exactly like the rainbow.”

The rainbow has all the colours, and I think that’s what I am, I’m the same. That’s why I wanted to call my album Rainbows.

Out of your recent singles, Obsesii and Take Me Home are more toned down, emotional ones, while Tikari, Bandit, and I Think I Love It are more up-tempo, party songs. Which of these two sounds define your album more?

The more down-tempo songs, like Take Me Home and Obsesii, those are the stories. My stories.

“Those are the songs that speak about my relationships, my life, my moods, because I also get sad or melancholic. But in a cute way, I think. That’s why I wated to release those kinds of songs, even if my fans always expect more up-tempo, dance beats from me. But I think what describes me the most are the pop, dance, disco kind of vibes. For example, my next Romanian single is something very disco, like old-school, ’80s kind of disco. Dance music right now is very open. You cannot put your finger on it and say, “this is dance, this is not dance”.”

Everything that makes you dance is dance, you know.

“Even Latin and reggaeton are dance right now, in these times.”

In Obsesii, you sing in Romanian, in Tikari, you sing in Spanish, you have a lot of songs in English, and in the past, you released some French songs, as well, for example one of your biggest hits, Ecoute, or Ou La La. Which language is your favourite to sing in?

“For me, English is definitely the easiest language to sing and write in, even easier than in Romanian. I never wrote a lot in Romanian, so I find it hard to find the words. I also love Spanish a lot, because it’s a very open language. It’s Latin, so it’s very colourful. In the past months, I challenged myself to write more songs in Spanish because I know that I have a really huge fanbase in Spain and in Latin-America, like Mexico, Brazil, and I wanted to be close to them. But not only them. Latin music is a movement everywhere right now, everyone is singing it. Plus, Romanians are Latin!”

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Who are your main inspirations musically?

My biggest inspirations were always the big artists, like Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Rihanna, Michael Jackson.

“I think they did crazy and really inspiring things and all the artists in the world were inspired by them. I’m also inspired by a lot of smaller, maybe more underground artists that not many people know, but they’re really interesting and creative. Sometimes I look for them because I love to get inspired by others. This is actually what we’re doing, you know. I don’t think that someone can be 100% original. We create some trends and we follow them and mix them.”

Of course, other artists aren’t the only muses for Alexandra. As a songwriter, she often takes inspiration from her personal experiences, such as her relationships, and she sings rather openly about them in her songs.

“I also get inspired by other things, for example by my relationships. I have songs in Romanian or in English that are very inspired by my relationships. Not matter if I get disappointed or if I’m happy, I start to write about that.”

Sometimes it takes the release of a song to tell exactly how my relationship went! It’s crazy!

Your sound is constantly evolving, and that’s one of the reasons why we’re always so excited when you drop something new. How do you push yourself creatively in the studio?

“I think I have really good luck with good producers. Over the years, I worked with many people, but in the last year or so, I focused on maximum 3 or 4. We became a very close team, so they know me. If I have to write or record something, and I’m like, “okay, that’s it, I cannot write this” or “I cannot sing this part” they push me a lot, you know. They know I can do better and better and that’s why they always push me to improve myself.”

Who are your dream collaborators?

“A lot of artists! From Latin music, I would love to sing and write together with J Balvin. He was a big, big inspiration for my Latin music. Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, The Weeknd, Drake… I love Drake a lot.”

For me, Drake and The Weeknd are like, if I’ll ever manage to write with them or be with them in the studio, it’s like, “okay I did it, I can die right now, it’s fine!”.

2020 has been a weird year for everyone, and basically, the whole world shut down. How did you cope with all of this and how did you remain positive during this time?

“Today, I was just thinking about this. I saw a lot of memes that said, “let’s make a wish on the 31st of December to forget that 2020 happened” and whatnot. Honestly, for me, it’s wasn’t such a bad year. I started it by singing, I was on the stage and I had concerts, and then of course the lockdown happened. But for me, it was almost like a blessing because I got the time to really lay low and think about what the most important things to me are, fists of all as a person, and second of all, as an artist. I got time to finish my songs, I got to spend time with my family, I got time to actually figure out my life and plan everything that’s happening right now.”

Now everything I planned a few months ago is manifesting for me, it’s happening. I’m really grateful and happy for that so I cannot say that 2020 was a messed-up year for me.

“It was one of the best years that could happen to me because I felt like I was given the chance to reorganize my life and to make things right for myself. It was one of my best years so far. Plus, I live in Constanța, and it’s by the sea, so I spent all summer on a wild beach. I never knew about that beach being so good! I don’t know, what can I say? I stayed on the beach, I sang, I stayed with my friends, I relaxed, I did a lot of music. I cannot complain, it was a really good year for myself.”

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Alexandra has been to Hungary a handful of times now, and even has Hungarian friends. Originally, she was supposed to perform on the stage of Budapest Park as a part of Total Dance Festival, however, it had to be postponed to May 15 next year. This will mark her first big show in Hungary, so we were curious if she was planning something special for this occasion.

“I hope I can learn some words because I have friends from here, in Târgu Mureș, and they speak Hungarian. One of my really good friends, who’s actually a really good DJ, lives in Turda and he’s Hungarian. I really like his music so maybe we will do something for Hungary, why not?”

I wish to travel there because I remember I had a New Year’s Eve in Budapest, and it was one of the bests!

“I spent it on the streets, and it was so nice. I remember I was so drunk that night because we drank palinka outside. It was so cold outside, and then when we got inside, in the bar, we drank champagne and we were oh so wasted. But it was one of the best New Year’s Eve ever!”

Now, when I’m here so close to Hungary, and I have friends that are Hungarian, I get closer to your culture, you know. It’s nice to feel the culture closer like that, and when you have friends, it’s different.

Speaking of the culture, have you ever tried any Hungarian dishes?

“Yeah, I tried palinka, and then there’s a place here in the city, it’s called Petry, and they have all these good foods. Like meats, but it’s dried and smoked meat, and it’s 100% Hungarian. It’s so good, wow, so good! And they also have good cheese in there and bread. I always go there with my friends and we buy stuff for home and we eat it at home. Actually, yesterday we were just talking about Petry because they have such good things there, really delicious things. They’re Hungarian and they have really good food. Also, we went to the mountains this weekend, and some of my friends cooked goulash. They cooked some goulash for us, and it was really good goulash.”

What was the most beautiful city that you’ve ever performed in?

“Oh, a lot of cities! I definitely like Tokyo, it’s one of the craziest cities in the world. They never sleep and the nightlife is crazy, especially in the spring and in the summer. It’s so alive, so full of people, you always see people walking on the streets and the technology and the music are so amazing. I also like more exotic places like Seychelles. I’ve been on the island on a yacht, actually. I performed right on the yacht, that was a whole different experience for me. I like European cities, too, like London, Paris, but I definitely prefer Asia. I don’t know why, but I guess it’s because Asian people are really crazy when it comes to partying. They like to party a lot.”

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If you weren’t a singer, what job would you like to have?

“I don’t know… I’d probably be a dancer. Or maybe a guitar player, although I don’t know how to play any instruments.”

So you’d still choose a job in the performing world…

“Yeah, definitely.”

I am an artist and I think it’s a blessing to be an artist.

“You get to do what you want, and you get paid for that, you inspire other people, you can dress in whatever you want…”

You turned out to be the bunny on the TV show Masked Singer. What was the most challenging part of being in the show?

“I’m the one with the big teeth, so I guess that’s why they gave me this character, you know! Because I kind of am the bunny! It was really crazy because of the suit. My suit was the hardest, the heaviest one. It was really big and really heavy, and everything was on my shoulder. The big hat finished on my shoulder, and on top of that, I had the head of the bunny. So, I had to keep my balance because the head was shaking. I had a small window to see, so I could only see really-really small things, only from maybe shoulder-length downwards. I couldn’t dance and I was so hot inside, it was like, 40 degrees inside the costume!”

One of the detectives was Alexandra’s old friend and colleague, the Romanian superstar INNA, and this caused a funny situation right from the first episode of the show. The pair collaborated in 2015 on We Wanna, and even performed the song together a couple of times, so it was almost inevitable for INNA not to recognize Alexandra’s voice right away.

“One of the funniest things was when I found out that INNA was one of the detectives, and I was sure she was gonna recognize my voice, you know. And actually, she did! She recognized my voice right in the first edition! She said “oh, this is Alexandra Stan, I know her, we’re colleagues, I know her voice!” and I was like “oh, I hope I’m not getting out of the contest in the first edition”. But it was a nice experience, I was really curious if people could recognize me without seeing my face.”

You sang songs like Sweet but Psycho by Ava Max or Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus. Did you choose them yourself?

“Yeah! Actually, I was given a list with many songs, but I also came up with some ideas myself, like Ava Max’s song and Miley Cyrus. I guess I wanted to sing something… maybe evergreen? But I also wanted to sing something very fresh and new. Some of the songs that they were proposing to me were older, and I wanted to sing new songs because in the audience, people were a little bit bored and I wanted them to say “oh, I love this song!”.”

And finally, is there a message that you would like to share with your Hungarian fans?

“Well, first of all, I would like to thank you guys so much for giving me the time to have this interview with you.”

I would like to say hello to all my Hungarian fans, I’ll give them a big, big, big hug and a big kiss.

“I’m here, close to them, in Târgu Mureș. I hope that soon I will be able to travel and sing and perform in front of you guys. Just stay close, stay tuned to my Instagram and Facebook, because my album is coming out really, really soon. Like, a few months, maybe 2 or 3 months.”

Of course, we couldn’t let Alexandra go on with her day without asking her if she knew any Hungarian words, and her answer, followed by a big smile, was:

I know, but only some bad words. I cannot say them here!

So, naturally, we wanted to teach her how to say “I love you” in Hungarian, but to our biggest surprise, right before we could say the word, she said:

„Szeretlek”, that I know. “Szeretlek” or “sziasztok”, like hi, how are you? What else do I know…? “Nem tudom”, “nem jó”. This is all I know. Plus, some bad words!

Hungarian version / Magyar változat

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