So bad, it’s good … and mesmerizing

The Thinker by Rodin

YouTube: a treasure trove of the good, the bad, the indifferent, the mediocre and the ugly. Actually, I rarely visit the place. The few videos I do watch on YouTube come as recommendations. This one appeared in my wife’s LiveJournal, posted by a friend of hers. I happened to peer over her shoulder and asked her, “What the heck is that?

If like me you don’t understand Russian, you end up going to Google Translate to figure out the title of the video, which is “I am very glad, because I’m finally back home”. If I had to guess the title it would be, “I ingested ten times more Prozac than the doctor allowed.”

I mean, wow! For me, not even The Wedding Dance video can come close to this 2:41 little gem from what appears to be the glorious era of the Soviet Union. I am guessing it was made sometime in the 1970s when the Cold War was still grinding on and Comrade Brezhnev was in charge. It just reeks of plasticity and phoniness, yet it is somehow kind of compelling. I dare you to stop watching it in the middle.

The “singer” here is apparently a Russian named Eduard Hill. Hill is apparently obscure enough in America not even to merit a Wikipedia page, but he does have a Facebook fan page. It was weird enough that even Huffington Post picked it up. A check of Google did not reveal much about the guy. Eduard Hill, whose real name is apparently Eduard Anatolyevich, is still around, apparently living in Saint Petersburg. You can see an updated picture of him here. From what little I can find of the guy on the web, he apparently does not sing. Rather he mimes. This is obvious from watching the video. He could have used more rehearsal because his lip syncing is poor, to say the least.

Still, Hill is mesmerizing. Is he alive? Are there little puppet strings coming down from the rafters directing him when to smile? He looks all botoxed around the eyes. His smile looks like a doll maker stitched it onto his face. Then there is that goofy gate as he saunters onto the stage, not to mention the very cheesy visual effects. Apparently, he is glad to be home, which for most Russians back in the 1970s probably meant a gray cinderblock apartment complex. I guess the proper way to return home after a long trip is to dress in suit and tie.

As for the music, I have no idea who actually sings it, but it too is hypnotic and catchy like a TV commercial jingle. You may find yourself humming it in the car. Lyrics? You don’t need to know Russian, such much of it is “La la la, la la la, la la la la la.” Then there is the staging, such as it is. Where did they get that weird iron latticework? Moreover, why are there only three colors: brown, beige and yellow? Who is he waving to? His neighbors? If my neighbor were greeting me like this, I would be running to get a gun.

In short, this is exactly the sort of weird officially sponsored “entertainment” you would expect from the world’s biggest communist state back in the 1970s. While Hill looks plastic, some tiny part of him looks like he is having a root canal or a high colonic. It’s like someone has a pitch fork to his ass and that’s the only reason he’s smiling.

Whatever this is, it’s a gem. YouTube had best never delete it. It deserves its own weird immortality.

Update 3/12/2010

Since this video was YouTubed, it has generated a lot of interest (as well as a lot of hits on my blog). I have also learned a few things about Mr. Hill. In fact, he does sing the song. In this case though he is lip syncing his own music and does a very poor job of it. I also found this “peppier” version on YouTube done in front of a live orchestra that you can enjoy. This one suggests the original video was made around 1984, still definitely in the Cold War period. This one is almost good, perhaps because it lacks the slower pace and the very odd staging. Moreover, Hill looks like he is having a little fun with it. Enjoy.

7 thoughts on “So bad, it’s good … and mesmerizing

  1. Actually I believe Mr. Hill does sing, although he probably lip-synched his way through this performance. Someone sent me this video a few days ago, and I wound up blogging about it on my own site.

    Personally, I would think of him as the headliner in lounge-singer Hell.

  2. Had I not studied Russian after high school, I would’ve guessed the title to be something like, \Right this way, the deceased in now ready for viewing.\ Cute, extremely cute clip. I’ll try to research this and report back.

  3. From the Russian Wikipedia, here’s far more than you ever wanted to know about this Soviet Entertainment Icon:

    Eduard Anatolyevich Hill
    Эдуард Анатольевич Хиль

    Soviet Russian pop singer (baritone), Honored Artist of the RSFSR (1968), People’s Artist of the RSFSR (1974).

    Eduard Hill was born on September 4, 1934 in Smolensk, USSR. In 1960 he graduated from the Leningrad Conservatory (class of singing EG Olkhovsky and ZP Lody) and began performing as a soloist of the “Len-Concert”.

    Eduard Hill is the first to perform the songs “Lumberjacks” and “Moonstone” by Arkady Ostrovsky, and “Song about a friend”, “Blue City”, “But the people go away to the sea” by Andrei Petrov.

    Eduard Hill performed such popular songs as: “Of what is the Motherland Founded?”, “Sending off Steamships,” “Blue Cities”, “How Good it is to be a General”, “At the Edge of the forest”, “Birch Sap”, “Sun Ballad “, “What, Tell Me, is Your Name?”, “On Nameless Height”

    From 1977-1979, Hill taught solo singing at the Leningrad State Institute of Theater, Music and Cinematography.
    Since 1997, he participates with his son in a joint project with the rock group Prepinaki.
    He worked in Paris at a cafe “Rasputin”.
    The manner Hill’s Performance is unique and easily recognizable, characterized by charm, consistently excellent, bright, sonorous sound, and lilting, lyrical baritone, with a mighty charge of optimism and humor. On stage Hill remains very confident and smart, accompanying his singing with light dance moves and expressive gestures. Never straying from his academic singing style, Hill distinguished himself with enviable stage longevity. According to many critics, Eduard Hill stood as one of the symbols for Leningrad.
    Present place of residence: Tolstoy House in St. Petersburg.

  4. Actually if you look at the video, there’s a barely-visible watermark that shows that our “wonderful” performance of this song comes from 1976 (wait for his suit to cover that part of the screen so you can see it yourself). By this point the Brezhnev era was going full speed ahead, so it’s perfectly understandable that such a performance would appear…

  5. Hi there!
    His name’s Eduard Hil’ (Эдуард Хиль)
    Anatolievich is his patronimic. That means his farther’s name was Anatoliy.

    Russians address someone by name with patronimic to express respect.

    Hil’ was real star in the USSR and still has been very popular.
    Under Brezhnev it was not that grim as you try to hint.
    It was more human than just now in Russia. Believe me.
    This song was first broadcast in 1966.
    The video is dated 1976.
    Hil’ is in a jacket he traded in Sweden. He has always been stylish.

  6. “… when the Cold War was still grinding on and Comrade Brezhnev was in charge”

    by far the most funny thing when reading american views on the world is how terribly braing washed people from USA are. If anything comes from Russia, than your brain washed mind will connect it to Cold war, and Brezhnev. JESUS CHRIST! This guy is just singing a funny song, how terribly brain washed one must be to connect this to brezhnev?! I don’t think there is another group of people more thoroughly brain washed than americans. You people have been intelectually decapitaded through your own mass media.

    Alessandro from Napoli

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