Cretu's Credo: Being Unique Can Bring Great 'Sadeness'

by Larry Flick
Billboard May 18 1991

Dateline: Los Angeles

The pop radio success of Sadeness Part 1 by Enigma appears to have surprised everyone in the music industry except its creator, German producer/composer Michael Cretu.

The tune, which weaves samples of traditional Gregorian chants into a hip-hop beat, is far from standard top 40 fare. Cretu, however, views the song's quirky nature as being its primary selling point.

"Contrary to the usual record-company philosophy, people are open-minded and starved for something unique," he says. "This is music that is different from any other available at the moment. I think people have responded to that." Until recently, Cretu has chosen to remain anonymous where the Enigma album MCMXC A.D. on Charisma Records is concerned. He says the purpose was to let the music speak for itself.

"With Enigma, I have created a complete piece of music that I wanted to let stand alone," he says. "There is a sense of mystery in the music that I want to leave untouched by the perceptions and preconceived ideas that come with the past history of a producer or a songwriter."

Apparently, the music did stand well alone. Before Cretu began to speak with the media, Sadeness had topped pop charts in 10 European countries, including his native Germany, where it is the fastest-selling single in German recording history. In the U.S., the track topped Billboard's Club Play chart less than a month after it was released, and peaked at No. 5 on the Hot 100.

Another result of the success of Sadeness is the proliferation of sound-alike singles. At last count, approximately one dozen copycat records have been issued in the U.S. alone. Cretu smiles at such a tally.

"It is the mark of a record that has an effect on both music and the media," he says. "I suppose I should be bothered by so many similar songs, but I am not. I am both proud and flattered that my music has started such a trend. I enjoy this moment, because tomorrow they will be copying someone else." While people are busy copying the sound of Sadeness, Charisma has released a new single from the album, Mea Culpa, which retains the atmospheric quality of its predecessor without the aid of Gregorian chants. "The great misconception of people who have only heard Sadeness is that the whole album is filled with chanting," Cretu says. "This is a complete piece of work with many different levels and sounds. Sadeness is only one piece of the puzzle."

Although the promotion campaign behind MCMXC A.D. is still in its early stages, Cretu is already thinking about his next project. He says he will retain the Enigma name, but will take the music down a completely different path.

"It is my plan for Enigma to be an outlet for music that boldly strays away from the norm of pop music," he says. "I have several ideas for the next album that I think re fascinating. Part of the fun of projects such as these is watching how all of the various elements come together in the studio."

Reproduced without permission from Billboard Magazine for private and research purposes only.