Enigma appeared in 1991 with the appropriately named album MCMXC a.D
(okay, it came out a year or so late) with the strange, spacy single "Sadeness", which combined breathy vocals in French with Gregorian chant. Nobody really knew who exactly Enigma was (the writer credit on the album was "Curly MC"), but eventually word leaked out that the producer of the "project" (it's never referred to as a band) was expatriate Romanian record producer Michael Cretu, and the seductive voice was his then-wife Sandra. Although the first two albums (the second, The Cross of Changes
, had a big hit in "Return to Innocence", as well as "Age of Loneliness" on the soundtrack of the otherwise forgettable erotic thriller/stalker flick Sliver
) were the most anyone really heard from Cretu, Enigma has continued on to the present day; in fact, most people will probably remember "Sadeness" as "that Gregorian Chant song", but the total of seven albums (as well as two greatest hits collections, a box set, and a reissue of the first album with remixes of its most popular songs) is far less known.
Enigma is an unapologetically cheesy mix of breezy instrumentals, hip hop beats, wanky Hair Metal
guitar solos, lyrics written with the intelligence and rhyming abilities
of a five-year old learning English, and New Agey vocals, best known for unsubtly sexual uses of religious imagery. Accordingly, it makes for very popular sex music, as well as being one of those bands that critics love to hate, or at least think they're supposed to hate; the staff review for MCMXC a.D.
on the iTunes store reads like someone trying and failing miserably to pretend they don't like it.
Tropes that apply to Enigma:
- Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Probably the biggest reason for the first album's success. Most of Cretu's subsequent lyrics have been in English though.
- Fun with Acronyms: The title of the 2001 greatest hits collection, Love, Sensuality, Devotion.
- Genre-Busting: Although Enigma is usually considered New Age music, it really defies being pinned down to any genre. It might be considered closer to chill-out, if Cretu's later work didn't tend to incorporate hard rock influences to a greater degree.
- Genre Shift: Their albums in the 90s are focused on Gregorian chants and religious/dance hybrids. Come 2000s and their songs geared toward "sophisticated pop/dance".
- Gratuitous French
- I Am the Band: Probably why Cretu refers to it as a "project" rather than a band.
- Intercourse with You: Played with. The lyrics are seldom explicit, but Sandra Cretu's vocals on the early albums involve a lot of suggestive heavy breathing and bedroom voice.
- However, it's interesting to note that the breathing was actually sampled from "Infinity" by Aphrodite's Child, so the "suggestive heavy breathing" is actually by Irene Papas.
- Leitmotif: The quiet, spacey brass lick that opens and closes all of the albums tells you that you're listening to an Enigma album.
- Money, Dear Boy: Cretu was very quick to capitalize on his success, although it probably made him that much more of a target for the ensuing copyright lawsuits. The greatest hits album even got its own K-Tel/Time-Life style TV ad campaign.
- Obligatory Bondage Song: "Mea Culpa" is a monologue by a submissive woman giving herself up very aggressively to her master. (If you don't know much about BDSM, no, this is not a contradiction.) And "Sadeness", the song that started it all, is about Marquis de Sade.
- Sampling: Enigma gained a certain notoriety for doing this at a time when it was a major controversy in the hiphop world; though the ensuing lawsuits led to the producers of the samples being properly compensated, Cretu lost his anonymity as a result. The first album contains samples as diverse as Maria Callas, Black Sabbath, an extremely obscure Mike + the Mechanics song, Aphrodite's Child and the infamous Gregorian chant.
- Another infamous one is Return to Innocence that sampled Difang's Jubilant Drinking Song, a Taiwanese aboriginal chant that was often mistaken as Native American origin.
- Title Drop: Turn Around features the successive mentions of several Enigma songs released beforehand.
- X Meets Y: Combining church music with techno and sex was a big deal in 1991.
- Yandere: What else could "I Love You, I'll Kill You" possibly be about? It seems to be sung in second person as a warning to the victim; much Sanity Slippage applies.