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Music / Enigma

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Sade dis moi
qu'est ce que tu vas chercher?
le bien par le mal
la vertu par le vice
Sade dit moi pourquoi l' 'evangile du mal?
quelle est ta religion ou' sont tes fide'les?
Si tu es contre Dieu, tu es contre l'homme

Sade es-tu diabolique ou divin?English translation 
—"Sadeness, Part 1"

Enigma is a German New Age/Chillout musical project created by Michael Cretu in 1990. Cretu has remained the only consistent member of the project for its entire existence, with his wife Sandra providing many of Enigma's vocals. Enigma is primarily known for its singles "Sadeness" and "Return to Innocence", which combined Gregorian chanting, aboriginal folk song, ambient music and hip hop beats into a unique sound.

The debut album, MCMXC a.D, created great controversy in Europe for combining breathy vocals about the Marquis de Sade, bondage and Gnosticism, alongside its extensive sampling – itself a hot button issue at the time in North America. Cretu credited himself as Curly M.C. on the album to maintain anonymity, but the subsequent lawsuits revealed Cretu's identity, alongside his wife's. Nonetheless, MCMXC a.D. and its followup the CROSS of Changes were large successes for fans of worldbeat and ethnic electronica. Enigma's greatest critical success was The Screen behind the Mirror, showcasing a mature and distinctive musical palette, but did not sell as well as his first two albums. After a lengthy hiatus, Enigma returned in 2016 with the release of their eighth album, the Fall of a Rebel Angel.


  • MCMXC a.D. (1990)
  • the CROSS of Changes (1993)
  • Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi! (1996)
  • The Screen behind the Mirror (2000)
  • Voyageur (2003)
  • a Posteriori (2006)
  • Seven Lives Many Faces (2008)
  • the Fall of a Rebel Angel (2016)

Tropes that apply to Enigma:

  • All There in the Manual: The deluxe version of the Fall of a Rebel Angel, as well as the official website, contain track-by-track narration of the action occuring within each scene.
  • Arc Words: As each album follows a unified concept, this is bound to occur:
    • the CROSS of Changes: "The eyes of truth are always watching you", "The Cross of Changes"
    • The Screen behind the Mirror: "The experience of survival", "O fortuna, velut lunanote "
    • a Posteriori: The latin verse that closes "Eppur si muove" is repeated throughout the album in various guises, including as an ambient haze linking "Dreaming of Andromeda" and "Dancing with Mephisto".
    • Seven Lives Many Faces: The lyrics for "Encounters" appear throughout the album in a manner similar to a Posteriori's verse.
  • Book Ends: The "Enigma horn" that opens and closes the first four Enigma albums. Averted albums five through eight.
    • Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi! ends with the intro track playing in reverse, with two lines of dialogue (played forwards) added.
  • Call-Back: Several sonic and lyrical elements of previous works are referenced in each subsequent album (see Leitmotif and Sampling.) The bridge of "Gravity of Love" even recites the William Blake quote printed in the booklet of MCMXC a.D.: "The path of excess leads to the tower of wisdom."
    • Taken up to eleven with "Deja vu" which, as the title might imply. consists solely of samples and or sounds used in former Enigma releases, as explained in a track commentary, was something fans wer missing.
  • Darker and Edgier: The Fall of a Rebel Angel is their darkest album of their discography. It's filled with symbolic journeys to redemption along with psychedelic undertones.
  • 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. The typeface used on the cover makes this explicit.
  • 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
  • Guilty Pleasures: Professional reviews of Enigma's albums often read as if the critic likes the music but is deeply ashamed to admit it.
  • 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 sampled suggestive, heavy breathing and bedroom voice.
  • Leitmotif: The quiet, reversed brass lick that opens each album tells you that you're listening to an Enigma album.
    • There is a musical passage on The Fall of a Rebel Angel which appears a total of three times on the album, starting on track two.
  • 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.
  • Rewind Gag: Not really a gag, but the music video for "Return to Innocence" plays events in the life of a man in reverse from his death, through old age and adulthood, his marriage, then his childhood, and ends with his baptism as an infant.
  • 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 anonym of "Curly M.C." as a result.
    • MCMXC a.D. contains samples as diverse as Maria Callas, Black Sabbath, an extremely obscure Mike + the Mechanics song, Aphrodite's Child and the infamous Gregorian chanting.
    • Another infamous sample is Difang's Jubilant Drinking Song, a Taiwanese aboriginal chant used in "Return to Innocence" that was often mistaken as Native American origin by critics and listeners alike. Enigma didn't clear the rights to use this sample, leading to a court case that was eventually settled.
    • Certain samples, such as a distinctive horn motif, Irene Papas' heavy breathing from Aphrodite's Child's song "∞", drumming from Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks" and several guitar licks, have become an intricate part of Enigma's sound palette. When these sounds disappeared altogether from A posteriori, there was a sizable amount of concern from fans.
    • The Screen Behind the Mirror received negative critical reaction for sampling Carl Orff's "O Fortuna" from his work Carmina Burana across four separate songs to thematically unite the album. The same wasn't said for MCMXC a.D., which featured the same drum beat — itself a Soul II Soul sample — for half of the album's runtime.
    • Bach's "Toccata in D" is also liked by Cretu, appearing in "The Rivers of Belief" aswell as "Hello & Welcome" and "Sadeness (Part II)."
    • Apart from these samples, Cretu has repeatedly sampled his own production to lend Enigma a conceptual unity. Apart from the "Enigma horn" that opens (and closes) nearly every Enigma album, there's the drum beat from Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks", a reversed cymbal rhythm, a guitar line lifted from Sandra's "Mirror of Love" (which Cretu produced), and more.
    • Cretu has sampled his own work in other songs, such as the chorus of 1990's "Sadeness" appearing in 2003's "Incognito"; and 1996's "Odyssey of the Mind" in 2016's "Diving." Again, this sampling is done for conceptual continuation. "Diving" also contains samples of the track "Encounters" (the intro to the seventh album) as well as the Phrase "And when the lamb open the seventh seal, silence covered the sky" which had been sampled from Aphrodite's Child and had previously appeared on "Back to the Rivers of Belief" on MCMXC a.D..
  • Shout-Out: Apart from all the sampling, Cretu has included shout outs to hard rock and metal bands of the 1970s, as well as pop music from the 1980s ("Look of Today" reuses the chorus from ABC's "The Look of Love", for example.)
    • Portions of the narrative of the Fall of a Rebel Angel quote Kafka, Proust and
  • Title Drop: Turn Around features the successive mentions of several Enigma songs released beforehand.
  • 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.

That's not the beginning of the end
That's the return to yourself
The return to innocence