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Music / t.A.T.u.

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t.A.T.u. was a duo girl group consisting of Lena Katina and Yulia Volkova, originating from Moscow, Russia. Internationally speaking, they are the most renowned band to ever come out of Russia, routinely playing to audiences of 50,000 fans and selling more than 5 million copies of their debut album, 200 KMH in the Wrong Lane.

The two girls met when they were thirteen years old and were both members of a children's vocal and instrumental group called "Neposedy" ("Naughty Children"). At fourteen, Ivan Shapovalov cast Lena Katina in his new project and she recorded the single, "Yugoslavia", about NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia. Shortly after, Ivan decided to add another female singer and chose Yulia Volkova.

The name t.A.T.u. is originated from the original Russian Cyrillic name for the band "Тату". In Russian, 'ta (та)' means 'that [feminine, nominative]' and 'tu (ту)' means 'that [feminine, accusative]', which is a shortened version of the Russian phrase 'Ta lyubit Tu (та любит ту)', meaning 'This girl loves that girl'. It also doubles as the word for "tattoo".

Their first single, "Ya Soshla S Uma (I've Lost My Mind)," or the English version "All The Things She Said", dealt with a love affair between two girls. The song was set to a music video where Yulia and Lena were depicted in Catholic schoolgirl uniforms imprisoned in some form of cage while a crowd of people look on as they kiss in the rain and try to escape. Their music videos only became more controversial, with "Prostye Dvizheniya (Simple Motions)" depicting Yulia masturbating while Lena went about her daily routine. During this phase, they released the Russian 200 Po Vstrechnoy and the English version 200 KMH In The Wrong Lane.

Infamously, they refused to perform at the World Music Awards unless provided with real guns. Lena said, "We wanted real machine-guns, but they didn't give us, so we wouldn't perform, that simple." Brazenly, after promising not to kiss on The Tonight Show, they engaged in a long, passionate wet one — much to the alarm of anxious network censors (and well before the little stunt between Britney, Madonna and Christina). And yet, when expected to do the same on Jimmy Kimmel, they deliberately censored themselves. Yulia said, "Basically, because we like to do what we want, a lot of people are like, 'You shouldn't do this, you shouldn't do that, you shouldn't behave in this way.' But you know what? Actually for us, we are the way that we are, and we don't really live in fear of anybody. So, if we behave in a certain way, then that's just actually the way we are."

In 2004, t.A.T.u. legally fired Ivan Shapovalov, their producer, from their project because they did not believe he took their music seriously. Yulia Volkova said, "He spends his time thinking up scandals instead of planning our artistic work. I'm sure our fans would rather hear new songs and new albums than new scandals." Lena Katina added, "He made us out to BE lesbians when we were just singing FOR lesbians. We wanted people to understand them and not judge them. That they are as free as anyone else." They reformed after Yulia had her baby in 2004 and produced a Russian album, "Lyudi Invalidy (Invalid People)" and the English counterpart, "Dangerous and Moving." Their first single was released with a similar flair of controversy, as Yulia was portrayed splattering a potential rapist's brains against the wall.

The most recent album, "Vesyolye Ulybki (Happy Smiles)," and Waste Management in English is also the soundtrack for The Movie, You and I (previously known as "Finding t.A.T.u.") which is based on the novel "t.A.T.u. Come Back". The film features Mischa Barton and centres around two girls that meet on the internet due to their common love of t.A.T.u. Their relationship then becomes the catalyst for a series of adventures. The content of the movie has drug use, disturbing scenes and images, sexual content, and coarse language. t.A.T.u. has stated the movie will be very scandalous, and would not deal with the "love and roses" often found in films, but the real scandal and hardships that come along with relationships.

With their relationship deteriorating and both girls having mutual desires to start solo careers and distance themselves from their "t.A.T.u." images, Volkova and Katina parted ways and t.A.T.u. broke up in early 2011. A few one off appearances between 2012 and 2014 happened, schedule permitting. However, fans were devastated after Lena posted on her YouTube that she was breaking off the reunion due to Yulia's management essentially giving her a "my way or the highway" ultimatum and threats of shutting down her solo career within Russia. They did, however, reunite to perform 'Not Gonna Get Us' at the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games during Team Russia's entrance.

As it turns out, they did manage to record one song together during this time, a Russian language only song called "Love in Every Moment", to be featured in a short film. By the time the song came out, their relationship had deteriorated to the point of their scenes for the music video being recorded separately, and the song being billed as "Julia Volkova and Lena Katina".

Completely unexpectedly, the 2 managed to patch up their differences in 2022 and performed some reunion shows. Where things go from there are yet to be seen.

Since the second breakup, both have continued the Tatu sound in their own ways. Lena's music is a mix of pop rock and piano ballads with the occasional full on electronic song, like early Tatu material, while Julia (she's using the English spelling now) makes straight up electronic music, not that you'll have heard much because she stopped releasing English versions years ago and her album has been delayed forever.


  • Lena Katina (vocalist)
  • Yulia Volkova (vocalist)

English Discography

  • 200 kmh in the Wrong Lane (2002)
  • Dangerous and Moving (2005)
  • Waste Management (2009)

t.A.T.u. contains examples of:

  • Ambiguously Bi: A very rare variation of this trope. The ambiguity in this case comes from the fact everyone believed, and in some cases still believe to this day, that Lena and Yulia were full lesbians. However paying attention to some of their lyrics and videos it's clear they were aiming to present themselves as Bisexual without really saying it. This goes as far back as their first record. The Russian version of 30 Minutes (30 Минут) clearly states the girl singing is in a relationship with a guy (Полчаса -он и я meaning "30 minutes He and I"). This was changed in the English version to make the lyrics more ambiguous in order to imply the girl singing was in fact, in a relationship with a girl. Also both versions of the video show Lena very clearly cheating on Yulia with a guy. Dangerous and Moving is even more explicit about it, showing Yulia seeking solace with a guy after a fight with Lena in the video for All About Us and them outright singing about bisexuality in the song Loves Me not which is about a girl regretting having cheated on her girlfriend with a guy.
  • Anachronic Order: "Shegopady" is supposed to be their last video, following on from "220" killing off the band due to ambiguity about whether there would ever be an album 4. The English version "Snowfalls" was for some reason released first, with "Sparks" not coming out for another 2 years despite being filmed at the same shoot. The start of the video still uses the end of "220" instead of "Sparks" as well for some reason.
  • Author Appeal:
    • t.A.T.u. was created by Shapovalov generally as an outfit for him to fulfill his sexual fantasies and desires, which was the main driving force of their early public image (the schoolgirl outfits, faux lesbianism, etc.). A large controversy erupted around the "All The Things She Said" video with many politicians and commentators viewing it as generally pedophiliac in nature (Lena and Yulia were 14-15 when it was filmed, and it depicts them kissing each other in schoolgirl outfits, with upskirt panty shots thrown in for good measure). Shapovalov's response? He admitted that he was attracted to underage girls and that he thought up the idea for the group while surfing underage porn on the internet.
    • How far did Shapovalov take it? Early publicity photos of the girls in school uniforms included pictures of them spreading their legs with their panties in clear view, and pictures of Lena sitting on the toilet; he also forced them to strip each other out of their schoolgirl outfits while performing on stage. Shapovalov's firing came largely from the girls becoming tired of being his fetish.
  • Bait-and-Switch Lesbians: The original idea of the group, though they later implied that their attraction wasn't entirely for the cameras. As for their personal lives, Julia has stated many times that she's bi, and even admitted that her husband lets her have flings with other girls. Lena has never officially stated her sexuality, but she's implied that she doesn't see gender as a boundary for attraction.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Zig-zagged by Julia Volkova when it comes to LGBT people. Julia Volkova is openly bisexual and perfectly fine with women having relationships with other women but she is intolerant towards gay men as she stated in 2014 that she would disown her son if he was gay. Inverted by Lena Katina who does not identify as LGBT but is outspoken about her support for LGBT rights.
  • Catholic Schoolgirls Rule:
    • An Iconic Outfit associated with the group, but dropped in 2005 in favor of the Burlesque themed outfits which stayed in one form or another until their first breakup. They did switch back to a slightly less revealing version for their reunion though.
    • In the "Show Me Love" video the girls led a small army of girls wearing their signature outfit.
  • Concept Album:
    • 200 kmh in the Wrong Lane is mainly about realizing and coming to terms with being gay, as well as the problems that can come with it (feeling different and being outcast).
    • Dangerous and Moving is mainly about the immorality in people and how easily this can ruin other lives or their own. This means some Breakup Songs, some songs that talk about the regret after immoral acts, and some that outright denounce those individuals who live to ruin others. There's also a few songs like the biggest hit of the album, All About Us, that combine the theme of the previous album with this one.
  • Continuity Nod: They love this trope.
    • Yulia is executed in the video for "White Robe" for shooting her would be rapist in the video for "All About Us".
    • "Snowfalls" and "Snegopady"note  both pick up directly from the end of the video shoot for "220" and "Sparks", and the fatal bike crash at the end of that video leads to their mutual funeral in Lena's solo video "Never Forget".
  • Cover Version: They once covered "How Soon is Now", a version which was featured in Charmed.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to most of the Russian pop music of the time, t.A.T.u. dealt with explicit sexual themes, and many of their early songs had tragic stories centered around homophobia.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both of them, especially during interviews. Two of the most cited examples: The Frank Skinner Show 2005 and TV Total Germany 2003.
    Lena: They're soooo sexy.
    Frank Skinner: Who?
    Yulia: When boy kiss each other and girl... No like?
    Frank Skinner: Not boys... I think, boys, I find them too hairy.
    Lena: No, there is such a thing, like, um, shaving thing.
    (audience laughs)
    Frank Skinner: Yes... now I've got a Russian woman on the show telling me about shaving. Times have changed.
    Stefan Raab: You know how they call you? The Russian Lesbians.
    Lena: Oh... fuck.
    Yulia: You Germany Gay.
  • Dramatic Irony: Their (so far) last single titled "Love in Every Moment" was released at the time where the duo are in very bad terms, to the point that they shot its music video separately and that their only scene "together" is filled by a Fake Shemp of Lena.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: "Dochitai Do Sta" (Count to 100) was a demo recorded with Lena alone before Julia was recruited, to see how the band would sound.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • A particular example is the "Prostiye Dvizhenya" video. Half of it is a shot of an underage (17 at the oldest as of filming) Yulia apparently naked and masturbating, only given modesty by the close up cropping of the shot. If this isn't unsettling enough, their early live performances actually featured some uncropped shots too. And this wasn't even the only time blatant underage porn was in one of their early Russian videos.
  • Fanservice Pack:
    • They were marketed for Fanservice by their original manager, but since he later admitted that he's doing this for his own Fetish Fuel, plus the way he "packaged" them, makes it more Fan Disservice-y. Eventually however, the girls found their own way to show their sex appeal.
    • A remix of "Beliy Plaschik" ("White Robe") features completely uncensored shots of Julia topless in a shower, and Lena showing full frontal nudity. Both are still perfectly willing to do topless scenes in their solo videos.
    • Their Waste Management era live costumes were burlesque outfits.
  • Fiery Redhead: Subverted. Lena is basically a Red-Haired Sweetie, while Yulia is the one with the angriest moments.
  • Flipping the Bird: Done a lot during the ХУЙ ВОЙНЕ (Rougly translated from Russian: "fuck war") era, mostly in photoshoots.
  • Foreshadowing: The ending to the "All the Things She Said" video is foreshadowed from the beginning to anyone who knows how those types of fences work; a viewer who does can probably guess the little twist that the onlookers are the ones trapped inside.
  • Fully Absorbed Finale: Their final performance to date has been the 25th anniversary of their prior group Nepospedi in 2016.
  • Game-Breaking Injury:
    • Julia's Vocal Dissonance was actually caused by their original manager forcing her to constantly scream in their earlier songs.
    • Another one in 2012. She developed thyroid cancer, and the surgery for it killed her voice. It took 3 years and 3 more surgeries for her to be back to normal.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The censored version of the controversial "All About Us" music video only implies the Boom, Headshot!. Also, a pregnant Yulia being executed wasn't shown in the music video for "White Robe".
  • Gratuitous Japanese: The song title "Gomenasai" (I am sorry). It was recorded as an apology for their Japanese fans.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: The set for the "All The Things She Said/Ya Soshla S Uma" video.
  • Hair-Contrast Duo: Lena's usually long red curly hair to Yulia's black Bifauxnen look.
  • Irony: Julia Volkova identifies as bisexual while Lena Katina doesn’t and yet Lena is one of the very few Russian celebrities who is outspoken about their support for LGBT rights while Julia has stated that she would disown her son for being gay.
  • Japandering: They reunited in 2013 for a Japanese Snickers commercial.
  • Light Feminine Dark Feminine: Lena is usually the Light Feminine, while Yulia is usually the Dark. They both toy with this trope a lot though.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: While there were a few pauses, Lena and Yulia performed together for 12 years until the 2011 split, with many a reunion afterwards.
  • Lost in Translation: The English versions of their songs often have very different lyrics from the original, while keeping the same general meaning.
    • The title of the second Russian album "Lyudi Invalidy" literally means "Invalid People". The band intended this to refer to morally bankrupt people, and the album liner notes contain a large rant about how these invalid people aren't human, just beings driven by selfishness that ruin society for everyone else. Unfortunately the term can also mean physically disabled people. This got them in a lot of controversy at the time, and even led to a lawsuit by a Russian disability charity.
  • Meaningful Rename: Subverted. Yulia now goes by the Anglicized version of her name, Julia, while Lena has not done the same (which would be Helen). Despite this, it's Lena who prioritises English markets, and Julia who prioritises Russian markets.
  • No Export for You: During the first album sessions, a stripped down song called "Prostye Dvizeniya" was recorded but ultimately left off the album. An English version called "A Simple Motion" was also recorded and cut. "Prostye" was reworked into a heavy dance track for the first Remix album in 2004, and "Simple Motion" was finally released on the 10th anniversary edition of 200 kmh in The Wrong Lane, but to the irritation of some completionists, neither the original stripped down version of the Russian track or a remixed version of the English track have ever been released or leaked.
  • Older Than They Look: They're 29 in the last video, but Julia looks 25, and Lena could still pass for a teenager.
  • Prefers Going Barefoot: Frequently went without in photoshoots early on, and their later live performance outfits were the burlesque outfits they wore in the video for "Sparks" without their shoes on.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: In "All About Us", the verses are sung one word (or a few words) at a time: "If. They. Hurt. You. They. Hurt. Me. Too."
  • Rape as Drama: In the video for "All About Us", Yulia shoots a man who attempts to rape her and splatters his brains against the wall.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Yulia early in the duo's run. She eventually tanned.
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • Julia and Lena are both Orthodox Christians, with the former previously converting to Islam. They also live in a very conservative country. You wouldn't be able to tell any of this by watching their videos.
    • Julia's solo career is a particular offender. Frequently she makes out with women or makes songs about being in love with a woman. Girl on Girl Is Hot is probably the only thing keeping her out of jail.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • Their last music video has them in separate rooms and during "their" only scenes "together", it shows "them" standing back to back before "they" start arguingnote . The ending scene also features Julia in a Lena wig hugging herself. The promotional materials also have them in separate portraits. This is because Lena refuses to talk to or share a room with Julia.
    • "Snegopady / Snowfalls", their original last video in both languages, kills both the girls off (again), because both wanted to take time off from the band and their friendship was beginning to fall apart, putting the future of the band in doubt.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: A rather obscure example: "Show Me Love" and "30 Minutes". The "Mama, Papa, forgive me" part at the end of "Show Me Love" is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the beginning of the song "30 Minutes".
    • The videos for "220" and "Snegopady make them into one, and "Sparks" and "Snowfalls" follow this. The "Transcendent Version"note  has them connected by the sound of Julia walking down the corridor from the start of the 2nd video.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Lena and Yulia respectively, kind of. In terms of natural singing voice, Lena's is high and Yulia's is lower. In the early days of the band, Yulia would match Lena's range by basically screaming, giving their music this effect. eventually, this damaged Yulia's voice, and she now sings much lower.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: This trope was heavily used in the band's early songs, as they were based on the premise that society did not accept the two girls' love.
  • The Mockbuster: Some could argue that the Russian girl duo TEMA is this. Their songs sound in some ways similar to t.A.T.u.'s and they once attempted to pass off their song Kto Esli Ne Ya as a t.A.T.u. song to gain publicity.
  • The Movie: A couple years ago, a movie called Finding t.A.T.u. (released in English with the title of one of their songs, You and I) was released starring Mischa Barton and Shantel VanSanten about two girls so obsessed with t.A.T.u. that they involved themselves in a series of dangerous events.
  • Vocal Evolution: As noted in other entries, the constant screaming during the early days took its toll on Yulia's voicebox, and her singing voice changed as a result.
  • Wanderlust Song: "Not Gonna Get Us" exploits running away, with no set destination, to share their love.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Lena has made every effort to not be in the same room as Julia since their failed reunion, only doing so for the premier of the film they were in together, and the reunion of their earlier group Neposedy. Their relationship as of this edit is reportedly still sour.
  • Wham Shot:
    • The end of the "All the Things She Said" video. The whole time the viewer is led to believe Lena and Julia are trapped inside the fence with the onlookers gawking at them. But then it turns out the girls themselves are free to go wherever they want, and happily walk off into the sunset together - while it's the onlookers who are trapped.
    • Near the end of the "White Robe" video, Julia has her robe removed as she is chained to a post for the firing squad to aim at her, and we finally see that she is heavily pregnant.
  • White Shirt of Death: Subverted in the video of "White Robe". Julia takes off the titular robe before she gets executed.
  • Writer Revolt: Were part of one when the Sochi 2014 Olympic organisers paid tribute to as many LGBT Russians as they could get away with. Really the government would have no excuse to not let them use the country's only successful international popstars.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The music video for "White Robe", which tackles abortion.