Michael Cretu Biography
Michael Cretu has created a lot since his birth on May 18th, 1957 in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, Europe. He studied music there during the early years of life, but studies also brought him to Paris (France) and Frankfurt (Germany), ultimately earning him a degree in 1978. Soon after, he realized that classical music was not his biggest passion, and a change in style was imminent. As he said it himself, he started making money on music the day he sold his piano.
1978 was also the year Michael Cretu released his first solo single, titled Wild River. It was followed by his first solo album the next year, released and known in English speaking countries as Moon, Light & Flowers. Steadily building a momentum in the music industry, he released further solo albums, first Legionäre from 1983 and then Die Chinesische Mauer (The Great Wall of China) in 1985. The later two albums both contained German lyrics that were sung by Michael Cretu himself, and while none of them where enormously successful world-wide, they raised his reputation. The early 80s also saw him play the keyboards on tour with the group Arabesque who were particularly successful in Japan. When the group dissolved in 1984, Cretu went on to make music for one of the band members, Sandra Lauer. With many hits during the following years she became quite a star during the 80s, and Michael Cretu earned great respect for his skills, also finding time to collaborate with Mike Oldfield on the 1987 album Islands, and even playing in a side project band called Moti Special.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Cretu eventually started feeling that it was time for something new. Something special. With ideas contributed by both David Fairstein and Frank Peterson, he ended up creating what would become a signficant music project, Enigma. The first single, Sadeness, was released in 1990 and became a massive success, ranking number 1 in the charts of more than 20 countries, with solid positions in others. It also sold enough to earn platinum awards in the United States and Germany, as well as gold in more than a handful of other countries. This no doubt helped build the success of the first Enigma album, MCMXC a.D., which with it's other tracks extended the fusion of Gregorian chants sampled into new age music and modern ideas, with sensual undertones.
Michael Cretu had credited himself as Curly M.C. on the album to keep his
identity unknown in tune with the theme of Enigma (which is Greek for
but a lawsuit over some samples used on MCMXC a.D. as well as the massive
popularity of the release made it impossible to keep up. This did not discourage
Cretu, and during this time he continued to create music for Sandra whom he
had married in 1988, and not far into the 90s another Enigma release began
to loom in the horizon. This culminated in 1993 with the release of
The Cross of Changes, which
would go on to be another great success for Cretu. Instead of Gregorian chants,
he this time incorporated a more tribal sounding feel into the album, releasing another successful single
in Return to Innocence. At this point, MCMXC a.D. was still to be
found on the Billboard charts after three years, but this release none
the less managed to increase the success of the Enigma project.
Once again Cretu had to endure a lawsuit from samples used on the album, this time from a tribe who originated one of the chants used. Like before, it did not discourage Cretu who had the matter settled. In 1995 he saw some personal success when Sandra Cretu gave birth to twins. This year also saw a release of Sandra's last solo album before a seven year break, but Michael continued to work on music, including the Enigma project.
In 1996, Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi! was released. It was a fusion of styles from the two previous releases, with introspective, philosophical lyrics. While the album did not match the first two in sales, it was well crafted and contained a widely regarded hit in Beyond The Invisible. The album still went on to earn platinum in the United States, the UK, and Canada, reaching top positions in various charts. Interestingly, the unique album art and inserts were so well designed that it received a Grammy nomination for best recording package.
Departing a bit from the Enigma project, Michael Cretu spent some time with Jens Gad to create an album for a side project called Trance Atlantic Air Waves. Gad had assisted Cretu in the past on some Sandra albums and Enigma tracks. Their combined efforts resulted in the 1998 release The Energy of Sound, consisting mostly of modern remixes, but also three tracks written mainly by Jens Gad. The two would work together again on future Engima releases as well, though Gad also went on to launch some solo projects of his own.
The next chapter in the Enigma saga was released in 1999. Michael Cretu further developed the mysterious character of the project and incorporated some samples from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana into his original ideas. The sensual nature of the project was very much preserved, and the apparant fusion of past and future made for another solid work of craftsmanship titled The Screen Behind The Mirror. It sold millions of copies and reached the top of several charts, but was not able to immitate the wide and massive success of the first releases. Overall, though, when looking back, the first decade of Enigma firmly established it's presence in the world of music that would have been difficult to predict in the beginning. The success was accentuated with a greatest hits release, Love Sensuality Devotion, in 2001. The following year an ever-busy Michael Cretu worked on the 2002 comeback album of Sandra.
The New Enigma
As had been the case with his original release of MCMXC a.D., Cretu felt it was time for something new and fresh. The next release of an Enigma album saw a new distinct style, with less use of traditional samples, and a more modern and present-inspired style. When Voyageur released in 2003 there were still some of the trademark feel to be found, but all in all it was clear that a new direction had been taken for the Enigma project. This became even more apparant in the following release, this time with some ventures into previously unused cultures, but there were still a hint of the older philosophical nature from previous albums, not least in the title A Posteriori. This more straight forward album was released in 2006 and nominated as the best new age album at the 2007 Grammy's. This was also the year in which Michael Cretu and Sandra announced that they had decided to divorce after nearly 20 years together.
The Enigma project continued in late 2008 with the release of an even more modern album titled Seven Lives Many Faces. Michael Cretu announced in an interview that he had ideas for several albums following this one.