Emin: a singer with connections

By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

image captionEmin was born in Azerbaijan but grew up in Moscow

Emin is the heir to a billion-dollar fortune and the son-in-law of a president. But all he really wants to do is sing.

The musical showcase is a staple of the industry that, if done well, can provide a valuable launch pad for an up-and-coming artist.

Last November, Baku-born singer Emin Agalarov hosted just such an event at the newly refurbished Savoy hotel in central London.

Emin, as he likes to be known, is a man with connections. His father Araz is a hugely wealthy real estate developer in Russia, while his father-in-law, Ilham Aliyev, is the president of Azerbaijan.

Yet being heir to a billion-dollar business and a successful entrepreneur in his own right did not stop the 31-year-old's brief set being interrupted - by a pesky fire alarm.

"A fire alarm during my showcase - how weird was that?" he laughs when we meet up in February.

"We didn't hear it up on stage as much as you guys in the audience, but it was definitely weird."

Despite the interruptions, the singer believes the event was a success. "It was the first step in people getting to know me," he says.

"I think those who came saw potential, liked the songs and saw this was the real deal and has authenticity to it."

Well known in Russia where he has lived since childhood, Emin has now set his sights on international recognition.

image captionHis first album, Still, enjoyed success in Russia in 2006

His polished, MOR sound - think Enrique Iglesias and Chris Isaak, with a smattering of pre-Progress Take That - would fit comfortably on the BBC Radio Two playlist.

His impeccably groomed appearance, meanwhile, could see him become a fixture in numerous men's magazines.

Yet there are some who may dismiss his first international album Wonder - released on 21 March - as an expensive vanity project.

What can Emin do to convince the world this is anything more than that?

The answer, he says, is to make it clear that his decision to become a recording artist "comes by choice, not circumstances".

"Music is something that lives within me forever," he insists. "I always felt if I didn't pursue it I would betray my dreams.

"A family business is something that your parents have created that you should take over eventually and pass on to your children.

"It's not something you get away from. Well, you can if you want to, but I wouldn't want to."

Having previously concentrated on cover versions, Emin has teamed up with London-based producer Brian Rawling to hone his original material.

The result is a lush, sophisticated sound - albeit one that might suit a range of dapper crooners just as well.

image captionEmin is married to Leyla Aliyeva (r), daughter of Azerbaijani president Aliyev (r)

Yet Emin is adamant his work is "all personal" and that he is "not capable of sitting down and writing a commercial-orientated song".

"The songs on the album may appear commercial and the production may be calculated, but that was not my intent," he adds.

Since his marriage to Leyla Aliyeva in 2006, Emin has had the ear of her father - a man whose hold on power seems to be as strong as his son-in-law's dedication to performing.

Accusations of voter intimidation, violence and media bias have been rife since Ilham Aliyev took over as president from his father Heydar in 2003.

Yet Emin has no interest in politics, or in using his regular contact with Azerbaijan's leader to promote any pet causes or projects.

"I have his ear as the father of my wife, not as a president," he says. "Politics is a completely different world.

"I'm a complete tourist in that," continues the father of two-year-old twins. "But yes, it does give you a different perspective."

Emin's new single, Obvious, is out on 14 March.

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