Meet Emin Agalarov, Trump-Connected Russian Pop Star

Jul 14, 2017
Originally published on July 14, 2017 9:02 pm

Over the past few days, an old, hitherto unknown music video has gone viral: the music video for "In Another Life," by Russian pop star Emin. In the video, the singer frolics in a mansion with contestants from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant — the beauty contest then owned by Donald Trump.

At the end of the video, Emin (full name: Emin Agalarov) wakes up from his fantasy. The video cuts to Trump at the head of a conference table, delivering lines straight from The Apprentice: "Emin, let's get with it. You're always late. You're just another pretty face. ... You're fired."

Ever since Agalarov was revealed as one of the people who arranged Donald Trump Jr.'s 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information about rival candidate Hillary Clinton, this video and the rest of his online trail have been fodder for people curious to know more.

That trail is littered with plenty of photos of Agalarov with Trump over the years, as well as a videotaped birthday message Trump sent Agalarov in 2015. "You're a winner, you're a champ, you're great at real estate, and boy, can you entertain," Trump enthused.

And after Trump won the presidency, Agalarov returned the compliment with his own video: "You're an absolute winner. You proved everybody wrong. It's incredible, congratulations."

A few months ago, Agalarov boasted to Forbes of his continued access to the Trump family. And Agalarov's connections don't stop there: His billionaire father, Aras Agalarov, is close to Vladimir Putin, and his ex-wife is the daughter of the president of Azerbaijan, where Agalarov was born.

Agalarov grew up in Moscow and went to college in New York. He's now executive vice president of his family's real estate company, the Crocus Group. And when he's not developing Russian shopping centers, resorts and boutiques, he's recording and performing around the world.

Emin has covered Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley in the past, and his latest single is "Good Love," from a new album coming out this year. But LA Times pop critic Mikael Wood, for one, is hardly impressed.

"This guy's music is about as bland as it could be," Wood says. "He's like a bad George Michael or a bad Michael Bublé or he's a bad Ricky Martin, depending on the song."

At some point in his music career, Agalarov — apparently a Russian sensation — became the client of Rob Goldstone, a British-born music publicist. The Russian government had reached out to Agalarov's father, after which Agalarov asked Goldstone to connect Trump Jr. with the Russian lawyer who promised damaging information about Clinton. None of these players was available for comment.

Just weeks ago, Agalarov ended his U.S. tour with a concert at Lincoln Center, where he was joined onstage by musicians David Foster and Nile Rodgers. Now, he's center stage with Donald Trump — and everyone knows his name.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Emin is the stage name of a Russian pop star who became an overnight sensation. This week, we learned that he was behind a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. NPR's Mandalit del Barco tells us more about Emin Agalarov.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN ANOTHER LIFE")

EMIN AGALAROV: (Singing) In another life...

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: The music video for Emin's song "In Another Life" shows the handsome pop star frolicking in a mansion with contestants from the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013, the beauty contest then owned by Donald Trump. At the end of the video, Agalarov wakes up from his fantasy. Cut to Trump at the head of a conference table delivering lines straight from his TV show, "The Apprentice."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Emin, let's get with it. You're just another pretty face. I'm really tired of you. You're fired.

DEL BARCO: Follow the online trail and you'll find a lot of photos of Agalarov with Trump over the years. In 2015, the president sent the Russian pop star a videotaped birthday message.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: You're a winner. You're a champ. You're great at real estate. And boy, can you entertain.

DEL BARCO: After Trump won the presidency, the singer returned the compliment with his own video.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AGALAROV: You're an absolute winner. You proved everybody wrong. It's incredible. Congratulations.

DEL BARCO: A few months ago, Agalarov boasted to Forbes magazine of his continued access to the Trump family. His billionaire father is close to Russia's Vladimir Putin, and his ex-wife is the daughter of the president of Azerbaijan, where Agalarov of was born. The oligarch son grew up in Moscow and went to college in New York. He's now executive vice president of his family's real estate company, the Crocus Group. When he's not developing Russian shopping centers, resorts and boutiques, he's recording and performing around the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOOD LOVE")

AGALAROV: (Singing) Girl, you've got me so bad.

DEL BARCO: This is Emin's single from an upcoming album. He's also recorded Frank Sinatra tunes and his own pop songs. But he doesn't impress LA Times pop music critic Mikael Wood.

MIKAEL WOOD: This guy's music is about as bland as it could be. He's like a bad George Michael. Or he's a bad Ricky Martin.

DEL BARCO: Emin, apparently a Russian sensation, eventually met up with Rob Goldstone, a British publicist known for wearing funny hats and writing about his large girth. The Russian government reached out to the pop star's billionaire father. Then Emin asked Gladstone to connect Trump Jr. with the Russian lawyer, promising damaging information about Hillary Clinton. None of the players was available for comment.

Just weeks ago, Agalarov ended his U.S. tour with a concert at Lincoln Center, joined onstage by musicians David Foster and Nile Rodgers. Now he's center stage with Donald Trump, and everyone knows his name - Emin. I'm Mandalit del Barco, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.