t.A.T.u. is a Russian music duo that was formed in Moscow in 1999 by Ivan Shapovalov. The group consisted of singers Lena Katina and Yulia Volkova, who were only 14 and 15 years old when the band was created. Shapovalov was a former child psychologist and advertised for the band through a TV commercial. He intended the band to produce music that was controversial and provocative, pushing boundaries with their themes.
The band’s name comes from the Russian phrase “Ta lyubit tu,” which translates to “This girl loves that girl.” This was a nod to the band’s image, which Shapovalov manufactured to suggest that Katina and Volkova were lesbians, a concept that was highly contentious in Russia at the time.
t.A.T.u.’s debut single “Ya Soshla S Uma” (“I’ve Lost My Mind”) was released in 2000 and quickly gained popularity in Russia. Their first English-language single “All The Things She Said,” released in 2002, was an international success, topping charts in numerous countries, including the UK, and reaching number 20 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The music video, featuring the two girls in school uniforms kissing in the rain, caused significant controversy, furthering the band’s notoriety.
t.A.T.u.’s debut English album “200 km/h in the Wrong Lane” was also successful, and is often regarded as the first Russian music act to have international mainstream success. The band continued to produce music and tour in the following years, releasing several more albums.
Throughout their career, the girls often denied being lesbians, stating in interviews that it was a part of their act and an idea from their producer. This caused some controversy and accusations of queerbaiting.
Despite the controversies surrounding them, t.A.T.u. had a significant impact on pop culture in the early 2000s and remains one of Russia’s most successful musical exports.