A chanson (French pronunciation: [ʃɑ̃sɔ̃], "song", from Latin cantio) is in general any lyric-driven French song, usually polyphonic and secular. A singer specializing in chansons is known as a "chanteur" (male) or "chanteuse" (female); a collection of chansons, especially from the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, is also known as a chansonnier.
Russian chanson (Russian: Русский шансон, tr. Russkiy shanson) (from French "chanson") is a neologism for a musical genre covering a range of Russian songs, including city romance songs, author song performed by singer-songwriters, and blatnaya pesnya or "criminals' songs" that are based on the themes of the urban underclass and the criminal underworld.
The earliest criminal songs in this style largely came about due to the crumbling Tsarist regime, but the style has changed significantly after the rise of Stalin, when both innocents and criminals were massacred and sent to labor camps.
Yet another change occurred during the Khrushchev Thaw, when songs from the labor camps started reaching the public, performed by artists like Arkady Severny and Vladimir Vysotsky.
Modern artists affiliated with the Chanson genre often sing not in the traditional style used even by the Khrushchev-era performers, but more professionally, borrowing musical arrangements from pop, rock, and jazz.
The musical style of the older Russian criminal songs, much like the Russian Bard songs, are heavily influenced by the classical Russian romance genre of the 19th century, more specifically a subgenre known as the City or Urban Romance. Romance songs are almost always divided into four-line rhymed couplets, rarely have a chorus, and follow a fairly consistent chord progression (Am, Dm, and E, sometimes with C and G added). The strumming pattern is also predictable: it is either a march, or a slow 3/4 waltz pattern often utilizing fingerpicking rather than strumming. Romance songs were traditionally played on a Russian guitar, since its tuning makes playing these chords easier (most of them are played as a single-finger bar chord).
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