Romanian singer Alexandra Stan has been around in the Eurodance scene for over a decade now, but, for many, she’s still best known for her first international hit: “Mr. Saxobeat”.
In case you haven’t heard it, the song is an upbeat track bringing together trance beats and a catchy saxophone riff to create something that, in 2010, was both a good fit for the market and a distinctly original sound. The song is still widely played today, and Stan has gone on to work on other hits like “Cherry Pop” and “Lemonade,” but Saxobeat will always be her breakout hit and is likely to remain the song most people associate with her.
That being said, what most people don’t know is the intriguing story behind the song’s composition and how Alexandra Stan went from a karaoke performance in Constanța to being lip-synced by Selena Gomez in front of an audience of thousands.
Growing up in Faleză Nord–a neighborhood of Constanța–Stan had a difficult childhood. Her father spent a lot of time away from home, and when he did ultimately return for good, it was, unfortunately, a result of health problems. The family then moved to Valu lui Traian, and Stan took up a job as a waitress to earn money.
Throughout this period, she began to show a burgeoning interest in music. So when the producer/songwriter team of Andrei Nemirschi and Marcel Prodan heard her singing Karaoke, they were quick to sign her.
Although the deal with Maan records (Prodan and Nemirschi’s label) was the beginning of a promising career, it also came with a much darker side. According to Stan, the contract she signed allowed the duo to underpay her and gave them a level of control that infringed on her human rights.
During this time (2009), Stan saw some early success with her debut single “Lollipop (Param Pam Pam)”. Although the song was certainly not successful on the level that “Mr. Saxobeat” would be, it was a healthy debut, peaking at #18 on the Romanian Top 100.
Around this time that, Stan and her team were approached by an Azerbaijani company, looking for a song to market an energy drink called Trojka. The song was initially called “Trojka,” but it morphed into “Mr. Saxobeat” throughout its production. Although she was never credited as a songwriter, Stan has since claimed to have made key decisions during the writing process. Not only, according to Stan, was it her idea to include the saxophone, but she says it was also her idea to use the same melody for the chorus vocals.
“Mr. Saxobeat” was not an overnight hit, but the song gained international popularity over time. Unlike its predecessor, it reached number 1 on the Romanian charts and held the top stop for eight weeks. Before long, it was finding its way to the top spot in several other European countries, including Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland.
In 2012, American mega-star Selena Gomez came under some scrutiny from the media for ‘appropriating’ the song during her performances. In addition, many criticized Gomez for lip-syncing Stan’s vocals when she performed the song. When asked how she felt about this in 2021, Stan replied that “Selena is very talented”, going to say add:
“It’s obvious that my voice is better suited for “Mr. Saxobeat”. It’s my song; I’m more suited for it. Maybe that’s why she lip-synced. “
These days, Alexandra Stan is regarded as one of the most famous artists in Romania and has an international following of devoted fans. Her fifth studio album, Rainbows is currently in development, and hopefully, she’ll be putting out music for many years to come.