The most exciting new voice in the dance world, the 27-year-old Romanian has blazed through the global charts with hits like “Hot,” “Sun Is Up” and “Déjà vu,” collaborating with the likes of Pitbull, Flo-Rida, Daddy Yankee and Juan Magán and reaching the top slots in dozens of countries, from her native Rumania to Japan, Mexico, Turkey, Argentina, Spain, Finland, Poland and the U.S.
With looks and dance moves that match her musical talent, Inna has won multiple MTV Europe Awards, Romanian Music Awards and RRA Awards and in 2012 became the first and only European female artist to reach 1 billion YouTube views, in addition to boasting 12 million Facebook fans and over 600,000 Twitter followers.
Now, Inna is really getting ready for a true global explosion. Newly signed to Atlantic Records for her first major label deal, the Romanian beauty just released her first single of her upcoming album, due out at the end of the year.
“The Cola Song,” an irresistible, bubbly mix of dance, electronica and Latin, laced with sax riffs and featuring rising Latin star J Balvin, embodies what Inna is all about: A global star that knows no genre, language or geographic boundaries.
“It’s amazing,” says Inna, who is working on her new project with the likes of Axident (Far East Movement), TJR (Pitbull, “Funky Vodka”), Thomas Troelsen (Pitbull, Alexandra burke, Junior Senior) and Andrew Frampton (The Script, The Wanted). “I had a very long and difficult road on the way here. I still can’t believe that I got here and that I’m sitting at the table with the most important people in the music industry and I’m recording songs that are produced and written by the biggest songwriters in the world. I want to show the world what I can offer. And most of all, I want to show everybody that it doesn’t matter where you come from, or how rich, small or big you are, if you believe in your dream and if you try and try and try, you can get to the top.”
Inna, real name Elena Alexandra Apostoleanu (Inna, a diminutive of Alexandra, is what Inna’s grandparents called her as a child) was born in Romania to a Romanian father and mother. The family was humble and Romania still doesn’t have a track record of exporting talent. But music dominated her life.
“All my childhood memories are about music,” she says. “My mom was a singer of traditional Romanian music and my grandmother was a singer and I remember singing in the church choir with both of them when I was really little. I come from a big religious family and we would go to church on Sunday mornings. Those were my first ‘shows,’” she says with a laugh.
Soon, it was clear that Inna’s was no ordinary talent. When she was seven, her mother dug into the family’s meager savings and took her to a vocal coach for formal training.
Torn between music and education, Inna would eventually enroll in the university as a political science major, but she couldn’t escape her calling. At the time, Inna was working as a secretary for a real estate firm and, after hearing her sing in the office, a co-worker (who would later become her manager) convinced her to give music another shot and took her to the well-known Romanian production team of Play & Win.
Inna initially applied her vocal prowess to rock and pop, but Play & Win also convinced her to record a few dance songs. One of those was “Hot,” an up-tempo, empowering dance track featuring Inna’s soaring voice, singing in English.
What happened next is the stuff dreams are made of.
Inna posted the track on YouTube and drove to Paris to spend a week with her family.
“When I came back, we stopped at immigration, and I’m giving my passport to the agent and his phone starts ringing with the song I had posted on YouTube as the ringtone!”
Without benefit of a label, a marketing team or any sort of structured promotion, “Hot” became a YouTube hit and DJs around the country were clamoring for the song—and the singer.
“When I returned home, every single radio station wanted the song, and every single label wanted to sign me,” remembers Inna. “It was so unexpected.”
“Hot” would become one of those rare, unstoppable tracks that transcends language and geography, climbing charts in Russia, Poland, Bulgaria Serbia, Slovakia, Greece, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain. Inna’s subsequent singles—“Love,” “Deja-Vu,” “Amazing” and “Sun Is Up” all became major European hits. By the end of 2009, Inna had released Hot, the album, throughout Europe, collecting MTV Romania Music awards and MTV Europe Music Awards—among many other accolades—along the way, even as “Hot,” the single, continued its romp across the continent and eventually, across the Atlantic, also topping Billboard charts in the U.S.
Inna’s follow-up, I Am the Club Rocker, also produced by Play & Win, was released throughout Europe in 2012 and featured a handful of continent-wide radio hits, including first single, “Sun Is Up,” whose steamy video—featuring the stylized choreography and sensational outfits that would become an Inna signature—has garnered close to 70 million views on YouTube.
I Am the Club Rocker also included “Club Rocker,” a collaboration with Flo-Rida, and “Un Momento,” Inna’s first Spanish-language track and her first major bid for the Latin marketplace in its own language.
“I speak Spanish as well as I speak English and I think my voice sounds good in Spanish,” says Inna, who has already toured Mexico multiple times. Her affinity to the language and the culture is only natural she says.
“Even though Romania is surrounded by Slavic countries, we’re Latin,” she says. “When I say I’m Latin I want to make people think not only of the history and the geography, but more the way we love, the way we express our emotions.”
Inna fully explored her Latin side on 2013’s Party Never Ends, an album that includes collaborations with reggaetón king Daddy Yankee, Spanish DJ and hitmaker Juan Magán and reggaetón star Yandel.
Inna was also invited to collaborate with Pitbull on his album Global Warming (in the track “All The Things”), underscoring her status as one of Europe’s biggest stars.
But it’s not all fun and games for the Romanian star.
On November 25th, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Inna released the single “Endless,” a song that calls for an end to domestic violence and is the foundation of the social campaign “Bring The Sun In My Life,” which seeks to provide support to abused women.
“It’s a song that’s very close to my heart because it’s my first song that has a slow tempo and a message: ‘Can you bring the sun in my life?’”
“Bring The Sun In My Life” has expanded to multiple countries thanks to interest and support from various non-profits that are using Inna’s music and image to convey a message of empowerment for women. In addition, Inna has been deeply involved with various NGO’s such as Unicef and Save the Children where she serves as an endorser and activist.
Now, Inna is preparing for her biggest release yet. Already, “Cola Song” is climbing the charts even as a second single—“Good Time,” featuring Pitbull—awaits in the wings.
“My first dream was to have a song released everywhere, at the same time in all the countries that play my kind of music,” she says.
“And my second dream is to be even bigger in the U.S. and have my music play beyond dance stations. I want everyone who goes to a club to know who I am: I am Inna from Europe.”