Born in Baku, Azerbaijan the story of Emin Agalarov's rise to pop stardom is an astonishing one. The singer/songwriter grew up in Moscow, was educated in Europe and owned a shoe boutique on New York's Lexington Avenue before returning to Russia to build his own fashion empire.
Yet despite Western music not being encouraged in the Soviet era, Emin harboured a secret desire to fulfil a career in the music industry – a dream that eventually saw fruition with his debut album Still (2006). Several albums later, and Emin is regarded as a national hero in Russia and Azerbaijan, and has exceeded even his own expectations by crossing over into the UK and US markets – exemplified by his latest collaboration with Nile Rodgers for the single, Boomerang.
Emin explains how the partnership came about: “I was in New York doing a charity event for the homeless and one of the honourees was Grammy award-winning legendary guitarist, Nile Rodgers. He was on stage talking about how he was homeless at one point in his life - something not many people know.
“Afterwards, he came up to me and told me that he thought my song Boomerang could be a hit. I couldn't believe it! It was such a surreal moment to hear that from such an incredibly talented musician.
“A few weeks later, I thought why not ask him if he'd like to be featured on Boomerang. He said yes, and what he added to the track and video is beautiful - pure Nile Rodgers. His work is inspiring!”
Meanwhile, click through the gallery to read about the 12 tracks that have helped shape Emin’s career in music...
Elvis Presley - If I Can Dream
"When I was twelve years old, my mom gave me a tape - we used tapes back then; a compilation of songs from the ‘50s recorded by a man who had a voice like nothing I'd ever heard before. It blew me away. I immediately became obsessed with him.
"When I was younger, I would spend my time learning every song and translating most of them into Russian. Then I would sing them in Russian. It’s because of Elvis and his music that I learned to speak English. To this day, I still cover his songs in my concerts. His music is the love of my life."
Robbie Williams – Angels
"This guy changed everything. For me, he’s a modern-day Elvis. Robbie sells out stadiums all over the world, performing Pop, Contemporary Rock and Swing with a full orchestra. In my mind, he’s exactly what an artist should be - a true entertainer and an amazing singer and writer with a fascinating persona.
"His phrasing and presence in this song blows me away. I believe this is still his biggest hit to date and the one that saved his solo career."
Queen - Who Wants To Live Forever
"Freddie Mercury is an inspirational and accomplished artist with a painful destiny. This is a guy who is loved all over the world. For me, Queen left one of the biggest musical imprints, and Freddie’s last album was recorded while he was dying.
"Every song on that album has an emotional complexity, but I’ve chosen Who Wants To Live Forever from the Queen album A Kind of Magic. It's something he was asking himself when coming to terms with his own mortality. The emotion and artistry of that song helps guarantee that Freddie Mercury will, in fact, live forever."
Bee Gees - Stayin' Alive
"These guys completely defined the Disco era. This was the second single off of their Saturday Night Fever album, and the one they became best known for. Barry's Gibb’s falsetto is amazing.
"It’s also an incredible choice, because you don't imagine surviving the tough streets of ‘70s New York City when you think of falsetto vocals or Disco, but that's exactly what this song’s about. Of course, the track I'm talking about is Stayin' Alive."
Take That - Patience
"Not since the Beatles has there been a bigger or better-selling boy band. I toured with them in Europe this past year and can tell you from personal experience that they are absolutely amazing performers. It’s been so wonderful to get to know them and share the stage with them.
"Even though they’re a little older now - and a bit older than I am, they’re still a boy band and still have that playful energy about them. Because of that, they continue to make new fans and sell out stadiums all over the world. It was hard to pick just one track, but Patience is a personal favourite of mine from their album Beautiful World."
Lisa Stansfield - Never, Never Going To Give You Up
"I’m a big fan of Barry White and his one-of-a-kind voice. In the ‘70s, while working as a producer, he happened to sing on a demo and a group of producers heard it and convinced him that he had to record an album of his own. What made him so unique was his sound and style. When he recorded his debut album, and the year of its release, birth rates in America pretty much doubled.
"They say these were the babies of Barry White! A generation later, there came a woman who many feel was the only artist capable of covering a Barry White track and doing it justice. That artist is Lisa Stansfield with the song Never, Never Going to Give You Up."
Michael Jackson - Billie Jean
"I love James Brown. In the same way Elvis brought Rock and Roll to the world, James Brown did the same with Funk. One of the biggest James Brown fans, who went on to have one of the greatest careers in music, was Michael Jackson.
"Michael said that James Brown was his inspiration, his teacher, and if it wasn’t for the Godfather of Soul there would be no Michael Jackson. The song of his that I still really enjoy is Billie Jean."
Muse - Unintended
"This choice is very different from the rest on my list. These guys are incredible, and the way this song is crafted shows such confidence and artistry. The acoustic arrangement and seemingly straightforward lyrics are in incredible contrasts to the vocal, which has such a yearning moodiness - an uneasy vulnerability. You never know where the song is going. It's about hope and finding love, but at the same time it conveys this sense that all of it could suddenly go away and the guy could crash and burn."
"Muse do such an amazing job of telling incredible stories through their music. This song is from the band's fifth release, Showbiz. "
Duran Duran - Rio
"These guys have been world famous for the last 30 years and helped defined the English new wave and pop scene of the ‘80s. They've sold over a 100 million records, wrote some of the most iconic songs in modern music, and recently, decades later, scored a number UK hit for their collaboration with one of my other musical heroes, Nile Rodgers.
"One of my favourite songs by them is their super hit Rio, the title track of the album that introduced the band to the whole of the US."
Stevie Wonder – Superstition
"Stevie is a man of many talents. He’s a singer, a songwriter, a producer and a musician. In my opinion, he's one of the most influential and important artists in the history of modern music.
"This song blows me away because it’s so iconic and so many generations of music fans can identify with it, and that is a powerful thing. Superstition is one of my favourite tracks from his album, Talking Book."
Tom Jones - It's Not Unusual
There are guys who have a lot of sex appeal on stage but don’t have the voice or the presence to back it up. But this guy can dance, sing big ballads with ridiculously high notes and do all these things while making every woman is the audience swoon.
"His age doesn’t matter - he can still come on stage in a sexy suit after a glass of champagne and a cigar backstage and make every lady in the audience believe he's singing just to her. He's the man; he's Tom Jones and my choice is It’s Not Unusual from his album, Along Came Jones."
Sade - Your Love Is King
Wow! She is truly talented. If I could marry her, I would. If I could marry her sound, I would. If I could collaborate with her, I would. Her debut album came out in the ‘80s - ’82 or ’83 I think. I was still a kid then, but I went to see her show a few years ago in Moscow and was completely blown away.
"The last 30 years hasn’t touched her at all. She is definitely my favourite female artist of all-time and has influenced my music. She beautiful and sexy and so unique - there’s no one like her. Your Love Is King is one of my favourite songs from her album, Diamond Life."