Despina Vandi born under the name Despina Malea on 22 July 1969 is a Greek singer. Born in Tubingen near Stuttgart, Germany, Vandi’s family returned to Kavala, Greece when she was six years old.
Vandi’s first album was released in 1994 under the Minos EMI label, titled “Gela Mou“. The album was distinguished by the self-titled song “Gela Mou”, as long as by the song “Den iparhi tipota” and her duet “To Adieksodo” with the popular and acclaimed singer Giannis Parios. Both songs were written by Vassilis Karras.
In 1996, Vandi released her next album, “Esena Perimeno” . Singles on the album include “Esena Perimeno”, “Den Pethainei I Agapi”, and “Efiges”. Most of the songs were written by her friend and now musical director Tony Kontaxakis. Although a few of her first songs received some airplay, the first two albums themselves had mild success. Together the albums have sold under 30 thousand copies. A statement made by Vandi implied the combined album sales to be in the range of 10–27 thousand copies.
1997 would be the year Vandi would make her breakthrough in mainstream Greek music as she teamed up with popular songwriter Phoebus. Phoebus wrote the songs of Vandi’s next album, “Deka Entoles”, which was certified double platinum and sold 100,000 copies in Greece. Vandi’s partnership with Phoebus would turn out to be one of the most notable in the Greek recording industry and they would continue to have commercial success for a decade and more. With the success of “Deka Entoles” Vandi quickly became popular in the Greek music industry with a string of hits and popular appearances.
In 1998 Vandi released the platinum cd-single “Spania”, while later that year, she experimented with acting. She was asked to play a guest star role in the hit television show “Dio Xeni”. Vandi accepted the role and made her first appearance on television. She played a singer of a local small city, who was able to change the sexuality of the main gay character. She managed to gain good reviews for her acting talent.
Vandi’s next album “Profities” was released in 1999 and was certified gold the day of its release and platinum in 2 days. It eventually became triple platinum, selling 150 thousand copies. Big hits from the album were the songs: “Apapa”, “To Giatriko”, “To Koritsaki sou” and “Sta Dosa Ola”. Later that year Vandi gave her first sold-out solo concert at the concert hall of Lycabettus with 7,000 people in attendance.
In 2000, Despina Vandi released the single “Ipofero”. The single was certified six times platinum and was awarded as being the most successful single of all time in Greece, based on sales at the Virgin Megastores, which reached 150 thousand copies. An honorary award was given to her by Richard Branson of Virgin in London, England.
In 2001 Despina Vandi and Phoebus signed in with Heaven Music, a new break-out record label, owned by the Antenna Group. Despina’s following album “Gia” was a double album including 21 new songs. The album was certified 4x platinum in only 11 days and became one of the best-selling albums of all time in Greece. Many of the songs on the album became hits not only Greece, but also in neighboring countries such as Cyprus, Turkey and Lebanon. Shortly after, Vandi gave an open free concert in Thessaloniki singing in front of a crowd of more than 60,000 people.
At the 2002 World Music Awards, Vandi was awarded as the World’s “Best Selling Greek Artist”. It was the first time that this award was given to a Greek artist who actually lived and worked in Greece.
Following the success of “Gia”, Despina released a CD single titled “Ante Gia” in 2002, with the title track being a remix of “Gia”. The single achieved double platinum status. Gia and “Ante Gia” were then compiled and re-released as “Gia & Ante Gia: Collector’s Edition”, along with four previously unreleased remixes.
In 2003 the double album “Despina Vandi Live” was released, containing performances from the singers’ concerts around Greece. The album included the greatest personal hits of her 9-year career in the Greek music industry (1994–2003), as long as many songs by other artists, covering a wide variety of genres (from rock-entehno to laïko and traditional Greek music). The album featured also two new songs: “Fevgoume Kardia mou” and “O, ti Oneirevomoun”. It was certified platinum, selling more than 60,000 copies.
On the meantime, with “Gia” having been certified multi-platinum in Greece and Cyprus, some of the songs broke out into the international market in neighboring countries. Seeing potential in an international career, she embarked on one in 2003.
Her first three international singles, “Gia” (2003), “Opa Opa” (2004) and “Come Along Now” (2005) entered the charts around the world. Her first internationally distributed albums are named after the songs “Gia” and “Come Along Now”. “Gia” and “Opa Opa” have both charted on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play and Hot Dance Airplay charts, with Gia reaching number 1 for 2 weeks on the latter and “Opa Opa” reaching number 3 on the Hot Dance Radio Airplay of Billboard. Except for the Billboard Charts, Gia reaching number 1 at the biggest radio stations of USA, as WKTU, KKDL and WPYM. Also, Gia reached number 1 at the Club Charts of Music Week in Great Britain and became the number 1 dance song of the year in USA, Germany, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, Cyprus and Sweden. All three singles reached No. 1 on the Australian charts. The song “Gia” gave to her the award for the best dance artist for the year 2004 in Portugal and she makes a big concert for her European public. Except from “Gia”, and the song “Opa Opa” reaching number 1 in Russia, Turkey and Australia. In the first days of October 2004 Despina Vandi makes four big concerts in New York, Atlantic City, Chicago and Toronto. All these concerts was sold out.
The song “Come Along Now” became the second best selling single in Russia and the biggest to audience radio station of Russia, Hit FM, awarded to her an honorary award in a special concert for her. Vandi also made an appearance on the hit international show Top of the Pops where she performed her song “Gia” as she was included in some of that week’s best-selling popular music artists.
Vandi’s work has been remixed by celebrated global DJs and producers, such as Armand Van Helden, Milk & Sugar, Nick Skitz, Roger Sanchez, Junior Vasquez, Pete Tong, Bass Bumpers, DJ Gregory, Level K, XTM, Minimal Chic and Highpass amongst others. The albums “Gia” and “Opa Opa” have also been Records of The Week on BBC Radio 1’s dance shows. At the end of August (2004) Despina performed live at the Beatstock Festival in New York.
Vandi’s next studio album was released at the end of 2004, titled “Stin Avli Tou Paradisou”. Although it sold significantly less than “Gia”, it reached double platinum status in 2005, becoming her fourth album to reach six figure sales.
The album was repackaged as a special edition and included 5 new songs, including the song “Amane”, a duet with Giorgos Mazonakis. The special edition of the album was released in Greece, Cyprus, Russia, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. In Turkey the album reached number 2 of the Turkish charts and the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News named Despina Vandi as the Queen of Greek Pop. For the winter season 2005–06 Vandi performed at Rex with Giorgos Mazonakis. In July 2006, Despina gave a concert in the theater of Lycabettus in Athens singing many of her popular songs.
Despina Vandi released the CD single “Kalanta” in Greece on 22 November 2006, which reached double platinum status after two weeks from the release of the CD single. The videoclip of “Kalanta” was released on 19 December, soon followed by the video of her next hit single, “Mehri Mai Mina”. Vandi and Mazonakis once again collaborated for the winter season 2006–07. She performed her last show at the Rex Music Theater on 18 February 2007 and it marked an end to her performances there for seven consecutive years. Due to her pregnancy, Vandi did not plan any summer concerts for 2007, and on 21 August 2007, she gave birth to her son, Giorgos.
On 10 October 2007 Vandi released her new single “Thelo” simultaneously on all radio and TV stations across Greece at 10 am. It marked her 10-year anniversary of collaborating with Phoebus. The song reached the top of the Nielsen’s Radio Airplay chart for Greece for six consecutive weeks. The second single from the album and the title track “10 Hronia Mazi”, a rock ballad celebrating the 10-year collaboration with Phoebus, was released on 16 November 2007. The album “10 Hronia Mazi” was released 6 December 2007 on three discs featuring fifteen new songs.The album achieved platinum certification in the first week. It sold 30 thousand copies, becoming Vandi’ s lowest selling album for over a decade.
On 6 March 2008, Vandi released the third single from the album, titled “Agapi”.The single was on the MAD TV Charts for six weeks with one week at number one. On 24 April 2008, the fourth single titled “Fantasou Apla” was released.
Vandi was featured on the gold-certified album Sehnsucht by German electronica act Schiller, which was released in early 2008, providing vocals for the song “Destiny”, composed by Phoebus. She performed the track with Schiller on 17 June 2008 at the MAD Video Music Awards 2008, where she won the category of “Best Female Artist” and also performed “I Gi Ki I Selini”.
On 24 June 2008, the album “Deka Hronia Mazi” was repackaged with the title “10 Hronia Mazi”, including the song “Destiny” by Schiller featuring Despina Vandi. Two more singles were released: “I Gi Ki I Selini” and “Tha Thela”; the music video for the first was her performance at the MAD Awards, while the video for the latter was the live performance of the song at the Love Radio party which took place on 12 May 2008.
Vandi was involved in the Global One music project. She attended a recording session in Beijing with Chinese pop star Wei-Wei and Brazilian samba singer Daniela Mercury, while also attending the project’s first official press conference. The project’s goal, driven by international record producer Rob Hoffman, was to have one artist representing their country Global One songs in their native language, as well as in the English language, in efforts to pool together as many languages and cultures as possible to promote their artistry on a global level.
In the end of 2008, Vandi began an international tour and on 10–12 October she performed three sold-out concerts in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. She later performed in charity concerts in Cyprus, where she was awarded the platinum award for her album “10 Hronia Mazi” in Cyprus, after she had already received the platinum certification for the sales of the album in Greece. On 15–24 May 2009, she performed in a five venue tour of the United States and Canada. Following her tour in America, she collaborated with Goin’ Through for a lengthy tour throughout Greece.
Vandi performing at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut as part of her 2009 five venue North American tour.
On 16 June, Vandi made a dynamic comeback, after a year’s absence, with the pop-rock song “Iparhi Zoi”. The song was written by Phoebus and it was presented on 24 June in the Mad Video Music Awards 2009. On 29 June, Despina gave the opening concert in Thessaloniki for the Long Hot Summer Tour. After 32 sold-out concerts the tour sold 150,000 tickets. With this tour Vandi broke the record for pre-sale tickets to the concert in the Olympia pre-selling 3,000 tickets. The tour was, also, the most successful tour of 2009.
Following the departure of her songwriter and collaborator Phoebus from Heaven Music, Vandi officially announced on 2 November 2009, that she also has chosen to leave Heaven Music and signed in with the record label founded by Phoebus, called The Spicy Effect.
On 11 December, Vandi returned to the Greek nightlife, singing at club Politia in Thessaloniki alongside Goin’ Through. On 12 December, Heaven Music, released the compilation “Despina Vandi – Greatest Hits 2001–2009”. Vandi later performed at Thalassa People’s Stage with the group 48 Ores. The show began on 15 April and lasted until July. Vandi later appeared on 14 March on Chart Show, a show broadcast by Alpha TV where her certifications and sales figures were chronicled, ranking her in the 4th position among Greek female singers in the phonographic era.
In 2010 Vandi presented her new song, “Koritsi Prama, Part 1”. It was released on 22 March and was the lead single from her eighth studio album, “C’ est la vie”. The pop song written by Phoebus was the first release coordinated by The Spicy Effect label. The music video was filmed on 22 March at “Diogenis Studio”. The song was the first half of a two-part work Vandi released “Koritsi Prama, Part 2”, two months later, on 14 May 2010.
The new album of Despina Vandi, called “C’est La Vie”, was released on 13 June with Real News newspaper. It was her first album to be released along with a newspaper, following a popular tendency of the Greek musical industry, as an effort to deal with the reduction in the disc sales. The newspaper, along with the album, sold more than 100,000 copies. On the other hand, this release choice resulted in the album receiving no official certification of gold sales, for the first time for a Vandi album after her early releases at the first half of the 1990s. On 14 June, Vandi performed live at the MAD Video Music Awards, presenting her new song “Kommati Ap’ Tin Kardia Sou”. The song was also the following single of the album “C’est La Vie” and was released on 7 June 2010. The video clip was released on 5 July 2010 and made positive impressions, revealing a “rock side” of Vandi. The third single of the album, “Erota Theli I Zoi”, was released to radio stations on 13 September 2010. The music video, filmed on the Greek island of Hydra, was uploaded on 19 October 2010 on Spicy’s YouTube Channel.
Furthermore, the German band Schiller, who had worked with Vandi in the past, released a new song featuring her as vocals, called Sunday and included it in their album Breathless, the international version of Schiller’s album Atemlos. The song was also included in the album “C’est La Vie”.
Vandi was also the first artist who took part in the MTV Unplugged concert series of the music channel MTV Greece. The concert took place in the theater Hora in Kypseli on 9 June. She later went on a tour around Greece, along with Elli Kokkinou. After the successful concerts all over the Greece, Vandi performed live on 31 October at HMV Forum of London. It was the first time for Vandi in London and it was also a sold out. After the concert, she appeared at the music scene VOX and after five months, the show finished on 6 March. On 14 June 2011 Despina Vandi appeared on Mad Video Music Awards 2011 and performed the song “Gi’ Alli Mia Fora”.
In November 2011 a digital single was released by Vandi called “Mou ‘His Perasi”, as a promo to Despina’s forthcoming album. The music was written by Gavrilis Mosas and the lyrics by Phoebus. The video clip, filmed in the area of the Messolonghi lagoon was also released the same month. The song’s release was followed by another digital single taken from her 9th studio album, called Girismata. On late 2011 Vandi’s appearances began at the nightclub FEVER along with Elli Kokkinou and Nikos Oikonomopoulos.
On 2012 the album “Allaxa” was released, marking Vandi’s return to a more laiko genre after the poorly received “C’ est la vie” album. Apart from Phoebus there is a collaboration with songwriters such as Eleni Giannatsoulia, Olga Vlahopoulou, Vangelis Kostantinidis and Gavrilis Mosas. The album was certified double-platinum sales and re-established Vandi’s commercial success with multiple hits such as: “Mou ‘His Perasi”, “Girismata”, “T’ asteri mou”, “To nisi” and “Katalavaino”.
Despina has been offered many times to represent Greece in Eurovision song contest but she never accepted. On 15 January 2013 the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) announced that it had reached an agreement with private music channel MAD TV to take on the organisation and production of a national final to select a song to represent Greece in the contest. Despina Vandi was selected to host the event along with actor Giorgos Kapoutzidis. It was the first time that a well-known singer hosted such an event. The following year, Vandi and Kapoutzidis hosted again the event, called “Eurosong 2014: a MAD Show”.
In 2013–2014 Vandi was one of the four artists/coaches participating in the Greek version of The Voice, along with Antonis Remos, Melina Aslanidou and Michalis Kouinelis. The winner of the show’s first season, Maria Elena Kyriakou, was on Vandi’s team.
On the meantime Despina’s digital single “Hano” Esena produced by Dimitris Kontopoulos was released on 2013, receiving positive reviews and remaining 10 weeks at the top of the airplay chart.
In December 2014 Vandi released her new album “De Me Stamatises” (including 10 tracks). It was the first album since 1997, in which none of the songs was written by her long-time producer Phoebus. Instead, she collaborated again with various songwriters, among them: Dimitris Kontopoulos, Eleni Giannatsoulia, Olga Vlahopoulou, Giorgos Sampanis, Nikos Moraitis and Vasilis Gavriilidis. The first three new singles “Kalimera”, “Ola allazoun” and “Kane kati”, were released right after her return to Heaven Music.
The album “Afti Ine I Diafora Mas” was released in October 2016 by Heaven Music. Vandi collaborated again with various songwriters (among which Dimitris Kontopoulos, Thanos Papanikolaou, Nikos Moraitis, Eleni Giannatsoulia, Vasilis Gavriilidis, Olga Vlahopoulou). Her eleventh album features the following singles: “Mia Anasa Makria Sou”, “O,ti Thes Geniete Tora”, “Gia Kaki Mou Tihi”.
Apart from her recordings, Vandi participated in the theatrical plays – musicals – “Mamma Mia!” (2016–18) and “To diko mas cinema” (2019). In 2019 she released the album “To diko mou sinema”, including notable songs from popular Greek films produced in the 1960s and 1970s.