O-Zone was a Romanian pop music trio that was active from 1999 to 2005 and consisted of Dan Bălan, Radu Sîrbu, and Arsenie Todiraş. The group gained global popularity with their song "Dragostea din tei" and their subsequent album DiscO-Zone.
1999-2001: Formation and early years:
O-Zone was formed as a duo of Dan Bălan and Petru Jelihovschi in 1999. They released their first album, Dar, unde eşti..., in 1999. However, Jelihovschi had not intended to make music his career, so he split from Bălan. Undaunted, Bălan held open auditions for new band members. At one such audition, he met Arsenie "Arsenium" Todiraş, who eventually won over the initially skeptical Bălan with his version of Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender." Bălan and Arsenium would have proceeded as a duo act until Bălan received a call from Radu Sîrbu, who wanted a chance to audition for the group. Despite missing the auditions the first time around, Bălan agreed, and after a successful audition by Sîrbu, O-Zone officially became a trio.
2002-2004: Rise to success:
In 2002, O-Zone moved from Chişinău to Romania, hoping to gain more recognition. There, the group became an instant hit band with their upbeat song "Despre tine" ("About You"), which held the top position on the Romanian Top 100 chart for three weeks in February 2003. Their second hit, which brought them worldwide attention, was "Dragostea din tei", translated roughly as "Love From the Linden Trees." It quickly became popular in Romania, where it also topped the Romanian singles chart for four weeks in September 2003, but faded from popularity by the end of 2003. But the song gained popularity in Italy when the little-known duo Haiducii released a cover of "Dragostea din tei", which topped the Italian pop charts. Arsenie Todiraş later said that at the time, while it was not illegal, the group's cover felt like a betrayal because Haiducii had not asked permission to make a cover. However, the cover's success led to curiosity about the original artist, and led to Time Records, an Italian recording house, offering O-Zone a one-year contract. Soon after the song's release in Italy, it was also released in various other countries in Europe under Polydor Records and became an instant hit.
"Dragostea din tei" topped the singles charts of nearly a dozen European countries in 2004. It reached the top 10 in many other countries, including in the United Kingdom, where it reached the third position on the singles chart. The re-release of "Despre Tine" in 2004 from the same album had similar success across Europe.
In contrast to their multi-platinum status in Europe, O-Zone never entered the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the United States, although it did reach the 14th position on the Hot Dance Airplay chart. The viral video Numa Numa Dance helped to slightly boost awareness of "Dragostea din tei" in the United States, but while the song received moderate to major airplay, most Americans knew it simply as the "Numa Numa Song" and never knew the name of the original song or the group that performed it. "Dragostea din tei" was sampled in the song "Live Your Life" by T.I. and Rihanna, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 in late 2008.
2005-2006: Disbandment and Japanese success:
On January 13, 2005, while still very popular, the members of O-Zone announced their disbandment, citing personal reasons. Their last European concert was held at the 2005 Golden Stag music festival in Romania.
Also in 2005, the Japanese music label Avex Trax gained distribution rights for O-Zone music in Japan, and released the album DiscO-Zone in August 2005 in that country. The album, which features the song "Dragostea din tei", became immensely successful in Japan. Topping the Oricon albums charts, it reached over 800,000 in sales in 2005 alone and became the 12th most popular album of 2005. Partially because the album was re-released twice by Avex Trax, DiscO-Zone charted for over a year on the Oricon weekly albums chart and sold over one million copies overall.