Category Archives: Italy

Emma Marrone’s “La mia città” for Italy

emmamarrone This past month, Italian broadcaster RAI announced their roster for the 64th annual Festival di Sanremo, and Eurofans were quick to notice a few familiar names on the list: Arisa, Giusi Ferreri, Noemi, and, of course, 2011 Eurovision runner-up Raphael Gualazzi (paired up, interestingly enough, with electro-house act The Bloody Beetroots).  Would we see an artist from the Champions category, as we saw in 2012 and 2013, or would a fresh-faced act from the Giovani list go to Copenhagen?

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X-Factor, Sanremo, and now Eurovision…Marco Mengoni for Italy

This weekend marked the culmination of the 63rd annual Sanremo Music Festival, one of the most enduring traditions in Italian pop music (and generally accepted to be the inspiration for Eurovision as we know it today).  For five nights, fourteen established artists (with two songs apiece) and eight fresh faces took the stage at the Ariston Theatre, all hoping to strike it big with the Italian public.  And, for one, a special jury would award the chance to move on to Eurovision. Read the rest of this entry

Toe-to-Toe ESC Smackdown!

As I’ve said before, April is typically Eurovision No-Man’s-Land as we wait for rehearsals to start.  Why not fill the time with a bit of friendly competition?

So many of this year’s artists got to where they are today by standing on the shoulders of giants.  Or, at the very least, covering other people’s songs at National Finals or “Idol”/”X-Factor”/”The Voice”-type programs.  By sheer luck and coincidence, many of 2012’s Eurovision performers have either covered the same songs as one another, or simply performed past ESC classics.  So, in order to pass a bit of time, why don’t we figure out whose versions reign supreme?

As the Chairman would (almost) say..."Allez Musique!"

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A switch in Italy: “L’amore è femmina” to Baku

Yeah, remember last week when I said that it had been confirmed that Italy’s Nina Zilli would be performing her San Remo entry “Per Sempre” in Baku?

Scratch that.  Sorry!

Seemingly out of the blue, Italian broadcaster RAI and the EBU confirmed that the lovely Nina seems to have pulled a Belarus on us, and switched her song from the smoky, bluesy “Per Sempre” to the uptempo, hip-swinging retro title track of her newest album.  Read the rest of this entry

Songs confirmed in Italy and Israel

Over the past few weeks, both the Italian and Israeli delegations have dropped major hints regarding what we’ll be hearing from them in Baku this May.  In Italy, a special jury at the San Remo Festival selected chanteuse Nina Zilli to represent them, but no confirmation was given regarding the song that she would present.  Further east, Nina’s counterpart in Israel, indie-rock band Izabo, had their track for Azerbaijan, “Time”, leaked.  Broadcaster IBA had no comments on the supposed leak, neither confirming nor denying that the song was official.  Well, as we approach the EBU’s March 19 deadline, we finally have more clarity from Rome and Tel Aviv. Read the rest of this entry

Italy has decided: it’s Nina Zilli!

Before Melodifestivalen, before Festivali i Këngës, even before Eurovision itself, there was San Remo.  Founded in 1951, international stars such as Andrea Bocelli, Laura Pausini, Nek, and Eros Ramazzotti have all been discovered through this festival, which was supposedly the inspiration for the Eurovision that we all know and love today.  All throughout this week, fourteen established artists and eight newcomers performed, all in the hopes of grabbing the honor of a victory at the Teatro Ariston on the Italian Riviera. Read the rest of this entry

RAI Reveals the Candidates for Sanremo

After years of absence, Italy made a splash on the ESC scoreboard in 2011 with Raphael Gualazzi’s surprise runner-up finish.  After such a strong showing, broadcaster RAI has announced that they will continue on in Eurovision, and will pick their 2012 performer in the same manner as last year: through a special jury who will handpick a performer from the ranks of this year’s SanRemo Festival.  As in previous years, the Festival will be split into two separate components: one for established artists and one for newcomers.

Competing in the division for established stars:

  • Pierdavide Carone feat. Lucio Dalla – “Nanì”
  • Irene Fornaciari – “Il mio grande mistero”
  • Emma Marrone –  “Non è l’inferno”
  • Matia Bazar – “Sei tu”
  • Noemi – “Sono solo parole”
  • Francesco Renga – “La tua bellezza”
  • Arisa – “La notte”
  • Nina Zilli – “Per sempre”
  • Samuele Bersani – “Un pallone”
  • Dolcenera – “Ci vediamo a casa”
  • Chiara Civello – “Al posto del mondo”
  • Gigi d’Alessio & Loredana Berté – “Respirare”
  • Eugenio Finardi – “E tu lo chiami Dio”
  • Marlene Kuntz – “Canzone per un figlio”

Some of these names might be familiar to Eurofans: Matia Bazar represented Italy in 1979 with “Raggio di Luna“.  Loredana Berté is the sister of the late Mia Martini, who performed twice at Eurovision (1977 and 1992).  And Emma Marrone was the runner-up in last year’s SanRemo Festival, performing with rock group Modà on “Arriverà“.  (Furthermore, dedicated followers of this blog might remember that I put Arisa on my “ESC Wish List” last year.  My fingers are still crossed!)

And the Newcomers:

It appears that Alessandro Casillo would be ineligible for Eurovision participation, as he is only fifteen years old, and won’t turn sixteen until June.  So that means that one of the other twenty-one songs listed above will have their shot at the ESC…who do you think will take it?  Will it be another newcomer, or one of the veterans?  And will they be able to better Raphael Gualazzi’s score, and take a Eurovision victory back to Italy for the first time since Toto Cutugno’s win in 1990?

Eurovision 2011: The Best of the Rest (Part 4)

Ireland: Like them or not, you simply can not deny that Jedward were an unstoppable force at Eurovision.  Even if they didn’t take top honors this year with “Lipstick“, they were really the talk of the Press Center.  From their knee-high Converses to their now-iconic hair, you couldn’t resist this year’s Irish entry.  Even I fell victim to their charms:

But despite the Grimes Brothers’ popularity and infectious energy, they only made it to Düsseldorf by the slimmest of margins; only two points separated them from runner-up Nikki Kavanagh’s R&B ballad “Falling”:

Nikki sang backup for last year’s Irish entry, and “Falling” was written by a team that included Jonas Gladnikoff, who was the composer of “Et Cetera” and “It’s For You“, Ireland’s 2009 and 2010 Eurovision submissions.  Sadly, Jonas and Co. were unable to pull off the three-peat, but who knows what 2012 will bring?

Israel: Speaking of return performances, Dana International was one of five lead artists coming back to Eurovision this year (the others being Dino Merlin, Lena, Zdob si Zdub, and Gunnar Ólasson).  Sadly, she was also the only one of those five to not qualify for the Finals.  “Ding Dong” might have not have been the triumphant return Dana might have been hoping for…

For me, there were two other true standouts in this year’s Kdam.  The first was Chen Aharoni’s “Or (Light)”, which may have had everything but the kitchen sink thrown into it:

Pretty face?  Check.  Slow, moving opening?  Check.  Tempo change?  Check.  Panflute?  Check.  Costume change by an unnecessary dancer?  Check.  A highly entertaining three minutes?  Check!

My other favorite from that night had to be Michael and Shimrit Greylsummer’s sunny French-Hebrew folk jam “Tu Du Du”:

My knowledge of French is pretty rusty, and my Hebrew is even worse (even though I’m pretty sure I hear the words “bottle of rum” and “Bob Dylan” somewhere in there…), but this song never fails to make me smile.  It’s this perfect blend of Middle Eastern tonal structure, danceable club beats, Rybak violins, and Woodstock joy!

Italy: Ok, so any devoted reader of mine probably knows by now that Raphael Gualazzi’s “Madness of Love” claimed the top spot on my own personal 2011 scoreboard, as well as a soft spot in the cockles of my heart.  If you haven’t read my post-Eurovision interview with Raph yet, by all means, check it out!  It’s ok, I’ll wait.

Raphael was chosen by an internal jury during the San Remo Festival to carry the Tricolore for Italy’s return to Eurovision, so we can’t really say who would have gone in his place had he refused.  That being said, San Remo 2011 was full of fantastic songs that would not have seemed out of place for Eurovision.  For example, there was Emma Marrone’s stirring collaboration with the rock group Modà, “Arriverá (It Will Come)”:

I was also a big fan of Anna Tatangelo’s “Bastardo (Bastard)“, Nathalie Giannitrapani’s “Vivo Sospesa (I Live Suspended)“, and Giusi Ferreri’s “Il Mare Immenso (The Immense Sea)“.  I don’t know what it is about these dramatic, female-led numbers, but Italy seems to have cornered the market on them.  Knowing the quality of the entries at San Remo, and seeing the high benchmark set by Raphael this year, I really can’t wait to see what RAI sends us in 2012 (assuming they don’t wait another thirteen years…).

Latvia: Hmmm.  Compared to the National Finals from Italy and Israel, Latvia doesn’t stick out to me as much.  It’s not that it was a bad preselection by any stretch, it’s just that the songs didn’t grab me by the heartstrings and eardrums in the same way that the Kdam and San Remo did.  That being said, Musiqq’s “Angel in Disguise” was a fun number, and possibly my favorite Latvian song since 2005’s “The War is Not Over“.

Speaking of “The War is not Over”, songwriter Mārtiņš Freimanis submitted an entry for this year’s National Selection, but passed away about a month before “Hop” could be performed.  Unlike Iceland’s Sjónni Brink, Freimanis was not going to be performing the song itself (rather, deferring to the group Blitze), but it was still a sudden and tragic loss to the Latvian music community.

“Angel in Disguise” was not the odds-on favorite to go to Düsseldorf; most people were betting on Lauris Reiniks’s “Banjo Laura”:

“Banjo Laura” is definitely enjoyable, but I do have to say that the line “La-la-la-la-Laura the banjo girl/ Who was she? What did she play?” bothers me to no end.  Lauris, you just answered your own question.  She’s Laura, and she plays the banjo.  ‘Nuff said, end of story.

In our next installment, I’ll pick out the best from Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, and Moldova…stay tuned!

Catching up with Raphael Gualazzi

During my time at the Press Center in Düsseldorf this year, I had the great (and often surreal) pleasure to get to know a number of 2011’s Eurovision performers.  I sipped tea with the Greeks, chatted with the Icelanders, danced with the Armenians, practiced my Portuguese with Homens da Luta, and raised a few toasts with the Bulgarians.  However, one of my favorite artists to work with was Italy’s Raphael Gualazzi.  After having the chance to interview him for ESCKaz, we would often run into each other as he went from rehearsals to press conferences to interviews and back again, always sharing a quick smile and a “ciao”.  I sat in the second row during Raphael’s intimate showcase at “Jazz in der Alten Schmeide”, and saw firsthand how much he and his bandmates truly feel their music, a fantastic, soulful blend of old-school stride piano fused with modern blues, funk, and jazz.  When “Madness of Love” defied expectations and quietly climbed up the leaderboard on May 14th, ultimately making its way into a surprising (to some, anyway) second place finish, I may have been celebrating louder than the Italian delegation itself.  I had the chance to catch up with Raphael this week before his gig at the Teatro Tenda in Vascon, near Treviso.  Despite an often-fuzzy cell phone connection, I was able to get a few questions in.

ESC Insider: It’s been over a month since we’ve last talked…how has life been since Düsseldorf?
Raphael Gualazzi: Well, we were very busy before [Eurovision]…a lot of gigs around Europe.  And now, after that, we are in a lot of different countries, so a lot of work on promotion. And at the same time a lot of concerts around Europe, like Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, France, Germany, all around.  You can check [the tour schedule] out on the Internet, for sure.  Also, there’s been some television in Munich, Hamburg, and Berlin, and we’ll have also a tour in October, from the 1st to the 15th in Germany that will start in Stuttgart, through Berlin, Hamburg, and it will stop in Frankfurt on the 15th.  And now, I’m just doing a lot of work, touring around festivals in France…

EI: So, is there any possibility of you coming over to this side of the Atlantic?
RG: I really would like that!  We’re just building our way, and probably, I hope, soon…I think we will!
EI: It sounds like you’ve been so busy since Eurovision…well, really, since Sanremo!  Have you taken any time to take a deep breath and relax?  When you take time off, what do you do?
RG: Well, I’ve had not so much time and, you know, I like to compose, so I ask to bring in a piano to the hotel room, so I can practice or write down something…
EI: Thinking about the Eurovision experience itself: out of twenty-five songs in the Final, you came in second place, and the Jury put you in first.   The huge scale of it: the arena held over 30,000, and the night of the final had over 70 million people watching.  Has it sunk in, how huge of an experience it was?  When you look back on it, what do you think?
RG: Well, I think it was amazing…I’ve never believed in competition, but I think it was a great occasion to be in front of so many people and viewers.  Just three minutes to express yourself.  We worked very hard…weeks just for three minutes in front of so, so, many, many, many people.  And I just said to myself, ‘I just have to do my best for my music, and be thankful for the possibility to express myself in front of so many people.’  For three minutes, I had the possibility to bring back Jazz to its full popularity.  That’s what I think I did!  People around me were nervous…‘oh, we are in first, second, third’.  I didn’t really care; I just had a glass of wine!  For me, it was a game…the same atmosphere you can have with your parents after dinner in Italy, around the table when you play Tombola or Bingo or something like that. [laughs]
EI: You were at Eurovision for a little bit over a week.  What was your favorite memory from your time in Düsseldorf?
RG: Well, the memory of joy from seeing people from different countries joining together and making music.  I know that with popular music, you get different kinds…but to see more than forty countries just joining together…you see how much power can be with music.  I don’t believe in contests, but it can help people meet and cooperate with each other, like I did with the 3Js and some other people.  But it’s great, the most important thing!
EI: You mention working with the 3Js [2011’s representatives from The Netherlands].  I read on another website that you’re planning another collaboration with them; is this true?
RG: Well, why not?  I have no official news on that, partially because I’m so taken up by my work, I cannot say.  I have some things to talk about with my label, but I think so!  I think we’ll have some gigs together.  I don’t know what’s going on, but if I have some news, for sure I will communicate with you.
EI: Is there anything you would change about your experience [at Eurovision]?
RG: At the moment, about this experience in Germany, I wouldn’t change anything!  I was that everything was perfectly set and perfectly organized.  It was amazing…it’s certainly not so easy to work with so many people and their delegations, so I think that it was great.  It was all very good, and I wouldn’t change anything.
EI: Now, when you came from the Sanremo Festival and were selected to go to Eurovision, you didn’t know very much about the competition.  It’s not very well known in Italy, and even this year, only about a million viewers watched the Final.  But now, with the possibility of Italy taking part more often in Eurovision, what advice would you give other Italian singers and songwriters about your experience?
RG: What I can tell is, for sure, that we didn’t take this opportunity, and we didn’t have this choice for so many years, that many people probably, a little bit, forgot about it.  Today, one of the questions that people often ask me is ‘how many people waited for you at the airport [when you came back from Düsseldorf]?’  And the answer is ‘nobody’!  Very few people…they really follow Sanremo, so [Eurovision] is not so popular….I can say to the Italian people that the Eurovision Song Contest is a contest of pop songs, but it’s very good experience.  First of all, it gives you the possibility to express yourself in front of an amazing audience of viewers, and an amazing audience live.  At the same time, it’s an important occasion of collaboration.  I always say, like that song…[singing] ‘Always look on the bright side of life!’  [laughs] Like that, you know?  So big of an experience…people really need to know that.  If you have the possibility…it’s part of our business.  It’s a great occasion to…bring your music to so many.  It’s three minutes of magic.
Since the release of his album “Reality and Fantasy”, Raphael has topped the iTunes Jazz charts all over Europe, and has even made an impact on that chart’s Australian counterpart.  He’s touring all over Europe, booked almost solid at least until November, selling out venues from Berlin to Strasbourg to Rome and back again.  (For fans on the other side of the Atlantic, however, patience might have to be a virtue.  Raphael did, however, express a definite interest in coming to the US for a few dates, especially considering his successful performance at the “History and Mystery of Jazz” festival in New Hampshire and Vermont back in 2009.)
Some might think that such success, even in a niche market like the world of Jazz (or, for that matter, the world of Eurovision), might go to a man’s head.  But when Raphael and his delegation returned to the Press Center after the Final, with dozens of people crowding around the newly-minted silver medalist, the soft-spoken pianist from Urbino with the old soul and boyish smile took the camera flashes and sudden attention with the same quiet humility that he showed on the stage at Sanremo only a few brief months earlier.  For Raphael, it has always been about the music, not the fame or the spectacle.  At one point, when a small group of volunteers asked him for a photo, he quietly took their camera and pointed it at the four young women, seemingly unaware that they wanted him to be in the photo, as well.  After I took the camera from Raphael and snapped a group shot for his giggling group of fans, I gently reminded him that yes, he was the celebrity here.
(MAJOR thanks go out to Raphael and his team at Sugar Music, including his manager Francesco Pasquero, for their help in getting this interview arranged.  Grazie mille, ragazzi!)

Follow Up Single Time!

As is customary in the days following Eurovision, many of the artists that we have come to know and love from their participation on the ESC stage realize that there is, in fact, life after the world’s largest musical competition.  (Granted, the same can’t necessarily be said about the bloggers you have come to know and love, who still cling to every fiber of their time in the Press Center!).  Whether an artist is a newcomer on the scene or a professional with an established career, it’s only natural that new singles follow on the heels of the Grand Final.

Italy’s representative Raphael Gualazzi released his album “Reality and Fantasy”, and since its release in February it has reached #1 on the iTunes Jazz charts all over Europe.  (It’s also available on iTunes in the US, and I give it my personal ESCInsider seal of approval!)  Raphael’s keeping the momentum up releasing the follow-up single to “Follia d’Amore/Madness of Love”, “A Three Second Breath”.

We also have a pair of releases from Greece’s artists.  Rapper Stereo Mike is currently working on a radio edit for his song “Μπορώ/Mporo (I)”.  Taken from his new album “Ανέλιξη (Evolution)”, Mike actually decided to release “Μπορώ” after asking his Facebook and Twitter followers what his next single should be.  He’s currently in the studio remixing the track, but here’s the full album edit: 

Not to be outdone, Loukas Yiorkas also has a new single out.  Teaming up again with composer Giannis Christodoulopoulos and lyricist Eleana Vrachali (the pair behind “Watch My Dance”), Loukas has unveiled his next track, “Για Πρώτη Φορά/Gia Proti Fora (For the First Time)”.

Sweden’s bronze-medalist Eric Saade has released the follow up to “Popular”, the highest-scoring Swedish Eurovision song since their 1999 victory.  Eric will be releasing his new album, “Saade Vol. 1” at the end of June, but “Hearts in the Air” will actually be the album’s third single, after “Still Loving It” and, of course, “Popular”.

Romania’s Hotel FM (led by British-born David Bryan) has released their next track, following “Change”.  I had the chance to hear a brief acapella version of “The Gathering” while I interviewed the guys back in Düsseldorf, so hearing the full arrangement was pretty cool.  Judge for yourself:

Finally, Estonia’s Getter Jaani has released a new duet with Koit Toome (a fellow ESC-alum, from 1998).  “Valged Ööd (White Nights)” is a poppy summer song that seems to be a seamless continuation from “Rockefeller Street”.  Getter’s only eighteen years old, and when she was appearing on Eesti otsib superstaari, she performed a pair of songs by Miley Cyrus, so this sort of upbeat pop seems to be just her thing.