Category Archives: Italy

Raphael Gualazzi’s Epic Showcase

I’ve mentioned before how much I love Italy’s entry this year.  Raphael Gualazzi, who’ll be performing “Madness of Love” on Saturday, is a brilliant jazz musician who takes his cues from both the old school beginnings of the genre as well as newer styles and techniques.  (His album “Reality and Fantasy” is already out, so definitely give it a listen!)  I had the chance to attend an exclusive press conference and showcase with Raphael and his band, with a special cameo from the boys in Blue (and France’s Amaury Vassili was seen in the audience).  The venue was a tiny, intimate little space, and I was sitting close enough to the action to see the sweat dripping from Raphael’s brow as he pounded away at the piano.  At times, his hands were absolute blurs (you should have seen his rendition of “Caravan”!), and there were a few instances where the sheet music sitting on the piano flew off of the rack and onto the keyboard, but he kept on playing with gusto.  Blue stopped by and performed “I Can” and “Sorry Seems to Be The Hardest Word” while Raphael tickled the ivories behind them…unbelievably cool.

Hanging out with Raphael Gualazzi

Very quiet and unassuming, very humble, and immensely talented.  I had been looking forward to meeting him for a few weeks, and I’m so thrilled to have finally shaken his hand and gotten to take a peek inside his head.

Updates and Videos and Translations, oh my!

Not sure what’s in the water in Europe today, but today we’re not only officially hearing the songs from the UK and San Marino (although the British song “I Can” was leaked yesterday, I’ll wait until after their official performance on “The Graham Norton Show” to post the clip), but revamped songs from Croatia and Georgia, a translated Dutch song, and the videos from Ireland, Spain, and Italy have all been released!

From Croatia, we have Daria Kinzer’s “Celebrate”, the former “Lahor” and “Break a Leg”:

We have Georgia’s new video with the updated version of “One More Day”, now with Eldrine’s new lead singer Sopho Toroshelidze:

From the Netherlands, the 3J’s “Je vecht nooit alleen” has become the English-language “Never Alone”:

From Ireland, we’ve got the official video from Jedward’s “Lipstick”:

Spain’s “Que me quiten lo bailao” by Lucía Pérez has gotten a minor revamp (with added instrumentation) and a brand new video, filmed in the resort town of Sitges during Carnival:

And finally, Italy’s Raphael Gualazzi has released a new version of “Follia d’Amore”, a bilingual track called “Madness of Love”:

More to come later today, with the official unveiling of Senit’s song for San Marino and Blue’s “I Can” for the UK!

Raphael Gualazzi – Follia d’amore for Italy!

After fourteen years of absence, Italy has finally given us an entry for Eurovision!  Going on at this very moment (or, as I’m writing this article, anyway) is the final night of the San Remo Song Festival, one of the most popular musical traditions in Europe.  In fact, Eurovision itself was modeled on this Italian song competition over fifty years ago.

A few weeks ago, it was announced that the Italian singer would be selected form the pool of San Remo entries and determined by a special jury including network representatives, the Mayor of San Remo, and performer Gianni Morandi, who was one of the event’s hosts.  The winner of the festival wouldn’t necessarily be the Italian representative to Eurovision, so rumors and hopes began flying everywhere.  Would it go to Nathalie Giannitrapani, the singer-songwriter who won the Italian version of the X-Factor last year?  Would it possibly go to Al Bano or Ana Oxa, two veterans with Eurovision experience?  Would it go to Giusi Ferreri or Anna Tatangelo, two young and promising performers?  Or would it go to one of the unknown performers from this year’s “Giovani (Newcomers)” category?

It looks like the answer came from the latter question; the winner of this year’s Giovani Competition, jazz singer-songwriter Raphael Gualazzi, will represent Italy with his song “Follia d’Amore (Folly of Love)”.

The 29-year-old Gualazzi has been active in the Italian jazz scene for a few years now, but he only just released his first full-length album, “Reality and Fantasy”, this past year.  He’s undoubtedly talented, and definitely has that Michael Bublé vibe about him, but I’m not sure if this song was the right choice for Eurovision.  As good as the song might be, there’s often a distinct separation between “good songs” and “good Eurovision songs”.  Will this have the far-reaching appeal to get to voters from Moldova, Sweden, Malta, and Ireland?  I’m not sure yet…

But, then again, Eurofans have been drooling all over themselves once the news broke that Italy would be returning to the ESC…RAI could probably send a drunken man in a chicken suit to sing a polka off-key and dance the Macarena, and they’d probably do half-decently!  Viva Italia!

The Weekend Preview, 2/18

And another big weekend kicks off for Eurofans everywhere!

First, we’ve got the Finals of “Unser Song Für Deutschland”, Germany‘s national final.  Lena will sing the six remaining songs from the two semifinals, and within the next few hours we should know the song that will represent the home country this year.  And the finalists are:
Maybe (Daniel Schaub, Pär Lammers) 
Taken by a Stranger (Gus Seyffert, Nicole Morier, Monica Birkenes) 
What happened to me (Lena Meyer-Landrut, Stefan Raab) 
A million and one (Errol Rennalls, Stavros Ioannou) 
Push forward (Daniel Schaub, Pär Lammers) 
Mama told me (Lena Meyer-Landrut, Stefan Raab)

Also tonight, Spain will select their Song/Singer combination.  Last week, the performers were narrowed down to Lucía Pérez, Melissa, or boy-band Auryn.  Each act will perform three unique songs each, and after a 50/50 jury/audience vote, we will know who will carry the Spanish flag to Düsseldorf!

El sol brillará (Rafael de Alba)
Evangelyne (Kjell Jennstig, Dejan Belgrenius & Kristin Molin)
Volver (Primoz Poglajen, Jonas Gladnikoff, Camilla Gottschalck & Christina Schilling)
Lucía Pérez:
Abrázame (Antonio Sánchez-Ohlsson & Thomas G.son)
C’est la vie! It’s allright (W&M, Nestor Geli, Susie Päivärinta, P. Andersson & M. Lindberg)
Que me quiten lo bailao (Rafael Artesero Herrero)
Diamonds (Nestor Geli, Susie Päivärinta, Pär Lönn)
Eos (Jesús Cañadilla & Alejandro de Pinedo)
Sueños rotos (Primoz Poglajen, Jonas Gladnikoff, Camilla Gottschalck, Christina Schilling)

On Saturday, Georgia will select their entry.  From seven entries,  only one will have the honor of becoming their nation’s fourth official Eurovision entry (fifth, if you count their withdrawn 2009 entry!).  You can listen to the songs here.
Temo Sajaia – Soldier song
Salome Korkotashvili – Love
Sweet Pills – Face to face
Dito Lagvilava and November – New day
Nini Shermadini – Rejected
The Georgians –  Loved, seen, dreaming
Eldrine – One more day

The Final official selection this weekend is expected from Italy, as the annual San Remo Festival will wrap up.  Now, rather than simply having the winner go on to compete at Eurovision, a special jury made up of local dignitaries, network officials, and one of the festival’s hosts will select the nation’s first representative in fourteen yearsSan Remo this year includes two competitions under one umbrella: one contest for up-and-coming artists and another for established stars.  It’s still unclear if the jury will select a new name or a well-known entity for their representative, but hopefully we’ll find out soon.
Anna Tatangelo – Bastardo
Anna Oxa –  La mia anima d’uomo
Luca Madonia with Franco Battiato – L’Alieno
Max Pezzali – Il mio secondo tempo
Roberto Vecchioni – Chiamami ancora amore
Tricarico –  3 colori
Albano Carrisi – Amanda è libera
Nathalie – Vivo sospesa
Modá with Emma Marrone – Arriverá
Davide Van De Sfroos – Yanez
Patty Pravo – Il vento e le rose
Giusy Ferreri – Il mare immenso
La Crus – Io confesso
Luca Barbarossa and Raquel del Rosario – Fino in fondo

(Just for the record, my favorites are Modà feat. Emma, Nathalie Giannitrapani, Giusi Ferreri, and Anna Tatangelo!)

We can also expect semifinals from Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Sweden…phew!

Even Bigger Breaking News than What I Told You Yesterday!!!

More details are to come, I’m sure, but it looks like the wishes of Eurovision Fans for over 13 years have finally come to fruition…

Welcome back, Italy!!!!!!

The EBU has announced within the last hour that Italian broascaster RAI has received a bid to participate in Düsseldorf.  While they reserve the right to withdraw before Christmas with no penalty, this is a much bigger step towards ESC participation than they have taken in many, many years.  Furthermore, as RAI is one of the largest financial contributors to the EBU, they have clinched a spot in the Finals as a member of the newly-minted “Big Five”, along with France, Spain, the UK, and hosts Germany.  This means that the 2011 Final will have 25 participants, instead of 24 (the host gets an automatic bid to the Final, but because that’s Germany this year, they were down one entrant).  Remember, the last time we saw Italy was in 1997, with Jalisse’s “Fiumi Di Parole“, and they have two victories under their belt: 1964’a “Non Ho L’eta” and 1990’s “Insieme: 1992“.

More information to come, as the EBU is having a huge meeting over the next few days to hammer out details (including the possible admission of channels from Hungary, Liechtenstein, and Qatar…more debuts, possibly?), but I’m so happy to share this bit of news with you all!

Baci e benvenuti, Italia!

ESC Wish List: Arisa

Over time, I’ve noticed that one year’s winner becomes the next year’s Eurovision trend.  For example, the year after Ruslana won with the energetic, folk-inspired “Wild Dances“, we saw Hungary’s “Forogj, Világ” and Greece’s “My Number One“.  After Lordi’s victory with “Hard Rock Hallelujah“, there was an explosion of rock (or at least more pop-rock) from nations like Moldova, Finland, Andorra, Iceland, Estonia, and the Czech Republic.  And after Russia used a Stradivarius for their winning performance of “Believe” in 2008, the next year saw a heavy use of strings from Norway, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Slovenia, Slovakia, and the Czechs.  So, now that Germany has taken home the victory with fresh-faced Lena Meyer-Landrut (and we know that she’ll be returning to defend her title next year), it might not be a stretch to assume that we’ll see a bit of an upswing in sweet, low-key, youthful pop.

If Italy does return to Eurovision, I’ve got just the girl in mind for them.

The Sanremo Song Festival, which I mentioned in my last entry, has a section made just for newcomers.  This sub-contest has introduced the world to such famous names as Eros Ramazotti, Laura Pausini, Paola & Chiara, and even Andrea Bocelli.  In 2009, the Newcomer’s Trophy went to Arisa (real name: Rosalba Pippa…her stage name comes from the first initials of every member of her family), with her song “Sinceritá (Sincerity)”.

Once you get past Arisa’s strong resemblance to Rachel Maddow (which I personally think is a good thing!),  you get into her general sweetness and, for lack of a better word, sincerity!  Like Lena before her, Arisa is fresh and unpolished…a neophyte with genuine talent.  She may seem somewhat wooden in her live performance of “Sinceritá”, but her full music video, shown here, shows how engaging she can be.  Her first full-length album made it to #5 on the local charts, and has gone platinum (which, in Italy, means that over 60,000 copies have been sold).  She’s already released her second disc, “Malamoreno (But-not-love)”, to general acclaim and success.  Here’s the title track, also performed at San Remo:

I mean, how cute is she?  Between her general accessibility and the fact that major ESC fans are practically begging Italy to jump back into the game…with the right song (probably something with a decently high level of energy, like “Malamoreno”), I think that Arisa could do pretty well in Eurovision.

ESC Wish List: Italy!!!!

Like many nations in Western Europe, Italy has had a sort of love-hate relationship with Eurovision over the past decade or so.  However, unlike Portugal, who stays in the fight, keeping generally loyal to its own regional heritage and musical style (see Dulce Pontes, Lucia Moniz, Vânia Fernandes or Flor-de-Lis), or the United Kingdom, which often gleefully cannonballs into the ESC’s intrinsic ridiculousness and camp (see Gina G, Scooch, Daz Sampson, or infamous nul-pointer Jemini), Italian broadcaster RAI threw up their hands after the 1997 competition and haven’t entered a Eurovision since.  From the standpoint of a loyal ESC fan, this is nothing short of tragic, as some of the true evergreens of the competition have come from Italy.  In fact, Eurovision as an entity was inspired by the Sanremo Festival, a national song contest that had been established in 1951, and in turn was used to select Italy’s ESC entrants for many years.  Sanremo is still going strong, but national interest in Eurovision has sadly waned.

One of the most famous songs to come out of Eurovision was a contribution from the Sanremo Festival, and although it never actually won the ESC that year, it’s familiar to ears worldwide.

Covered by the Gypsy Kings, Dean Martin, and basically everyone else on the planet, Domenico Modugno’s “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)” might be one of the world’s most recognizable popular songs.  Even if you don’t speak any Italian, you probably have heard this song at least once, whether it’s background music in a restaurant, or in a movie, or maybe you’ve sung it at a drunken karaoke night or two (it’s ok, you can admit it). 

Italy participated in Eurovision a total of 36 times, with two victories (in 1964 and 1990), one runner-up spot, and four bronze positions.  My three personal favorite Italian contributions come from RAI’s final years in the ESC.  From 1987, there’s Umberto Tozzi and Raf’s “Gente di Mare (People of the Sea)”, which finished in a more-than-respectable third place:

Five years later, Mia Martini used her rusted, raspy emery board of a voice to sing “Rapsodia”, a melancholy ode to two former lovers, separated by time and circumstance.  The song was heartbreaking and beautiful, and it landed up in 4th place in Stockholm that year.

Italy’s final submission to the ESC was 1997’s gorgeous “Fiumi di Parole (Rivers of Words)”, sung by duo Jalisse.  Even though this song, like “Rapsodia” before it, took an impressive 4th place in a particularly competitive year, RAI withdrew from Eurovision soon after, and haven’t returned.  (Jalisse, however, have not given up their hope for another shot at the ESC, and had at one point applied to represent San Marino.)

Die-hard ESC fans (like myself, obviously) would love to welcome Italy back into the fray.  Their musical talent pool is exceptionally deep, and they already have the perfect preselection opportunity available to them: the Sanremo Festival.  It has been rumored that the EBU wants Italy back in Eurovision badly enough that they would provide them a coveted spot in the “Big Four”, alongside the UK, Germany, France, and Spain, giving them an automatic pass into the finals.  Former ESC Executive Supervisor Svante Stockselius had made it a pet project of his to try to bring back many of the former participants who had left over the years (including, Italy, Austria, Luxembourg, Monaco, Slovakia, and others), with some middling success.  Slovakia returned in 2009, Austria will be returning in 2011 (I’ll write my normal piece on them soon), and Liechtenstein keeps playing around with the idea of debuting.  But we’re all still drooling over the possibility of Italy coming back.

There is hope, however!  Rumors have recently surfaced that the winner of this year’s Italian X-Factor will be eligible to enter the 2011 ESC, making it the first time in 14 years that we see il Tricolore.  However, this early in the game, Eurovision rumors tend to fly around like hair extensions in a wind machine, so I’m still taking this all with a (hopeful) grain of salt.

My next entry will talk about a few Italian artists I’d love to see representing their homeland in the ESC…I’ve got a few in mind, but do you have any suggestions?  Leave me a comment and let me know your favorites!