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In-depth Italy 🇮🇹 Turin 2022

“From Withdrawal to No Degree of Separation,” The Story of How Italy Withdrew, Returned and Won.

Toto Cutugno Eurovision 1990 Winner For Italy in Zagreb. Picture: CROPIX

One night in Dublin, Jalisse sang “Fiume di Parole” in front of Europe at the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest. Although the United Kingdom took home the victory with Katrina and the Waves’ song “Love Shine A Light”, Jalisse came a respectable 4th. In 1997, Italy would decide to withdraw in 1998, unbeknownst to European viewers, never to return until 2011. The reasons for Italy’s withdrawal in 1998 are subject to variations and conspiracy theories that have never been confirmed nor denied. But we must remember that Italy also withdrew from Eurovision on several occasions. Withdrawals came in 1981, 1982, 1986 and from 1993 to 1996. We will be focusing more on the 1998-2011 withdrawal for this article as this has been publicised on many occasions and is familiar to many Eurovision fans. So let’s turn the clock back to the nineties and make our way to the twenty-twenties.

Jalisse before singing at Eurovision 1997. (From left to right: Alessandra Drusian and Fabio Ricci)
Credit: FerraraByNight

Picture yourself as a person living in Italy in 1997. “La Vita è Bella” by Roberto Bengnini has just been released and would go on to win three Oscars. As well as this, a new Labour Law has been approved in an attempt to reduce high unemployment and the murderers of Giovanni Falcone have finally been imprisoned. You are probably listening to “Laura Non C’è” by Nek and “Amici Come Prima” by new stars Paola and Chiara on your Sony Walkman. Jalisse has just performed “Fiumi Di Parole” on a May night at Eurovision 1997 and you get flashbacks to when they won Sanremo a few months ago in February of the same year. It was probably the first time in your lifetime that the Sanremo Music Festival chose the Eurovision entry, the first since 1972. However, all that glitters is not gold. However, RAI were still unsure on how to view Eurovision. Was Eurovision a cheap copy of the beloved Sanremo Music Festival? Did the public even care? Should even we consider Eurovision a priority? So many questions, but so few answers.

Rumours, Anger and Questions

Just a mere two months after Eurovision 1997, rumours began to surface that RAI set out to boycott Jalisse. The TV presenter Ettore Endenna, the host of the Italian version of “Games Without Borders”, claims he called RAI to let them know he bet on Jalisse to win. The response from RAI, Endenna alleges, was harsh and blunt. RAI was purported to have said to Endenna:

“Jalisee would never go onto win (we are) making sure this would happen”.

These allegations were strengthened by Gigi Vesigna, an Italian journalist who argued that RAI was the driving force in sabotaging Jalisse. If Jalisse had won in 1997, RAI would have to host in 1998. Vesgina goes onto argue in his book “Vox Popoli” that RAI felt hosting the 1998 contest would be a complete disaster. Rai claimed the Italian public showed no interest in Eurovision. Cost may have been another factor in Italy’s long-term withdrawal. The 1991 Eurovision Song Contest in Rome was originally scheduled to be in Sanremo. But, RAI was forced to move due to bomb threats and the original host, Mike Bongiorno left a month before. This infuriated RAI as they had to spend extra money on factors they did not consider to be their fault. They, therefore, decreased spending on Eurovision, already done since the 80s. Others also argue that RAI just simply wanted to prioritise the “true and legitimate” Sanremo Musical Festival. These and many more may have been the causes for Italy’s long withdrawal from 1998 to 2011. But, we have to remember that these allegations are simply allegations. They are still subject to debate which still fascinates Eurovision fans as of 2021.

The Ariston Theatre, the home of the Sanremo Music Festival – credit: Mondo Notizie

Sanremo First, Eurovision Last

For whatever reason (or reasons for that matter), Italy withdrew from Eurovision for the last time. Interest in the contest diminished even further, with latter generations having little to no knowledge of Eurovision in the following years. This would be a contrast to the fortunes of the Sanremo Music Festival. The Music Festival continued to be a common fixture in the lives of Italians. In 2000, 54.8% of the audience share went to the Sanremo Music Festival. This was a damming indictment of Sanremo’s power among Italians as in 1997, only 903,000 people watched Jalisse come 4th in Dublin. The nineties flew by, creating new Italian music stars and solidifying existing stars in the history books. For example, from 1998 to 1999, new household names included Alex Britti, Daniele Silvestri, Maz Gazzè, Paola Turci and Paola and Chiara. Meanwhile, Eurovision was becoming a foregone memory, distant and far from the public consciousness. The Sanremo Music Festival was anything but.

Again, picture yourself as a person in Italy at the turn of the New Millenium. Fireworks are in the sky, you are surrounded by the people you love and you are excited about new experiences. One thing that had not changed was the hold Sanremo had on Italy. In the 2000s, Sanremo continued to be loved amongst Italians, mainly those of an older age. The 2001 Sanremo Music Festival has found its way into the hearts of young Italians in the late 2010s and early 2020s. This was due to the emergence of new singers such as Elisa, with her song “Luce (Tramonti Ad Nord-Est)” and Giorgia with “Di Sole D’Azzuro”. Many Italian Eurovision fans feel that if Italy had never withdrawn, one of these songs would have won the contest in 2001. It is also very apt that Raffaella Carrà was involved in the 2001 Sanremo Music Festival. This is because she would, later on, play a very big (and important) role in making sure Italy returned to Eurovision. But for now, Sanremo remained supreme.

As well as Elisa and Giorgia, the 2000s saw the emergence of new stars, just as it did in the late nineties. These included Marco Masini, Anna Tatangelo and Tiziano Ferro (Masini and Tatangelo have featured in Sanremo on several occasions whereas Ferro was largely involved in singing iconic Italian hits at Sanremo 2020). Life continued for many Italians in the 2000s. The decade started negatively, due to them losing against France at Euro 2000 thanks to a golden goal by David Trezeguet. However, as the decade progressed, an afterglow of positivity began to emerge. Italy won against France at the 2006 World Cup on penalties. Not only this, the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games were hosted in Turin in the same year. Despite all of this, Eurovision was still an afterthought. Toto Cutogno and Vince Tempera (the man who helped San Marino debut in 2008) were disappointed that Italy was no longer at Eurovision. Both of them asked RAI to reconsider and let Italy return to Eurovision. However, this was about to all change because of one woman.

The Comeback Begins

The iconic Raffaella Carrà
Credit: World News Today

Raffaella Carrà was no stranger to Italian audiences. She remained a fixture in the life of Italians ever since her singing career began in 1961. Carrà was a huge fan of the Eurovision Song Contest, even hosting Spain’s national selection for Eurovision 2008. It is very obvious to see that Raffaella Carrà loved everything that embodied Eurovision – the inclusivity, music and joyful atmosphere. Carrà began to start her one-woman mission to ensure that Italy returned to Eurovision. Carrà had a show loved by many called “Carràmba! Che Sorpresa” (also known as” Carràmba! Che Fortuna”) on Rai Uno. Every episode never fell below three million viewers, always reaching between four to six million viewers with every transmission. Carrà saw her show as a method to promote the Eurovision Song Contest. She invited the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest winner, Dima Bilan and participant Ani Lorak. It is said that Raffaella Carrà began to fall in love with Eurovision following the 2008 Spanish selection a few months prior in March. Her assistant also claimed that she loved the quality of the Spanish songs and was therefore keen to show an Italian audience the fruits of Eurovision 2008, held in Belgrade. It was definitely “Che Musica Maestro” indeed!

With every mention of Eurovision in Italy in the late 2000s, foreign fans began to get excited at the thought of Italy returning. Would it finally happen? Were RAI finally encouraged to return because they finally saw interest from the Italian public towards Eurovision? All of this coincided with a decline in the viewership of the Sanremo Music Festival. Although it increased in 2009, Sanremo only obtained an audience share of 34.6% in 2008. All five nights of the 2008 music festival were watched by less than ten million people, the worst viewership figures in Sanremo’s history. Contemporaries at the time felt that Sanremo had started to become boring because the format was tired and stale. The bosses at RAI decided that it was time for a rethink about how best to keep Sanremo relevant for the population. The Sanremo contest was held in the final week in February 2008 and the “Carràmba! Che Sopresa” Eurovision specials were aired in October 2008. Perhaps the high viewership figures of “Carràmba! Che Sopresa” allowed many to finally notice Eurovision? This might especially be the case since Raffaella Carrà was a well-known face (and had a brilliant voice) in Italy. Perhaps the Italian audience wanted a slice of Eurovision?

In the background, RAI bosses were beginning talks with the European Broadcasting Union about a potential return to Eurovision. On the side of the European Broadcasting Union, there was huge excitement. Jorgen Franck, the acting director of Eurovision TV in 2010 said he was:

“Eager to show the Italian people how the contest evolved in the past thirteen years!”

Franck went on to add that Italians will be “pleasantly surprised” with Eurovision when it returns to Italian screens. The excitement from the European Broadcasting Union was probably due to things finally going their way. Their aim, in 2009, was to work harder in enabling Italy to return to Eurovision (as well as Monaco and Austria). Their hard work certainly paid off as on 2nd December 2010, the Eurovision website confirmed Italy had successfully applied to participate in the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest in Dusseldorf. On New Year’s Eve 2010, Italy’s return to Eurovision was confirmed and we would be seeing them in Dusseldorf. Italy successfully returned to Eurovision – to the disdain of Pippo Baudo, the face of Sanremo in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Baudo argued in a press conference in 2010 that:

“The Eurofestival (Eurovision) has no success, it is trash for Germans”

Although foreign fans were overjoyed, Eurovision faced stiff opposition from some of Italy’s popular faces. Who knows what the future held for Italy?

Ciao, Italy Calling!

Raphael Gualazzi performing “Madness of Love” at the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest, held in Dusseldorf.
Credit: Eurovision. TV

To mark the return of Italy to the Eurovision Song Contest, there was no debate as to who the spokesperson would be. It would have been a huge error to not further include her in this article. The person chosen to announce Italy’s points at Eurovision was none other than Raffaella Carrà, who worked hard to ensure Italy returned to Eurovision. When her face appeared on the screen to announce the points, she was greeted with gracious applause from the audience. As well as this, Enke Angelke (one of three hosts for Dusseldorf 2011) greeted Carrà warmly. The positive response Carrà received mirrored the joy of Eurovision fans who heard of Italy finally returning to Eurovision. The love Italy and Carrà received was perhaps a symbol of how Italy was viewed in Eurovision circles. It was as if Italy was a dear friend who returned to see their loved ones again, feeling welcome in the process.

Italy began their return to Eurovision in style. Raphael Gualazzi became the first Italian to represent Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest since Jalisse did so in 1997. He was chosen by a special jury based at the Sanremo Music Festival to be the Italian representative at the Eurovision Song Contest. He came second, below Azerbaijan’s Ell and Nikki, with 189 points. “Madness of Love”, the song Gualazzi competed with, was actually the number one choice of the jury. However, “Madness of Love” did not fare well with the televote, only placing eleventh. Though this may sound depressing, Gualazzi achieved Italy’s best position at Eurovision since 1990. Inspired by the swing and blues of the 1920s, the song reached number 8 in the FIMI, Italy’s music charts.

Buoyed by Gualazzi’s success, Italy came back in 2012 with Nina Zilli. Zilli’s song “L’Amore è Femmina” was originally written in English, but Zilli translated the lyrics into Italian as she liked the song. She was announced as Italy’s representative via the Sanremo Music Festival. However, she was originally going to sing “Per Sempre” but for unknown reasons, RAI and Universal Music Italy said that she would sing “L’Amore è Femmina” instead. The song followed the footsteps of Gualazzi – having a jazz sound that switched from Italian to English. This technique did well amongst foreign Eurovision fans as it gave Italy another top-ten finish. Zilli finished 9th overall with 101 points.

Nina Zilli performing at Azerbaijan 2012, held in Baku – Credit: EBU

Italy continued to be on an upward trajectory during the early 2010s. The 2013 representative was Marco Mengoni and he was chosen by a committee of participants of the 2013 Sanremo Music Festival. Mengoni was in charge of the song he chose and he decided to opt for “L’Essenziale”. Like Zilli and Gualazzi, Mengoni also achieved a top 10 finish in Malmo. He finished 7th with 126 points in the grand final. The final of Eurovision was broadcast on Rai Due and only one of the semi-finals were on Rai Cinque. Although this occurred, RAI bosses were pleased with how things were going; they had three top-tens finish. They also had professionals such as Federica Gentille, Marco Ardemagni and Flippo Solibello who actually wanted to commentate on Eurovision. But they were brought down to earth with a big thud in 2014 and 2016, but they never knew that they would have a brush with victory in 2015, 2018 and 2019.

Marco Mengoni performing L’Essenziale in Sweden at Eurovision 2013 – Credit: BBC

Thuds Back Down to Earth

Italy suffered a crashing blow back down to earth in 2014 and 2016. Emma Marrone was chosen to represent Italy at Eurovision with “La Mia Città”. For Copenhagen 2014, Italy opted to go for an internal selection and not through the committee of Sanremo participants to choose the artist. An alumnus of Amici, Marrone’s music video of “La Mia Città” promised dynamism and high energy that could transmit to the stage. The song ranged from cars and the city with a chaoticness about it. However, there appeared to be very little attention paid towards the song; it only reached 24 in the FIMI. As well as this, Italian Eurovision fans were not too keen on the song either. They were disappointed by the performance, which only received 33 points, finishing 21st. This was the worst ever placing for an Italian entry in the 21st century and one that puts a blemish on an otherwise squeaky clean record for Italy at Eurovision. This was similar to 2016 when Francesca Michelin represented Italy with the song “No Degree of Separation”. Although the song did well domestically, it had a different fate when Michelin performed in the grand final in Stockholm. It only finished 16th with 124 points and 34 points from the televote. Michelin’s position was a cause of sadness because the grand final was moved from Rai Due to Rai Uno for the first time since 1991 due to the growing popularity of Eurovision. Sadly, many Italian media outlets, such as Radio Deejay, had one word for Michelin’s position at Eurovision:

“Unfortunate”

Emma Marron at Copenhagen 2014 – credit: Jonathan Nackstand /AFP – Getty Images
Francesca Michelin in Stockholm at the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest – credit: EBU

Close Calls

“Unfortunate” was the recurring word for Italy close calls with victory in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019. For Austria 2015, “Grande Amore” was the song sung by Il Volo, a pop-opera trio, sometimes called a “popera band” (popera being a mix of pop-opera). The band consisted of Gianluca Ginoble, Ignazio Borschetto and Piero Barrone. During the course of Eurovision, the band gained popularity among foreign Eurovision fans in particular. This was due to the band being praised for their charisma and willingness to engage with Eurovision fans and media outlets. As of April 25th 2015, bookies such as Oddschecker predicted they would be in close contention for the victory behind Måns Zermelöw’s “Heroes”. This would turn out to be the case as Sweden and Italy fought closely for the victory. The one element that prevented an Italy win was the juries, placing “Grande Amore” in sixth. By contrast, Italy had won the televote and Sweden came third, but Sweden was placed first by the jury. If we analyse the Italian result, it may not come as a shock they won the televote. To foreign eyes, opera is Italy and Italy is opera. Names like Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli are well-known all over the world but have cultivated an image of Italy that Italians do not like. Some Italians view opera as an old-fashioned way only serve to fit the stereotypes of Americans; in Rolling Stone Italia, Giorgio Moltisanti wrote:

“Perhaps Il Volo are to Italian music as chef Buddy Valestro (the Italian-American “Cake Boss”) is to Sicilian cuisine.

Despite this, Il Volo’s was the first sad and lost opportunity for Italians to win Eurovision. But, it was not the last.

Il Volo performing at the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest in Austria (left to right Gianluca Ginoble, Ignazio Boschett and Piero Barrone) – Credit: EBU

After winning Sanremo, Gabbani agreed to represent Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2017. “Occidentali’s Karma” was Francesco Gabbani’s song and it rapidly gained popularity among Eurovision fans for its critique of the western world’s superficiality. The song also referenced Karl Marx, conformity and westerners attempting to “westernise” Eastern religions such as Buddhism. “Occidentali’s Karma” held a lot of promise and was even the bookies favourite. But it was dethroned by the eventual winner Salvador Sobral with “Amar Pelos Dois”, giving Portugal their first ever Eurovision win. Gabbani’s song was three minutes and thirty-seven seconds long and it needed to be cut. Therefore, the Eurovision version was cut to three minutes and eight seconds. Fans appeared to be fine with that but at the grand final, Gabbani was in 6th position. Il Corriere Della Sera said the result remained on the:

“Sanremo Border”

Francesco and Gorilla Gabbani having fun in Kiev during the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest.
Credit: Roger Barkley

Despite this, more people came to watch Eurovision in Italy. In 2016, the audience share stood at 17.1%. However, with Gabbani, the audience share rose to 20.1%, higher than Amici which had 19.8% of the audience share. To put this into perspective, the TV shares for Amici never fall below 20%. This was the first time that Eurovision had a better audience share than Amici. The increase in the audience share could be down to people having the belief they would win, seeing as Gabbani and “Occidentali’s Karma were the favourites to win for months. The 6th position felt like an anti-climax and a disappointment. So close yet so far once more. Again, Italy had to deal with more disappointment when “Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente” by Fabrizio Moro and Ermal Meta came fifth at Lisbon 2018. This disappointment increased when it dawned on the nation that they did well with the televote, gaining 249 points, but they only got 59 points with the jury.

“Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente” also came through the Sanremo route and it was about the impact of terrorism and wars on humanity. The song took inspiration from the effects of terror attacks in Manchester, London, Paris, Cairo and Nice. Eurovision fans were disappointed that that “Non Mi Avete Fatto Niente” did not do well with the juries. However, it can be argued that it did well with the televote because Metamoro used subtitles which were translations of the Italian lyrics into several languages. This meant that the meaning of the song was hammered home to television viewers, touched by the anti-terrorism and anti-war messages. In general, the early 2010s were difficult for Europe. Many countries were plunged into austerity crises, leading to the increase of far-right parties who promised so much yet delivered so little. It, therefore, allowed artists to touch upon social issues and themes of love. Once again, the colour, joy and positive energy of Eurovision provided a welcome distraction. Even though Italy did not win, they were still able to maintain their status as a consistent top-ten finisher, despite the results of 2014 and 2016.

Metamoro – Ermal Meta and Fabrizio Moro at Lisbon 2018 – Credit: Eurovision. TV

Where do we begin with Mahmood? Mahmood broke down many barriers during his stint as Italy’s representative at the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 held in Tel-Aviv, Israel. He was the first Italian representative ever to feature Arabic in his song “Soldi” and was the first of Egyptian heritage to win the Sanremo Music Festival in 2019. “Soldi” discussed an unreliable and selfish father who abandoned his child. The child later grows up and concludes that money was the driving factor in the destruction of the father-son relationship. It was an autobiographical account about Mahmood’s life, largely spent with his mother due to his father leaving home. Mahmood wrote it with some friends and it took a long time for him to complete it before Sanremo. When Mahmood won Sanremo, it was considered a watershed moment because he shone a light on Italians with heritage from other countries. It was also a symbol of the modern and new direction Sanremo songs were taking. For example, Mahmood called Dardust and Charlie Charles (two of the biggest Italian producers at the moment) and the trio borrowed elements from trap music, R&B and Arabic music to complete Soldi. This marked a change from the ballads which dominated Sanremo for many years.

After winning Sanremo, Mahmood hesitated on going to the Eurovision Song Contest for 48 hours. Mahmood had doubts about going to Eurovision and “the work it entailed”. As a result, the “mahmood4eurovision” became a trending topic in Italy and it was filled with fans listing their reasons as to why Mahmood should do Eurovision. It was successful! Mahmood would later confirm he would do Eurovision, much to the delight of Italian and foreign fans. Mahmood quickly became a fan favourite, participating at the London Eurovision Party to engage with Eurovision fans and perform “Soldi”.

Like Il Volo, Mahmood was second with bookmakers, behind Duncan Laurence with “Arcade”. Fans were initially disappointed with the song’s staging having three dancers in the background. However, that did not deter viewers because “Soldi” gained 261 points from the public televote. The song performed 22nd in the grand final and Mahmood received universal acclaim for his performance. Although the victory went to the Netherlands, Mahmood left quite the impression on Italians. After the grand final, it was announced that 3.5 million Italians watched Mahmood sing in front of Europe. This was the second-highest audience since their comeback in 2011. And in October 2019, “Soldi” became the most streamed Eurovision song of all time, boasting 122 million streams. This record would be broken by Duncan Laurence with “Arcade” and then Måneskin with “Zitti E Buoni” in 2021 (we’ll talk about them a bit later!) But nobody predicted how much life would change…

Mahmood clapping away and performing Soldi – Credit: Eurovision. TV

Though We May Be Apart, We Are Together

2020 started like any other year. The fireworks go off, you’re with your family and you have high hopes for the future. You sit to watch Sanremo 2020, laughing at the memes on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook singing your favourite songs. You’re probably also laughing at the Bugo-Morgan drama and Amadeus’ priceless reaction. You watch Antonio Diodato (commonly known as Diodato) win Sanremo 2020 with “Fai Rumore”. You understand that “Fai Rumore” is about a failed romantic relationship and cry tears of sadness, touched by the song’s sincerity. You never knew your life would dramatically change in March, the month after Sanremo 2020. If anything, Sanremo 2020 represented any last kind of normality, but you never knew that.

For Italians, 2020 was a very, very hard year. Coronavirus, later more known as COVID-19, swept many countries around the world. Sadly, the first major country that became primarily affected by COVID-19 in Europe was Italy. The epicentre was in Bergamo, Lombardy and spread all over the country. Emergency services were overwhelmed and hospitals were filled with infected patients. The whole country, after the joy of Sanremo, was very quickly plunged in grief. Grief for lives lived for many years and grief for lives that had not yet fulfilled their potential. Suddenly, many people were apart, only able to communicate far away on balconies as Giuseppe Conte called for a national lockdown. People found themselves stuck at home, suffering mentally and trying to keep themselves occupied. During this prolonged grief, “Fai Rumore” became something more. The song became a symbol of hope for many Italians whose futures suddenly became uncertain. It united people and encouraged them to sing it on their balconies with their neighbours. “Fai Rumore” became more than just a song, it became a symbol of togetherness in the midst of widespread grief.

The European Broadcasting Union had a dilemma. They were wondering if it was safe and ethical to a grand-scale event such as the Eurovision Song Contest. Many fans debated the same thing, with some hoping it would be completed in some capacity. However, this was not meant to be, as Eurovision 2020 in Rotterdam would soon be cancelled. As COVID-19 became more widespread, the whole of Europe joined Italy in grief. The Ahoy Arena for the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest became a temporary hospital for patients ill with COVID-19. To replace Eurovision, the European Broadcasting Union developed “Eurovision: Europe Shine a Light”. The programme was created to celebrate all the songs that were created for the now-cancelled 2020 Eurovision Song Contest. The programme received mixed reviews; some loved the sincerity of the show but others compared it to a funeral. But one thing that did unite Eurovision fans was Diodato’s performance of “Fai Rumore”. The performance received universal acclaim from fans, who found it to be passionate and sincere. It moved many and reminded fans about the unnatural silences in their own countries, as many plunged into lockdowns too, leaving streets empty without noise. Not all countries did enter lockdowns, but Europe was united in sadness.

Disclaimer: You are probably wondering why “Fai Rumore” is in this article. Diodato never got his chance to perform at Eurovision in Rotterdam. “Fai Rumore” is a Eurovision song and it should be treated as such. It would have been a disservice to not feature him and his song, as a consequence he is in this article. Finally, this section is dedicated to all victims of COVID-19, their families, friends and loved ones.

“Rock ‘n’ Roll Never Dies”

Many were keen to put 2020 at the back of their minds. Many hoped 2021 would be a better year. There was some optimism as vaccines were created to combat the spread of COVID-19 and started to become available to the general population. Eurovision fans and the general Italian population learned of the Sanremo line-up in December 2020. Italians and Eurovision began to discuss in what capacity Sanremo would be held. There was uncertainty as to when it would take place and if it would happen. There were even rumours of the Sanremo cast being quarantined on a boat for weeks, leading to amusement and confusion from many circles. However, it was soon confirmed that Sanremo would be held in March 2021 and not in its usual February slot. It was also announced there would be no audience at 2021’s Sanremo Music Festival, done to limit the spread of COVID-19. Despite this, Sanremo 2021 was a major success. (Mostly) everyone enjoyed the camaraderie of Amadeus and Fiorello, people were enthralled by the memes that sprung up every Sanremo night and everyone was entertained. It was also at this Sanremo where we encountered Måneskin, the glam rock and alternative rock band.

Måneskin consists of Victroia De Angelis, Thomas Raggi and Damiano David and Ethan Torchio. They had been together since 2016 and already had an established career, featuring hits such as “Torna a Casa” following their appearance on X Factor in 2017. Måneskin performed “Zitti E Buoni” and were highly favoured by the press and viewers at home. This foreshadowed their eventual win, scoring 35.16% with the press, 53.53% with the televote and 32.97% with the demoscopic jury. Eurovision fans were desperate for Måneskin to win and were initially disappointed with their low places on the previous nights. Some even doubted they would win. When they won, it was considered a surprise by many and a breath of fresh air, eerily similar to Mahmood’s victory. Måneskin did not hesitate to accept the invitation to represent Italy at Eurovision, aiming to get more exposure in front of a wider audience.

And they did just that! Måneskin made a lasting impression on journalists and fans alike. They were eager to be interviewed by a range of broadcasters, allowing the audience to get a glimpse of their personalities. They even became friends with some entrants such as Go_A and Blind Channel. Furthermore, they even played ping-pong with each other or with other contestants. Måneskin presented themselves as warm and friendly, contrasting with the typical stereotype of aloof and cold rockstars of old.

Quickly, Måneskin became the favourites to win the bookmakers. Italians became very excited, especially as media outlets associated with Eurovision were pleased with their rehearsals. Italy being an automatic qualifier only heightened the excitement even more. This led to the Italian media and ordinary Italians to quietly (or very loudly) utter:

“Non Succede Ma Se Succede”

Literally: It doesn’t happen but if it happens

The Italian music industry was quick to get behind Måneskin. Legendary artists such as Laura Pausini, Vasco Rossi and Loredana Bertè sent their best wishes to Måneskin hours before the grand final. There was anticipation in the air, for once Italians felt there was a strong possibility they could win. They were ready to see Måneskin, the new ambassadors the Italian nation could get behind. Similarly, foreign fans did the same thing, uniting with Italian fans to tell people to #vote24 (Måneskin were 24th in the running order at the grand final in Rotterdam). #vote24 was a recurring message before and after the Rotterdam final, one that would eventually sway the conclusion of the result. Måneskin impressed audiences, Italians and foreign fans alike but quickly became concerned when the band did not perform well with the juries, only placing 4th. However, they eventually won the televote and in total received 524 points. Italy had finally won Eurovision! It took them ten long years, with near misses and less than desirable results but they did it! Måneskin received worldwide acclaim for their performance and song from a wide range of circles. Praises came from Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran and Scarlet Page. Vasco Rossi considered Måneskin’s victory a watershed moment:

They (Måneskin) are the last Italian rock act that managed to dispel the usual stereotypes of Italian music.

Damiano David and Ethan Torchio also kissed on stage at the end of the show. David said that he wanted to challenge stereotypes and voice his support for the LGBT+ community. For young Italians, Måneskin came to symbolise a new Italy, one that shredded old traditions to embrace a new way of living. They were happy to see their beloved Eurovision becoming a mainstream event spoken all over Italy. The viewing figures were proof of this as 4.5 million Italians watched Måneskin run with the victory (a 25% audience share). Of all the Eurovisions shown in Italy from 2011, the 2021 contest had the highest share of them all. This was not the only record to be broken too. By June 3rd 2020, 44 million people rewatched the “Zitti E Buoni” performance on Youtube. This number had then increased to 54 million by June 16th 2021, therefore becoming the most watched Eurovision video ever. “Zitti E Buoni” topped charts all over Europe, becoming 4x platinum in Italy, platinum in Poland and Greece. The song also became gold in Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. “Zitti E Bunoi” even charted at 17 in the United Kingdom, a market notorious for not welcoming non-anglophone music. This was the first Italian song to crack the UK Singles chart since Zucchero did so in 1992. It also became the most streamed Italian song of all time, amassing in excess of 100 million streams by June 2021 on Spotify. “Zitti E Buoni” also managed to crack the Billboard Global 200, debuting at 26. Måneskin’s impact cannot be underestimated. Måneskin achieved global infamy following Eurovision, which might encourage other established artists to represent their countries in Italy next year. They made Italians fall in love with Eurovision again, with them now excited and eager for 2022.

The winners, record breakers and main characters of 2021 (from left to right: Thomas Raggi, Damiano David, Victoria De Angelis and Ethan Torchio) – Credit: EBU

What Happens Next?

Well, we have to wait for Italy 2022! But the good news is that 17 cities announced their intentions to bid for the right to host. These are:

Acireale (Catania)
– Alessandria
– Bertinoro di Romagna (Forlì – Cesena)
– Bologna
– Genoa
– Florence
– Jesolo (Venice)
– Matera
– Milan
– Palazzolo Acreide (Syracuse)
– Pesaro
– Rimini
– Rome
– Sanremo (Imperia)
– Turin
– Trieste
– Viterbo

All of these places were sent a bid book that had to be delivered to the cities listed above by July 14th 2021. They all then had to fill these bid books by August 4th 2021. In the style of RuPaul’s Drag Race, cities and towns are getting eliminated and one will remain to officially be the host of Italy 2022. The decision of the host city is expected to be made at the end of August 2021 and we are looking forward to the official announcement. The fact that many places in Italy are enthusiastic to host is a clear indication that Italians have fallen back in love with Eurovision. It also mirrors the fact that Eurovision has become more mainstream. It is no longer a word tinged with cheapness and cheesiness. This is because Måneskin winning has solidified the view that Eurovision is a force for good. Let us hope that is a love affair for the ages. See you in Italy next year!

We Remember

This article is dedicated to Raffaella Carrà. Carrà was instrumental in Italy returning to Eurovision. All the post-2011 results explored in this article would have not been possible without her. Måneskin’s victory and Italy 2022 happened because one day, Carrà decided to do whatever she could to make Italy return to Eurovision. Eurovision fans were united in wanting Carrà to host next year. However, she sadly passed away on 5th July 2021. A tribute to Carrà must, must occur next year during the course of Eurovision next year. For many Italians, Raffaella Carrà was a once-in-a-lifetime talent, the kind that only comes very rarely. You ask an Italian about Carrà and they are able to list off her discography and probably show you their favourite songs. We must not also forget she had the same impact in Spain as well. Carrà’s impact on Italy’s progression from forgetting about Eurovision to falling in love with it is nothing short of impressive. It was because of her that Italy are where they are now at Eurovision, the perfect catalyst. We leave you one of her most iconic hits, “Ballo Ballo” as we will be doing a lot of dancing next year! Grazie di cuore, Raffaella Carrà, for everything.

The ever-iconic Raffaella Carrà, an image to leave you by – credit: Farneti via Associated Press

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