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In-depth Italy ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น Turin 2022

The Sanremo Music Festival and…The Internet As Well?

The Sanremo Music Festival has been around since the 1950s. From “Papaveri e Papavere” sung in the 1950s to “Zitti E Buoni” in 2021, Sanremo is still going strong. But the way people’s opinions have become vocal have changed too. From print media to social media, fans have always had a strong opinion about the music and moments at Sanremo. The prominence of the Internet has allowed many Italians, often very young, to also share their opinions on the music festival that has now shaped part of Italian culture.

The same thing goes for Eurovision. But unlike Sanremo, Eurovision has not really enjoyed the same status as Sanremo. There are many reasons for this, even though the eventual Sanremo winner can choose to go to Eurovision.

In the past few years, more journalists have become vocal with their views of Sanremo, just like how the Internet has become. Sanremo is that glue that unites Italy, especially during Sanremo week – also known as Holy Week.

Music notes decorating Sanremo’s skies – credit: Flickr

Italyโ€™s relationship with Eurovision is complicated, to put it lightly. From RAI having to move Eurovision 1991 from Sanremo to Rome due to bomb threats from the mafia, allegations of sabotaging Jalisse in 1997, RAI deciding to completely withdraw in 1998 and return in 2011. Oh and donโ€™t forget, they ended up winning the entire thing in May 2021! Despite this, Eurovision is still a bit unknown. It is one thing to know what it is, but is another to actually show it works – think the “E=MC^2” theory by Albert Einstein. Everyone knows what it is, but it is difficult to explain or understand how it works (unless you like or study science!)

Italy’s relationship with Sanremo is different, almost a complete opposite to how Eurovision is viewed. In Italy, everything stops for Sanremo. People contemplate or book the entire week off work to watch the festival in full. All the well-known TV shows stop to discuss all the drama and gossip surrounding the festival. Normal social media account users become television commentators, giving their opinions on Sanremo. And even in the recent presidential elections, a politician expressed that they wished the election would finish early so they could enjoy Sanremo. Even though some Italians still complain and dislike Sanremo for their own personal reasons, people still talk about it! So it is very hard to avoid all the Sanremo Music Festival discourse.

The Sanremo That Broke the Internet

Now the first part of the Sanremo music experience you must know about – the memes! Sanremo memes are still somewhat of a new thing but they have become part of the festival. Following the 2014 edition of the festival that only got 43.4% of the television share, each year after that got above 50% of the television share. At the same time, Sanremo-oriented memes have grown at the same pace as the yearly television shares the festival receives. The memes come out thick and fast and they have now become an inevitable part of the Sanremo music experience. 

An iconic Sanremese duo – Amadeus and Fiorello – credit: Pugliain

Also, people get together and organise listening groups and print out judging cards where they give points to their favourite performances. However, with the power of the internet, almost everything has gone digital. The 2021 edition of Sanremo was the most social-media oriented ever. On night four of Sanremo 2021, there were 740,000 tweets with #Sanremo2021, a 74% increase from night four tweets the year before. As well as this, Achille Lauro’s kiss with Boss Doms generated 5,000 tweets in a single minute and on night four of Sanremo 2021, Achille Lauro was mentioned and retweeted 25,000 times. The figure of 25,000 mentions and retweets was double that of night three of #Sanremo2021. On the same night, Mรฅneskin generated 30,000 mentions and tweets, followed by Madame with 16,000 tweets, Irama and Aiello with 13,000 tweets.

We love a good kiss, don’t we? Achille and Boss Doms do – credit: HuffingtonPost.IT

Despite the controversy surrounding the decision to not have an audience because of COVID-19 or to quarantine the contestants on a boat, things still ran smoothly. And we got good memes from it!

A selection of some free memes for you! Credit: IoDonna

So I guess, you could say that it was alright on the night!

“Dovevi Portaci Me!!!!!!!” – considered the first meme of Sanremo 2021 – credit: Il Fatto Quotidiano

The young people who grew up with Sanremo are also the same ones who are probably watching as adults. The same thing also goes for parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents. Sanremo has proven to be a multi-generational event that has Italy in the palm of its hand, with more than 10 million people watching every night. Before, print media (such as newspapers and magazines) had to compete with the likes of the internet and social media. Now it looks as though the only things that unite them is the music and nightly content on the television screens.

You can now make your own team of Sanremo contestants on FantaSanremo! FantaSanremo was created in 2021 and it enables people to make their own fantasy football team comprised of the year’s competing Sanremo artists. Social media opinions and print media are both valid forms of expressing a view about Sanremo. The same thing is happening with Eurovision, although this is at a slower rate, even though interest is growing a bit in Italy. When Italy withdrew in 1998, there was no Eurovision to get to know or be involved with. Sanremo filled that void, even though the 2000s saw Sanremo go into a period of decline. In the 2010s, the spread of social media has made the festival expand beyond its borders and now, foreigners can watch Sanremo on RaiPlay, for free. It will be interesting to see how Sanremo continues to develop following Mรฅneskin’s victory and how social media continues to be a part of the Sanremo experience.

“Baglioni Concert” – Sanremo 2019 – credit: RollingStone.It

Walk, Walk Fashion Baby!

Ever since Sanremo was created in 1951, fashion has been a big part of the Sanremo Music Festival experience. Every festival has seen Italy’s top designers churn out outfits that represent not only their brand but the singers themselves. To be a stylist for a performer, guest or host at Sanremo is seen as a huge honour. In the last few years, some stylists’ ideas behind the looks have appeared online. With the growth of social media and the internet, viewers turn into fashion stylists and give their opinions on the outfits they see on every “puntata”. It’s also a great moment for designers to flex on other competitors who can deliver the perfect outfit.

Nilla Pizzi singing “Grazie Dei Fior” – Sanremo 1951 – credit: newsrnd

After Nilla Pizzi won with “Grazie Dei Fior” in 1951, her white, embroidered dress became so popular that it was widely copied by women who fell in love with the outfit. In the next few years, fashion continued to be popular at the festival. Then in 1960, singers, valets and guests of honour all began to choose designers for their clothing. From 1960 onwards, the festival has seen many outfits, some very different to others.

Nina Zilli wearing Moschino – Sanremo 2020 – inspired by Picasso – credit: Stile e Trend

One of the designers that have recurrently been used to design Sanremo’s many outfits is Gai Mattiolo. Gai Mattiolo’s designs have become famous on the high fashion scene, with people like Naomi Campbell wearing his looks on runways. But he still finds time for Sanremo! Mattiolo designed the majority of Amadeus’ Sanremo 2020 and 2021 outfits. However, some Italian music journalists criticised Amadeus’ outfits for being “too eccentric”. Amadeus only had this to say:

“We are not disguised, we are dressed as we wish”.

Amadeus in March 2021

Social media is a place where opinions fly about. And many online agreed with Amadeus’ statement. Why should someone be prevented from wearing something that represents them as a person? In 2005, Mattiolo designed Antonella Clerici’s (the Sanremo co-host on the night Bugogate happened in 2020) puffy, pink dress which was also labelled “eccentric” and “voluminous”. But did the hosts care? No!

Amadeus and Antonella Clerici both wearing Gai Mattiolo – Sanremo 2020 and Sanremo 2005 – credit: style.corriere.it and DiLei
Elodie – Versace’s Muse – Sanremo 2021 – credit: Versace; Jacopo Raule; Daniele Venturelli

For example, Elodie always collaborated with Versace for her Sanremo outfits. All the outfits she wore as she sang “Andromeda” at Sanremo 2020 were all designed by Atelier Versace. Versace also designed Elodie’s outfits at Sanremo 2021. Ramona Tabita, Elodie’s stylist, introduced her to Donatella Versace and the rest is history.

Elodie’s outfits were all praised by fellow stylists and viewers alike. Viewers online felt that the outfits she wore represented Elodie to the fullest. Some even said that Elodie could wear a bin-bag and still look good. Every time Elodie stepped onto the Sanremo stage, people were amazed by her outfits, especially when she performed her music medley last year. Not only has Elodie solidified herself as a darling of Italian social media, but she has also shown people her fashion sense and it belongs to her and her alone. The decisions made by Tabita, Versace and Elodie ensured that her outfits represented who she was as a person:

“First of all, I am a woman and I want people to understand every aspect of my life. I try to express myself not only through music, but also with my body, my clothes, and my values”.

Elodie speaking to Vogue in shortly after Sanremo in 2020
All of Elodie’s Sanremo Versace 2020 looks – credit: donna.fanpage.it

Another friend with Sanremo who shocks and awes people with his outfits is the one, the only, Achille Lauro!

Achille Lauro at Sanremo 2020 – credit: Lorenzo Salamone

After rocking a calm look at his first Sanremo performance in 2019 singing “Rolls Royce”, Achille Lauro became more comfortable wearing adventurous outfits. Since 2020, Lauro has been collaborating with Gucci and his 2020 outfit on the first night was designed by Alessandro Michele, the creative director of the House of Gucci. His black velvet hood decorated with gold and his nude bodysuit underneath stunned – positively and negatively. Twitter went wild as Lauro was called:

“Iconic”, “magical”, “a style icon” and a “cultural reset”

But older people, like the singer Renato Zero, did not think like this and said:

I certainly didn’t play clown with feathers

Achille Lauro came back in 2021 as a “super guest” of Amadeus and again received the same reception. Love and adored by the young but hated and scorned among the “boomers”. But, some young people were also not the biggest fans of Achille Lauro too, so older people did have some allies:

“I would be ashamed if all of Europe knew Italy in this way”

Achille Lauro saying fashion rights – credit: IPA; Look Da VIP

But in true Achille Lauro style, he said “Me Ne Frego” (I don’t give a damn) and carried on doing what he loved to do most: feel comfortable in his own skin and experiment with fashion.

It’s not only The House of Gucci, Gai Mattiolo and Versace that have a say on Sanremo outfits. So here are some honourable mentions:

Credit: NSS G-Club

But Sanremo is not only for Italian designers. As recently as two years ago, more international designers have come out to show off their fashion too. One example is Valdrin Sahiti. Valdrin Sahiti is an Albanian fashion designer and was hand-picked by Alketa Vejsiu to design her clothes for the night she would host Sanremo. The Internet fell in love with Vejsiu as she finally achieved her childhood dream of hosting the Sanremo Music Festival. She also did this by showing off the best of Albanian fashion.

Pretty in Pink – Credit: Daniele Venturelli
Ready in Red – credit: Daniele Venturelli

That night, the Internet and journalists felt that Vejsiu shone the most that night. For Albanian audiences and those on the internet, they could not be prouder.

“La Corriere Della Sera”, one of Italy’s biggest newspapers, wrote this:

“Alketa Vejsiu, the Albanian presenter who took over Sanremo”.

Things that Stay in the Memory (and Internet)

The 2010 edition of the Sanremo Music Festival was iconic for all the wrong reasons. Unlike current editions of the festival, 2010 still had eliminations. However, just like the last few editions, the orchestra still had a vote on which songs were their favourites. When the top three artists were revealed, the orchestra was furious. When it was announced Malika Ayane’s “Ricominco Da Qui” did not make the top 3, the orchestra booed and even threw their sheet music onto the stage. Bear in mind, all of this was on live, prime-time television. Antonella Clerici had no way of calming down the orchestra who was still angry at what they had seen. The conductor, Marco Saibu said that the votes of the orchestra were a huge contrast to the final results, which was also influenced by televoting. The spilt results of the orchestra and televote have never been revealed. Journalists and even the chairman of the Federation of the Italian Music Industry at the time supported the protest. After this, allegations were made by a call centre worker who said that one of the Sanremo 2010 contestants bought votes in bulk to reach a higher position in the ranking. This moment has been solidified in Sanremo history and is still well-remembered by the majority of the population. You can watch the scenes here:

Francesco Gabbani won Sanremo 2017 with “Occidentali’s Karma”, which then came 6th at the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest in Kyiv. He had a charismatic aura around him which translated on stage, especially when he brought “The Naked Ape” by Desmond Morris, alive.

Even though this article is ironically about Sanremo’s relationship with the Internet, “Occidentali’s Karma” refers to the Internet as “The Opiate of the Poor”, referencing Karl Marx. The song also talks about people becoming obssessed with selfies and people becoming “know-it-alls” because of what they do, read or see online. Funnily enough, “Occidentali’s Karma” became really popular, with people online predicting that the song would win. Another irony surrounding the song was that it led Sanremo 2017 to become the second-most searched event on Google Italia.

One of the most memorable nights ever for Gabbani in 2017 – credit: RAI

Sanremo 2019 also became a bit of an event online. Around January 21st-22nd, 11% of 584 respondents from 18 and over predicted Il Volo would win with “Musica Che Resta”. The eventual runner up, Ultimo with “I Tuoi Particolari” was only predicted to win by 4% of people in that survey. Mahmood, the eventual winner, received 0% of predictions. Roll on the last night of Sanremo 2019 and Mahmood shockingly won. “Soldi” became really popular online and became the darling of Italy. He represented people who had heritage from more than one country; for Mahmood, his heart belonged to Italy and Egypt. Whereas the Internet made memes and made fun of the way Ultimo reacted when he lost and argued with journalists.

Mahmood and Il Volo; can you guess who is missing? Credit: Sorrisi e Canzoni TV

Sanremo 2019 also saw another meltdown. Remember how we spoke about the orchestra becoming angry at Malika Ayane’s song not being in the top 3? Well, get ready for this moment. On the same night Mahmood won, Loredana Bertรจ’s “Cosa Ti Aspetti Da Me?” achieved fourth place. But instead of the orchestra getting angry, the live audience in the Ariston were furious because they felt Bertรจ did not deserve a fourth-place finish. They felt that she was the winner. Again, the hosts found it difficult to calm the audience who felt a massive injustice happened.

2020 unleashed a wave of memes and iconic moments. From Gigi D’Alessio screaming into a microphone, Elettra Lamborghini getting the backing singers to sing her name before singing her version of “Non Succederร  Piรน”, Al Bano and Romina Power being compared to Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper and Tiziano Ferro singing absolutely everything. Then we had Piero Pelรน running off with a random woman’s handbag on the night of the final evening as well. And who cannot forget Bugo storming off the stage leaving Morgan saying “Che Succede?”. Remember how Amadeus was totally confused so he and Fiorello had to improvise and Antonella Clerici was left stunned?

Amadeus shortly after Bugo stormed off the stage – credit: Twitter

To be fair, “Che Succede” did summarise the rest of 2020, which is another story for another time.

There was also Achille Lauro’s bodysuit, which made “bodysuit” become the most searched topic on the Italian fashion website “Lyst” after it was unveiled.

Boss Doms and Achille Lauro – Guitar Hero – credit: Player.IT

As Sanremo 2021 gained more engagement online, some songs benefitted from that immensely. For example, Colapesce e DiMartino was already a favourite with journalists before the contest began. On night one, viewers were unsure what to make of them. But as the nights went by and the festival ended, “Musica Leggerisima” achieved a 4th place finish and became of the biggest songs of 2021 in Italy. It went to number one and by the end of 2021, the song went 5x platinum and became one of the most commercially popular Sanremo songs ever.

“Zitti E Buoni” was also really popular online and with the public, winning 53.53% of the televote. It was the first rock song to win the festival and its popularity remained through to May when they accepted the invitation to represent Italy at Eurovision. On the final night of Sanremo, a huge voting campaign took place where people were asked to vote for Song Three. This mainly happened on Twitter, an app dominated by young people. This was similar to the “#Vote24” campaign that happened during the final of Eurovision 2021. On both occasions, Mรฅneskin ended up victorious and #MรฅneskinWorldDomination happened very, very fast. Debate amongst yourselves if you think if was down to Eurovision, TikTok or both.

*That* Sanremo 2022 Line-Up

So, it is 4th December 2021. You are probably doing your exams or studying for them. You are also looking forward to your Christmas break wondering about the food you will or will not eat. But at the same time, you might be worried about the direction the world is going in too. When 20:00 CET hit, you finally found a method to watch the TG1 news bulletin even though RAI is geo-blocked in your country. You probably never thought that the line-up Amadeus read out would make the rest of your night.

After that news bulletin, excitement for Sanremo increased. #Sanremo2022 was the trending topic throughout the night. People ran to screenshot their favourite singer’s Instagram story and we must not forget Facebook too! As names such as Rkomi, Elisa, Mahmood and Blanco, La Rappresentante di Lista and Ana Mena were read out, everybody could not believe it. The Internet widely considered the #Sanremo2022 line-up to be one of the strongest Sanremo line-ups ever! The excitement only began to increase when super-guests, such as Laura Pausini and Cesare Cremonini, were revealed. Then news began to be revealed about who the hosts would be and who the other guests were for example.

The Sanremo 2022 stage! Credit: RAI

And now we have the stage that will host a full audience who will have all been vaccinated.

And now, there is more excitement online over Sanremo because Sorrisi E Canzoni television magazine has released the song lyrics. With Sanremo ready to start soon and audiences getting ready, may the best song win!

The TV Sorrisi E Canzoni cover with all the Sanremo 2022 stars! Credit: TV Sorrisi E Canzoni

Where Do We Go From Here?

So far, Sanremo 2022 has had the internet buzzing with opinions. Whether it is because of the artist line-up or the thoughts of the journalists, Sanremo is always on the public’s mind. Even if you don’t watch it, it is hard to escape all of the opinions. Although Sanremo is becoming more Internet-oriented as the years go by, the views of journalists and print media still matter, even if they vary. There is still a divide between the young and old in terms of music taste when it comes to Sanremo.

But there is one thing print media and the internet have in common: a place for people to share their thoughts and views. As the years go by, social media will play more of a role in discussion Sanremo and the nuances behind the festival. Maybe one day, the internet will make print media become obsolete? Maybe the internet might become the place to quickly get your views and opinions out there for the world to see? But for now, print media and the internet are here and staying together – for now.

So I hope you enjoy your Sanremo Music Festival experience, whether is your first one or your second. Or even your umpteenth time. Enjoy every “puntata” as much as you can, especially as RaiPlay will be not geoblocked for the entire week. Be prepared and expect the unexpected as every Sanremo edition has their own moments that stay (or live on) the internet.

Sanremo is also a good opportunity to learn your Italian and improve on your existing language skills, especially if you are a beginner. Sanremo is also an insight into Italian culture, political debates and norms, and you will see a lot of chat about this online. Have a great time and divertitevi! (“Enjoy yourselves in English).

What do you think? Please let us know in the comments below. And thank you for reading!

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