22 Feb 2010

Another Festival della Canzone Italiana has finished. Why didn’t the best song win? Who liked Antonella Clerici’s hosting style? Why people say they hate it and then million watch it? Well, it’s all in the slogan, and you need to be Italian to figure it out…

Perché Sanremo è Sanremo

Sanremo is a city in Liguria that hosts the Festival della Canzone Italiana, also known as Festival di Sanremo (Sanremo Music Festival). People simply call it “Sanremo”.

I am not really sure how to explain what Sanremo is to Italians… It is a such a huge piece of our culture… People love and hate it at the same time. It’s one of those events that keeps national TV busy for a month: the anticipation, the forecasts from polls, the gossip, etc. People start talking about it in January and go on until March.

It’s a music festival, a fashion show, and, sadly or gladly, a showcase of Italian society.

For years people have criticized it by saying that it’s an obsolete kermis, an outdated event revolving around a type of music, Italian melodic music,  that people don’t listen to anymore. But every year it is watched by millions of viewers, and hours of TV are spent talking about it.

Some very famous singers were first brought to the attention of the public thanks to Sanremo. Just to name a few: Eros Ramazzotti, Laura Pausini, Andrea Bocelli, Alex Britti, Giorgia, Elisa, and last but not least Vasco Rossi and Zucchero. It is an important showcase, and it doesn’t really matter who wins: what matters is that people will talk about it and the songs. Rarely the song that wins is the one that will have the biggest success on the radio and in the stores.

Very few famous singers still participate: the big names don’t bother participating in the competition. They might go as special guests, but that’s all. And a whole lot of air time every year is dedicated to this topic.

Since talent shows have become so popular, the most debated topic this year is whether Sanremo is becoming just the ultimate battle between “Amici di Maria de Filippi” and “X-Factor” or whether the “televoto“, the possibility for people to vote from home by sending a text message or by calling a special number, is ruining the festival.

Last year, the winner was Marco Carta, who had won Amici the same year. This year, again, a guy from Amici is the winner, and he beat the winner of X-Factor and the trio Pupo, Emanuele Filiberto and Luca Canonici. Now, the televoto is also responsible for making the trio finish in second place, before Marco Mengoni, and for the victory of Tony (another former X-factor participant) in the category of Young Artists. By the way, Valerio, the winner, is younger than Tony…

Some years the festival doesn’t get many viewers, while other years, like this one, have an enormous amount of viewers. Up to this point, Paolo Bonolis was the host who had had most success, thanks to his witticisms and culture I guess. This year, Antonella Clerici, the” national mum and housewife”, was supposed to do very badly, because of her “everyman’s hosting style“.

Sanremo is generally considered the most difficult event to host, a real ceremony. For decades, the hosts were men, who had a couple of beautiful mute “vallette” (the girls who assist in any Italian TV Show…). This year, Antonella Clerici did everything “wrong” according to this supposed “Sanremo good manners”, and hosted the most viewed festival since 1951. She hosted alone, she wore dresses that made her look fatter than she actually is, she kissed a queen, she danced with a dj all dressed up in leather pants. And she made it. She is the queen of Sanremo. (Watch the video of Antonella Clerici and Bob Sinclar.)

I admit watching at least part of the festival every year. This year I watched it all. Not because I liked her hosting style… actually I find it a bit “Forrest-Gump-like” if you know what I mean… I am not a huge fan of “cute” things and children’s songs.

I loved the songs though. They were not the usual boring stuff. They were quite pop. I also loved the night dedicated to the history of Sanremo. This year, it was the 60th anniversary of the festival and they had a night with famous singers singing some of the most popular songs from the past. I especially liked Elisa singing “Canzone per te” by Endrigo and Elisa and Fiorella Mannoia singing the beautiful “Almeno tu nell’universo” by Mia Martini, three artists that I love.

I found Nilla Pizzi, the first winner of the festival, in 1951, incredibly sweet. She is 90-something years old, she cannot talk, but she still sings like an angel. And Carmen Consoli was amazing too (watch the video).As for the songs in the competition I loved Cristicchi‘s song (watch the video), Malika Ayane, who also won the Premio della Critica, (watch the video), Noemi (watch the video) and Marco (watch the video). On the other hand I was absolutely shocked to see Pupo, Emanuele Filiberto and Luca Canonici among the top 3 and even come in 2nd. I couldn’t believe that such a populist song could get voted by so many people. That and Antonella Clerici’s success tell me that Italy is in fact still a very traditional country, that appreciates people who say they love “their culture and their religion“, children, good values and good food. It does make me a bit sad, and it certainly shocked the orchestra too! They threw their scores away when they heard that Malika Ayane had been eliminated!

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