Written in 4 hands with my friend Stefano Ferri. Italian version available here.
I don’t know whether you guys know about Sanremo 2021 – for us, in Italy, this celebration of the Italian song and musical arts, is one of those contradictory things in life.
There are people openly loving it.
Then, there are people openly hating it.
I believe though, that most of these last ones, secretly watch it on tv or follow replicas on YouTube, social medias or some official Rai (Italian national tv) channels. And enjoy it, in the privacy of their homes and sofas.
If you Google about Sanremo, you will probably read lots of negative comments, lots of hate, empty critics.
I may have some not-so-positive comments to share as well, but I do not want to feed negativity. Thus I (we) want to try and find beauty, in something that still is, and forever will be, an integral part of our culture.
Ugliness and negativity have been shared enough (you might want somebody to help you translate Achille Lauro’s last words on stage ), and yes, there have been many things that were disrespectful, anachronistic, hymns to ableism or machismo. But no, I do not want to focus on this, you can find tons about it.
I want to focus on the beauty that happened, and the signs of cultural change I saw. We saw.
You must note that in Italy, we still strongly believe (and conceive) the world, to be only binary. If you are reading this blog, you probably believe this is no more valid but, please be aware that, this does not happen everywhere. When I first told a company about “styling for All”, people with disabilities included, they replied: “Hey! You are doing a triple somersault! We still need to work on gender equity, here, and all related gender issues, first.”
This is why, watching what we watched these days, is fundamental in order to understand what is going on here. For each mistake that has been done on stage, there is another strong message that was given: a message of cultural change we cannot ignore.
And in this adventure, I am not alone. Stefano Ferri, accepted to write this piece with me.
Yesterday morning, hours before Maneskin were declared winners of the 71st edition of the most national, among national shows in Italy.
Beauty is something we need every day.
Now more than ever.
Last Friday, like a year ago, schools shut down again, and our kids are, again, at home. It feels like no advancement has been done.
We need beauty and kindness today, more than ever.
Stefano and I will leave ugliness to others, if they wish, while we will show and tell you what we liked, what we appreciated and the humanity behind people, so far away there on stage, yet never so close to us, in their fragility, emotions and tenderness.
Hence… on Tuesday 4th March, 2021 Sanremo opened its show like this, with only the orchestra members filling the stalls. No audience allowed. No crowd bath nor applause, to feed artists egos.
Only Rosario Fiorello filling the stage with his performance and… his long flowery vest by Claudia Tortora, fire-like black glasses, black lipstick and black nailpolish.
After his opening performance, he turned to Amadeus, the presenter, took his face in his hands and kissed his forehead, before his half astonished and half amused face: “Oh C’mon, we are alone – let’s have some fun!”.
Then Francesca Michielin, in Miu Miu, and Fedez, in Versace, came on stage, and (after his flowery nailpolish) I noticed how his face was utterly pale, rather grey. She is the one looking at him and singing as to say:
“C’mon, everything is going to be alright. We are here together. Just sing, and everything is going to be ok.”
At the end, Fedez cries liberating tears. He cries tears that even a woman, has rarely shared on a stage.
It’s always Francesca that “breaks the rules” and gives her flowers to him, the second night, opening the doors to a new, genderless, sign of kindness. From then on, both women and men, started receiving flowers after their performance.
Then Arisa in Maison Margiela and Madame in Dior arrive, beautiful in their man-style suits.
I loved Michele Bravi’s blazer for this mix of feminine drapes and laces and male suit lines. I can also add, I was lucky enough to meet the designer, Mr Balde Daye, in his atelier in Milan years ago.
And I so enjoyed Amadeus’ fucsia blazer by Gai Mattiolo, with his matching bow tie. A true novelty for him and a Festival like Sanremo.
There are so many other virtuous examples of this gender fluidity freedom that filled the stage, at all levels: let me close up with Mahmood’s dress by Riccardo Tisci from Burberry and Maneskin’s Etro total bodysuits that embraces all members’ bodies (and drove them the Ultimate Victory!).
I once read, that fringes on clothes are a symbol of Renaissance, of freedom, a game of light. Of Future.
It’s all about the future, really. Let’s also talk about the music, as it’s a festival of songs after all! [Yes, Sorry Stefano I got caught up in feathers and glitters! Please, go on] Music has changed alot in recent years, over a sort of Copernican revolution, similar to that of the Sixties, when rock and pop invaded old melodies proper of the operetta. In those days, adults understood (almost) nothing about the new trends. Today, we are witnessing the same. Rap, trap and so on are colliding with the pop generations, now getting older, despite a greater effort of understanding from their side – sometimes, though, slightly pathetic, to say it all.
Melodies, I said. It is a basic concept, indeed. Melody is inherent within human nature. Whistling a refrain or appreciating the catchy succeeding of notes, are not signs of a lack of musical culture: that’s just the way we are.
New music is not melodic. It focuses only on the lyrics, and leaves the notes in the background, as if they were nothing more than a price to pay. In this sense, we could really say, that the golden age of music is long over and the primary expression of society has moved on to other things: technology, mobile phones, gender issues, equality.
All this, is a sign of progress, unequivocally. Think of the, sometimes, fatal price that so many men and women had to pay for their homosexuality in yesterday’s bigoted worl. The world of “don’t ask don’t tell”, the world in which male singers had no access to the Sanremo stage if not dressed up in a tuxedo or dark suit.
But it is also a sign of regression, as it takes the innate pleasure of melody, away from human beings, who have to find it looking into the archives.
The 2020 festival witnessed an unforgettable melodic blaze. The first two classified (“Fai rumore” by Diodato and “Viceversa” by Gabbani), undisputed rulers of the race from the start, were two of the most melodic songs ever heard – sort of divine accidents, given the current average offer. Not to mention the out-of-competition performance of four old glories, the “Ricchi e Poveri”, who made a live medley of their Eighties hits making the whole audience, including the youngsters, stand up right from the start. I interpreted it as a breath of fresh air, a joyful as well as angry reaction to the “politically correct” that prevents people from speaking badly of trap and the likes.
This year, very few melodies got on stage. The winning song among the new proposals, Gaudiano’s “Polvere da sparo”, was nice, even if the best piece was Folcast’s; Elena Faggi’s “Che ne so” was not bad either, though immediately eliminated.
Among the big, apart from one case of which I will immediately speak, nothing. Artistic expressions got all about the looks. This festival will be remembered for fashion trends, rather than music. The Maneskin won, but I’m sure you will first remember their outfits and later the song. The same goes for Fedez and Michielin (second classified), while the third (Ermal Meta), was a great philosophizing on the tangled flow of no more than four notes. Too little to be considered music.
Just one exception started on the sly and turn protagonist of a sensational comeback ending up in fourth place, just a stone’s throw from the podium: “Musica leggerissima”, by Colapesce and Dimartino.
Please listen to it, even if you don’t understand Italian. And try to imagine: Summer 2021… a new freedom begins, bonfires on the beaches, people getting closer, hugging, partying. And mankind dancing altogether.
Melody. Human nature.
We are all human beings, Achille Lauro reminds us , closing his performance.
And if you are still reading this, you believe this too.