All opinions expressed in this article are those of the person quoted and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the other team members or ESC United as a whole.
February belongs to Italy. If they didn’t have a lock on the month before with their St. Valentine’s Day stirring the midwinter hearts and loins of lovers worldwide, they only went and invented the Sanremo Music Festival, the 73rd edition of which concludes this weekend.
Romance and music intertwine during this week long festival, mostly used as Italy’s method of selection for Eurovision, but which predates the contest and kept going during many of Italy’s absences from the contest.
With four days gone and the final day about to go down, ESC United sat down four writers to review the performances of the 28 acts entered.
In our three part series, we will each assign scores out of ten and lend our thoughts to each entrant. At the end, we will have a recommendation for who we think should win Sanremo, and should represent Italy at Eurovision 2023 in Liverpool. Though we do have partial scores, they will not influence our scores, so forgive us if we nominate a no-hoper (again).
Representing ESC United for this round of reviews: Our Denmark based Romanian correspondent David Popescu, our Los Angeles based British correspondent James Maude, our Dutch correspondent and vlogger Roy Postema, and our Alaska based Icelanderstan Tyler Griffith. We will be reviewing each entry alphabetically by artist.
Here are the first nine (please note, where applicable, studio versions will be posted due to RAI typically removing live performances as soon as Sanremo is concluded):
Anna Oxa – “Sali (Canto dell’anima)”
David – 1 – “Damn… poor Anna, I think age has caught up to her. I do wish to point out, I am aware who she is and what career she has had throughout the years, but time was just not with her. A very overall screechy performance with a repeatable sound that barely changes throughout the song, I guess time isn’t generous to all of us, in the same way.”
James – 6.5 – “This sounds like the sturm und drang female ballad you’d get from Albania, typically, appropriate considering her ancestry. Her voice is just straight up power, unrelenting and likely to run you over. Not to say there aren’t subtleties to her performance. Little drops here, slight inflections there. It’s just a pity that the track itself is a stop and start affair with the verses being a drag on the song.
Roy – 7 – “The verses are underwhelming in this song and that is the only thing holding it back in my eyes. The way Anna starts the chorus with the word ‘Libera’ in her voice is absolutely epic. I feel like her voice is definitely an acquired taste, but for me it really works well. The chorus is really written with her voice in mind and it gives off a mysterious vibe! Overall I enjoyed this quite a lot!”
Tyler – 4.5 – “This performance just wasn’t it for me. I liked the tone of the music and it sounded interesting, but I didn’t think Anna’s singing was that good. There was a drama to the performance that feels lost in translation, as the emotions I felt was just feeling uncomfortable than being enraptured.”
Total Points: 19 points (Average = 4.75)
Ariete – “Mare di guai”
David – 1 – “Very empty song overall, nothing that really grabs my attention and nothing that’s really noticeable about the song. Musically and vocally, there’s just… nothing.”
James – 5 – “For a song about reckless abandonment or taking a risky plunge, this song is a little sedate. Maybe she was going for dreamy, but her vocals seem a little too high pitch for that effect? Either way, every Sanremo we get four or five whippersnappers (she surely can’t be older than 20) who are mostly potential and need a few years to find themselves as an artist. Ariete is one of them. The song is too slight and will be crushed like a beer can slammed into Sean Dyche’s forehead the second it lands in Liverpool.”
Roy – 6.5 – “The key factor that holds back this song is the inexperience of Ariete. The beat is very delicately produced, but that was to be expected when the one and only wizard ‘Dardust’ is behind this song. It could’ve worked wonders, but Ariete isn’t yet ready to be among the frontrunners. She’s a definitely a talent though and I would love to see her back with some more experience and another greatly produced song by Dardust!”
Tyler – 5 – “This song is mid. I think the outfit is nice, but the vocals are whatever. The orchestra is nice, but that’s also every song. The performance itself is fine, doesn’t go crazy though to really keep my interest. Leaves me thinking of other music I want to listen to.”
Total Points: 17.5 points (Average = 4.375)
Articolo 31 – “Un bel viaggio”
David – 6 – “A slow start to the song, which had me worried, but then it just builds up more and more, and then it just doesn’t give a damn anymore. The song develops into something enjoyable and unexpected, and it just becomes an experience and even a story, this is music for me! Far from being the best, but it does what I like.”
James – 7.5 – “This is the sort of song you come to Sanremo to hear the old masters perform. Lyrically, this is a song of two friends who’d made it, been torn up, and reconciled (autobiographical?), and the lessons learned along the way and the regrets of bad decisions made. The musical track mirrors this, with a clever progression from basic rap to alternative rock and astute usage of the orchestra, mirroring the musical phases of the artists throughout their career. Live, the singer’s vocals can get a bit ropey and the song runs overlong, but a good education from one of Italy’s esteemed ’90s alternative acts.”
Roy – 5.5 – “Didn’t expect a lowkey rapbeat here. Neither did I expect it to go towards rock elements. Neither did I expect the disc scratching. Neither did I expect the operatic vibes. Unexpected turn upon unexpected turn upon unexpected turn. Perhaps a bit too much of an overdose, Less is More!”
Tyler – 4.5 – “There’s some good ideas here for the staging, like having the DJ on stage. But when I focus on the song itself, it just feels fine rather than extraordinary. The backup chorus was pretty good, but I don’t care for the vocals too much at all from Articolo 31. Perhaps the performance is being overpowered by everything else?”
Total points: 23.5 points (Average = 5.875)
Colapesce & Dimartino – “Splash”
David – 4 – “A rather classical composition, in sound that is, which is honestly great to get something that sticks out. It’s one of those songs that you just that mind, but barely pay much attention to it, you’ll hear the music and find it catchy and interesting, but that’s all over when the song is as well. The energy of the song, is what uplifts it the most for me.”
James – 9 – “Considering Eurovision is in Liverpool, sending something like this with heavy influences of both ’70s pop rock and ’90s alternative may be a novel way to appeal to the home crowd. As with their effort two years ago, their quirkiness is also matched by fun factor, which is certainly something Europe needs in abundance right now.”
Roy – 8.5 – “They have given us another banger after they served us ‘Musica Leggerisima’. That song didn’t catch on to me immediately 2 years ago, but in retrospect it was one of the better songs in the running. This song is equally fun, but perhaps misses out a little bit of the singalong hook that ‘Musica Leggerisima’ has. I still think that this is one of the best options for Italy to send to Eurovision and I firmly enjoy listening to it on my playlist!”
Tyler – 6.5 – “This song has a lot going on, and it mostly works. “Splash” starts feeling like a 70s send-off before sounding like it’s from the Italian language dub for the movie “Splash” itself. And I don’t mind it! The song feels like a nice homage rather than feeling outdated (mostly), and Colapesce and Dimartino give a good performance together. It’s just a lot of fun and I enjoyed it.”
Total: 28 points (Average = 7.00)
Colla Zio – “Non mi va”
David – 3 – “Huge downside, the song is short, but maybe it’s a good thing? Anyway, vocally it’s quite messy and all over the place with all the boys trying to sing over each other, but they are fun and charismatic about it. The song just tries too much, with too little time, it really just tries to include as much as possible.”
James – 6 – “Who is this goof troupe? If I was Tom Anderson from Beavis and Butthead, I’d be concerned there’s another group of teenagers hanging around who could be caught whacking off behind my shed. The song is short, sweet and fun with a “we are young and we are alright” feel. It just lacks a big moment, a standout lead vocalist, or something to make it more than just a vibe.”
Roy – 7 – “These guys had an incredible amount of fun on the stage and it was contagious. You really start to excuse the flaws that they have. We are reviewers though and we should point out those flaws nevertheless. Some of the guys during the verses really lacked some experience and confidence and it hurt the overall product a bit. The choruses were incredibly fun and catchy. This might not be the song that they should or will win with, but I could see them coming back with some more experience and another banger!”
Tyler – 5.5 – “This performance is an example of something that doesn’t quite fit into the Sanremo ouvre, but mildly into the Eurovision aesthetic if that makes sense? A boy band in colorful outfits is a start! Too bad to me the song itself is weak and unremarkable. It’s fine I guess, I would be an ironic stan if this won.”
Total points: 21.5 points (Average = 5.375)
Coma_Cose – “L’addio”
David – 2 – “A lovely duet, but is it now? I’m not quite sure what to think here, since it feels more like they are focused on each other, and not so much trying to include the viewer and it also feels like most of the song, the two singers are separated lyrically, rather than singing together. I just don’t have much to think about here.”
James – 6.5 – “Considering the drama usually associated with Italian romantic ballads, this one is a very low-key indie affair. For a culture with visceral romantic poetry, the amount of “maybes” and “possibilities” noted in the lyrics is startling. And their stage outfits should be tossed in the fire, with the guy looking like he stole one of Jon Taffer’s checkered print suits. However, Taffer’s “bar science” suggests that if plied with enough alcohol and situated in a romantic meet point, this song could inspire romance in strangers in Liverpool.”
Roy – 5.5 – “One of the more surprising frontrunners of this year. I get that it is a cute performance and the lyrics are quite nice, but in the end the song left me very cold and I didn’t feel like I desperately needed to see it again. It is just a tad underwhelming to me in a lineup that is quite good. It is cute, but that’s about it for me..”
Tyler – 6.5 – “Bonus points for having some idea of a staging concept with the acting in the performance, the song itself is pretty mild but kinda nice! “L’addio” is nice to listen to, but doesn’t really go over the top with the performance. Music is good, singing is fine, it’s just a pleasant performance!”
Total Points: 20.5 points (Average = 5.125)
I Cugini di Campagna – “Lettera 22”
David – 6 – “This is probably the perfect example, of the saying “that music is timeless”. This is a modernized version of something that probably could’ve been played back in the days. Visually very old school with some maybe 70’s vibes, but still enjoyable here 5 decades later, vocally also very strong. Overall, I like it, but nothing I would regularly listen to.”
James – 7 – “Back to the ’70s for an Italian blend of disco and soft rock with this love song and excessive use of sequins. It takes a little while to get going, but like the writer of said Letter No. 22, they get to the point at the chorus. And it’s a catchy one.”
Roy – 7 – “Yes these guys are a bit older than the rest, but on night one they were having the most fun of them all. It took a bit of time to get going, but once we got to the first chorus, it really popped off in a nice way. It is very catchy, they sing it well and even their dance moves are very fitting and work well towards the overall project. It shouldn’t win, but it is a very fun song to have in the lineup.”
Tyler – 6.5 – “I’m scoring this group this high before I love the 70s aesthetic and it would be so fun to see them perform on the Eurovision stage in Liverpool despite getting killed by the juries and the televote. I like the music in this, but mostly when it gets to the chorus, as I don’t find the verses all that interesting. HOWEVER, this group seems fun, so I like them anyway!”
Total: 26.5 points (Average = 6.625)
Elodie – “Due”
Elodie – 4 – “A more modern and powerful song from Elodie, I do like that, but still far away from being of any interest to me. It has sound and some vibe to it, she sings well, and yet there’s nothing that really pulls me in to enjoy the song, it’s decent and all, but more than that… not really.”
James – 9 – “I am not sure how Elodie has not already gone to Eurovision and is not a bigger star. She is a spiritual successor to Sade in many ways. She is charismatic, a great performer, a great singer, and here she turns in another great modern Italian pop classic. Perhaps she was born too late, a performer who belongs to another time and place. Or maybe the stars will align for her later (though Andromeda didn’t two years ago despite charting in Italy and being a sensation pretty much everywhere but Sanremo). Anyway, in short, to prevent this from devolving into a free form ramble any more, “Due” is great, and Elodie is due an appearance on the Eurovision stage.”
Roy – 6.5 – “This is another song from Elodie with some disco influences. It is yet again very enjoyable and Elodie is a very charismatic performer who demands your attention. This time however, her song is a lot less catchy than her previous attempts. It takes a little longer to get into and for Eurovision this might not be the best idea.”
Tyler – 7.5 – “An entry that I think has ESC potential! The costuming, whatever little staging they have, shows to me that there is a vague staging concept for “Due”, which is a good thing! The song sounds more modern than the other songs in the selection to me, but I didn’t like this entry as much as her previous attempt, “Andromeda”. Elodie gives a great performance, and she might do well on an even bigger stage.”
Total points: 27 points (Average = 6.75)
Gianluca Grignani – “Quando ti manca il fiato”
David – 1 – “Zero structure, whatsoever! Lyrically and vocally, it’s just literally all over the song and no proper construction to it. No hook, nothing that makes it easy to remember, poor vocal performance. It’s an absolute mess! While the music… is lovely composed, but absolutely wasted!”
James – 4 – “Not sure what went wrong with the live version. The intense anger and resentment held against his father is not evident live, like all that pent up rage was replaced by discomfort from eating a mildly disagreeable vindaloo. The live guitar also did not sound right, with some almost Michael Amott-esque dive bombs clumsily seeing out the song. The orchestra normally does a bang up job arranging a diverse sounding array of artists, but this one was a huge misfire. A pity, because the song is the opportunity for a song to unload on a father who messed up, and unload he must before the father passes away and he doesn’t have the opportunity again.”
Roy – 4.5 – “Gianluca put his heart into this song, but unfortunately it is not a very cohesive piece. It doesn’t really go anywhere even though it has cool moment with electrical guitar and some vocal showcase. Overall it feels a bit too random and messy.”
Tyler – 4 – “If I’m only judging this song based on the orchestra, then I’d rate this song moderately highly, despite not liking the fact that the song crescendos for so long and dies to make the end sound weaker. There is no singing, and if there was, then I don’t find it remarkable.”
Total points: 13.5 points (Average = 3.375)
Nine songs in, how are the Sanremo contestants faring with our panel of not-at-all-esteemed reviewers?
1.) Colapesce & Dimartino – “Splash” – 28 points (Average = 7.00)
2.) Elodie – “Due” – 27 points (Average = 6.75)
3.) I Cugini di Campagna – “Lettera 22” – 26.5 points (Average = 6.625)
4.) Articolo 31 – “Un bel viaggio” – 23.5 points (Average = 5.875)
5.) Colla Zio – “Non mi va” – 21.5 points (Average = 5.375)
6.) Coma_Cose – “L’addio” – 20.5 points (Average = 5.125)
7.) Anna Oxa – “Sali (Canto dell’anima)” – 19 points (Average = 4.75)
8.) Ariete – “Mare di guai” – 17.5 points (Average = 4.375)
9.) Gianluca Grignani – “Quando ti manca il fiato” – 13.5 points (Average = 3.375)
Colapesce & Dimartino lead our rankings, with Elodie and, surprisingly, Cugini di Campagna coming in just behind them. We shall see how these rankings hold as we soon review our next batch of
Who do #YOU want to win Sanremo 2023 and represent Italy at Eurovision 2023 in Liverpool? Let us know in the comments below, on social media, or in our forum or Discord.
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