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.

Italy is dominating our culture right now. Everyone wants to go to Sicily because of White Lotus Season 2, where Christopher Moltisanti, Antonio Salieri, April Ludgate and Stiffler’s Mom had a grand old tour.

Whether it’s the food, the wine, the people, the sea, or the people of the sea, Italy has a grip on the public consciousness, and with the Sanremo Music Festival 2023 in full force, they’re not letting go.

(As a side note, anyone want to speculate if Murray Bartlett’s taking a dump in a suitcase in White Lotus Season 1, set in Hawaii, is a metaphor for the relative failure of The American Song Contest?)

With four days of Sanremo 2023 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).

We have already reviewed and ranked the first nine, and 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 second nine (please note, where applicable, studio versions will be posted due to RAI typically removing live performances as soon as Sanremo is concluded). See the rankings below to see how the 18 songs reviewed thus far stack up.

Gianmaria – “Mostro”

David – 3 – “When the song is titled “Monster”, you somehow get the idea of what the song is going for, and especially when you see it performed. Something that has been done so often as well by now, it’s nothing new and it just struggles to capture my attention properly. I do like the effort that was put in here, but there’s not much more than that.”

James – 8.5 – “Gianmaria is a young promising performer who is not yet ready for prime time, but once he sorts out his monsters could be a force to be reckoned with. He gets a lot of small details wrong, but somehow they combine in the aggregate to be right. He’s about 20 lbs too light to dress like the English Romantic poet that he does, he’s got a cocky demeanor but still goes for emo, he licks his lips constantly live (is he related to Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’s notorious Diane Jenkins?), he kind of looks like car YouTuber Tyler Hoover, his movement is akin to a newborn giraffe… and yet I think he is the Sanremo young ‘un with the most potential? “Mostro” is a great launchpad, but watch this space. All you doubters will be Renfelds to his Dracula once he gets his career going.”

Roy – 7 – “Another great talent in the lineup, this year is full of them! GianMaria delivers the song really well with a lot of enthusiasm and good vocals. I wish the chorus and the beat packed more of a punch though. It is just a tad lacklustre in such a stacked line-up of songs..”

Tyler – 4 – ““Mostro” is solidly in the Not For Me camp, as while I like how it’s modern and not using the orchestra, you’re left with a performance as if he’s just drunk on stage with his staggering. Gianmaria works for a demographic that I’m not in, so perhaps he’s good actually! But eh. I thought the performance was too much of a mess for me to consider the actual song, which is mildly good!”

Total points: 22.5 points (Average = 5.625)

Giorgia – “Parole dette male”

David – 3 – “A spectacle of a song AND voice! This is a musical showcase, which I absolute can respect and acknowledge… but, it doesn’t capture me. I’m not feeling this big feeling songs, absolutely lovely voice, but if I personally can’t connect with it, then it doesn’t really mean much in the end.”

James – 9 – “Reminds me of an R’n’b theme song to an early ’90s erotic thriller starring someone like Madeleine Stowe and Don Johnson. It’s simple, elegant, minimal, and allows Giorgia the diva to shine. The lyrics are a story, a series of memories that the protagonist is trying to exorcise. Giorgia is also a queen who’s a little rough around the edges, and most importantly for the Eurovision crowd, relatable. Her dancing is awkward, her outfit at Sanremo was a little shoddy, but I guarantee she may be a surprise Eurovision contender with a bit of polish as this song seriously relieves a nostalgia itch for the Gen X crowd and older.”

Roy – 5.5 – “Giorgia has a great voice and it far outshines the minimal production of the song. She deserves a song that truly enhances her voice and makes it stand out among the rest.”

Tyler – 5.5 – “I thought this was a cute song! Giorgia’s performance and vocals were nice, but not super good to wow me. The song feels a bit outdated at the start, as if it’s from the 90s with the Casio keyboard. It’s still pleasant though and not awful to listen to, but doesn’t break new ground for me.”

Total Points: 23 points (Average = 5.75)

Lazza – “Cenere”

David – 5 – “This is really out of the box and something different, enjoyable energy and effort and overall a great chorus which has a rather easy hook to it. Versus are a bit all over the place, but Lazza saves it a lot with his effort and delivery, maybe a bit too techno for me, but I like the creativity the song brings.”

James – 5 – “The usage of the vocal sample is grating and irritating. If he can figure a way around that, it will make a huge improvement (and then there’s rights issues with the EBU to contend with). Lazza is another young prospect to keep an eye on, and he seems like a nice lad, but this entry is a little too clunky to be a viable option for Liverpool.”

Roy – 7.5 – “Lazza surprised me with how solid his live delivery of this song was! I was captivated by the performance, but as of today I am a bit unsure about the usage of the decently known sample. It hinders me from fully getting into the song. I also wish the chorus packed a bit more of a punch since I do think the lyrics and delivery deserve an epic production and a banger of a song. Right now, I am just left feeling like there was more left in the tank.”

Tyler – 7.5 – “The biggest thing about “Cenere” is how modern the music sounds, and it’s unlike the rest of the orchestral vibes the other Sanremo songs have. The song stands out for that reason, and that’s a good thing! I quite like the song and think with good staging this would do well, but I also don’t get a good idea of Lazza’s vocals here. Easily gets lost in the shuffle, which isn’t the best quality to have for a big live performance. I still enjoyed this entry though!”

Total Points: 25 points (Average = 6.25)

LDA – “Se poi domani”

David – 4 – “Top notch performance, just to see vocalist being completely into the music and the song, it all blends perfectly, vocally and musically. Despite being a touching ballad style song, it still has an effect. What’s unfortunate, is that I end up struggling paying complete attention and end up having forgotten it all at the end.”

James – 5 – “There’s a couple technical issues in both live and studio versions that distract. He has a gasping for air intake that is very distracting. It’s as prominent on the studio version so I am not sure why the producers thought he should sound winded. Anyway, I focus on that because the rest of the song is not that interesting. It’s a romantic ballad that he could sing to any woman without changing a single lyric.”

Roy – 7 – “Initially I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this song or not since LDA has quite a breathy vocal technique that is a bit distracting in the beginning of the song. This is a very solid song that we see often appear in Sanremo. It doesn’t break any moulds, but it is a good execution of the concept. It is not the most unique piece, but I would probably put it on a few more times.”

Tyler – 4.5 – “The song is okay! The performance was good, but it also seemed like something was going wrong in that performance too and it rattled LDA a bit. His vocals were fine, the orchestra was fine, and the song was just okay. I liked LDA’s outfit! … Yeah, right after watching this performance, I’m starting to think this is just average, sorry.”

Total Points: 20.5 points (Average = 5.125)

Leo Gassmann – “Terzo cuore”

David – 6 – “I remember Leo from when he won the Newcomer section a few years back, and I’m quite happy to see him finally take part in the actual festival with a song that he lives up to, which he empowers with his vocal performance and something that he seems quite well connected with. The song is quite enjoyable in itself, all he’s missing is a song that sparks more out, all my credit to this young artist.”

James – 6 – “If anyone could tell what the “third heart” metaphor is all about, that would be greatly appreciated. Is it like an Italo Calvino or Nikolai Gogol surrealist thing, where dissatisfied with his owner’s body the heart buggers off and is more successful in love? Anyway, the song is bang average otherwise.”

Roy – 6.5 – “The song sounds a lot better than some of the other male ballads. I also needed to get used to the whispering in the beginning of the song as well. It does make for a nice contrast towards the chorus even if his vocals might not shine the most of all participants. If he can polish up on those, he might be able to impress a bit more. In the end his vocals and the song aren’t just strong enough to really make waves in Sanremo this year.”

Tyler – 5 – “An upbeat performance, so it’s at least memorable with him bouncing around the stage, but the song doesn’t do anything for me. Leo is being charming I guess with the camera, and that’s about it, and if Europe votes for Leo just because he made out with a camera, then that’s just sad!”

Total points: 23.5 points (Average = 5.875)

Levante – “Vivo”

David – 5 – “A bit uncertain vocally, but none than less, still a powerful effort from Levante. It’s a bit difficult to figure out, whether the vocalist is in charge or the music. Since the song is not exactly full power, still rather calm and energetic, so it feels vocally and musically, that the song is not quite in sync. The song might need a bit more power then, but it has a nice catchy beat.”

James – 10 – “”I live a wet dream!” Indeed. Levante may be a terrible Alfa Romeo SUV, but she is the sexual icon that Liverpool needs in 2023. 35 years ago Hellraiser was filmed in Liverpool, and Levante is the only artist to come close to satiating the bloodlust of Clive Barker’s home city. The lyrics are practically incantations from the movie. She wore the leather during her Sanremo performance, and now we just need some chains. In fact, right now you could play Hellraiser or Levante as a trivia game? Check it: does this quote belong to the film or the song? “Every Drop of Blood you spill Puts More Flesh on my Bones.””

Roy – 4.5 – “Look, I am totally not a fan of Levante’s song. This song is very well orchestrated and if I look past her voice, I think I really enjoy what I am hearing. Her voice is just not working at all for me. If a different singer sang this song it would be further up the ranks for me. It’s just a personal taste.”

Tyler – 8 – “I really really need to see what “Vivo” looks like on a big stage not surrounded by instruments, because I feel like this song could be a BANGER. Levante is giving it her all onstage, and it’s a pretty good song that I think could work especially well on the ESC stage. One of my favorites for Sanremo for sure. Queen Levante!”

Total Points: 27.5 points (Average = 6.875)

Madame – “Il bene ne male”

David – 8 – “A slow start, so I’m expecting the least, it doesn’t hold back however, and goes up-tempo very fast, and Madame present’s the song, in such a powerful and attention grabbing way, along with the music. The composition goes so well with her voice, making the entire composition absolutely great!”

James – 9 – “No-one does the hyperbolic romance and break-up like the Italians. The trick to this song is you think you’re getting a chill synthpop and then Madame launches into an emotional hurricane letting it be known quite clearly how her lover let her down and that the vicious fights are up there in energy with the passion in the bedroom. It’s a fine tightrope Madame is walking, but she nails the performance (perhaps sometimes a little too closely as she appears close to falling down because of her manic exhortations).”

Roy – 8 – “This song has been stuck in my head ever since it was performed in night 2. It is incredibly catchy and I don’t think it goes too far into becoming annoying. What I do continue to find annoying is the fact that Madame uses quite a hefty amount of autotune while she probably doesn’t even need it. I know it is also a stylistic choice, but to translate that into a Eurovision song would be a bit difficult. I really enjoy this song and I wouldn’t be mad if Italy chose this one at all!”

Tyler – 8 – “I thought this was pretty good! The orchestra gives this dance track some extra layers to it (the violins are lovely here) that enhance the performance, and Madame sounds quite good here! There doesn’t seem to be a clear staging concept here other than lights, but this could be a good choice for Italy.”

Total Points: 33 points (Average = 8.25)

Mara Sattei – “Duemilaminuti”

David – 3 – “This feels like the grand and fabulous song, and yet… it’s very simple. Mara has a lovely voice and great stage presence, but something just feels incomplete about this overall. I’m simply just not feeling anything, despite this is the kind of song, that tries to give me that feeling.”

James – 7.5 – “And I would wait two thousand minutes, and I would wait two thousand more, just to be the woman who would wait four thousand minutes for you to steal her voice… Da da da (da da da) Da da da (da da da) Da Da Da Dun Diddle Un Diddle Un Diddle Uh Da Da”

Roy – 8 – “Out of all the ballads this year, this song stands out the most to me. It is well delivered, well-orchestrated and Mara’s vocals bring the whole performance to a satisfying conclusion. Mara delivers the song with a lot of dedication and conviction as well. It’s a pleasant listen and I don’t think I would change much about the song if I had the power to do so.”

Tyler – 5.5 – “I mildly liked this entry! I thought Mara did a good job with the vocals and keeping up with the orchestra, and with staging, I could see this getting some votes. There isn’t a big moment where the song comes together for me and makes me super wowed by it, so something to work on as well.”

Total Points: 24 points (Average = 6.00)

Marco Mengoni – “Due vite”

David – 4 – “Marco just shows how powerful and in control of his voice he has. Giving the song that strong and emotional touch, which many really can’t. It’s crazy how he can elevate a rather slow and dull sounding song. Musically, there isn’t much that I pay attention to, so that’s where the song loses me.”

James – 9.5 – “When we typically got crooners in national selections recently they were usually too old or too young or too scuzzy (how many crooners who smuggle contraband VCRs in the 2010s in a 1987 BMW 318i could we possibly need but were supplied anyway?). Marco is a crooner in the Goldilocks zone of being the right man at the right time and Italy should strike right now. Yes, he faces the Il Volo risk of having a televote skewing elderly, but the 40+ crowd is primed to strike back and anoint a Eurovision victor sooner or later.”

Roy – 6.5 – “Yes, the Italian lyrics are great, but if you put that on a Eurovision stage, people who don’t speak Italian won’t really know about that. What is left then is the sound of the song, the delivery and the production of the song. The delivery is great, as you could expect from Marco Mengoni. The production of the song leaves a bit to be desired though.”

Tyler – 6 – “This was fine, good orchestration, and at least the singing was memorable, good job, Marco! A bit too high of a register for me to completely enjoy, and I didn’t care for the screeching, but it was in fact, A Moment, so it sticks out at least. Marco has a charm to him that could get televotes his way, so wouldn’t be surprised if “Due vite” is a contender for the Sanremo crown.”

Total points: 26 points (Average = 6.50) 

*

So after our second batch of reviews, Madame takes the lead with “Il bene ne male” and an exceptional average of 8.25 points across four reviewers. Unusually we don’t have too many 7+ average scores, and though it would be easy to blame David for his low scoring antics, will the remaining ten artists contain a challenger to Madame or someone else in the 7+ range? Find out in a few hours when we release Part Three.

1.) Madame – “Il bene ne male” – 33 points (Average = 8.25)

2.) Colapesce & Dimartino – “Splash” – 28 points (Average = 7.00)

3.) Levante – “Vivo” – 27.5 points (Average = 6.875)

4.) Elodie – “Due” – 27 points (Average = 6.75)

5.) I Cugini di Campagna – “Lettera 22” – 26.5 points (Average = 6.625)

6.) Marco Mengoni – “Due vite” – 26 points (Average = 6.50)

7.) Lazza – “Cenere” – 25 points (Average = 6.25)

8.) Mara Sattei – “Duemilaminuti” – 24 points (Average = 6.00)

9.) Articolo 31 – “Un bel viaggio” – 23.5 points (Average = 5.875)

== Leo Gassmann – “Terzo cuore” 23.5 points (Average = 5.875)

11.) Giorgia – “Parole dette male” – 23 points (Average = 5.75)

12.) Gianmaria – “Mostro” – 22.5 points (Average = 5.625)

13.) Colla Zio – “Non mi va” – 21.5 points (Average = 5.375)

14.) Coma_Cose – “L’addio” – 20.5 points (Average = 5.125)

== LDA – “Se poi domani” – 20.5 points (Average = 5.125)

16.) Anna Oxa – “Sali (Canto dell’anima)” – 19 points (Average = 4.75)

17.) Ariete – “Mare di guai” – 17.5 points (Average = 4.375)

18.) Gianluca Grignani – “Quando ti manca il fiato” – 13.5 points (Average = 3.375)

 

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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