The below review features the opinions and views of the individual author and do not necessarily represent the views of #escYOUnited as a whole, Eurovision, San Remo Music Festival, or the EBU.

Italy began its hallowed Sanremo Music Festival on Tuesday evening, with 26 acts competing to take home the Sanremo crown and hold the first option on appearing on Italy’s behalf at Eurovision 2021.

However, what did our team at ESC United think of this year’s batch of Sanremo hopefuls? We assembled ESC United Editor-in-Chief Sean Tarbuck, our Instagram account manager and writer Melanie Otto, our Dutch correspondent and YouTube channel contributor Roy Postema, and USA-based writers James Maude and Daniel Montoya.

In order of reveal from Day One, this is what our team thought of Sanremo’s entries:

Arisa – “Potevi fare di più” (“You Could Have Done More”)

Daniel – 9 – “This song begins with a rose in hand, no, literally. It is a song delivered with power and voice and style. I love the build because it really begins low and gradually grows into this moment. And the emotions, like you can just feel how she feels because that is how talented she is in transmuting those emotions to the listener. Okay let me get back to that build, it really is something else. I absolutely loved hearing this song and seeing it grow into what it did.”

James – 9 – “A lesson for anyone who is emotionally absent dating an Italian – don’t piss them off, because you will get one hell of a rollicking. Holy Christ does Arisa let loose on her drip of an ex in the chorus. I will always have a soft spot for Sanremo’s 2014 winner Arisa considering Italy decided before Sanremo that they were going to go internal that year, but she is a fantastic talent and has once again delivered a powerhouse Italian ballad.”

Melanie – 7.5 – “It sounds very honest. Like she really is telling us a very emotional story that came straight out her heart. Didn’t like the rose gimmick though. That was just a weird idea. But I have the feeling that the song means a lot to her. I just wished that I actually would understand Italian, because I really want to listen to her story. Great emotional performance from Arisa.”

Roy – 5.5 – “Look, Arisa has Phe-no-me-nal vocals. Out of this world amazing. But the entire backing track does close to nothing to enhance it, make it epic or make it stand out even more. I just think that is super unfortunate and at that point you are kind of just judging her on the voice while we are judging the songs… I just really wish she comes back sometime soon with a song that makes everyone’s jaws drop to the floor, she is very capable of that!”

Sean – 7 – “Hmm. This is an interesting one. I liked the hushed tones of the intro verse and kinda wish this was the same throughout, but this has a unique way of building through the song. I’m the kind of guy who often needs a thudding beat to really drive a song like this though, and the lack of one is really noticeable to me. Nevertheless, this has real class and is dripping in emotion, like all good Italian ballads have to be.”

Total: 38 points (Average = 7.6)

Colapesce & Dimartino – “Musica leggerissima” (“Very Light Music”)

Daniel – 6 – “I am into the styling, well at least the pastel suits. I think that my one qualm with this song is that it sounds to lot of the Italian pop from the late 90’s and early 00’s. It just seems a bit passe, it does have some interesting bits, particularly in the transitions into the chorus, but other than those moments, it seems a bit simple for my liking. I do appreciate the lyrics and the creativity. Also appreciate the roller blader but it felt more like lets add something fun, you know.”

James – 8 – “It’s tempting fate to name your song “Very Light Music,” but as a metaphor it works. If I understand this retro ‘70s acoustic soft rock right, it speaks to using fluffy music to ignore and remain indifferent to the issues in the world (that’s what I took from the urgent shouting at the bridge). And if it’s not what these guys in pastel colored suits are singing about, we still have a pleasant yacht rock track that is, as the lyrics say, “allegre ma non troppo” (“cheerful, but not too much”).”

Melanie – 7 – “Voices sounds really perfect together. It’s even has a soothing quality. Musica leggerissima is a pleasant song that has a mellow beat. It even kinda feels retro to me. The girl on the rollerblades confirmed this feeling to me. Pleasant song to listen to on a Sunday.”

Roy – 5 – “These guys’ voices fit so well together and I actually think the song is quite cute and they make for a nice watch as well. I can totally picture myself listening to this on a spring evening on a random walk outside. In such a big music competition though, it is a tad on the underwhelming side of things. I do really enjoy the super random addition of the rollerskate girl. I don’t know, it is a lovely vibe and an enjoyable listen, but it doesn’t really go many places for me.”

Sean – 8.5 – “Oooooooft. Effortlessly cool indie pop in Italian, I’m sold. The production is a little lo-fi but this adds to the charm and this feels like the mid-10s indie I was enamoured with at the time (and still love!) I’m not sure how they’d shorten this without losing any of the journey for Eurovision but if it were to get there in the first place I’d be overjoyed to see a proper quality indie track like this in the contest.”

Total: 34.5 points (Average = 6.9)

Aiello – “Ora” (“Now”)

Daniel – 5 – “The song is immediately captivating and also intrigues you with the dynamic to slow-pace. Then his very particular brand of his voice also makes this such an interesting combo. I am not sure though how I feel about its tone, it seems a bit in conflict of the music which is impressive because the background music is pretty potent and dynamic. I am not sure if cacophonous is the word, but it is very loud at times. I do not know I was left a bit confused more than anything, maybe it is too high art for my simple ears.”

James – 7 – “Would this be the first Eurovision entry with “sex and ibuprofen” in the lyrics on the very off chance “Ora” makes it? Anyway, am I only who is not exactly enamored with his passionate shouting? I do appreciate passionate choruses in classic Italian ballads, but Aiello’s seems to go off the rails somewhat, especially live, like he’s my grandfather shouting that his favorite horse came in dead last at the races. I get he’s supposed to be angry at an ex. We want passion, but not to the point where you feel you may have to call the cops to break up the altercation.”

Melanie – 3 – “Epic intro, that sadly falls quickly dull due some Ora’s from Aiello. The song tries to be very big, but it feels very empty. Like a house without furniture or people who live in it. The beat is great of the song, but Aiello isn’t delivering it. The shouting parts aren’t make it even greater. This is just not my cup of tea.”

Roy – 5.5 – “I am really digging the odd structure of this song and how he puts so much passion in his voice and performance. At some point he is just screaming at me and I am kind of really loving it! It just sucks that the song and backing track is lacking so much compared to his voice. I really hope he comes back with an even better piece, because I see a whole lot of potential here!”

Sean – 9 – “This is BIG production! What a great, passionate package Aiello gives us here – I love the rolling, grandiose production of this track and the roaring vocals. Sanremo has had some great, modern rap tracks and “Ora” combines their vibe with a pop vibe to create a very, very solid entry indeed.”

Total: 29.5 points (Average = 5.9)

Francesca Michielin & Fedez – “Chiamame per nome” (“Call me by my name”)

Daniel – 7.5 – “I am confused by the staging chemistry, but that is secondary to the great harmonies that they produce. I think this song adds a very contemporary sound with the more traditional pop composition to make this an exceedingly entry. I do think that there are elements that are a bit repetitive and some of the camera angles are, um interesting. But as a song entry, there is a reason that they are among the entries to look out for. I think this is a very solid song all around.”

James – 7.5 – “Props to Fedez for not only rapping but also singing alongside Francesca. This could have gone horribly wrong, but they surprisingly harmonize very well. Straddling a classical Italian duet and hip hop can be dangerous, but neither side is done a disservice, even if they could do with less vocal effects for Fedez. Francesca and Fedez also have great charisma, with her seeming to have a calm, reassuring effect on him after some early nerves from Fedez.”

Melanie – 8 – “I think from all the songs in this line-up, this one has the biggest chance to be a hit abroad. The song is radio-friendly and I see this already topping the charts in other countries. The performance reminds me of Hanna Ferm & Liamoo performance of Hold Youat Melodifestivalen 2019. I just only hope to see more chemistry between Francesca and Fedez. Now I still have the feeling I’m watching to two independent performers who just doing their own thing.”

Roy – 5 – “I think Francesca is amazing in this. She shows us yet again how amazing her voice is and I even enjoy the duet format until after the first chorus. Then… We get Fedez and I don’t think I wanted to see so much autotune in this otherwise quite cute ballad. In a way we also miss a moment that this song could have really used. An interesting experiment, but I’m afraid it hasn’t fully worked for me.”

Sean – 8 – “Well, this is quite something isn’t it? Francesca has come of age as an artist and her vocals with Fedez blend seamlessly. The mix of rapping and singing is not as jarring as you’d expect and this has a really rich production, perfect for headphones. It gets a little repetitive towards the end and it may not translate as well for international viewers as some other entries but this is a strong entry regardless!”

Total: 36 points (Average = 7.2)

Max Gazzè & Trifluoperazina Monstery Band – “Il Farmacista”

Daniel – 7 – “I feel like this song began with a cameo of Scooby-Doo and then surely has this video game soundtrack quality to it. I can say that they bring an interesting and mystical perspective to the competition. It is a bit all over the place in a great way, there are like 70’s disco with retro 90’s computer synth and a Rasputin costume (later I find out it is Da Vinci) to bring it all together. It is kitsch but you know what I can appreciate it when the song is fun but still made with quality as you would expect from a San Remo song.”

James – 9 – “Was a mellotron used in this madness? This sounds like one of those psychedelic sci-fi prog rock bands that the Midlands used to churn out in large amounts during the 1970s. RAI will never in a million years send this to Eurovision 2021, but I love quirky entries like this, especially retro ones that channel relatively obscure sub-genres. Gazze sells his mad professor (I especially love the cloak with “Da Vince 11” on it) and the bonkers story going on. An ideal for me would be synth driven prog rock of the sort that feature in Dario Argento movies (the many iterations of Goblin), but Gazze comes damn close with this humorous entry.”

Melanie – 8.5 – “When Max came on stage, I laughed really hard and I was like “Is this wizard really a perfomer?” Then the music starts and he completely blow me away. This song is amazing It’s very playful and weird in a good way. I think he has to be psychic, because this song is already stuck in my head. Love to see more from Max Gazze.”

Roy – 4.5 – I really like the character that is Max Gazzè. The song is also very interesting and the most memorable part of it all is when the backing singers shout and the lightning strikes. For the rest, I am not the biggest fan of the backing track. It is an interesting idea, but I overall wish that it led to a more epic chorus or moment within the song. It is fine as is, but there just isn’t that moment to make it truly special for me.”

Sean – 5.5 – “I… don’t really know how to categorise this one. Some of the instrumentation is pleasant and the whole package is a tidy and light pop song with the slightest hint of synths and electronics. There is a build towards a pay-off of sorts, but there aren’t many high moments to speak of – any moments that make you go “wow!”. It’s a nice song to listen to but I’m not really feeling much more for it.”

Total: 34.5 points (Average = 6.9)

Noemi – “Glicine” (“Wisteria”)

Daniel – 7 – “This is one of those San Remo specialties, spoken word power ballads that are full of attitude and power. I think for what this song, it is very capable and strong. It most certainly is made of quality, it is a bit traditional in format and delivery which makes me yearn for something to really take it to the next level. It does have a very potent build and her vocals are incredible.”

James – 8.5 – “Noemi has such a distinctive voice for a woman under 40, and she certainly stands out with her signature powerful and gravelly voice. We rarely get vocalists like this at Eurovision, and Noemi’s a charismatic vocalist who could garner quite the following. In a selection full of Italian ballads, Noemi’s is one of the more distinctive with a powerful chorus. And lyrically, of the break-up songs, this is one of the more empowering one as she makes it clear the pain she feels from her ex is diminishing as she looks back at it in the rearview mirror.”

Melanie – 6.5 – “Nice piano intro. Lovely raspy voice. Somehow, she reminds me of Anouk (Dutch representative in 2013) the way she stands behind her mic and how she sings her song. I just wished that her song was stronger. It’s just sounds like a traditional Italian song and nothing really special. Great perfomer, underwhelming song.”

Roy – 6.5 – “This song is very pleasant to listen to. The beat progresses and works quite well with her voice. On night 1 she was a little bit swallowed my the instrumentations and orchestra, but on her second time out she was more confident and her mic seemed to be turned up more than before. Her voice is obviously one of the biggest selling points of the song. The little rasp on her voice is lovely and works wonders for me. A very decent effort, it just misses a moment and is a tad underwhelming to be winner material”

Sean – 6.5 – “Noemi has offered up a celestial feeling ballad in “Glicine” which has all the hallmarks of classic Italian ballads from over the years. This certainly feels like a bit of a throwback, albeit with a more modern production to get to this result, and I’m feeling like there’s going to be a lot of people who like this. Not really to my taste but a song I can appreciate for its qualities.”

Total: 35 points (Average = 7.0)

Madame – “Voce” (“Voice”)

Daniel – 8.5 – “What a contemporary song, it is bringing something new while having mainstream elements like the musical composition. It is a song built on drama and a strong bass and it makes it carry so well. I think that it transitions well and has some of the most impactful lyrics of the night. It is a bit verbose which make it hard for a Eurovision crowd, but it is quite powerful for the San Remo folks. It is great because it gives you a little bit of everything in such a nice and balanced manner that you feel like you get a holistic experience.”

James – 7 – “This trap song will be a divisive entry. Negatives first, her stage outfit makes Madame look like a barefoot Michael Jackson impersonator wrapped in tin foil. And compared to some of her older rivals, she does not appear as confident on stage, hiding her eyes on occasion behind her curly locks. She’s frantic in her performance but should not allow nervous energy to let her down. That being said, she deserves kudos for bringing a dose of the modern in trap to Sanremo. I have largely excoriated Italian rap and hip hop in the past for being outright terrible (not as bad as Russian rap, but still), but Madame is a raw and dynamic new voice (well, when she does it sans autotune anyway). I hope to see a more seasoned Madame in future San Remos.”

Melanie – 9 – “Can we please fire the one who decide to dress Madame as a big disco ball? Very distracting from her performance. Now coming back to the song, I really like this one. The build is really great and her voice sound great in it. Just that goddamn weird sounding autotune is killing the live performance.  And can we talk about that instrumental break? It really can be a moment if they stage it perfectly. A great emotional performance from Madame.”

Roy – 6.5 – “Look, night 1 I wasn’t a massive fan of the song and performance at all. The autotune was turned up way too much. She proved during cover’s night that she didn’t even need autotune at all and for her second performance of the song she toned the autotune on her mic down massively. A massive improvement for me! It is a really cool modern piece, I just wish it went somewhere more interesting. She has shown a huge amount of potential this year though and I can’t wait to find out what she come out with if she comes back in the future!”

Sean – 6.5 – “The dark mood in this one is enjoyable, and there’s some really good usage of synths, although I have to say I’m not quite feeling this one. It feels a little like style over substance to me (not taking lyrics into account). It’s certainly a decent song and would likely be a standout in some other selections but I feel this gets washed out a little in this field of entries.”

Total: 37.5 points (Average = 7.5)

Måneskin – “Zitti I buoni” (“Shut up and good”)

Daniel 7 – “This song is great because it adds variety to the competition. It is a bit to rocky in a way that is more serious than a Lordi per se, but this song as incredible merits. Probably one of the best stagings and arguably the best styling. It also such a mainstream-ness that despite its screamo vibes, it is still very palpable to the ear and to a standard viewer. If anything I can say, this song is one of a lively performance. It is not my cup of tea but I respect it.”

James – 9.5 – “I did not expect some alternative rock with some Southern rock touches supported by a full string section at Sanremo. But here we are. Måneskin gave an intense performance, even if I worry some impact may be lost if the band has to trim off thirty seconds for Eurovision, particularly towards the end where you just rock out with your horns out. I can see a lot of televote potential, though juries may be too conservative. “Zitti I buoni” has a great main riff, an explosive chorus and a charismatic rock frontman, and if they win Sanremo, it would be a shame that they can’t play under Scenario A in front of a full house at the Ahoy as this band is the type that comes alive in a live setting.”

Melanie – 8.5 – “Never underestimate a little bit rock in your life. This is a great song and something completely different from what we already heard in this year’s San Remo line-up. I’m totally digging the glamrock look of the lead singer. Why aren’t there more men that wears stuff like that! I would go nuts if this will win San Remo this year, but wouldn’t mind it at all!”

Roy – 9 – “This is the type of music that I like to listen to in my spare time. The lead singer Damiano has near on flawless vocals and leans towards the Rap side of the singing spectrum. The guitars roar loud and proud and fit perfectly well with his vocal tone. You can hear and feel how passionate he is and how much emotion he puts into his vocals. It works very well for me. My only slight issue is that I wish the instrumentals had a tad bit more differentiation throughout the entire tune, but they absolutely steal the show for me!”

Sean – 7.5 – “Have seen a lot of hype online for this song already, and I can kinda see why. It would be a novel change for Italy to go down the rock route and this has a Tom Grennan meets Royal Blood meets Pale Waves feel to it. Damiano David is at his rasping best vocally and some of the guitar licks are guttural and heavy enough to impress.  I feel this would be quite memorable at the contest, but I do have to say I think there are better options in this year’s festival.”

Total: 41.5 points (Average = 8.3)

Ghemon – “Momento Perfetto” (“Perfect time”)

Daniel – 6.5 – “This is an interesting jazz, funk with some white boy swag. I much prefer the feel good soul vibes of the chorus then the pretty bouncy verses. I appreciate its inclusion for giving a very different musical rhythm to the stage. I do think the constant bouncy makes it a little distracting. The musicality is most certainly the strong suit of this song, I cannot deny that the instruments really had me vibing throughout the song.”

James – 8.5 – “Ghemon’s style reminds me somewhat of Frank Ocean, particularly “Super Rich Kids.” As with Madame, Ghemon is out to prove that Italian takes on American hip hop and rap need not be cringe. Indeed, “Momento Perfetto” is quite good, and as with Ocean’s “Super Rich Kids” would work on the “Big Little Lies” soundtrack. The outro with the strings, piano, horns and the backing gospel singers are a treat.”

Melanie – 5 – “Well, this is okayish. I really love the saxophone part in the song. It really uplift the song and give it a little big of a “Big City” vibe.  I’m just not completely sold after watching this performance. Ghemon maybe just miss some charisma, but I’m seeing that he’s having fun. It’s okay, but not see this winning.”

Roy – 6 – “I am just really really enjoying this, I can’t even pinpoint what it is though. His voice is very laidback and very interesting and the jazzy vibes fit it very well. Is it one of the top songs? No. Will it win? Definitely not either! But I am having a jolly good time listening to this and seeing the performance.”

Sean – 7.5 – “This sounds like something BROCKHAMPTON could produce! The colour this song is given by the brass in the chorus, interchanged with the summery guitar licks, really elevates the whole experience. This is just such an enjoyable ride and would be a very retro choice, yet also a breath of fresh air if it were to make it to Rotterdam.”

Total: 33.5 points (Average = 6.7)

After our first round of reviews, rock group Måneskin is in the lead. However, we still have a couple tournament favorites to view, and as you can tell from the scoreboard, Sanremo 2021 again shows why Italy’s national selection is one of Europe’s most beloved. None of the entries were hated, and no song came in below 5.9, which is a fairly respectable score that would be middle of the pack in any other selection.

  1. Måneskin – “Zitti I buoni” (“Shut up and good”) – 41.5 points (Average = 8.3)
  2. Arisa – “Potevi fare di più” (“You Could Have Done More”) – 38 points (Average = 7.6)
  3. Madame – “Voce” (“Voice”) – 37.5 points (Average = 7.5)
  4. Francesca Michielin & Fedez – “Chiamame per nome” (“Call me by my name”) – 36 points (Average = 7.2)
  5. Noemi – “Glicine” (“Wisteria”) – 35 points (Average = 7.0)
  6. Colapesce & Dimartino – “Musica leggerissima” (“Very Light Music”) – 34.5 points (Average = 6.9) #
  7. Max Gazzè & Trifluoperazina Monstery Band – “Il Farmacista” – 34.5 points (Average = 6.9) #
  8. Ghemon – “Momento Perfetto” (“Perfect time”) – 33.5 points (Average = 6.7)
  9. Aiello – “Ora” (“Now”) – 29.5 points (Average = 5.9)

# – Tie breaker used. In event of a tie, spread between high and low used. Lowest spread placed higher as it indicates a more consistent opinion of the song amongst the team.

Do #YOU agree with our reviewers’ assessments? Which artist are #YOU rooting for? Let us know in the comments below, on our social media, or in our forum.

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  1. […] reviewed the first nine Sanremo hopefuls HERE, and this morning we continue with the next […]

  2. […] reviewed the first nine Sanremo hopefuls HERE, the second batch earlier this morning, and this evening we continue with the final […]

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