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.
Some days you feel like Bart Simpson and you’re writing “Sanremo Music Festival is not technically a Eurovision national selection for Italy” over and over again on a chalkboard.
And then you’re like, “Eat my shorts!,” because for the most part it is, even though it predates Eurovision and the winner of Sanremo doesn’t necessarily go to Eurovision. Well we at ESC United are in “Eat my shorts!” mode, and we’re treating Sanremo as a national selection and one of its entrants as Italy’s representative for Eurovision 2022. Which Italy is hosting in Turin.
Over the course of three installments in the next 12 or so hours, several of our writers are compiling their thoughts and scoring out of ten the 25 acts that entered Sanremo 2022. At the end of Part Three, we will announce who we think should represent Italy at Eurovision 2022. Or at least who should win Sanremo 2022 and get first option on who should represent Italy at Eurovision 2022.
Just because we were in sync with the two Friday national selections (ESC United’s writers correctly picked Brooke for Ireland and Andrea for North Macedonia) doesn’t mean our taste will hold for Italy. Indeed, most people get Italy wrong, especially those who proclaim themselves to be Sanremo “experts.”
Giving our thoughts on Italy’s selection of Eurovision hopefuls is our “expert” panel from across the globe. “Across the globe” is as good as it gets for this motley bunch, and here is our panel:
- William Carter: Our ESC United Texas correspondent who often brings us bluebonnets from the bowels of the Abyss.
- Tyler Griffiths: Our ESC United Alaska correspondent and the world’s foremost hakarl enthusiast.
- James Maude: A British expat living in California after jaunts in South Africa and Pittsburgh.
- David Popescu: ESC United’s resident Denmark correspondent of Romanian extract and random score generator.
- Roy Postema: ESC United’s resident Dutch correspondent and YouTube Reactioneer.
And in order of first name (which is how Wikipedia does it), here are our reviews of the first eight of Sanremo. Please note that studio versions are linked here as RAI infamously takes down its live performance videos after Sanremo has concluded.
Achille Lauro feat. Harlem Gospel Choir – “Domenica”
David – 2 – “This is… unique? I really don’t know what I just dealt with. What’s the point of the soul choir? It just comes out of nowhere and really don’t go well with the song. The song is very out of place and everywhere and I just don’t know what I’m dealing with really… I’m left confused.”
James – 3 – “I know COVID has knocked out a lot of services, but does the Catholic Church have such a labor shortage you get to baptize yourself like he does both onstage and in his music video? Lauro’s biggest sin, however, is how he wastes a Gospel Choir by just tacking them onto the end of this soft rock jaunt. I am not sure why Achille Lauro is a thing at Sanremo, as I don’t get his personality-free mumblings and anti-performance art. After several years of watching him at Sanremo, I still have to ask, “what is the point of Achille Lauro?””
Roy – 6.5 – “The madlad himself is back. Every time I feel like I have figured him out and every time he surprises me again with whatever oddities he does on stage. In contrary to one of his other entries, this actually has some nice catchiness to it. There is an overall feel good feeling about the backing track that contrasts with Achille wonderfully. It shouldn’t win, but it is dope that it is in the competition.”
Tyler – 8 – “Part of the charm for me in this song is the theatrics and performance art. But that mostly came at the end of the first night’s performance with highlighting the choir as Achille is pouring water in a self baptism? I’m not religious so I don’t know the full context, but it still felt like a bold statement (especially with what I thought were boos after the performance was over lol). I wish the choir was featured more, but I don’t mind this!”
William – 7.5 – “If you told me Achille Lauro is an extended prank being pulled on the Italian public by a hidden camera show, I would believe you. How else did this bleach blonde man with face tattoos manage to ship in a gospel choir from HARLEM? How did he enlist them in a performance making a sacrilegious mockery of Catholic rites? Needless to say, I love it.”
Total: 27 points (Average = 5.4)
Aka 7even – “Perfetta così”
David – 4 – “I’d describe this as a soft energetic song, and there is energy in Aka7even, however the vocal presentation is not quite the best, which pulls it slightly down for me. I like the beat in the song, as if there is a possibility for some potential, but it doesn’t reach that height for me.”
James – 7 – “A pleasant enough upbeat soft rock track, even if it does sound like it’s from the early 2000s. This young lad has a dodgy haircut and a dodgy suit, but he seems charismatic and polite (he’s one of the few to remember to thank the orchestra and the conductor at the end of his performance). If this remains in contention long enough, it could be a grower.”
Roy – 6 – “The biggest hindrance for me with this song is the repetition of the word ‘Cosi’ in the start of the chorus. It just doesn’t work for me at all. Aka 7even is a very charismatic performer and I thought he did really well with the live-performances. Perhaps another year with a better song?”
Tyler – 7.5 – ““Perfetta così” is an okay song to me–the guitar is nice at the beginning, but don’t quite care for it overall that much. But, I do quite enjoy Aka 7even’s performance! It feels youthful and a breath of fresh air as he’s performing that I appreciate a lot. I don’t appreciate his outfit at all and how matchy-matchy it is, but I like the performance aspect of this quite a lot! I don’t think this would win though, but a pleasant surprise.”
William – 7.5 – “This one is a pleasant surprise. Not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t folk-meets-alt-rock … with a little hip hop thrown in? However you’d describe this song’s sound, it’s a refreshing concoction. And he SELLS it. And not just because his suit on night one was FIRE (though it helps). He just really sells it.”
Total: 32 points (Average = 6.4)
Ana Mena – “Duecentomila ore”
David – 6 – “I’m getting Caribbean summer vibes from this one, something more fun and happier, and actually easy to listen to. Despite all that, it doesn’t come out as something proper and true, Ana doesn’t sell it to me and doesn’t really feel connected with the song for me to care enough.”
James – 7.5 – “Hang on, Benidorm was last week! (Even though the fan shenanigans and protests and toxic social media makes it feel like it’s still ongoing.) Anyway, kudos to Ana Mena for this Spanish ‘70s retro throwback, and for being like Tool and giving us a unit of measurement in time that is relevant to the song (Tool’s 10,000 Days being about the amount of time that Maynard James Keenan’s mother lived with a stroke, and Ana Mena’s 200,000 Hours being about her age when she releases this song). Not that “Duecentomila ore” is vapid or shallow. It’s a cool, breezy three minutes, though Ana does need a bit of help with her stage presence to be a bit more engaging as she can, at moments, come off as a little too cool for school.”
Roy – 6 – “I am living for this studio version. It is insanely summery and very fun. On her first performance, Ana Mena got completely overshadowed and kind of drowned in the very loud orchestra. Something that just doesn’t really work with her soft voice. Such an issue would be less prevalent in Eurovision since there won’t be an orchestra. Maybe the combination of her soft voice and a song like this just doesn’t really work for a competition like Sanremo, but I would lie if I said that I wasn’t vibing to this.”
Tyler – 7.5 – “I quite like “Duecentomila ore”! It isn’t quite groundbreaking, but I like the vibes and the different sounds they bring into the orchestration. Ana Mena sings the song well, but doesn’t really give off a big performance to me. Which is good to have that restraint if the song requires it, but I feel like it’s better to go bigger and then scale it back if it doesn’t work. I like this overall though, but just wish it was better executed.”
William – 5 – “I’m feeling the moody music track, even though elements of it sound familiar and a bit typical. The accordion solo is the best part of the song, which is good for the guy playing it but no good for the singer who’s supposed to be the center of attention. This is cute, though.”
Total: 32 points (Average = 6.4)
Dargen D’Amico – “Dove si balla”
David – 4 – “What… a… song? Dargen just spew out personality throughout the song, without even looking like he would try. I really don’t know whether I like this song or not, it’s lively and fun, but such a mess, never knew that a song could split someone else’s personality.”
James – 4 – “Not the best raging against the dying of the light tracks I’ve heard, though this is more about raging against the fading of the dance music. On top of a naff, dated dance track. Some may pick up on his “closed borders” and “mask” comments in the song and try make something of it, but it comes off as more a timing coincidence than Dargen being a raging Anti-Vaxxer. Because in general Dargen is 100% correct – what is life without music and dance? Or the other activity he lists with dance (hint: he’s still DTF at his age).”
Roy – 8 – “This is the ‘Roy-song’ of the selection isn’t it? Something quirky that not everyone will get, but that I love? It is very anthemic and the dance-beat is wonderful. If this song doesn’t make you at least a little happy, then I don’t know what will.”
Tyler – 6 – “I want to like “Dove si balla” because the beat is pretty good and gets me pumped to dance, but then I remember Dargen exists and I’m underwhelmed by him. The “wow” comes when everyone else gets into the song but not because of him if that makes sense. The ending also feels pretty abrupt and like Dargen couldn’t wait to get off the stage, and if you don’t want to sing this song then don’t show up! I just don’t think the lyrics are all that good and draws its positive qualities from everything outside of the actual singing so that’s why I don’t really care for this much at all.”
William – 4.5 – “We’ve got a synth-y, fun music track and a singer with a lot of charm. Love the moments of interaction with the backing singers. The whole performance keeps me at a bit of a remove. I never really CONNECT to it in the way I want to. But I respect the artistry.”
Total: 26.5 points (Average = 5.3)
Ditonellapiaga & Donatella Rettore – “Chimica”
David – 3 – “Okay, absolutely not what I expected, and indeed a worthy attempt, but I don’t understand what I had to listen to, I’m just absolutely lost. I love the energy however and the style.”
James – 3.5 – “Do we really need to hear panting over a bad ‘80s synth rock track? And what the Hell is with the bridge all of the sudden breaking out into an orchestral score from a ‘50s film, before launching back into the bad ‘80s? As for the music video, it makes Scooch’s “Flying the Flag for You” seem like a restrained masterwork of sexual innuendo. I am not averse to songs such as this, but it’s not well done as novelty goes (the highwater mark for this type being Bloodhound Gang’s “The Bad Touch”).”
Roy – 7.5 – “Screw it, I hold my hand up, I absolutely love this. The live performance of this song especially was absolutely amazing the first time that I watched it. An absolute banger of a song. A funky beat and a fun and energetic duo on the stage, loved their dynamic! As a studio version, it perhaps isn’t as strong.”
Tyler – 7.5 – “This is the kind of chaos that I like, even if the song isn’t that good. “Chimica” is okay, but I’m not sure if it’s just my audio set-up, but I couldn’t get a vibe for any of the instrumentation, but it felt too quiet. Most of my enjoyment came from the outfit from Donatella and her spinning on stage randomly. I don’t think she and Ditonellapiaga have good chemistry (ba dum tsh), but this stands out enough for me to like it for the chaotic performance even if I can acknowledge the song itself is underwhelming. At least this is memorable!”
William – 7 – “This is the kind of absurdity in high art drag only Italy can give us. This is nothing short of ridiculous, but it’s performed with such flair and commitment that you can’t help but be carried along. ‘Chimica’ is a good time.”
Total: 28.5 points (Average = 5.7)
Elisa – “O forse sei tu”
David – 2 – “The classy ballad is on, and I honestly am very bored. Tempo remains mostly slow, but does eventually gain some momentum, but barely. I’m barely moving with any kind of interest, the song just doesn’t leave me with any proper first impression.”
James – 9 – “A great power ballad from one of Italy’s biggest names, reminiscent of a Jennifer Rush type power ballad. It’s very engaging, and most importantly for a ballad it’s dynamic, with the instrumentation matching the lyrics as Elisa calls out to her long-term lover in the night, hoping that he finds her among the thousand lights of the city. A power ballad could be a great way to stand out at Eurovision 2022 if it’s done right. Elisa’s done it right.”
Roy – 7 – “A nice little ballad that starts off really small and maybe doesn’t enthuse you immediately. Then the first chorus hits and some more instrumentation gets added which really helps it to stand out more. The final third of the song is really good, but the overall highlight is really this nice chorus!”
Tyler – 6 – ““O forse sei tu” is a decent sounding ballad, and I think Elisa’s overall performance is pretty good! I like her look, even if it isn’t that dynamic, and she’s working hard to sell this song. It’s a Fine Song, and works with the lighting effects to make it somewhat engaging to me, even if I’m overall slightly bored from it all together. I think this could be better!”
William – 8 – “Just lovely. This song’s simplicity is its power. In a contest sometimes overstuffed with outrageous posturing, Elisa’s straight ahead, note-perfect delivery of a beautifully written piece of music is appreciated. I maybe don’t QUITE get the impulse to make this the winner. But I can’t be mad if it does.”
Total: 32 points (Average = 6.4)
Emma – “Ogni volta è così”
David – 5 – “.”A futuristic sound for this song, and someone very different from her 2014 song. I think this song really suits her and properly shows her capabilities as a singer. The song just drags for quite a while and doesn’t take off as one would hope, like her vocal does. I don’t mind it, but I’m not blown away either… far from it actually.”
James – 8.5 – “Emma is looking for redemption, to do better than her 21st place finish at Eurovision 2014. She highlighted this by using Francesca Michielin (16th place for Italy at Eurovision 2016) as her orchestra conductor. The song, though ostensibly about embracing your weaknesses in the arena of love, is a thinly veiled song about her as a professional singer. Her explosive singing at the end can be read as a moment of triumph for her, that she overcame the critics and continued to hone her craft.”
Roy – 4.5 – “Nearly all of these points are attributed to Emma and her amazing vocals. This backing track just isn’t it… The little melody that is put throughout the entire song is really distracting and overall isn’t doing anything to enhance her wonderful vocals.”
Tyler – 8 – “I quite enjoyed this! Emma gave a powerful and dynamic performance to me, and shows off her Eurovision veteran status with this too (but not in an embarrassing way). The orchestration was great for “Ogni volta è così” and the performance overall was just quite good and didn’t seem like it was carried by the orchestra. One of my favorites for Sanremo, and I hope this does well!”
William – 6.5 – “Oh, Emma isn’t playing around. The grit in her voice, her ferocious delivery, her ease on stage … she’s a pro. And when she BELTS, she means it. This maybe isn’t the most memorable song at Sanremo this year, but it’s incredibly well built and performed.”
Total: 32.5 points (Average = 6.5)
Fabrizio Moro – “Sei tu”
David – 6 – “I have huge respect for Fabrizio’s crisp voice, the song might start slow and take some time, but I’m actually captivated by this song, it gains momentum and just takes off from there. The further the song got, the more interest I actually had for it, and for a song like this, it ends like it should. It’s still a ballad of course, so again, I did struggle with the start, but it eventually got me somewhere, which is what I’m rewarding this song for have done.”
James – 8 – “Another Eurovision returnee, and another masterclass in Italian balladeering. Soft, reflective in the verses, explosive and heartfelt in the chorus. “Sei Tu” feels a little unfinished, though, as most of the interesting stuff happens at the beginning and it just ends at the three minute mark. The lyrics are about the little things in a relationship that are picked up on and are the fine line between defeat and victory, and Moro emotively switches between the two modes deftly. The clunky ending will need some redoing, though.”
Roy – 6.5 – “yeah this is fine, but Fabrizio has such an absolutely amazing voice and this song really underutilizes that.”
Tyler – 4 – “Did not like this at all, oops. The orchestration for “Sei tu” doesn’t feel memorable nor original to me, and the vocals themselves sounds like Fabrizio yelling for almost three minutes. Which could be good, but instead just feels like it’s your distant uncle yelling at a family reunion since nobody listens to him at home and you smile politely and try to get away from them as soon as possible. I think if there was some beauty in “Sei tu”, it was lost in translation on the stage, and that’s a disappointment.”
William – 5.5 – “This is a nice, delicate little song, and Fabrizio delivers it will all the passion and emotionality required. This is another song I respect more than I LOVE. It’s not one that’s stuck with me, but it makes me glad Fabrizio is out there in the world, showing off his artistry and craft.”
Total Points: 30 (Average = 6.0)
So after our first round of songs, the only thing we have proven is that ESC United cannot agree on anything. The team scores average in the narrow band between 5.3 and 6.5. However, we have yet to touch some of the selection favorites, so expect the band to widen in Part two of our Sanremo reviews.
1.) Emma – “Ogni volta è così” – 32.5 points (Average = 6.5)
2.) Aka 7even – “Perfetta così” – 32 points (Average = 6.4)* Median = 7 ** (HiLo = 7.5,4)
3.) Elisa – “O forse sei tu” – 32 points (Average = 6.4)* Median = 7 ** (HiLo = 9,2)
4.) Ana Mena – “Duecentomila ore” – 32 points (Average = 6.4)* Median = 6
5.) Fabrizio Moro – “Sei tu” – 30 points (Average = 6.0)
6.) Ditonellapiaga & Donatella Rettore – “Chimica” – 28.5 points (Average = 5.7)
7.) Achille Lauro feat. Harlem Gospel Choir – “Domenica” – 27 points (Average = 5.4)
8.) Dargen D’Amico – “Dove si balla” – 26.5 points (Average = 5.3)
Which Sanremo artist do #YOU want to win and represent Italy at Eurovision 2022? Do #YOU agree with our writers, or do #YOU think if given another duecentomila ore they could still not find taste? Let us know in the comments below, in our forum, or on our social media.