Picture credit: Vyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS
When Maneskin was announced as one of the twenty-six competing artists for Sanremo 2021, they had substantial success in Italy, with their album Il Ballo Della Vita garnering critical acclaim in Italy and selling out tours across the country. What they didn’t see, however, is their victory with the song Zitti e Buoni—they were in 5th place overall before the final night of the competition, which would cut down the field to a final three before facing off in a final televote.
And if winning Sanremo was wild enough, winning Eurovision, having two hits on the Billboard 100, performing as an opening act with the Rolling Stones, and appearing on two American talk shows within a week might as well have been a pipe dream for them. And that’s not getting into the awards they’ve been nominated for.
On October 26, the Italian rock quartet made their American television debut on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, performing their hit cover of “Beggin’”, as well as their newest hit “MAMMAMIA”. The latter, which goes on a similar musical tangent with their other hit “I Wanna Be Your Slave” while poking fun at the drug-taking rumors spread after the contesti, has found its own across the globe, including the Billboard Global 200ii.
Considering the whirlwind of success, the band has achieved, what does their win mean for the world?
The Resurrection of Rock n’Roll:
The 2010s seen a decline of rock as a genre, with hip hop taking its place as one of the most popular ones, along with pop. Alternative-rock songs steadily used less and less guitars, with Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know” acting as a catalyst. In addition, rock struggled to adjust to the streaming era, as they relied on the album to release their songs since 1965iii. With the lack of new bloodiv and heavier rock bands turning to more pop-based records, the cries of “rock is dead” always followed behind.
With their “smokey eyes, fishnets, and leather”v aesthetic adding to their charismatic stage presence and goth-glam-rock music, Maneskin has attracted crowds from all over. In their first shows in the United States, they managed to sell out in both New York and Los Angeles, places which the band members admired. Their brand of rock, in contrast to the popular perception of Italian music being relegated to opera, shook of the genre’s inferiority complexvi in comparison to British and American rock.
They are not alone in bringing back guitar-based songs; one of the biggest hits of 2021 is Olivia Rodrigo’s “good 4 you”. With a pop-punk edge influenced by Paramore’s “Misery Business”, “from their 4-1-5-6 chord progression to the opening note of their choruses”vii it debuted on the top of the Billboard charts, and was the longest-charting song on the UK charts since Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life” in 2003viii. This rock is dissimilar to what older people are used to, and has garnered Maneskin some criticism from the old guard, but has introduced rock to a new generation.
Eurovision as a Musical Breeding Ground
Even with Euphoria’s famous win in 2012, for the past decade, Eurovision winners haven’t had the big continent-wide splash which is granted with that much exposure. For Loreen herself, she waited several months before re-relasing her 2011 Melodifestvalen song “My Heart is Refusing Me”–though the album Ride would see success, her trajectory faltered over the rest of the decade.
The two prior winners, “Toy” and “Arcade”, garnered success via Tik-Tok, albeit sometime after the contest was over. With “Zitti e Buoni”, on the other hand, gained its popularity at the time of the contest, which has only accelerated their case. With how the social platform functioned like television for Generation Z, the songs’ success came about organically as people have listened to it voluntarily.
Another notable thing Maneskin had was their back catalogue, assuring that Zitti e Buoni wouldn’t be a one-hit wonder. They released their second album, Teatro d’Ira, Vol. 1 just after winning Sanremo, and saw a number of songs charting across the world. A constant stream of songs of equal, if not higher quality, isn’t necessary to compete in Eurovision, but it may mean the difference between being known for just doing Eurovision and being independent artists on their own right.
The Language Rule:
Zitti e Buoni is only the third Eurovision winner since 1999 to not be in English, along with Molitva and Amar Pelos Dois. The result is an increase in Italian-language learning; three days after this year’s Grand Final, Duolingo reported a 56% increase in their Italian course. This is despite the decreasing number of Italian speakers due to the aging populations in both Italy and abroadix.
One way to do so is to protect the Italian language via music, according to Tuscan pop star Gianna Nannini. Yet with Maneskin’s increasing success, their biggest hits leaned towards the English language, with their cover of Beggin’ hitting the top of the Billboard alternative rockx charts eight weeks after their debut on it. The song also hit sixteenth on the Billboard 100, which overtook the original version by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. And with over 700,000,000 million streams, it has three times the streams of Zitti e Buoni.
Nevertheless, over the last decade, listeners have opened up towards bands and songs in other languages. Thanks to streaming services like YouTube and Spotify, non-English music has garnered a larger audience. In 2018, three out of the four most popular YouTube artists were from India, whereas Ariana Grande was the only singer who sung primarily in English in the top ten.xi . It’s not exclusive to either India or Latin America—BTS became the first Asian group to hit five billion streams on Spotify in 2019xii.
Globalization has allowed different songs and languages to enter through, but persistence towards Anglophone music continues. So, Maneskin has to tread this line well between their new, international audience and the original Italian one.
Within a year, Maneskin influenced the world with their gender-bending aesthetics, their glam-rock revival, and their charisma. They not only helped revive rock n’roll in the mainstream, but also gave Eurovision possibly their first major star since Celine Dion in 1988.
However, as they are all in their early twenties, there’s more possibilities their impact could go next. With the band working on their third album, would they continue to conquer through their English-language material, or save room for their Italian-language song-writing? Could they continue to transcend Eurovision through new hits, or remain stuck to “Beggin” and “Zitti e Buoni”?
With their spark, the future is truly in their hands.
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