Italy’s Eurovision entry takes aim at the ‘selfie-addicted anonymous’

With his gravelly voice, catchy choruses and chatty good nature Francesco Gabbani has already conquered Italian fans and is now chasing glory at Saturday's Eurovision Song Contest.

Italy's Eurovision entry takes aim at the 'selfie-addicted anonymous'
Flying the flag for Italy on the EuroVision red carpet. Photo: Sergei Supinsky/AFP

The slicked back hair, snazzily snug outfits and a slightly Freddie Mercuryesque moustache certainly help to explain his visual appeal.

But singer-songwriter Gabbani, 34, also hopes that including someone dancing next to him in an ape costume will help justify his current status as bookies' favourite to land a third title for Italy, after their 1964 and 1990 Eurovision successes.

READ ALSO: Meet Italy's Eurovision hopeful, the bookies' favourite to win

Gabbani's slick video of his grooving “Occidentali's karma” (westerners' karma) song has already soared up the continental charts and he hopes his performance in Kiev on Saturday will garner those all-important votes from the national juries and TV audiences.

This year's highly original entry looks set to change the Eurovision fortunes of Italy which has skipped more than half of the previous 35 editions.

But for Italians, he has already landed the top prize.

Gabbani, whose steady girlfriend of five years is a tattoo artist, landed the Italian nomination by winning the Sanremo music festival, a five-night affair which keeps Italians glued to their television screens every February.

This year's Sanremo drew an average nightly audience of 10.8 million for a 50 percent national TV share – giving Gabbani, as the winner, legions of fans and plenty of popular momentum for his Eurovision assault.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about the Sanremo Song Festival

Created back in 1951 in the tourist resort of San Remo, a short hop from the French Riviera, the festival has helped launch several top Italian names from Eros Ramazzotti to Andrea Bocelli.

Traditionally, the festival winner earns a slot at Eurovision. Gabbani, born further along the Mediterranean coast at Carrara, famed for its marble, grew up in a musical environment – his parents running a shop selling instruments.

After releasing several low key albums he burst onto the scene at the 2016 edition of San Remo, winning the accolade of best newcomer with his feel-good dance entry “Amen.”

High-energy, perplexing lyrics

That success vaulted him into the senior competition and he promptly entered “Occidentali's karma”, co-written with, among others, younger brother Filippo.

The sheer energy the song exudes with its Gangnamesque choreography has seduced fans across Europe, despite some rather perplexing lyrical references of an oriental, but also scientific, political and philosophical nature.

“Lessons of Nirvana, there's Buddha in single line, break time for everyone, a moment of glory. The crowd shouts a mantra. Evolution stumbles. The naked ape is dancing.”

So goes the refrain with offers a clear nod to British zoologist and ethologist Desmond Morris, author of “The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal.”

The song also slyly references Shakespeare, Karl Marx, Neolithic Man, as well as “intellectuals in cafes” while deriding “honorary members of the selfie-addicted anonymous.”

Fans keen to show their support can get the t-shirt bearing the legend “la scimmia nuda balla” (the naked ape is dancing). The song itself has already earned triple platinum status.

San Remo had been expected to crown veteran song queen Fiorella Mannoia, who had been the big favourite until a TV vote saw Gabbani just edge her out to become the first entrant to win both the junior and senior categories back to back.

Within 24 hours of his San Remo victory, Gabbani's performance had attracted 4.3 million YouTube hits in Italy alone, a record. Total views have since mushroomed to 110 million — unheard of exposure for a Eurovision entry.

“The magic formula is not just in the song but what the song transmits. That it is being viewed abroad is proof of that. They don't understand the words – and yet you feel the vibe,” says Gabbini.

After Eurovision, Gabbani will go on tour across Italy – without his simian sidekick.

“He's done his time. His role was to explain in as amusing a fashion as possible the point of the song. With all his fur he'll be fine in Ukraine,” the singer quipped.

By Fanny Carrier

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Turin chosen to host Eurovision Song Contest in 2022

The next edition of the Eurovision Song Contest in May 2022 will be held in the northern Italian city of Turin, organisers confirmed on Friday.

Italy's Maneskin performs during the final of the 65th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 in Rotterdam.
Italy's Maneskin performs during the final of the 65th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 in Rotterdam. Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP

“Turin has won the race to become the host city of the 66th Eurovision Song Contest, having triumphed over 16 other competing bids,” read a statement on the contest’s official website.

“The Grand Final will be held in PalaOlimpico on Saturday 14 May with Semi-Finals on 10 and 12 May.”

“We won! Turin has won!” mayor Chiara Appendino wrote in a celebratory post on Facebook.

Italian state broadcaster Rai said Turin had beaten off competition from the cities of Milan, Bologna, Rimini and Pesaro to host the event.

READ ALSO: Italy wins Eurovision: ‘We just want to say to the whole world, rock’n’roll never dies!’

Turin will be the third Italian city to host the event after Naples (which hosted in 1965) and Rome (1991), after Rome-based rock band Måneskin’s victory in Rotterdam earlier this year with the song ‘Zitti e buoni’.

That event, watched by 183 million people, was Italy’s third Eurovision win and its first for three decades.

‘Turin is the perfect Host City for the 66th Eurovision Song Contest,” said Eurovision Song Contest Executive Supervisor Martin Österdahl.

“As we saw during the 2006 Winter Olympics, PalaOlimpico exceeds all the requirements needed to stage a global event of this scale and we have been very impressed with the enthusiasm and commitment from the City of Turin who will welcome thousands of fans next May.”

“This will be the first Eurovision Song Contest to be held in Italy in 30 years and, together with our Host broadcaster Rai, we are determined to make it a special one.’

Turin was home to the 2006 Winter Olympics and is hosting the ATP Finals tennis tournament next month.