Pop the Question: How Did Italian Pop Music Flourish in the 2010s?

Mon, 11/24/2014 - 04:47

The final part of this series looks at the recent trends of the Italian rock and pop charts. Has the Italian music scene come full circle? John Bensalhia reports.

[Read Part 1 - the 1950s herePart 2 - the 1960s herePart 3 - the 1970s herePart 4 - the 1980s herePart 5 - the 1990s here; Part 6 - the 2000s here.]

In a sense, coming right up to date, the Italian pop music scene has come full circle. In the early days of rock and pop music, the singer took centre stage. Furthermore, many acts made it big through singing and talent contests. The Sanremo Music Festival, for example, was a great showcase for many a gifted singer. Today, in the 2010s, not only do singers continue to stand tall in the spotlight, more often than not, they come to prominence through the rise of the talent show.

If the likes of The X Factor were big news in the Noughties, in the Tens they're headline grabbers. The winners of this international TV juggernaut have all gone on to find success in the Italian charts. 2010 winner Nathalie Giannitrapani, for example, became the first female to win the Italian version. Having entered previous talent and singing shows such as Festival Fuoritempo in 2000 (where she won the Under 21 award) or the Biella Festival in 2006 (where she came second), Nathalie entered the big time as a result of her X Factor victory. She has recorded singles such as the number one In punta di piedi or the 2011 Sanremo song, Vivo sospesa. In addition to her music career, Nathalie has also branched out into acting. She has appeared in the comedy I Cesaroni and has also supplied the voice for the Italian version of animated musical sequel Happy Feet 2.

2012 winner Francesca Michielin showcased a diverse range of talent, and has since gone on to pen songs for other acts, such as Cigno nero for Fedez (Michielin provided a cameo appearance on the single, too). In addition to singing, Francesca can also play bass guitar and piano. 2012 saw her pop career take off with a number one single, Distratto and her debut LP, Riflessi di me, which also housed the singles, Tutto quello che ho, Sola and Se cadrai. In 2014, Francesca has released a new single called Amazing, with a follow-up album in the pipeline for later in the year.

Further down the line in 2012, Chiara Galiazzo became the next winner of The X Factor. Chiara, like her predecessors, managed to grab the top spot of the Italian charts with her debut single, Due respiri. Her debut LP, Un posto nel mondo, just missed out on pole position in the album charts, although it included further singles such as L'esperienza dell'amore and Il futuro che sarà (which was performed at the 63rdSanremo Music Festival). Chiara has since performed a duet with singer Mika, with the collaboration of Stardust, reaching for the stars at Number One in a five-week stay in late 2013. The latest winner of The X Factor, Michele Bravi also found that 2013 was a year to remember as the charts beckoned. He has released the singles La vita e la felicità and Sotto una buona stella, plus an album, A piccoli passi.

Having won the show in 2008, Noemi's music career went from strength to strength in the 2010s. Following her massively successful album, Sulla mia pelle in 2009, Noemi (born Veronica Scopelliti) attained a platinum selling record in 2010 with Per tutta la vita, following a well-received Sanremo appearance. Further hits kept on coming, such as Vertigini, Vuoto a perdere and Poi inventi il modo. The albums also kept up the pace, with RossoNoemi and Made In London adding to Noemi's repertoire. Her TV career would also take off in the 2010s, as she became a coach on the Voice Of Italy.

Other televised talent contests were spawning successful chart acts. Amici di Maria De Filippi has seen contenders make their breakthroughs into the charts. If Pierdavide Carone managed third place in this show, he still won a Critics Award, and better still, went on to enjoy Number One status in both singles and album charts. Di Notte and Una canzone pop respectively reached the top of the singles and album charts, with the album achieving double platinum status. Carone also became an in-demand songwriter. His song Per tutte le volte che... was penned for Valerio Scanu and won at the 2010 Sanremo Music Festival. He has also written for Matteo Macchioni (Guardando verso il mare) and performed with the late Lucio Dalla at the 62nd Sanremo Festival.

Emma Marrone managed to win the series in 2010. Music was very much a part of Marrone's life, having performed in bands and appearing on the Italian Popstars TV show. She had even written a thesis on music at high school. Her victory on Amici di Maria De Filippi garnered interest from record buyers, and both her first single, Calore and first EP, Oltre, went to Number One. If her first LP, A me piace così just missed out on the top spot, her second platter, Sarò libera did the trick. Marrone also became a familiar face at Sanremo, entering twice – firstly with the group Modà in 2011, and then solo a year later. In 2012, her Sanremo song Non è l'inferno won her the contest and also another Number One single. This was followed up by another Number One hit single, Cercavo and a third album, Schiena, which again became an instant hit.

Another recent Sanremo favourite is Arisa. She won the Newcomers section in the 2009 edition, came second in the 2012 edition and, just recently, won the 2014 edition with the Controvento song. Arisa has also enjoyed a consistent run of chart fortunes, with the aforementioned Controvento and La notte, the 2012 chart topper. She has released three albums to date – Sincerità, Malamoreno and Amami. Arisa's judging skills have also been put to use on the Italian version of The X Factor.

Rap continues to be greatly popular in Italy, and the 2010s have seen a number of acts enter the charts. Fabri Fibra released his album Contro Cultura in 2010, and the end result went all the way to Number One. Singles such as Vip In Trip and Tranne Te also sold well, while a collaboration with Clementino saw the duo (under the moniker of Rapstar) release an album called Non è gratis. Fibra also set up his own record label called Tempi Duri.

Having released his own self-produced album, Fedez went on to smash the charts in 2013. Fedez's songs addressed topical concerns of the day, and his own brand of rap was welcomed by his growing base of fans. Si scrive schiavitù ma si legge libertà was accompanied by his smash hit album Sig. Brainwash – L'arte di accontentare. The LP sold especially well, reaching Number One and achieving 3 x Platinum status. Emis Killa was another rapper to initially release independent albums before signing to an established record label. Emis released a number of singles in the 2010s such as Parole di ghiaccio, Se il mondo fosse and Vampiri.

It's also worth pointing out that a global megastar has Italian roots. Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta is better known to millions as Lady Gaga, and since the late Noughties, has released several worldwide smashes such as Paparazzi, Poker Face, Born This Way and Alejandro. Her hit albums The Fame, Born This Way and Artpop have all sold in massive quantities, containing diverse styles of music from pop through to rock and soul. To add to her musical palette, Lady Gaga is due to release a jazz album with Tony Bennett in Autumn 2014.

Perhaps the most heart-warming aspect of the Italian charts in the 2010s is the sheer number of past acts hitting the top spot in both the singles and album charts. Jovanotti. Laura Pausini. Zucchero. Gianna Nannini. Lucio Dalla. Eros Ramazzotti. Elisa. The list goes on, but it's an accomplishment that very few worldwide charts can reach. The great thing about Italian rock and pop music is its timeless quality – artists from the 1960s such as Mina and Roby Facchinetti (the keyboardist from Pooh) have managed to garner the interest of a new generation of music fans.

Italian pop and rock music will live on forever – whatever the future holds for Italian music, it's certain that up and coming acts will not only put their own stamp on the charts, they'll draw from Italy's rich and diverse musical heritage. And that's something to look forward to.