Sanremo (Italy) 2022 Reviews: First Night

Much as I would like to spend the time to review each of the 24 songs competing in the legendary national selection upon which Eurovision was based, the policy of not releasing the songs beforehand and the pressures of trying to cover several other national selections at the same time means that I’m going to review all 12 songs from the first night of performances in one go. The reviews will be a bit shorter than usual as a result. In addition, I won’t be reviewing the evening when the acts perform a cover of another song: after I’ve reviewed all the Eurovision-eligible songs I’ll return to other national selections until my results round-up post on Sunday, when the winner will be known.

Achille Lauro — “Domenica”
The most remarkable aspect of this rock song is the six backing singers, who Lauro introduces towards the end of the song as coming from the Harlem Gospel Choir in New York City. Without looking at the translation of the lyrics, they seem to form an angelic contrast to his more devilish poses and suggestive touching. I like the way this extends to the vocals, with his breathy singing against their clearer tones.

Yuman — “Ora e qui”
Fairly intense mid-tempo ballad where Yuman’s warm voice more or less carries the song, with a big key change towards the end of the song to complete the package. It’s fine, I can’t find much fault with it on a technical level except that it’s just not for me. But I can see that some people would love the energy behind this.

Noemi — “Ti amo non lo so dire”

I can see that the presence of the orchestra at Sanremo is distorting my ability to pick a genre for some of these songs, given how live instruments tend to tilt everyone in the same direction. Initially I thought this would be a jazzy number, but it kept adding layers and Noemi’s raspy voice took on new dimensions. It arguably ended up in the realms of power pop, with the classic Italian characteristic of having many, many words in the lyrics.

Gianni Morandi — “Apri tutte le porte”
The thing about some of the national selections like Sanremo is that they are first and foremost internal contests. And as most people will know, Sanremo was the inspiration for Eurovision itself. So when an older singer comes on with a pop song featuring lots of cheery notes from the orchestra’s brass section, it’s probably not going to be something the viewers are going to send to Eurovision. Instead, they’ll sit back and enjoy the representation of this part of their musical scene. And this is what we should do as well.

La Rappresentante di Lista — “Ciao ciao”
Probably my favourite from the first night. I like its funky elements — the way the percussion and guitars play off wonderfully against the trumpets and saxophones from the orchestra. “Ciao ciao” is a great, universal hook, and having a simple hand movement to go along with is an effective piece of staging from an energetic singer who looks like she’d be very much at home on the Eurovision stage.

Michele Bravi — “Inverno dei fiori”
I don’t know if it’s the Italian language or the Italian temperament (or both), but the singers from no other country can quite deliver ballads with the amount of emotional tension as demonstrated by Bravi. Musically there isn’t really much to write home about here, but you sense that he feels every single word he utters intensely (regardless of what the lyrics are really about), and that’s captivating.

Massimo Ranieri — “Lettera al di là del mare”
This is one for classically-inclined music lovers: it’s the kind of ballad which you could adapt to be an aria in an opera, but instead has been modernised, even if we have a older man delivering the vocals. It does make me think about the way age plays out in Eurovision these days, given how important staging has become. Something I might write a longer piece on one day.

Mahmood & Blanco — “Brividi”

Having finished second in Eurovision 2019 with his rap track “Soldi”, Mahmood is back to showcase his singing skills — in particular, his falsetto. This time he’s in a duet with Blanco, who has similar vocal abilities. That’s the first thing you’ll notice once they start singing together: their voices complement each other very well. The song itself is a fairly slow ballad for the most part (there’s a crescendo in the last minute), but it’s clear that their flawless harmonising in the chorus and undeniable chemistry on stage will take them far.

Ana Mena — “Duecentomila ore”
Nine songs in and we have our first EDM banger, with the usual addition of an accordion here and there to give it some flavour — a good move, given that the primary beats aren’t anything particularly interesting. Mena’s dreamy vocals provide a good contrast to the precise mechanical rhythms around her, and while the song is a good effort at trying something a bit different, it doesn’t stand out much.

Rkomi — “Insuperabile”
What sets itself up as a forceful hard rock song doesn’t really land as well when it appears that Rkomi isn’t quite as dedicated to the cause. His performance is detached and clinical in a way you wouldn’t expect from someone presenting themselves as a rock star. Musically it feels toned down in the sense that the instruments never really explode in the way they threaten to in the first verse.

Dargen D’Amico — “Dove si balla”
Did I miss the memo, and are pink suits and sunglasses in fashion? D’Amico appears to be fashion soulmates with Joseph June from the Lithuanian national selection. This track is an example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. The music is not bad, but hardly thrilling; D’Amico is nowhere near the best singer in this selection. Sure, the song is quite catchy at times and has a good sing-along moment near the end — but others have that too. The key to understanding how the song works is probably that D’Amico delivers it with utmost confidence in himself, also illustrated by the way he casually moves about the stage, coming closer to the audience than any other act so far. That speaks volumes too.

Giusy Ferreri — “Miele”
Normally I’m not one to to enjoy old-fashioned songs, but there’s something quite charming and classy about this one. Ferreri’s muffled vocals, like she’s singing from the back of her throat, add a layer of mystique to the song, which has an instrumental arrangement reminiscent of a movie soundtrack from decades in the past. To further enhance this carefully constructed atmosphere, Ferreri makes use of a vintage megaphone twice, which has the effect of making her voice sound like its being played from a gramophone. (Of which there’s one on stage, to drive the point home even more.) It’s one of the more memorable performances from this first evening of songs.