We now head to Italy, arguably the most success Big Five country since it returned to the Contest and joined the group in 2011 with four out of six entries finishing in the Top Ten. Overall, Italy has two victories, two second places, and eleven other top five victories since 1956.
2011 – 2nd place with Follia d’Amore (Madness of Love) performed by Raphael Gualazzi
2012 – 9th place with L’Amore É Femmina performed by Nina Zilli
2013 – 7th place with L’Essenziale performed by Marco Mengoni
2014 – 21st place with La Miq Città performed by Emma Marrone
2015 – 3rd place with Grande Amore performed by Il Volo
2016 – 16th place with No Degree of Separation performed by Francesca Michielin
As I said above, Italy has been the most successful Big Five country as of late, topping the Top Ten totals of each other country since 2011 (France: 1, Germany: 2, Spain: 2, UK: 0) and hasn’t finished below 21st unlike the others which, other than Spain (25th place), have all been last at least once. Italy has seen this success with jazz, ballads, and even opera. But, the Italian record is not spotless. They have twice fallen toward the bottom of the scoreboard – once when they had a poprock number that was halfheartedly performed with a mess of a staging and the other when a young, eccentric singer took a pretty, but boring, song with a questionable staging to ESC.
So, what has gone wrong?
Honestly, Italy could have won in 2011 (#1 among the juries), 2013 (one of the top betting odds and remains one of the most popular entries to date), and 2015 (#1 in the televote). Why has Italy not been able to close the deal and hoist the crystal microphone? Apathy.
RAI took its time returning to the Contest and has shown little interest in winning. Italy won JESC in 2014 then promptly refused hosting the Contest and sent a weak song to ensure that it would not win again. They seem to be equally disinterested in winning and hosting the adult version. Success in 2011 was a complete surprise and was brought on by the juries. RAI has not made the mistake of allowing their artists to have a strong jury performance since. In 2013 and 2015, seemingly easy victories were prevented by relatively weak jury performances. I was in Vienna for 2015. Il Volo were unenthused on Friday night (for the jury show) and were clearly using it as a mere warm-up. On Saturday, however, they took it to eleven and gave, without a doubt, a winning performance that made the arena standstill in awe. It’s clear to see why they won the televote. Grande Amore would have sent the Contest to Italy if RAI had directed Il Volo to ensure Friday was a full-strength show. Likewise, in 2013, reports were of a mostly aloof Marco Mengoni that had an overall air of disinterest. Throughout the entire performance, jury and televote, he barely made eye contact with the camera, despite various angles that were utilized for him to do just that. Denying his smolder to the audience cost him, and Italy, the victory.
What can Italy do to improve in 2017?
Well, it’s obvious: care. RAI needs to do some soul-searching. If it doesn’t want to win, then why is it competing? Just to perform well and feel superior to the rest of Europe? Why not win and then throw the “best” ESC to date?
There is not an artist recommendation for Italy. No, only a chastising for the RAI producers.
Shame, shame on you RAI!!!
So, if Italy wants to win, what can it do? Once an artist and song are selected (San Remo still works) the artist should be coached to smile and act like they care about the Contest (such as they did this year), they need to promote and send it around to the various pre-Eurovision concerts (as they did this year), and they need to give strong, powerful performances for both the jury and the televised shows (as they did this year)….
But, if this happened in 2016, why did they achieve such a low placing? The song had a swell of fan support and slowly was picking up speed in the betting odds ahead of the Contest. Well, the answer comes in the form of staging. Italy tends to go for a simple staging (except for 2013, which was a hot mess). The problem: No Degree of Separation didn’t go for a simple staging. There were screens with digitized effects, there were sparkly brown overalls, and a pond theme that did not match the song.
Here’s No Degree of Separation at Eurovision in Concert that sparked its rise in the betting odds.
Michielin has an eccentric personality and probably fought for a more interesting staging, but RAI did not direct this creativity in a positive way. If they did, perhaps we would have gotten a staging more like the music video.
Instead of reigning in Francesca Michielin’s vision and pushing for a simple staging (that was more in line with the simplicity of Eurovision in Concert) or one in line with the music video that compliments the song, RAI allowed for the confusing production that we got this May. Again, if RAI had wanted to win, they would have worked with Michielin to craft a staging that would have allowed for the song to shine. Instead, RAI allowed it to die.
Again: shame, shame on you RAI for not trying harder!
What’s the worst thing Italy can do?
Depends on who you ask. RAI? Winning.
For the thousands of ESC fans in Italy and around the world? To allow another great song to fall prey to apathy by not allowing the artist to perform at their full potential for the jury final or by not channeling an artist’s creativity into a successful presentation.
Italy, unlike so many other countries, does not have a problem with the quality of its entries – the songs or the artists – the problem lies with the hearts of those in control at RAI. Once those hearts are changed, I imagine we’ll be back in Italy without haste.
What are your thoughts? Do you think that RAI needs to care more? Do you disagree that their songs have actually been strong enough to win? And, more importantly, why has San Marino not given Italy 12 points since 2011 and will the #SanMarinoPlan help with this?
Be sure to check out my analyses on the other Big Five countries!