Mahmood surprisingly wins San Remo and wins ticket to Tel Aviv
What is Eurovision without a bit of controversy? Not Eurovision. Every selection season there is at least one country with controversy in which even politicians mingle. This year this happens in Italy, but for all the wrong reasons. The San Remo festival is organized yearly and since Italy’s return to Eurovision in 2011, it is used to select the Eurovision entry too. Italian rapper and singer Mahmood managed to win the competition this year with his song ‘Soldi’. So where is the controversy coming from? Well, Mahmood’s dad is Egyptian and he uses one line in Arabic in his track which somehow makes people question if he is Italian enough to represent the country although he has lived their all his life. The fact that Mahmood clearly was not the public’s favourite, does not help the case. In the super final with three songs left (including the band Il Volo who finished 3rd in Eurovision 2015 while winning the televote) Mahmood received the least televotes, but the jury votes helped him to the victory. But what are his chances in Eurovision?
Italy has an impressive track record to uphold when it comes to Eurovision in recent years. After their comeback in 2011 with a 2nd place, they only missed out on a spot in the top 10 twice. Last year, Ermal Meta and Fabrizio Moro reached the 5th place mainly thanks to televoters. I would not rule out that Mahmood would be able to reach a similar result. His intriguing mix of hiphop, pop and North African instruments and rhythms will probably be one of a kind in the big final and does have the potential to captivate both televoters and juries from all over Europe. Like last year’s Italian entry, Mahmood has a composition with strong lyrical content. His song ‘Soldi’ (money) is about how money complicates family relationships. The song is directed at his dad who left the family when Mahmood was just six years old. With the help of visuals behind him on the screen, he should be able to tell this story to the viewers who might not understand Italian.
Mahmood’s performance at San Remo festival might not have been pitch perfect yet, but it does show off his potential as a performer as well as his song’s. The handclaps in the chorus are catchy and can definitely help to make the song stand out visually as well. He could still use some training in performing in front of cameras to really grab the juries and viewers at Eurovision, so let us hope that there will be people in his team who can coach him. After initially saying at a press conference that he wanted to go to Eurovision, Mahmood later posted on social media that he had to look into the contest a bit more before his final decision. Today he finally confirmed that he is indeed going to Eurovision. He must realize by now that he has to cut off a couple of seconds for his song to meet the Eurovision criteria as well. If you ask me, ‘Soldi’ in studio version (as well as the music video) is already a diamond, of which the performance was still in its rough form. With an improved stage show, I sure would not mind to see Italy back in the top 10 yet again. If not, Mahmood at least brought a contemporary, quality song in a genre that is still underrepresented at Eurovision.
Review of the final performance and result:
Italy’s Mahmood took the stage with ‘Soldi’, a song about how money can destroy a family and his personal story about his dad who left the family at a young age. He packed the emotional lyrics in a captivating mix of pop and hiphop with a hypnotic main hook with catchy handclaps. Mahmood is joined by three dancers, but it is hard to take your eyes off of the singer himself, as he delivers a passionate vocal performance in which the pain is audible. It is easily one of the most moving performances of the night, while the song is one of the most contemporary yet intriguing. Both juries (4th) and televoting (3rd) appreciated ‘Soldi’, giving Italy and Mahmood the second place overall, only 27 point behind te winner.
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