Sanremo: 10 songs that didn't win the Festival but made history

Sanremo: 10 songs that didn't win the Festival but made history


Sanremo 2023 is upon us and we were already ready to say that the Festival is no longer what it used to be, that there are no longer the great international guests of the eighties and nineties, and then Amadeus amazes us by announcing Depeche Mode as super guests of the evening Festival finale. Apart from this, which fills us with joy, the Sanremo Festival, now in its fourth year of the Amadeus era, seems to have found the right formula, putting together some interesting casts, where finally there are the artists and the songs that are heard in the radio and streaming. And where, often, the best songs win. For many years in Sanremo, songs destined to be forgotten often won, while many great songs remained behind in the standings (or perhaps were awarded the critics' prize). But they were great songs, written by great songwriters, that stood the test of time big time. Between meteors lasting the space of a festival, unlikely competitors, surreal moments from the theater of the absurd, fortunately, it is always the great songs that remain. Here are some that didn't win but are making history. Who knows if another one will arrive in Sanremo 2023…

A recent emotion (Anna Oxa)

It was Sanremo in 1978 and a creature arrived on the Ariston stage that seemed to come from some other world. We would have seen Anna Oxa in dozens of different reincarnations and looks, but at that Sanremo she caused a sensation: she was dressed as a man, in a suit, shirt and tie, heavy make-up on her eyes and short dark hair. It was a bit glam rock, a bit punk, a bit new wave, in any case years and years ahead of the Italian panorama of the time. And she hadn't turned 17 yet. That look had been suggested by Ivan Cattaneo, another ahead of his time. But Anna Oxa's power was, and is, above all in that song: A recent emotion, written by Ivano Fossati and Guido Guglielminetti. A small emotion, a jewel of words and music, of sweetness and power, would have come second at the festival but would have entered the history of Italian music. And she is mentioned in They called me Jeeg Robot, where she is sung by Luca Marinelli's Zingaro, conquering other generations.

Gianna (Rino Gaetano) 

In that Sanremo of 1978 there was also another song destined not to win (it came in third place) but to remain with us forever. It is Gianna, an evergreen of an artist who really left too soon, Rino Gaetano. Gianna, cheerful music and text full of allusions and puns, as Gaetano's style dictates, was the first song in the history of Sanremo to contain the word "sex". The song, which is part of the Nuntereggae più album, can be read in its most literal meaning, but also as (this is a suggested interpretation) an ironic tale of Freemasonry and Italian politics. Gianna is an immortal song. And the subtle and disenchanted irony of Rino Gaetano is just what is missing to "read" the times we are living in today.

Contessa (Decibel)

It is the story of a woman also Contessa , who arrives on the scene thanks to the Sanremo of 1980 . Leading it is a local electronic punk band, the Decibels, whose leader is Enrico Ruggeri, who would become one of the great pop music authors of the following years. Rouge, in 1980, has peroxide blonde hair and white-rimmed sunglasses that would become her signature. She sings with a high voice, far from that baritone tone that would later distinguish him, on a base that is a sort of techno-pop minuet, which hides a text full of sensuality and bitterness. The music was written by Fabio Mulzio, and, as soon as Enrico Ruggeri heard it, he wrote the text in a few days. Contessa is contained in the album Vivo da Re . The story of a capricious and irresistible woman, According to someone Contessa is dedicated to Renato Zero, with whom the Decibels had had problems of an editorial nature. In that Sanremo of 1980, in which there was no more orchestra and everyone sang on recorded backing tracks, Decibel were among the few to play live.

Reckless life (Vasco Rossi)

Vasco Rossi is the most striking example of the fact that he doesn't need to win Sanremo to enter the history of music. Vasco's performances at the Festival were two, and both left their mark. In 1982 Zocca's rocker was competing with Vado al massimo and in 1983 with Vita spericolata, which would become one of his signature songs. On that occasion, Vasco struck everyone for leaving the stage, leaving the base and the choirs in playback to finish the song. A striking gesture or an oversight? It doesn't matter: Vita spericolata (contained in the historic Bollicine album) enters history simply because it's a great song. Written by Vasco Rossi and Tullio Ferro, with a beginning for voice and piano before the rock explosion with the whole band, the song was born during a rainy afternoon in Cagliari, before a concert. The reference to the Roxy Bar is a tribute to the song Che notte by Fred Buscaglione. Vasco arrived penultimate, in that Sanremo of 1983, but the song would become a hymn, a piece as capable as few others able to capture the mood of a generation and to identify thousands of people in those words.

Roman Holiday (Matia Bazar)

Since that Festival of 1983 (which, you know, was won by the meteor Tiziana Rivale with It will be what will be , but which was also the edition of L Italian by Toto Cutugno) another historical song would have come out in a big way. It's Roman holidays by Matia Bazar, a song written by Aldo Stellita for the text (but signed by Giancarlo Golzi for the SIAE rights) and by Carlo Marrale for the music. Arrived in fifth place, and awarded the critics' prize, it would become a classic of Italian song. Thanks to the retro atmosphere of the melody, the electronic arrangements and the angelic voice of Antonella Ruggiero. Matia Bazar, who had replaced keyboardist Piero Cassano with Mauro Sabbione, were turning towards a very particular techno-pop, and the contrast between synthesizers and old-time atmospheres turned out to be successful. The song speaks of nostalgia for a Rome of other times, that of the film of the same name from the 1950s, but also, looking further back, at the time of operettas such as Il Paese dei Campanelli and The Merry Widow. And again, La dolce vita by Fellini and Greta Garbo, for a song that makes the imagination soar. And it reaches the present day: in the film Backstage , by Cosimo Alemà (you can find it on Prime Video ), a musical set in the present day which is a tribute to great Italian music, you can also find Roman holidays .

What women don't say (Fiorella Mannoia)

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