ESC 2017 Review: Italy – The Winning Ape

I don’t even care if it’s the cool thing not to rank this as your #1 because I unabashedly love this song from top to bottom.

These are my own PERSONAL rankings of what I think of 2017’s Eurovision songs but I’m also going to make some bold predictions about the eventual fate of the song. These will probably be very wrong for a variety of reasons including I have no idea what almost half the artists sound like live or what type of staging and song changes could be made. There’s plenty of songs that have been let down by their staging (2016 Spain for example) so in the end they’re just guesses in the dark.

Country: Italy
Artist: Francesco Gabbani
Song Title: Occidentali’s Karma
My Ranking: 1st (out of 43)
Semi Final: Auto qualified for the final as part of the Big 5
Final placement prediction: 1 of 26

Italy first joined the Eurovision song contest in its first year way back in 1956. The Eurovision contest itself is actually patterned after Italy’s national song contest, Sanremo Music Festival. Having won twice in the past (in 1964 and 1990), Italy actually took a break from 1998 to 2010 for reasons unknown to me personally but overall they’ve actually been one of the most successful countries since their return with over 75% of their entries in the top 10.¬† Since 2011 they’ve snatched up a silver place (2011) and a bronze place (2015) so I think it’s about time they go for the gold.

The winner of Sanremo and the Italian representative for this year is Francesco Gabbani. He was a dark horse for winning the competition and did so by a very small percentage. The singer, 34, is a fairly well known artist in Italy. He has 3 albums under his belt and has charted in Italy before this. He’s entered Sanremo last year as a new comer to the contest and this year of course, managed to win the whole thing. Francesco’s lyrics are usually quite clever and play on many levels making his upbeat music interesting as much as it is fun.

His song for Eurovision, Occidentali’s Karma [Western’s Karma], is no exception to this. The song combines several critiques of society in to what is eventually the most catchy tune out of the entire bunch of entries this year. The title is even a poke at how Italian (language) is becoming anglicized. While the song is all in Italian and many or all of the lyrics may be lost on most of the people watching, the song still manages to be incredibly engaging to people of all countries. The song is undeniably fun sounding while the lyrics quote Shakespeare, question our infatuation with technology, critique the West’s mix and match appropriation of Eastern culture, it references theories from zoologist Desmond Morris, and more in just three minutes!

I think it kind of going without saying, and honestly its beating a dead horse this close to the competition, but the ape “gimmick” in the song is probably one of the most beloved and genius ideas. Even people who don’t understand the song will take notice of it. The staging was exceptional in Sanremo, so many bright colors and patterns and the perfectly timed dance with ape. Francesco has an infectious energy and is honestly just one of those performers who gets on stage and whips an audience in to a frenzy within seconds. Wearing a colorful stylish suit, his slicked back hair, and giant smile will definitely gain him a lot of vote either way.

The song is not the most technical in terms of vocals but it has its moments and Franceso’s slightly raspy voice (an Italian staple and trademark at Eurovision especially) has a real charm to it. He hits all notes in his song with a flare for dramatics and an energy that is unmatched. His background vocalists will even contain his brother for an extra layer of adorable.

There are some possible stumbling blocks for this song and that would be first off, that because it’s in Italian people will miss the message and assume the song is not about anything and just a gimmick. Since this song is literally the most watched and listened to in all of Eurovision history I’m actually not all that concerned about this. The dancing ape has been a staple internet meme since two days after his win and I saw it leaking in to my feed from other non-Eurovision people and places. The second stumbling block is that Italy is not in the semi-finals so the song won’t get as much play and won’t be as memorable for people when it comes time to vote. Last year they played clips from the Big 5 and Host during the semis and I don’t know if that will be the case this year and I’m unsure if playing 60 seconds of a rehearsal really even helps at all. The third stumbling block is the jury itself. This song is just outside of the safe realm for jury points and Italy’s voting bloc isn’t that strong and it’s possible that this wins the televote and loses the jury and ends up in 2nd place instead.

If this wins it’ll be the second year in a row that I predict the winning song AND it’s my favorite. Just a fun fact there.

Hopefully the three of you reading this enjoyed the series, next year I think I’ll only do these for my top 10 though because writing FORTY THREE¬† 750+ word entries on each song was exhausting and I don’t think I had all that much to contribute. Since it’s now only 8 more days until the first semi-final and I have seen everyone preforming and rehearsing and Russia has dropped out I’m going to do a final ranking of guesses in a single entry tomorrow. Stay tuned!

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