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“My music is a mix of several cultures and several styles, like a palette of colors, none of which is really dominant“

Mahmood’s phenomenal success, further confirmed recently by his victory at the Sanremo festival, is not without raising a few teeth on the side of the transalpine extreme right. The singer, of Egyptian origin, represented Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest last May, where his duet with Blanco on the title Brividi thrilled millions of viewers.


Suede leather jacket and cotton cardigan, FENDI.

Suede leather jacket and cotton cardigan, FENDI.

His exquisite kindness, proportional to the postponements and delays that his multiple obligations caused on the interview, already says a lot about Alessandro Mahmoud. Still little known outside the Italian borders, the young man, who will celebrate his 30th birthday this year, is indeed one of the heavyweights of song and rising silhouettes of transalpine fashion. He is surrounded by three press attachés as he prepares to unfold the journey that led him to become Mahmood, an anglicized transformation of his name of Egyptian origin. Mahmood for “my mood”, far from the banks of the Nile of his paternal family. His mother comes from Sardinia, but his story begins in Milan, authoritatively presented as “the most beautiful city in the world”, the one that saw him born in 1992 and then grow up in the Gratosoglio district. Even when he begins to dream of America, hoping soon to export there his songs of already international caliber, he does not imagine having to give up Italian. “I know it will be difficult, but I wish our beautiful language could travel with me.”, he pleads with this smile likely to smash all the dogmas of globalized music. On his second album, Ghettolimpo, published last year, a first breach opened up thanks to a title co-signed with Woodkid, the most cosmopolitan of French musicians, even if he had to comply with the rules of English to allow his music to cross time zones. schedule. The song in question is called Karma, it includes a few words in French and a passage in English for two voices with Woodkid.

Coat and pants in silk brocade, FENDI.
Coat and pants in silk brocade, FENDI.

Coat and pants in silk brocade, FENDI.

Question karma, Alessandro can consider himself well off since he chose to embrace this job of uncertainties and possible disillusions that is that of a singer. His mantra is a golden rule drawn from the philosophical precepts of ancient Egypt: “Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want them to do to you”, and his path paved with benevolence and meritocracy is as straight as his bearing of the head. “My mother always supported me in my wish to become a singer, but if I brought back bad grades from school, she refused to finance my piano lessons. We’ve always had a win-win deal. From the age of 12, when his father left home six years ago, Alessandro practiced the piano and music theory, imagining himself as Stevie Wonder, the artist who shines this inaccessible light in the distance. The Scrapbook The Score of the Fugees, released just four years after its birth, is another intangible landmark, a sort of beacon whose radiance extends to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, two years later. Two discs through which he learns hemmed and proud singing, modern soul arrangements and the production derived from hip-hop which serves as an alphabet for the language he will construct later. Far from his memories also resonate the Egyptian songs that his father listened to, but whose bewitching beauty will come to seize him by chance: “When I was a child, I had trouble with Arabic music, because the melodies are very different from those of Western music, especially the Italian song that was familiar to me. Growing up, I started to see it differently thanks to my hairdresser who listened to it all the time and reconnected me with those family roots that I had left somewhere in my childhood. I have the impression that my music now reflects this influence, even if I consider my work as a mix of several cultures and several styles, like a palette of colors of which none is really dominant.

Coat and pants in silk brocade, FENDI.
Coat and pants in silk brocade, FENDI.

Coat and pants in silk brocade, FENDI.

In the press kit provided by his team, a large part is devoted to graphs that allow to measure in figures the small empire which begins to be built around him. It includes scores that make you dizzy (16 platinum records and 15 gold records, hundreds of millions of streams and views on YouTube in just four years), as well as implacable markers of contemporary success: an audience that is two-thirds female, mostly between the ages of 15 and 35, which has earned it appearance on the covers of dozens of fashion magazines and collaboration with houses such as Burberry or Fendi, in perfect synthesis of a double Latin-Oriental charm that inevitably hits the mark. “I’m not a model, is he having fun, I have never taken part in a parade, but I am happy that my work can be confronted with another industry, like that of fashion. It reveals things about me that I would never have imagined. This universe comforts me in the idea of ​​a huge work behind the scenes to create interesting things. What people see is the culmination of a long journey. I think my music works the same way.“Alessandro started writing songs at the age of 19, pushed”by the need to tell [son] story”, and he first made himself available to others, with a publishing contract at Universal which earned him his first successes by proxy. He writes notably for Michele Bravi and Marco Mengoni, both from the Italian version of XFactor, or for Elodie, another candidate for local reality TV.

Coat and pants in silk brocade, FENDI.
Coat and pants in silk brocade, FENDI.

Coat and pants in silk brocade, FENDI.

“I mostly thought the government was trying to get publicity on my name, and I didn’t want to outbid because that’s probably what they were hoping for.”

After this warm-up lap, he presented himself in 2016 in the “Espoirs” section of the Sanremo festival and reaches fourth place in this somewhat conservative institution of Italian song for seventy years, which he will greatly contribute to shaking up from within. He returned to it several years in a row, until winning the first prize in 2019 with sold, a song that leads him to represent Italy at Eurovision the same year, where he obtains second place. A sentence in Arabic that his father repeated to him as a child (“My son, my love, come here”) does not go unnoticed at a time when Italy is in the grip of old identity demons, and the Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini, like the populist representatives of the 5 Star Movement, casts suspicions on him of pro-globalist favoritism of the jurors who quickly turn into anonymous threats from the depths of the country. Alessandro prefers to skip this episode quickly: “I mostly thought these people were trying to get publicity on my name, and I didn’t want to outbid because that’s probably what they were hoping for.” Soldi becomes in a few months the most listened to Italian song in history on Spotify and Apple Music, and its clip is the most viewed that year of all the songs in the contest, which is the best response.

Cotton broadcloth suit jacket and trousers, and embroidered cotton poplin shirt, FENDI.
Cotton broadcloth suit jacket and trousers, and embroidered cotton poplin shirt, FENDI.

Cotton broadcloth suit jacket and trousers, and embroidered cotton poplin shirt, FENDI.

Since then, everything has been packed for Mahmood, despite the brake of the pandemic which will interrupt his European tour. His first album, Gioventù bruciata (“burnt youth”), has installed him comfortably at home like a kind of Latin Drake, crossing an effective pop with R’n’B reflections with subtle heroic flights and an “urban” base that veils without excess the essentials Auto-Tune effects. The title of the album is borrowed from the Italian version of the fury of life, and it escapes no one that Mahmood refers to it twice on this cover where he poses with a bottle of milk, reversing however the gesture of James Dean in Nicholas Ray’s film. “In the fury of life, he drinks the milk, while I spill it, because there is a big difference between the rebellion in the 1950s and our way of shaking up the established order today. When I was writing this record, I had in mind that our generation shouldn’t take things for granted, like our due, which was probably not the case in the 1950s. But I felt close of the character of the film, who is a bit lost. And when you start a career as an artist, there is this feeling that predominates, that of feeling legitimate or not vis-à-vis others, those who will listen to you.

“When I was writing this record, I had in mind that our generation shouldn’t take things for granted, as due, which was probably not the case in the 1950s.”

Doubts have since been happily swept away by success, allowing him to design the newest Ghettolimpo as a more adventurous concept disc and personal, inspired in particular by manga. He thus chose to appear as a hybrid creature on Inuyasha, the first single, posing in the clip with an extravagant orange coat signed Riccardo Tisci, the artistic director of Burberry. Despite the alien armor that he also exhibits in some images, Mahmood has become without looking for it the spokesperson, in his country, for differences and a certain vulnerability, like the American Frank Ocean . Indeed, the question “Is Mahmood gay?” – fueled by an interview given by the star in 2016 to the site Gay.it, and more recently by his duet with Blanco on the title Brividi- is the delight of social networks and sections gossip magazines… Although he has never come out, his appearance and his style as a sensitive man are enough to make him a banner of queer identities, in a country which is still sometimes tense on these questions. Faced with the irresistible torrent of his success, even Matteo Salvini ended up sending him an SMS in a slightly condescending tone, inviting him to “enjoy its success”, as if it were an ephemeral wave. However, the many dikes that fell after his passage indicate that Mahmood has already left a lasting mark on his era, and placed Milan on the musical world map of the 2020s.

Contrast cotton knit sweater, silk brocade Bermuda shorts and linen Bermuda shorts, FENDI.  Hair and makeup: Pierpaolo Lai at Julian Watson Agency.  Assistant director: Marco Van den Hove.  Retouching: Picture House.  Digital: Emanuele De Rossi.  Production: from ARIA
Contrast cotton knit sweater, silk brocade Bermuda shorts and linen Bermuda shorts, FENDI.  Hair and makeup: Pierpaolo Lai at Julian Watson Agency.  Assistant director: Marco Van den Hove.  Retouching: Picture House.  Digital: Emanuele De Rossi.  Production: from ARIA

Contrast cotton knit sweater, silk brocade Bermuda shorts and linen Bermuda shorts, FENDI.

Hair and makeup: Pierpaolo Lai at Julian Watson Agency. Assistant director: Marco Van den Hove. Retouching: Picture House. Digital: Emanuele De Rossi. Production: from ARIA

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