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The epic of Italian pop in 100 discs

With “Buongiorno Pop”, Rosario Ligammari pays tribute to sixty years of Italian pop. An essential book for all lovers of La Botte music.

Tutto va bene! Italian pop music is doing well. For about five years, a new generation of artists has come to shake up the country’s musical landscape. If you always ride a Vespa on the indestructible tubes of Ricchi e Poveri or Umberto Tozzi; the indie pop of Andrea Laszlo De Simone and Alex Rossi, the rap of Fedez and Sfera Ebbasta, the rock of Calcutta, or the stadium pop of Thegiornalisti, are now essential. In France, the Versailles of Phoenix have always proclaimed their love for transalpine music. They are far from the only ones. The brigades of Italian pop lovers now have a new guide to delve into the sixty years of its history.

Buongiorno Pop began in 1960, the year the cantautori (authors-composers-performers) were made official. From the first titles of Patty Pravo, Mina and Adriano Celentano, the work continues its exploration to the present day, with lo-fi psych groups like Post Nebbia, strangeness like L’Avversario or Pieralberto Valli, rap with Myss Keta , electro with Cosmo, or pop FM with Margherita Vicario. “Between Claudio Lolli, a poetic-political folk, and Marlene Kuntz, a noise pop group à la Sonic Youth, there is as much distance as between Venice and Sicily”, explains Rosario Ligammari, music journalist and author of the book. All roads lead to Italian pop, in short.

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Contents of this anthology, 100 albums that cover all styles, and do not hesitate to do the splits to reveal forgotten wonders. Only imperative to integrate the selection: the Italian nationality of the artists and the singing in Italian. “My book is also characterized by certain improbable transitions: evoking Ramazzotti is inevitable, except that the front page has Carillon Del Dolore, a cold-wave band known only in goth circles. In the era of playlists, it seemed judicious to me to proceed by fragments, by pieces, like a vast compilation of records. I mixed personal tastes, historical importance, popular hits and rarities. The discs chosen had to be like the pieces of a puzzle which, once glued together, would represent what is called Italian pop.

Buongiorno Tristezza

The first musical memory of Rosario, half Sicilian, resounds in the language of Dante. These are ditties, Solo sound canzonette by Edoardo Bennato, a concept-album that takes up the story of Peter Pan. Writing this book was obvious to him: “Italian music has always accompanied me. As a child, thanks to my father, I adored Fabrizio de André, Francesco De Gregori, Antonello Venditti, Francesco Guccini… Then my tastes evolved, I became a fan of Luca Carboni, I turned to more synthetic sounds and artists of my time, without losing sight of the great classics. I discovered pop thanks to Italy.”

Clichés about Italian popular music die hard. We know some tender ones, like this quote from the autobiographical novel by François Cavanna, The Ritals : “The Italians sing and it’s at full throttle! All well together, eye to eye so that it is very fair, very successful, the mouth wide open so that the ample Italian A’s can flourish there.”

Then, there are the others, those intelligently deconstructed by Rosario in this vast panorama that he draws up of transalpine pop. Thus, this music often considered light, even kitsch, would not really be so. Rosario affirms it, melancholy would be one of the specificities of Italian music. The title of his book, Buongiorno Popalso refers to that Buongiorno Tristezza by Claudio Villa (based on the novel Hello Sadness by Francoise Sagan). “What links Mina to Giuni Russo or Renato Zero to the Poohs is melancholy. It is curious that we talk about light music about Italian pop, which often brings tears to your eyes. Just listen to the recent marvels of emotions that are the compositions of Andrea Laszlo, Simone or Calcutta to be convinced.

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Another characteristic feature of Italian pop: its natural reappropriation of existing genres with a national or regional flavor. One of the keys to its success lies in its ability to integrate new international trends by reformulating them in harmony with its cultural identity. If Italian pop has always known how to be modern and fascinating, it has never ceased to be Italian. “Freak Antoni transforms punk into insane Italian post-cabaret rock, Neapolitan blues mixes dialect and traditional instruments like the mandolin, Italian-style disco is called Italo-disco… Contrary to what Renato Carosone says in You vuo’ fa’ the AmericanoI find that instead of playing the Americans, the Italians Italianize”, says Rosario.

“Italy is a big bed covered in red roses”

When we talk about a “Golden age” of Italian pop, the journalist spontaneously points to the 1970s. “The cantautori were at the top with fine compositions, superb texts and neat melodies, but this era was also marked by the profusion of virtuoso prog groups, by Battisti at his best, by the arrival of the first records by Franco Battiato who slide from experimental to pop, through the birth of disco-funk. In Italian pop, the golden age is the years of lead”.

An Italian pop that has swept away its complexes in the face of Anglo-Saxon music for a long time. And if certain clichés persist, they often refer to a fantasized image around Italy. Before closing this documented and inspired work, let’s leave the final word to its author: “It’s okay to like big Italian syrupy hits, I like them too. And don’t talk to me about guilty pleasures, when it comes to music, we are entitled to direct absolution. In my book, I jokingly write that Italian pop reminds me of a big bed covered in red roses. It’s always true, but Italy, musically, is also a lot of experimentation, brilliant and crazy rockers, good DJs, sublime alternative groups. This country has a solid pop history, in a popular and qualitative sense. There was also a package of collaborations with Anglo-Saxon or German sizes: latin lover by Gianna Nannini was co-produced by Conny Plank, Canto Pagano de Moda by Mick Ronson, several Uzeda records have been produced by Steve Albini… If English is the language of rock, Italian is that of pop.”

Buongiorno Pop: 100 Italian albums from 1960 to the present day by Rosario Ligammari (The Word and the Rest).

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