With a big political event taking place in Italy this weekend (a referendum on changes to the Italian constitution that could lead to the resignation of the Italian Prime Minister if he loses it), it’s a topical time for my first top 5 of a Big 5 country. Italy were one of the founding countries of Eurovision but took an extended break between 1998 and 2011. They are very much back as a major feature now, and a consistent contender for the top places.
While there are over 40 Italian entries to choose from, and many of them reaching high placings, I actually didn’t have too many that stood out so this top 5 has proved easier to put together than I expected. While they have two past winners, you’ll only see one here. And I think my number 1 will be quite a surprise – that’s if you know it in the first place!
5. Gigliola Cinquetti “Non ho l’età” (1964, Winner, 49 points)
One of Italy’s two winners, this is the only one that makes my top 5. It has a dreamy, calming quality – quite unlike most modern Eurovision entries! Random fact: Gigliola remains the second youngest ever winner of Eurovision – she was just 16 at the time. (The video below is the complete radio broadcast of the actual performance in Copenhagen with added video and stills from the reprise to enhance it. The original video recordings of the 1964 contest were lost or destroyed).
4. Francesca Michielin “No Degree of Separation” (2016, 16th place, 124 points)
From Italy’s first winner, to Italy’s most recent entry. This was one of my favourite songs in 2016’s competition – certainly prior to the contest. I think Francesca’s live performance in the final wasn’t to the same quality as I’d seen live at the London Eurovision Preview Party but I still like this song very much indeed.
3. Il Volo “Grande amore” (2015, 3rd place, 292 points)
I wondered whether Francesca should have come 3rd in my list, and Il Divo, sorry Il Volo, fourth, but there’s no denying the strength of their vocals. It came top in the televote (as I predicted it would – it’s perfect for the Saturday night viewing demographic) and I can’t deny its both pleasing to the ear and the eye, even if it’s not the most original song or concept there has been! Top marks for execution though.
2. Domenico Modugno “Nel blu, dipinto di blu” (1958, 3rd place, 13 points)
The oldest song in this top 5, and while this is only my second country top 5 I’ve written so far, I suspect it will be one of the oldest songs on any of my top 5 lists. Even non-Eurovision fans will recognise this song, though Eurovision fan or not, you’ll probably know this as “Volare” rather than its actual official song title. The combined sales of all versions of this song exceed 22 million copies worldwide, making it one of the most popular Eurovision songs of all time and it spent several weeks at Number One in the US’s Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1958.
1. Jalisse “Fiumi di parole” (1997, 4th place, 114 points)
I bet many of you didn’t see this one coming! It’s very much a personal favourite of mine, and I think stands out from the vast majority of Italian entries. It did well, coming 4th in the year that the UK last won the contest. This was the last Italian entry until their return 14 years later in 2011.
What did you think of this first Big 5 top 5? Who would you have put in the top 5? Would “Volare” have been your number 1? And would you have included Italy’s other winner from 1990, Toto Cutugno with “Insieme: 1992”?