The Festival della canzone italiana di Sanremo (usually just called Sanremo in the Eurovision fandom) is far more than another national final – the festival predates Eurovision itself and was the original model for the contest. It’s an annual highlight for Italian music and Italian TV while simultaneously (usually) acting as the national final for Italy and their entry for Eurovision.
For us eurofans, watching the entirety of Sanremo is the equivalent to running several marathons… It’s 5 nights of TV, and each night stretches over around 5 hours (or more!) with lots of performances from other Italian artists, sketches and skits, smaller contests/awards as well as the actual main 26 competing songs and artists. Voting is quite complex and I won’t try to go into that detail here, suffice to say, there are different voting groups through the week and on the final night, though ultimately the 26 get whittled down to the three superfinalists whose votes are calculated from three groups: the demoscopic jury, a press jury and the televote. (The demoscopic jury is made up of 500 music fans but demographically balanced).
There are a couple of former Eurovision entrants in the mix this time, though after four nights, it seems like only one is likely to be in contention of winning again (though with Sanremo you never know). Francesca Michielin (Eurovision 2016) has made a return in a duet, though is currently sitting in 17th place in the standings after four nights. While anything can still happen, it seems likely the winner will come from one of the following six songs which currently are the top of the placings after the first four nights’ voting.
Place 1: Ermal Meta “Un millione di cose da dirti”
Ermal Meta represented Italy (along with Fabrizio Moro) at Eurovision in 2018 with Non mi avete fatto niente, , achieving an impressive 5th place, driven by a big televote score. In Sanremo 2021, he has been consistently placed first by the various voting groups which haven not even included the televote yet – so there does seem a strong chance this could win and give him another Sanremo victory (and trip to Eurovision). It’s an emotive ballad with impressive vocals (though perhaps not the most exciting?).
Place 2: Willie Peyote “Mai dire mai (La locura)”
Currently in second place is Italian rapper and indie pop/hip hop singer Willie Peyote. If this won, it would mark quite a difference for Italy, though the way the voting system works it tends to work against the quirkier or more unusual entries. It’s pretty uptempo and while I am less keen on the rap parts of the song, it’s got a catchy chorus and I think it would be a fun winner.
Place 3: Arisa “Potevi fare di più”
Actor and singer Arisa is a veteran of Sanremo, having entered the contest several times, including winning the Newcomers category in 2009, runner up of main contest in 2012, winning it in 2014, and hosting the show in 2015. Most recently she finished 8th in the 2018 contest with what was my favourite Sanremo song that year, “Mi sento bene“. She’s got a more classical ballad this year, but her voice continues to shine through.
Place 4: Annalisa “Dieci”
Currently just edging it for the top spot among the eurofans in the scoreboard app, I can see why “Dieci” is popular. Annalisa got heavily downmarked by the press jury (somewhat inexplicably) but she could still win the whole thing. It’s been a few years since we’ve had a female solo entry. I wouldn’t be at all unhappy if this ended up as the winner.
Place 5: Måneskin “Zitti e buoni”
Possibly the most atypical genre and song at Sanremo (or certainly in this top group), there is a chance we may see Italian (alternative) rap rock at Eurovision. It’s not my genre I will admit, but Måneskin would bring musical diversity to the contest.
Place 6: Irama “La genesi del tuo colore”
Possibly the most modern of the top group of the songs (albeit with some retro influences), this is a decent effort and I’d ordinarily welcome this winning (especially with the electropop elements). The singer, Irama, does have a more unfortunate history with some of the things he has said in the past which wouldn’t fit well with Eurovision’s inclusive nature, so I’m rather ambivalent to this one. I expect a big televote for this as Irama has several number 1 albums recently behind him.
Who will win? Anyone’s guess! But if you want to find out as it happens, be prepared for a late one – the show finishes at 1am UK time so the winner won’t be revealed until that last 15 minutes of the show…
You can watch the show (or drop in!) via the broadcaster’s website.