I have been studying the pop music of Italy for the last two years and it turns out that it consists pretty much of a handful of people all playing on each other's records.
Let's start with Andrea Bocelli — only because the English-speaking layman may already have heard of him as his powerful, brilliant tenor has been heard on many a late-night TV advertising slot here in Australia bought by ever-more desperate music publishers over the years.
Back in 1995 old 20/20 Bocelli recorded a song 'Vivo Per Lei' (I live for her) with Giorgia — a remarkable singer with a long career — well-loved in Italy. But, and this is the point I am making in this post, she — along with the other luminaries of Italian popular music — spends an awful lot of time being the "feat." in the songs of other Italian popular music luminaries.
In 2011 she sang on Eros Ramozzotti's 'Inevitabile', a song notable for its complete avoidance of the tonic. Ramozzotti himself was the "feat." in a Bocelli single. It's another rubbish soppy Euroballad: I don't genuinely want you to follow that link but it's simply more of this incestuous Italpop love-in that I am uncovering.
So Giorgia also gets first-circle Italian artists to feature on her singles too. Several times she has worked with the guitarist Pino Daniele. I say, "the guitarist" but he is one of those musicians that are splendid at the instrument they play and, since they can sing a bit, get to have their own recording career. Think Stevie Ray Vaughan or B.B.King except without the smallest waft of the blues.
The single 'Anime Sole' from 2007 — a song either about lonely souls or Japanese animated footwear — is an example of their collaboration.
Well, of course, because this is Italy, Pino Daniele collaborates with others as well: this is Daniele feat. J-Ax.
(If you will allow me an aside: I think the main reason Italian rap is wholly comical is due to the Italian language itself. Italian is so driven by long, pure, clear vowels — great for opera and indeed for sappy love songs of the type I've been linking to here but bad for rap which is all about those rhythmic consonants. I, for one, would like to applaud J-Ax for maintaining such a long and enjoyable fight against such a handicap.)
J-Ax, the stage name of Alessandro Aleotti (if I were to kickstart my rapping career I guess I'd call myself J-Pa), when he was younger he got into a public diss-off with another young upstart called Jovanotti who he thought was a bit of a sell-out. So it was big news when the two teamed up to record 'Vecchia Scuola' in 2009. The old enemies come together and all their friends, they sing, are 'old-school'. Heartwarming.
The childish crap from Jovanotti's youth — which no doubt raised J-Ax's ire, it certainly raises mine — has given way to more enjoyable, mature musings of everyday life like 'La Notte Dei Desideri'. He played with Pino Daniele and Eros Ramazzotti, he wrote 'Tu Mi Porti Su' for Giorgia
On the rare occasions when Jovanotti writes a biting criticism of modern Italian politics he doesn't release it, he shoves it behind the cupboard. I don't know why, I guess he just doesn't like performing that edgy material (not like Squid Ink: the more confronting the material the more the Ink revel but this is just an aside). Jovanotti wrote a song called 'La Cumbia Di Chi Cambia' but gave it to Adriano Celentano to record.
Celentano is the grand old master of Italian popular music. Around for decades and with more hits than everybody else on the planet combined, more number ones than there are atoms in the universe.
'La Cumbia Di Chi Cambia' is terrific and I have a gem to finish the post with but before we get to that here is Celentano covering 'Stand By Me' which is completely unlistenable.
La Dolce Vita you may know as a comedy movie constructed of a series of ridiculous scenes linked only by having a couple of characters running through them and by having obviously been written for their over-the-top riduculosity. One of these is when Sylvia the charismatic actress drags everybody to a club where everybody starts dancing ridiculously. Out of nowhere pops Celentano who works, apparently, not just with Jovanotti but also Frederico Fellini.
I deliberately have been working towards this last number which is Celentano's hit 'Prisincolinensinainciusol', a number that got some play all over the world at the time. The song is meant to sound like American rock and roll but with nonsense lyrics as if written in English by somebody who speaks not a word of English. The genius, however, is the dance number. I urge you to watch this video which reminds my girlfriend of the video for Blur's 'Music Is My Radar'. This is wonderful. One of the great performances.