They won the Eurovision Song Contest. Can they take over the world?
ROME – When the rock band Maneskin won this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, he was little known outside of Italy. Then the competition catapulted the group ahead 180 million viewers, and propelled their winning song “Zitti and BuoniOr “Shut Up and Behave”, in the Spotify world top 10, a first for an Italian group.
As of Wednesday, the song had aired on Spotify more than 100 million times. With nearly 18 million listeners last month, Maneskin fared better on the streaming service over the same time frame as The Foo Fighters or the Kings of Leon.
Eurovision acts usually disappear from the spotlight as soon as the competition ends, but Maneskin’s members hope to build on their existing fame here and the newly acquired international interest to become a rare long-term achievement of the. Eurovision.
A post-curtain controversy that plagued the group last month only increased the group’s notoriety. On the night of the Eurovision Song Contest, rumors spread across social media after a clip from the show went viral, showing lead singer Damiano David leaning over a table backstage. At a press conference later that evening, Swedish journalist asked if David snorted cocaine on live television, and the singer denied any wrongdoing.
David had a drug test and it came back negative. The European Broadcasting Union issued a statement saying “no drug use had taken place” and “considered the matter closed”.
This is therefore the debut on the world stage for a quartet whose combined ages total only 83 years. (David is 22; bassist Victoria De Angelis is 21; and guitarist Thomas Raggi and drummer Ethan Torchio are 20.)
“For us,” De Angelis said in a recent interview, “music is a passion, a pleasure, something that allows us to let off steam” – no surprise to anyone who has seen Maneskin perform live. The group is a concentrate of charisma on stage and youthful energy.
The song celebrates individuality and walking to the beat of one’s drum or guitar riff. The chorus repeats: “We are crazy, but we are different from them.
With his sleek and carefully curated androgynous nonchalance – accessorized with high heels, black nail polish and smoky eyes – Maneskin breaks down gender barriers and champions self-expression.
The group was formed in 2015. David, De Angelis and Raggi had known each other from college in Rome. Torchio, whose family lives just outside of town, joined the group after responding to an ad in a Facebook group called “Musicians Wanted (Rome)”.
There weren’t a lot of rooms here for beginner rock bands, so they played in the street, performed in high schools and restaurants “where you were expected to bring your own paying audience,” David recalls. The short-lived group combat competitions “ensured that at least we would play in front of an audience,” he added.
“These are the types of dynamics that toughen you up,” Torchio said.
After a few years of struggling to find gigs, the group took part in the 2017 Italian edition of the talent show “The X Factor”.
Anna Curia, 24, said ‘it was love at first sight’ when she saw the group hearing song in the program; a few weeks later, she founded the official company of the group fan club. “From the start they had a distinct style and sound,” she said. Other fan clubs quickly followed. There is even one, called Mammeskin, for women of a certain age.
The passage of “X Factor” also caught the attention of Veronica Etro of fashion label Etro. “They had something,” said Etro, who is the brand’s creative director for women’s collections. “I was very bewitched.”
The fashion house contacted the group and began dressing them for album covers and videos. The collaboration evolved into the outfits for Eurovision Song Contest, where the band’s studded red laminated leather looks made you “think Jimi Hendrix-meets-“Golden velvetVanessa Friedman wrote in The New York Times.
“What I like is the way they mix women’s and men’s clothing,” Etro said in a phone interview. “There is something very revolutionary about them, the way they are not afraid and they have fun with the clothes.”
Manuel Agnelli, who was one of the “X Factor” judges in 2107, took Maneskin under his wing. At first they weren’t musically mature, he said, “but I saw characteristics in them that can’t be taught, it’s something that you were born with, it’s a personality.”
“Their image is a big part of who they are, their sexuality, their charisma, their body. It’s part of rock, it’s part of performance, ”said Agnelli.
Maneskin did not win “The X Factor”, finishing second behind Lorenzo Licitra, a tenor whose style is more in tune with the Italian penchant for great melodic ballads. Still, the program turned out to be a stepping stone to bigger things.
“It’s a television phenomenon,” said Andrea Andrei, journalist for the Roman daily Il Messaggero. “Without ‘The X Factor’ and the machine behind it that produces products ready for mainstream success, Maneskin would have wrestled much longer, like other rock groups.”
The real surprise, for many Italian commentators, was Maneskin’s victory last March at the Sanremo Italian Song Festival, the national event that finds the Eurovision Act of Italy. Until a few years ago, Sanremo attracted mainly Italians whose musical heyday predated Woodstock, but recent editions have reached a younger audience by involving the winners of talent shows like “The X-Factor”.
“Nothing could be further from rock than Sanremo,” said Massimo Cotto, Italian music journalist and radio DJ.
So here too, Maneskin innovates. “Italy has never had an idyllic relationship with rock music, it never went mainstream,” said Andrei. “Maneskin’s victory was unexpected because they are a real rock band.”
During the interview, David strongly rejected the accusations that he was filmed using drugs on Eurovision Song Contest, complaining that speculation had overshadowed their victory.
The allegations were both childish and devious, he said. And they didn’t give anything, because the drug tests came back negative. “We know we are clean. We have nothing to hide, “he said.
Allegations aside, there have been a few changes since winning the Eurovision Song Contest.
The merchandise associated with the band’s most recent album sold out within minutes. He lent his music to a Pepsi commercial. And earlier this month, the group parted ways with Marta Donà, their manager since 2017. Some newspapers here have questioned whether an Italian management agency has started to feel too tight for Maneskin’s international aspirations, and the name of Simon Cowell, the mastermind behind “The X-Factor”, emerged as a possible successor. The group has not announced who will replace Donà.
Agnelli, the Italian “X-Factor” judge, gave the quartet some advice on how to build on their current momentum: tour as many as possible, gain experience under their belt and continue to be themselves.
“It is their greatest strength,” he said.