Foreign Thursday: Chapter 2 What has ITALY ever done for pop music?
There comes a time in your life when you have to accept that you’re not going to be the best at everything. This may be in school, where you can be top of you class in maths, science, languages and many other academic subjects, but you’re probably not going to be the best at sport. Anyone who manages to master of those subjects is worthy of your suspicion, like the guy who lives in the room opposite you at university, he is stupidly good looking, athletic, intelligent, a musician, and worst of all, pleasant to talk to and easy to get along with. You know that that person is going to fail in some field, but it’s not obvious what. Excluding these social anomalies, we just have to acknowledge that this is just the natural order of the world, people have their strengths and they have their weaknesses, and he who is the jack of all trades will be the master of none, as the saying goes.
When you think of what Italy has given the world, what first comes to mind? It’s probably food. If food immediately springs to mind, don’t think this means you need to start doing sit-ups every morning, or heaven forbid, take out a gym subscription, Italy is accepted by many people to have the best food in the world, but then most people outside of the UK don’t understand the sheer joy that can come from a good savoury pie. The Italians have their food and they have their fashion, if you’re into that, but have they put in much effort with their pop music? This is the big question.
If you do a little digging, you can probably find that in your music library you’ve got a few tracks by secret Italians, although they’ll probably be dance tracks. Eiffel 65 gave us the anthem of our generation, ‘Blue (Da Ba Dee)’ in 1999, which bizarrely went on to sell over a million copies, becoming the second biggest song of the year in the UK (behind …Baby One More Time), but thankfully the second single tanked and Eiffel 65 dropped off our radars but not before doing a few ghastly remixes(“Just speed it up a lot, alter the pitch and add the sound effects from Blue! Does this count as a remix?”)
We shouldn’t write off all Italian pop because of that though: 1989’s biggest selling single was cheeky samplers’ Black Box’s Ride On Time, and they were from Italy. Fellow cheeky samplers and chimney specialists The Tampererwere also from Italy. Club Classics staple ‘Point of View’by DB Boulevard was Italian.
However, perhaps making Italy’s best contribution to pop music is Giorgio Moroder. The super producer and disco pioneer created the instrumental for Blondie’s second best single “Call Me” (which is the best part of it, as the lyrics are rather bad, “Come up off your colour chart”). He also co-wrote the equally uncomfortable and incredible Donna Summer moanfest ‘Love to Love You Baby’, the perfect soundtrack to a sensual massage, perhaps, or maybe if you’re especially unsociable and you have new neighbours but want to assure that they don’t come round to say hi. For good old Donna, he also wrote electronic trailblazer ‘I Feel Love’ and produced stippers’ anthem ‘Hot Stuff’. Then when you add into the equation ‘Together In Electric Dreams’ with Human League frontman Phil Oakey and working with King of Music, David Bowie, Moroder’s contribution to pop and dance music seems even more significant that of even Eiffel 65.
Finally, in my humble opinion, I don’t think you can discuss the output of Italy without including Raffaele ‘Raf’ Riefolo, who co-wrote and originally performed the Laura Brannigan’s 80’s classic ‘Self Control’. If you thought Self Control was good enough in the better-known Brannigan version, imagine how it would sound stretched out to six minutes and with an awkward 80’s white man rap shoved in the middle. Perfect, that’s how.
So that’s a little of Italy’s contribution to pop music. Perhaps the names aren’t as big, but the Italians have more of a tendency to be the ones behind the scenes in pop, producing the beats and provoking the earth-trembling orgasms. As I said earlier, the Italians can’t be best at everything, but they still have a little go, so we’ll respect them for that at least. Pop is obviously not their main genre, they have a few musical baskets and a lot of their sonic eggs go into opera, but every now and again you (literally) can’t hold back one of the operatic heavyweights when he wants to dip his toes into pop’s waters, as seen in this video of the unlikely pairing of the Spice Girls and Pavarotti, singing a ridiculous/fantastic version of ‘Viva Forever’.
Plus points (/10) : 6 points for Moroder Minus points (/10): -3 for the numerous house acts and their uncredited samples. Very naughty. Bonus points for Eurovision ’12 entry (/3): 2, Very good effort from Nina Zilli.