When rock band Maneskin won the Eurovision Song Contest this year, they were little known outside of Italy. Then the competition catapulted the group in front of 180 million viewers, and propelled its winning song, “Zitti and BuoniOr “Shut Up and Behave”, in the Spotify World Top 10 – a first for an Italian group.
The song has been streamed on Spotify over 100 million times. With nearly 18 million listeners in the past month, Maneskin has performed better on the streaming service during that time than either Foo Fighters or Kings of Leon.
Eurovision acts usually fade from the spotlight as soon as the competition ends, but the Maneskin members hope to build on their existing fame here, as well as the newly gained international interest, to become a rare long-term achievement. of 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, a Swedish reporter asked if David had snorted cocaine on live television, and the singer denied any wrongdoing.
David had a drug test, which came back negative. The European Broadcasting Union issued a statement saying “no drug use had taken place” and “considered the matter closed”.
It was therefore a 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 both 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.
An Italian music critic compared Maneskin – which means moonlight in Danish, and pronounced “moan-EH-skin” – to the Energizer bunny. This may partly explain why “Zitti and Buoni”Transcended what could have been an insurmountable language barrier (although there is already a Finnish cover).
The song celebrates individuality and walking to the beat of your own drum (or guitar riff). The chorus repeats: “We are crazy, but we are different from them.
With his stylish androgynous nonchalance – accessorized with high heels, black nail polish and smoky eyes – Maneskin breaks 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 that read, “Musicians Wanted (Rome)”.
There weren’t a lot of venues here for newbie rock bands, so they would play in the streets, play in high schools, and play in restaurants, “where you had to bring your own paying audience,” David recalls. Small competitions of “battle of the bands” “at least ensured to play in front of an audience”, he adds.
“It’s the kind of dynamic that toughens you up,” says Torchio.
After a few years of struggling to find concerts, the group took part in the 2017 Italian edition of the talent competition The X factor.
Anna Curia, 24, said “it was love at first sight” when she saw the group’s audition song on the program; a few weeks later, she founded the band’s official fan club. “From the start, they had a distinct style and sound,” she says. Other fan clubs quickly followed. There’s even one called Mammeskin, for older women.
the X factor Passage also caught the eye of Veronica Etro of fashion label Etro. “They had something,” says Etro, who is the brand’s creative director for its women’s collections. “I was very bewitched.”
The fashion house contacted the group and began dressing their members for album covers and videos. The collaboration led Etro to supply the outfits for Eurovision Song Contest, where the band’s studded, laminated and red leather look made you think “Jimi Hendrix meets Golden velvet», Writes Vanessa Friedman 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 2017, took Maneskin under his wing. At first, the band members weren’t musically mature, he says, “but I saw characteristics in them that can’t be taught – it’s something you were born with; it is the 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 the performance, ”says Agnelli.
Maneskin did not win The X factor, ahead of Lorenzo Licitra, a tenor whose style is more in line with the Italian penchant for great melodic ballads. Still, the program turned out to be a springboard.
“It’s a television phenomenon,” explains Andrea Andrei, journalist for the Rome daily. Il Messaggero. “Without The X factor and the machine behind it that produces products ready for mainstream success, Maneskin would have struggled much longer, as other rock groups have.
The real surprise, for many Italian commentators, was Maneskin’s victory last March at the Sanremo Music Festival, the national event in which the Italian Eurovision actor is chosen. Until a few years ago, Sanremo attracted mainly Italians whose musical heyday predated Woodstock, but in recent years it has reached a younger audience by involving the winners of talent shows like The X factor.
“Nothing could be further from rock than Sanremo,” says Massimo Cotto, Italian music journalist and radio DJ.
So here too, Maneskin innovated. “Italy has never had an idyllic relationship with rock music; it never became mainstream, ”says Andrei. “Maneskin’s victory was unexpected because they are a real rock band.”
During the interview, David strongly rejects accusations that he was filmed using drugs on Eurovision Song Contest, complaining that the speculation overshadowed the group’s victory.
The allegations were both infantile 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 adds.
Allegations aside, there have been a few changes since winning the Eurovision Song Contest.
The merchandise associated with the band’s most recent album is sold out. Their music was featured in a Pepsi commercial. And earlier this month, the group parted ways with Marta Dona, 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, presented itself as a possible successor. The group has yet to announce who will replace Dona.
Agnelli, the Italian X factor judge, gives the quartet some advice to continue on their current momentum: to shoot as much as possible, to gain experience under their belt and to continue to be themselves.
“It’s their greatest strength,” he says.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.