Whether or not tu parli italiano, Italian artists Mahmood and BLANCO will leave you with chills.
On February 3, the duo debuted their ballad “Brividi” at the 2022 Sanremo Music Festival. Each year, Sanremo invites artists from across Italy to perform unreleased songs, making it the most popular music competition in the country. The five-day festival also serves as inspiration for the annual Eurovision Song Contest, which features budding artists from across Europe.
This year at Sanremo, 29-year-old Mahmood and 18-year-old BLANCO won the competition, as well as a chance to represent Italy at Eurovision in May. Clad in flowing black drapery and diamonds fit for royalty, the duo stunned the live audience in Sanremo and viewers around the world. With “Brividi,” Mahmood and BLANCO invite listeners to engage in three minutes and
nineteen seconds of honest vulnerability.
To translate the lyrics of “Brividi” into English is to do a disservice to the song itself. In Italian, the lyrics flow like water from a fresh spring. In English, the phrases are clunky, jumbled and cliché at best. Luckily, you don’t have to understand the lyrics to experience the song. “Brividi” is a conversation, featuring solos, call-and-response, and stunning harmonies. Mahmood and BLANCO play tug-of-war, each vying to make himself heard but also finding common ground with the other. Their song is a vocal experiment that allows each artist to expand on their respective sounds and artistic development.
Mahmood, born Alessandro Mahmoud, is an Italian singer-songwriter who rose to prominence in 2012 after competing on the sixth season of X-Factor Italia. Mahmood describes his style as “Moroccan pop” and draws on a variety of influences including Arabic music and American hip-hop. Born to a Sardinian mother and an Egyptian father, Mahmood’s lyrics often explore the duality of his Arab-Italian identity. Mahmood’s father was largely absent during his childhood, and he was raised by a single mother. His lyrics recall an unloving father, who rarely has time for his son. Mahmood sometimes weaves Arabic into his lyrics, experimenting with his father’s tongue which remains foreign to him.
Mahmood debuted his hit single “Soldi” (“Money”) at the Sanremo Music Festival in 2019. “Soldi” won the competition, shocking the public and drawing criticism from Italy’s conservative elites. Far-right politicians criticized Mahmood’s unconventional style, angry that the Arab-Italian had penetrated their traditional music festival. Unfortunately for critics, that was not the last time they would see Mahmood. The rising star went on to release his first album Gioventù Bruciata (Wasted Youth) and defended his title at the Sanremo Music Festival in 2022. With “Brividi,” Mahmood reinforces his legitimacy in the Italian music scene, while also providing young artist BLANCO with a chance to establish his emerging voice.
Riccardo Fabbriconi, known as BLANCO, gained traction in 2020 after releasing his EP Quarantine Paranoid on SoundCloud. Last year, BLANCO signed with Universal and released his debut album Blu celeste, as well as the single “MI FAI IMPAZZIRE,” both of which topped Italian charts and achieved platinum status. BLANCO’s songs mix rap with pop and utilize heavy vocal effects. Working with Mahmood has allowed BLANCO to demonstrate his versatility as a performer and brings an element of maturity to his work.
Together, Mahmood and BLANCO bridge distance and time to tell a universal story of love and vulnerability. “Brividi” is an honest confession, in which the singer bears true his intentions and fears. Steady piano chords ground the song as orchestral instruments and layered vocals lead the listener through its tumultuous emotional landscape. The verses are contemplative and reflective, while the chorus seems to cry out in desperation. Mahmood and BLANCO engage in dialogue, their voices imitating verbal and physical exchanges between lovers.
It is important to note that “Brividi” is not one but two parallel love stories, each told by an artist. As made evident by the official VEVO video, in “Brividi,” Mahmood sings to a male lover, while BLANCO sings to an unknown but presumably female lover. Mahmood’s openness with his sexuality furthers the revolutionary nature of his work in a conservative country.
The song climaxes with a passionate bridge in which tensions are laid bare. Although it seems like an explosion is imminent, instead, the song resolves itself and winds down, returning to soft piano chords and eventually a single voice. At its core “Brividi” emphasizes the rawness of being human, a phenomenon that transcends all of our differences.
Rating: I N D Y
Sabrina Shaffer is a freshman in the College and is undecided.