Italy was one of the last countries to announce which song they would send to Malmo. We knew the artist in question was Marco Mengoni, an announcement made after he won the Italian singing festival, Sanremo.
Turns out that one of his winning songs there, ‘L’essenziale’ will be what he performs on May 18. Just like last year, I personally preferred the main alternative, ‘Bellissimo’. You can watch the official video here. Yes, it’s another ballad in a year heavy on them already.
Still, Italy have performed very creditably since returning to the contest in 2011, following up a silver medal there with ninth place last year. What are Marco’s chances of keeping up their spot in the top ten?
Both Raphael Gualazzi and Nina Zilli both did appreciably better in the jury vote than the televote – overall placed first and fourth respectively by the national panels as opposed to eleventh and seventeenth with viewers.
It seems highly likely that a significantly higher jury placing awaits ‘L’essenziale’ too. It’s a perfectly pleasant Italian ballad – piano, strings and all – that’s generally well sung by Marco. I recommend he brings his piano to the stage in Malmo, as that’s the kind of thing that juries tend to reward.
However, the song doesn’t quite give him the artistic licence that Raphael Gualazzi was able to show from behind the piano or Nina Zilli could display with the microphone. He’ll have to try to avoid the occasional pitchy note towards the end that was evident at Sanremo too.
In short, whilst I see it in the jury top ten, I’m not sure we can guarantee it will hit the heights that Nina and Raphael did. In terms of artistry, someone like Anouk may well have an edge with a song that allows her to display it in ‘Birds’.
Marco’s a telegenic chap, but there must be a big danger of this song passing viewers by, especially if drawn early. Raphael and Nina had poor, early-to-middling draws and didn’t hit the televote top ten despite efforts that were arguably more distinctive and televote-friendly.
This year Italy comes up against a plethora of ballads, and may not even be the only song in Italian in the final if San Marino are able to qualify with what could prove a far more memorable number. Once again, a piano will help Marco here, but I don’t think that will save him with televoters if he’s drawn in the first half.
In the circumstances, a price of 20 in the win market on Betfair looks plenty short enough. It is more a reflection of Italy’s decent record in the last two years than anything else, and doesn’t seem to offer decent value this time around.
As for a top ten place, it may be achievable only with a good draw, as without it he could be completely forgotten by televoters – and under the new system for working out how points are allocated (see our analysis of it in the Netherlands piece if you haven’t already), that could be highly damaging.
Agree or disagree? Let us know below.