By Francesco Ciabattoni (Georgetown University)

Born in Rome, Måneskin’s international success exploded in 2021 and is almost unprecedented in the history of Italian rock or pop: the four musicians—Damiano David (vocals), Victoria De Angelis (bass), Thomas Raggi (guitar) and Ethan Torchio (drums )— have come to world prominence after their participation in X Factor Italia in 2017, under the guidance of Manuel Agnelli, historical founder of the Afterhours.

A recent interview on NPR presents the band’s bilingual repertoire and beginnings—perhaps a bit romanticized by Damiano and Victoria—as street buskers in Italy’s Capital. These days we could say that America views Italy and Italian music through Måneskin. Could it be precisely because the Roman band feeds on American music and has an American—and therefore global—sound quite familiar to overseas audiences? The band hardly ever makes reference to Italian songwriters or rock artists. It is true that Damiano David declared on Flaunt that he likes listening to Toto Cutugno’s “L’Italiano,” which is certainly an iconic piece, albeit a little too Sanremo-esque for a rock, hip hop, metal band, and especially for Damiano, who elsewhere claims to listen to Steven Tyler, who debuted on YouTube with a cover of Selah Sue’s “Raggamuffin” and who often appears on camera saying “Esketit” (a slang expression from “Let’s get it,” which has become the title of a song by Lil’ Pump). One suspects that Måneskin’s lead singer might have wanted to mislead readers to avoid being pigeonholed…. Or perhaps it is this writer who cannot explain Damiano David’s sincere appreciation for the singer from Fosdinovo.

From their second album onwards, Måneskin have taken an active role in writing all the songs, alternating lyrics in English and Italian. Damiano sometimes sings in a heavy rock style, muddying his voice just a little. Although English has been part of Måneskin’s repertoire since their first album (“Fear Nobody,” “Are You Ready?,” “Sh*t Blvd,” from Il Ballo della vita, 2018) their debut on the American market only came in 2021 with their cover of the Four Seasons’ “Beggin’.” However, with Rush (2023) they climbed the international charts, solidly placing themselves on the wall of global rock fame and achieving popularity in Europe, America, and Japan.

Experimenting with a variety of musical genres ranging from acoustic to hard and glam rock, and with themes ranging from love with a rather erotic bent (“For Your Love ”), to the rejection of strictly binary gender, to generational rebellion (“Vent’anni”) and claiming an independent space and voice (“Zitti e buoni”). But some songs also bear traces of a more traditional songwriting style (“Coraline”), or they lean toward the pop ballad (“Torna a casa”). Måneskin have attracted success and even fierce criticism (by world-famous violinist Uto Ughi, as well as critical reviews appearing in Rolling Stones and The Atlantic). As for songs in Italian, which comprised the majority of the band’s repertoire until 2022, the linguistic register stands out above all for its strong diaphasic and diastratic variations. The song that launched them on the international scene by winning the Eurovision Song Contest (“Zitti e buoni”, from Teatro d’ira – Vol. I, 2021) is full of youthful slang (“bro”, “cig”, “out of your mind”) , crude colloquialisms (“I’m gonna kick these doors”), and profanity (“You’d better grab your balls”, “he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about”). But in general, the Roman band’s third album experiments widely with different genres and styles, and it would be limiting to attribute specific labels to them; nevertheless, the impression is that, for the time being, they show a greater interest in sound and image over perfectly crafted song lyrics. And from this point of view, Måneskin’s talents continue to grow with each release, free from the fear of challenging conventions.

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