Namasté! Alé! On Friday evening RAI revealed the 20 hopefuls for the 2018 edition of the long-lasting Sanremo Music Festival. The lucky contestants will sing-it-out to gain access to the Eurovision 2018 stage in Lisbon, Portugal — and hopefully build on the momentum laid down by Francesco Gabbani last year.

Kicking off on February 6, the contest will feature few Sanremo legends, several bands and duets, FOUR former Italian Eurovision representants — and JUST four female singers. Let’s take a look… but don’t start searching YouTube for their competing entries just yet: You won’t be able to hear the songs until the first performance on the stage, as required by sanremese tradition.

There’s one big change for this edition — and it concerns the host and artistic director. After three amazing editions, the iconic perma-tanned Carlo Conti has passed the baton to novice Claudio Baglioni, one of Italy’s most successful singers and songwriters. And guess what? He is one of the few stars who NEVER took part as a contestant in Sanremo!

Baglioni will guide viewers through the five-episode festival, which will turn 68 in February. It’s old, but it’s still TV gold and remains one of the most watched and most talked-about television programmes in the country.

SANREMO 2018 PARTICIPANTS

ANNALISA – “Il mondo prima di te”

She’s the redheaded beauty lots of Eurovision fans are crazy about and she’s BACK! After her second place in the tenth series of Amici di Maria De Filippi, Annalisa took her career even higher by taking part in Sanremo three times: in 2013 with “Scintille“, in 2015 with “Una finestra tra le stelle” and in 2016 with “Il diluvio universale“.

DECIBEL – “Lettera dal duca”

A punk rock and new wave trio made famous during the 80’s, they recently reunited to release a new album. They hit the Sanremo stage in 1980 with “Contessa“. Their lead singer is Enrico Ruggeri, who represented Italy at Eurovision 1993 with “Sole d’Europa“.

DIODATO & ROY PACI – “Adesso”

The musical relationship between these two Sicilian singers is longstanding. When Diodato debuted in the Newcomer’s section in 2014 with “Babilonia“, Roy Paci — a trumpeter, singer and arranger who mixes ska, patchanka and rocksteady — was his artistic “godfather”. In 2007 Paci and his band Aretuska released “Toda joia toda beleza” a successful collaboration with French singer Manu Chao.

ELIO E LE STORIE TESE – “Arrivedorci”

Elio e le Storie Tese is an Italian comedy rock band formed in 1980. They achieved national fame at Sanremo 1996 with “La terra dei cachi“,  a humorous take on Italian lifestyle with which they won the Critics’ Award. We also saw them in 2013 with “La canzone mononota“. They announced their split on October 2017… but they were probably just mocking the audience, in their typical style.

ENZO AVITABILE & PEPPE SERVILLO – “Il coraggio di ogni giorno”

There’s always a place for a wildcard from Napoli. This year, this particular spot has been assigned to Enzo Avitabile, a saxophonist and singer-songwriter. He plays a fusion of world music and jazz, rooted in Neapolitan traditions and characteristic dialect. Avitabile will sing a duet wih Peppe Servillo, who won Sanremo in 2000 with the band Avion Travel, performing “Sentimento“.

ERMAL META & FABRIZIO MORO – “Non mi avete fatto niente”

Two worthy songwriters, both were in Sanremo 2017’s line up as solo artists, the former singing “Vietato morire“, the latter performing “Portami via“. Now they join forces for an unexpected duet — and a shot at victory.

GIOVANNI CACCAMO – “Eterno”

Giovanni rose to fame in 2015 after winning the Newcomer’s section of Sanremo thanks to “Ritornerò da te“. He returned in 2016, reaching third place in the Big section with “Via da qui“, a duet with Deborah Iurato.

LE VIBRAZIONI – “Così sbagliato”

The four-piece band will stage their reunion on the grand Sanremo stage. They made their breakthrough in 2003 with “Dedicato a te” — now considered a cult song of Italian pop music. They’ve been in the competition once before — in 2005 with the song “Ovunque andrò“.

LO STATO SOCIALE – “Una vita in vacanza”

Musically they sit comfortably between indie rock and electropop, and are considered a cornerstone of the Italian alternative music scene. They will jump into the mainstream scene with this debut. One of their most beloved songs is “Mi sono rotto il cazzo“, which contains outspoken lyrics.

LUCA BARBAROSSA – “Passame er sale”

A singer-songwriter, he tied his image to the city of Rome with his debut in Sanremo 1981 with “Roma spogliata“. He has returned to the Ariston Theatre several times, most recently in 2011 with “Fino in fondo” feat. El Sueño de Morfeo’s Raquel del Rosario. Barbarossa also represented Italy at Eurovision 1988 with “Ti scrivo (Vivo)“.

MARIO BIONDI – “Rivederti”

A real crooner with a soulful, warm voice, Mario Biondi came to the public’s attention when he was 33 with the international hit “This Is What You Are“, which was also nabbed a spot on the BBC Radio 1 playlist. He has published several albums — always singing in English. Five of them topped the FIMI Italian Albums Chart. This will be his first participation in Sanremo.

MAX GAZZE – “La leggenda di Cristalda e Pizzomunno”

His unique and a bit over the top style has won this songwriter and bassist the recognition of both the public and critics. He can boast nearly thirty years of success and four participations in Sanremo: in 1999 with “Una musica può fare“, in 2000 with “Il timido ubriaco“, in 2008 with “Il solito sesso” and in 2013 with “Sotto casa“.

NINA ZILLI – “Senza appartenere”

This name will surely make many of you happy. Eurofans still remember her for reaching 9th place at Eurovision 2012 with “L’amore è femmina (Out of love)“, after taking part in Sanremo the same year with the big ballad “Per sempre“. This will be her fourth attempt, counting her debut in the Newcomer’s section in 2010 with “L’uomo che amava le donne” and “Sola” in 2015.

NOEMI – “Non smettere mai di cercarmi”

The lioness of Italian pop music, she roars with soul influences and has won many hearts since the second series of X Factor Italy. We’ve seen her on the Sanremo stage four times already: in 2010 with “Per tutta la vita“, in 2012 with “Sono solo parole“, in 2014 with “Bagnati dal sole” and in 2016 with “La borsa di una donna“.

ORNELLA VANONI, BUNGARO & PACIFICO – “Imparare ad amarsi”

Sanremo legend Ornella Vanoni — known for her sophisticated pop-jazz style — is the Italian songstress with the longest-running career, having constantly been in business since 1956. The many hits in her discography include “L’appuntamento“, “Una ragione di più“, and “La voglia, la pazzia“. In 2018 she’ll record her ninth appearance in the contest, taking the stage with two talented songwriters, Bungaro and Pacifico. They also participated in Sanremo, most recently in 2004 with “Guardastelle” and “Solo un sogno“.

RED CANZIAN – “Ognuno ha il suo racconto”

Lead vocalist and bassist of the band Pooh — one of the longest-running bands on the planet, which has sold over 100 million records and won Sanremo in 1990 with “Uomini soli” — Bruno “Red” Canzian will compete for the first time as a soloist.

RENZO RUBINO – “Custodire”

Renzo Rubino impressed the public when he entered the Newcomers’ category in 2013 with “Il postino (Amami uomo)” — a classic love ballad with openly gay lyrics, which won the Critics’ Prize. One year later he placed third in the Big section with “Ora“.

ROBY FACCHINETTI & RICCARDO FOGLI – “Il segreto del tempo”

Together with Red Canzian, they also have been members of the band Pooh — and successful solo artists. Riccardo won Sanremo 1982 with “Storie di tutti i giorni“, a worldwide Italian classic. He also represented Italy at Eurovision 1983 with “Per Lucia“, placing 11th. Roby took part in Sanremo in 2007 with his son Francesco, singing “Vivere normale“.

RON – “Almeno pensami”

In 1996 Rosalino Cellamare’s long career as a songwriter culminated with his Sanremo win with “Vorrei incontrarti fra cent’anni“, a duet with Tosca. Seven times for him at the Festival, the last one this year with “L’ottava meraviglia“.

THE KOLORS – “Frida”

This funk-rock trio took the gold medal in the fourteenth series of Amici di Maria De Filippi. Afterwards they sold more than 200,000 copies with their album “Out” — which included the hit single “Everytime“. It remained at the top of the FIMI Italian Albums Chart for twelve weeks.

Last May the pre-Eurovision favourite Francesco Gabbani managed to reach 6th place in the grand final with his earworm “Occidentali’s karma”. Do you think any of Sanremo 2018’s acts can finally give Italy their third victory? Who has you feeling the most optimistic? Let us know in the comments box below!

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Rich
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Rich

I am a big fan of Annalisa, Nina Zilli and Noemi. I quite like Ermal Meta also. I can’t wait to hear their songs. Bring it on…. Forza Italia!

L'oiseau
Guest

Now this is what I call a festival! So many great acts, all in Italian, lots of musical diversity, life orchestra! Forget Melodifestivalen. This is the real thing! Looking so much forward to it!

Purple Mask
Guest
Purple Mask

At the risk of irritating Polegend (who I admire in real life), I actually look forward to San Remo every year. 2018 will be no different, and I’m very happy with this line-up. It will be particularly great to see Nina again.

San Remo has a musical quality that I have always admired; from the location to the live orchestra to all the Italian lyrics to the A-list guests, it looks, feels and sounds like a great event every year. It’s certainly leagues ahead of anything the UK has ever put on for National Eurovision selection, for example. 😀

AngieP
Guest
AngieP

So thrilled about Ermal Meta! He’s back in Sanremo! He should do Eurovision!
However, I’m not sure about this collaboration with Fabrizio Moro, but we’ll find out! I expect sth amazing!
Also, Annalisa is back! Hope for a great song! She’s so talented!

Mandy
Guest
Mandy

I guess there’s the best Sanremo’s contestants list for Campioni category of recent years. We will have the oportunity to see a “bloodbath” with iconic Italian idols ( such as Riccardo Fogli, Facchinetti, Ornella, Barbarossa…) and the new generation. Believe this Sanremo is going to cheer the Italian music instead of searching for an Eurovision entry. I wanna see Facchinetti-Fogli to win the contest (their Project Insieme is awesome!) and, then, decline the Eurovision ticket… Just to put fire in our pre-season. Course, give a chance to Ermal Meta, my second favorite last year.

Michell
Guest
Michell

Please Ermal Meta! I would love to see him in Lisbon! 🙁

Bambi sato
Guest
Bambi sato

In the picture Nina Zilli Looks alike Loreen . love it

eurovision6
Guest
eurovision6

Please Nina Zilli or Ermal Meta and Fabrizio Moro. I loved Nina in 2012! Also Ermal and Fabrizio were my favs in last years San Remo. Hope they have good songs this year.

Catherine
Guest
Catherine

I’m so exited about Max Gazze’s song.

perfetto
Guest
perfetto

What a fresh line-up! But for ESC fans it will be a disaster, they can’t find many favourites, because they can prefer only solo female. So, they can choose only 4 favourites, hehe and we can see, that only these for women can go to Lisbon in their heads LOL. People who really loves music are curious about all these projects in different genres and we hope someone of them will win and go to Lisbon. Why choose next solo female, if Italy has so many interesting and original projects there. Bravissimo Italia!

Joey
Guest
Joey

Women>Men
True facts.

Jo
Guest
Jo

I’ve always got suspicious of Salvador’s hair. Glad you cleared that up.

Polegend Godgarina
Guest
Polegend Godgarina

Fresh? This is the most stale lineup ever! I’m Italian myself, I’ve never watched Sanremo in my entire life because everything about the show is stale af. I thought they would do something to make it more contemporary, but apparently they just want to appeal their retirement home audience. I don’t understand how foreign fans manage to find our selection interesting… Also, I don’t like any of the ladies. I don’t like Noemi’s voice (personal taste here), Nina Zilli’s style is not for me plus her latest album has been panned by the critics, Annalisa is boring, and Ornella’s style… Read more »

James
Guest
James

You seem very surprised. Italian pop music is not as a accessible to foreigners as say K-pop or Spanish or English-language pop music and for many ESC fans, the Sanremo Music Festival is one of a few platforms where we could discover not just potential Eurovision entries but Italian music in general.

Several Sanremo alumni made their names overseas like Raf, Laura Pausini and Il Vivo so there’s a lot of artists we wanna look out for as well. 🙂

James
Guest
James

Erratum: *Il Volo

perfetto
Guest
perfetto

More national finals and Eurovision with minority of female! More interesting duos, trios, groups and projects in different genres!

perfetto
Guest
perfetto

Plus great male singers and only the best female! Yes, this is great!

perfetto
Guest
perfetto

Bravissimo Italia

esc freak
Guest
esc freak

Excited for Nina Zilli and Ermal Meta.

Ronda
Guest
Ronda

Lol. It’s funny how there are only 4 or 5 female singers in this line-up. Anyway, I am looking forward hearing the songs of Annalisa and of course Nina Zilli. Good luck, Italia. 😀

VlaD
Guest
VlaD

San Remo is so cool, much better than Melodifestivalen for me.

Mark
Guest
Mark

So.. No Alessio Bernabei… Thought he’d be the type to try for a forth year.

Hada
Guest
Hada

I hope either Nina or Analissa win and go on to slay at Eurovision!!!

Nikki
Guest
Nikki

Ermal Meta!!! Yes!!! Impressive line up, another year rooting for Italy I suppose.

Polegend Godgarina
Guest
Polegend Godgarina

I’m happy to see Elio & le Storie Tese–they’re among the few Italian acts I enjoy. I will never understand what foreign people see in people like Annalisa or Francesca Michielin… people here hardly care about them, I guess it’s some kind of Italian pop girl charm?
Of course, Alessandra Amoroso didn’t enter yet again… but it’s not like she needs to remind people she exists, she’s the best-selling female act of the 21st century in Italy.

Jo
Guest
Jo

They are not on the A+ list, but still have a big fan base and a hit once in a while.

Polegend Godgarina
Guest
Polegend Godgarina

It’s gonna be like, a show for elderly people, this time more than ever. Young Italians including myself aren’t feeling this lineup at all.

Robyn Gallagher
Editor

It’s like Sanremo vs Festival i Këngës for the most seniors in a lineup.

Paul D.
Guest
Paul D.

Don’t forget Festival da Canção

James
Guest
James

Portugal’s 2015 entry “Ha um mar que nos separa” doesn’t sound dated though.

Bart
Guest
Bart

Before trying to be funny you should maybe know the acts…

Jonas
Guest
Jonas

I can’t believe it will be six years since Nina dazzled in Baku. I’m excited to hear this new song.

Thanks for such a detailed write-up of the entrants, Christian, much appreciated.

chessguy99
Guest

Heavier on the legacy artists that most years. Annalisa and Ermal Meta are probably the only two artists getting significant airplay with recent releases.

blondboybc
Guest
blondboybc

Wow! Annalisa! Love her! Also think Ermal Meta and Nina Zilli are some of my early favourites! Now, to hear their songs! Italy: consistently one of my fave countries in the ESC! Forza Italia!

Paul D.
Guest
Paul D.

Where are the females tho? I only counted 4 or 5… yikes

Edre
Guest
Edre

I can almost feel your teardrops falling on the keyboard while writing this article, Kris.
Horrible cast, overall. There are few standouts for the ESC, but it’s clear that, while choosing the cast, Baglioni didn’t even consider that the winner will represent Italy. It’s a cast perfectly fit for the geriatric public of Rai 1.

And oh, obviously he also forgot the existence of women.

“Gonna take a miracle to save us now”.

Unknown Melody
Guest
Unknown Melody

Sanremo isn’t aimed at finding an act for ESC, and it’s been working pretty well for Italy

thespb01
Guest
thespb01

Supernova worked pretty well for Latvia – until this year, when they came second last overall.

Unknown Melody
Guest
Unknown Melody

A bad result doesn’t undo the good ones

joff
Guest
joff

Please, Annalisa saves the World and fly to Lisbon!

Polegend Godgarina
Guest
Polegend Godgarina

Nobody really cares for Annalisa here in Italy, she’s very bland… she needs to remind people she exists by doing heavy televised promo. Also, she featured on Benji & Fede’s single this year… she kinda killed her artistic credibility for good with that.

Polegend Godgarina
Guest
Polegend Godgarina

But Francesca Michielin is exactly the same and yet somehow she came 2nd in 2016, so you never know.

Jo
Guest
Jo

The Kolors lool
I was expecting Lele and Lorenzo Fragola, but…ok then.
I’m guessing some old-school guy will win in 2018, like in 2016. So, the runner-up takes the path to Lisbon.
Most excited for (thinking about ESC):
-Annalisa;
-Ermal & Fabrizio;
-Giovanni Caccamo.

Ermal might win now that Gabbani isn’t competing, since he lost twice to Francesco ^^.

Jo
Guest
Jo

Also, the newcomers section is quite strong this year, I think. I’m sad for Nyvinne.

Polegend Godgarina
Guest
Polegend Godgarina

If the old-school winner wants to do Eurovision, nobody’s going to stop them. Fiorella Mannoia was ready to go… we dodged a major bullet by choosing the right winner.

Robyn Gallagher
Editor

I thought Fiorella said she wouldn’t do Eurovision if she won. I remember everyone expecting she *would* win, but it would be ok because Gabbani would still go to Kyiv.

Jo
Guest
Jo

She said she would do it, but I think her label would have come up with something to stop her.

KESC
Guest
KESC

Yess!! Nina Zilli, la bellissima ragazza. Welcome back. Hopefully, she’ll deliver this edition as well.
I hoped for Il Volo though.