The Sanremo Music Festival might be a long-running national song contest — even predating Eurovision — but it’s never been afraid of change. Now broadcaster RAI has confirmed that a big change is coming to the 2019 edition of the Italian song contest.
The Newcomers’ section (Sanremo Giovani) will no longer be part of the main show. It will instead be held as a separate contest in December. Two winners from Newcomers will then earn a place to compete in the main Sanremo contest in February.
The change comes from Sanremo’s artistic director Claudio Baglioni, who took over from Carlo Conti in 2018. RAI’s announcement says the change has been made to strengthen the network’s commitment to discovering new talent.
The standalone Newcomers competition will be open to young artists — defined as those under the age of 36. Twenty-four acts will compete in the pre-Christmas competition.
The series will run from 17 to 21 December and will keep Albania’s Festival i Këngës company in the December Eurovision national final calendar. The two big competition nights will be held on 20 and 21 December. In the days prior, the songs will be introduced to viewers through nightly shows with a very un-Sanremo length of 45 minutes.
The two winners of the competition shows will also earn a place to compete in the Sanremo Music Festival 2019 in February.
The Sanremo Newcomers section has been the launching pad for many Italian artists and has led to winning Sanremo itself, going on to Eurovision or has just been the start of a successful music career.
International classical-crossover singer Andrea Bocelli got his start by winning the Newcomers section in 1994.
Fabrizio Moro won Newcomers in 2004 with “Pensa”, while his Eurovision singing partner Ermal Meta twice competed as part of the bands Ameba4 and La Fame di Camilla. The pair then won Sanremo earlier this year and placed fifth in Lisbon with “Non mi avete fatto niente”.
Raphael Gualazzi won Newcomers in 2011. He was then internally selected to represent Italy in its Eurovision comeback, where “Madness of Love” placed second.
Francesco Gabbani won Newcomers in 2016 with the song “Amen”. He then graduated to the Big Artists section in 2017, which he won with “Occidentalis Karma”. He went on to place sixth at Eurovision 2017 with the song.
While the Sanremo Music Festival has been running since 1951, it wasn’t until 1984 that a standalone Newcomers section was introduced. The section is typically run as a separate contest within Sanremo week and contestants are not able to compete for the grand prize of Sanremo.
But there have been changes in the past. In 1998, the top three placing acts from the Newcomers section were then given a place to compete in the main competition. Controversially, Newcomers winner Annalisa Minetti went on to win the overall contest with her song “Senza te o con te”. The following year, the competitions were kept separate.
In the mid-2000s, Sanremo introduced a number of different categories based on age or gender that all competed for the big prize. In 2007, the festival again reverted to the traditional format of two separate competitions for newcomers and established artists.
While RAI has not confirmed if Italy will compete at Eurovision 2019 and whether Sanremo 2019 will be used in some way as the national selection, it is likely that this will be the case.
What do you think? Is Sanremo wise to move the Newcomers section out of the main show? Will a Newcomers qualifier win Sanremo 2019? Share your thought below!