Italy’s Festival di Sanremo breathes controversy like air — it’s a near-constant!

Every year the national music contest is surrounded by criticism, more or less founded, but never before has the atmosphere around the contest been so heavy.

It’s a tad surprising this year because Amadeus — the host and artistic director of the 2020 edition of the kermesse — has always been appreciated by the general public and insiders during his long television career. He’s frequently described as a polite, spontaneous and funny professional.

Just one step from his consecration at the Ariston Theatre, the 57-year-old presenter has been in the middle of several controversies launched by the media over the last few days.

In some cases, he didn’t do himself any favours — as when he revealed the names of 22 of the 24 competing artists to a single newspaper (La Repubblica), a week before the planned announcement. That created a lot of discontent among journalists and bloggers.

The criticism grew more fierce after the first official press conference for the Festival, on January 14th.

Presenting one of the co-hosts — Francesca Sofia Novello, the girlfriend of motorcycle road racer Valentino Rossi — Amadeus admitted:

“I chose her for her beauty, but also for her ability to stand next to a great man, always being one step behind him.”

He was promptly accused of sexism, and there was no mention of anything else on Italian social media for hours.

The case has led many celebrities to lash out at the artistic director. Among them are two former Sanremo hosts, Claudia Gerini and Michelle Hunziker.

“A man in the center, who speaks, and has the right to speak… The women as a contour of beautiful statues, worthy to sit there because they are beautiful while the man does not need beauty, incredible, despite being 50 years old. This is unacceptable” — Gerini wrote on Instagram. “Women are still scary and it’s better that they stay one step behind! I hope that a heartfelt apology and correction will follow.”

Amadeus then publicly apologized in a statement for the press:

“I was misunderstood. That step behind referred to Francesca’s choice to stay out of the spotlight, which inevitably is aimed at a champion like Valentino. Another girl could perhaps have ridden so much popularity and instead Francesca chose to be more discreet, to remain more out of the spotlight. But Sanremo is also this, I have learned that you have to be careful with every word.”

“I am the least sexist person on the face of the earth: I have been happily in love for 18 years, I have a mother I adore, a daughter who is proud of me,” he added later. “In 57 years no one has had anything negative to say about me, I must have said something silly and I apologize. But if someone wants to make me look like someone I’m not, I don’t accept it.”

After a few days, one of the officially announced female co-hosts, actress Monica Bellucci, cancelled her engagement with the Festival commenting:

“Mr. Amadeus and I met months ago, assuming a project together. Unfortunately, for major reasons, we did not succeed in our goal. I wish him and his team a good Festival and hope for another chance in the future.”

It is not over yet. Argentine model Georgina Rodriguez, life partner of the Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, may not be in Sanremo either.

The fee she requested — 100,000 euros — is considered rather high compared to the rest of the personalities we’ll see at Ariston. So RAI is ready to give up on having her.

Will Junior Cally be disqualified from Sanremo 2020?

The controversy has also affected the cast of singers. Especially the rapper Junior Cally, who was attacked by all Italian political parties — starting from Lega’s leader Matteo Salvini — for the lyrics of the song “Strega” published in 2017. In them the artist uses vulgar words and talks about the killing of a woman.

“Her name is Gioia, but she drinks then swallows
She dances half naked, then she fucks with you.
She’s called Gioia because she’s a slut
Yes, to Mom and Dad’s delight.
This girl, bro, doesn’t know what she’s saying
Holy shit, how much fucking talk is that?
I killed her, I ripped her purse off…
and then I covered my mask with it.”

Petitions calling for his exclusion from the Festival have come from the Parliament and the region of Liguria, which includes the city of Sanremo.

Marcello Foa, president of RAI, also spoke on the subject and said that “it is ethically unacceptable for Junior Cally to participate”. The disqualification of the singer seems imminent.

We should bare in mind, however, that in the Sanremo regulations there is a clause prohibiting the exclusion of a competitor: the penalty is substantial compensation for the injured party.

In the meantime two of the 24 Sanremo 2020 competing artistsLevante and Francesco Gabbani — have defended their colleague.

“In 2001 there was Eminem at the Festival and we know his lyrics well, now why all this ruckus about Junior Cally, then?” — says singer-songwriter Levante — “It sounds to me like an excuse to keep feeding a controversy that doesn’t exist. If you don’t like the artistic direction, you should have talked about it before, not just a few days before the beginning.”

“It’s paradoxical that there are those who ask to exclude someone for songs he has previously sung, I disagree” — adds Eurovision 2017’s act Gabbani — “I believe that freedom in art must be there by definition or it wouldn’t be art, just as on the other side there is the freedom of the listener to criticize and not to listen.”

Sanremo can’t actually find peace. Even one of the special guests, rapper Salmo, called by Amadeus to open the Festival, has chickened out.

“I will not be at Sanremo” — Salmo said on Instagram. “I don’t feel like it, I would feel uncomfortable. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart. I would like to tell you that between the two saints, Sanremo and San Siro [the largest stadium in Italy, venue for numerous concerts], I choose San Siro. If you want to come in the right place, with the right people, come to San Siro on June 14th.”

Last but not least, further attacks arrived for Amadeus from a couple of singers who tried to participate in the festival, but whose songs were refused. Marcella Bella and Lisa openly argued with the host on their social profiles.

Bella, who has nine participations at the contest behind her, and in the last two years took part as a judge in the talent show Ora o mai più, presented by Amadeus himself, wrote on Facebook:

“It always hurts to suffer an injustice, especially when it comes from someone you don’t expect (…) I hope that the new year will take away forever some people who I thought were loyal and sincere friends and who stabbed me in the back.”

Lisa, who took part in Ora o mai più as well, but as a competitor, winning the first edition in 2018, threw a lot of shade at Amadeus, also implicating Elettra Lamborghini, who will sing “Musica (E il resto scompare)” in Sanremo 2020:

“Even though I presented an interesting song, I won’t be part of this Festival! — she tweeted. “For the next Sanremo 2091 I decided to learn how to twerk and use autotune… yay!”

Read more Italy Eurovision 2020 news here

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yeah
yeah
9 months ago

I’m still thinking about hoe The kolors would’ve won eurovision 2018…

khm
khm
9 months ago

Salvini calling out someone is like a prostitute claiming she’s a virgin. Of course he won’t call out Anastasio, who on FB openly supports CasaPound, a neofascistic party.

JustARandomUser
JustARandomUser
9 months ago
Reply to  khm

I agree on Salvini but can we please cut it out with spreading this stuff about Anastasio, I’ve already seen several comments stating he is a fascist, which he is NOT.
And Salvini can’t call Anastasio out simply because he has nothing to be called out about.

poe-tay-toe-chips
poe-tay-toe-chips
9 months ago

Honestly….I don’t think this Junior Cally guy is going to win regardless :/

Kosey
Kosey
9 months ago

Junior Cally sounds like such a lovely person.

Megxit over
Megxit over
9 months ago

SAINT REMO IS SO LAST YEAR

Mr Vanilla Bean
Mr Vanilla Bean
9 months ago

The mask looks ridiculous, though.

Jonas
Jonas
9 months ago

I don’t really buy Levante’s defence, “somebody did something twenty years ago, so it’s alright to do it now” or whatever…nah. Francesco makes more sense, though – it’s art. Fiction. A character, not necessarily Junior Calmo himself. When novelists or TV shows write about murders, nobody cares.

Hebbuzz
Hebbuzz
9 months ago

If only Sanremo could focuss more on young talent as presenters and get rid off those old men – unnnatural blonde woman combination of endless screaming .. they would be more appreciated… And preselect a wider range of artists, each year about 50% of the participants is male, has a raw voice, looks weary, wears sunglasses, has a parlando part in the song and does not connect with the camera. imagine the result if there would be more diversity in musical styles, looks, voices, sexes etc. They would be able to have the best show on earth. …

JustARandomUser
JustARandomUser
9 months ago
Reply to  Hebbuzz

“about 50% of the participants is male, has a raw voice, looks weary, wears sunglasses, has a parlando part in the song and does not connect with the camera”

So you mean, half of the partecipants are in line with Italy’s singer-songwriter music tradition? How awful.

I, as an Italian, absolutely hate having such people in a competition tied to my country’s traditions. Where do they think they are, presenting such songs, Sanremo’s stage? Oh wait…

ESCNils
ESCNils
9 months ago

My country doesn’t deserve to win the contest AT ALL. Nobody cares here, but still we get better results than countries who put all their hearts and souls into Eurovision. This trend of having Italy always on top has to end. I’d prefer Iceland or Albania to win for their first time or just get a great result rather than seeing Italy always in the top 10. Plus the decisions of the artistic directors of the past couple of years have been really bad, if you want to hear rap, trap and all that kind of sh*t then go and… Read more »

Polegend Godgarina
9 months ago
Reply to  ESCNils

eppure l’anno scorso le canzoni rap/urban sono arrivate piuttosto in alto, e gli ultimi posti sono stati riservati ai rottami senza fantasia che nessuno vuole più sentire. capisco che i tuoi gusti musicali non rispecchino le mode attuali, però se il mercato attualmente richiede principalmente musica urban (e se i due terzi della classifica italiana sono questo tipo di musica), non vedo perché non includerla a sanremo, come se ci fosse bisogno di limitare il pubblico a gente anziana (o vecchia dentro). poi se vincesse una canzone urban sicuramente non faremmo una cattiva figura, anzi modernizzeremmo un contest che il… Read more »

MaxHightower
MaxHightower
9 months ago

Prima di tutto, vorrei scusarme per il mio basso livello di italiano, mai volevo dirti qui sono pienamente d´accordo con quello que dici.

Le radio di tutto il mondo, tra cui italiane y spagnole, chiedono canzione in stile urbano (e reggaeton), Si il festivali di San Remo vuole continuare ad avere tanto successo tra il público, é necessario seguire le tendenze musicale del tempo e adattarsi all´era attuale, altimentri, finirá come il FiK albanese.

MaxHightower
MaxHightower
9 months ago
Reply to  ESCNils

I actually thik thats the secret of your success in ESC, the fact that you make the contest to impress the Italians and not the rest of Europe makes your entries incredibly original, like a breeze of fresg air.
Im spanish and I can assure you I would LOVE to have a Festival de San Remo here, that would be the dream!

Andrea
Andrea
9 months ago
Reply to  ESCNils

Siamo stati fuori 14 anni… è normale che la popolarità dell’Eurovision fosse ai minimi storici al nostro ritorno e che sia tutt’oggi in fase di recupero, non è che “a nessuno importa”. A me pare che se ne parli un po’ di più rispetto agli anni passati. La stessa RAI sembra che stia prendendo sul serio la cosa, l’anno scorso hanno fatto una bella promozione dell’evento. Poi se vuoi negarne i progressi allora sospetto che tu sia in malafede. Il merito in questo caso verte sulla canzone, mica sulla dedizione che un paese è ritenuto avere nei confronti della competizione.… Read more »

T.J.
T.J.
9 months ago

I get so angry about these “artists”. Lyrics full of hate and despise, sexism, racism, homophobia, you name it. But as soon as people oppose it – they are the poor victims and all of a sudden their garbage becomes high art. Makes me sick!

Polegend Godgarina
9 months ago
Reply to  T.J.

calm down grandma that’s how rap music has always been

Killian
Killian
9 months ago
Reply to  T.J.

I mean, for example Eminem argument is valid. If you’ve ever listened to Marshall Mathers LP (which is considered to be one of the best albums in hip hop field) lyrics like ones cited here are nothing – “Kill Me” is straight up song about killing women but is still liked because of it’s well done and interesting. All of gangsta rap in early 2000s was based on violence, but the thing was to be able distinguish songs from singers, as they were mostly good husbands and fathers. So it’s not necessarily “right” to sing about that but people do… Read more »

pancake
pancake
9 months ago
Reply to  Killian

Blood on hands. Who knows how many students went to school with gun?

Polegend Godgarina
9 months ago

not surprised at ultimo’s number one fan, matteo salvini, complaining bout sumthin so trivial while still refusing to do his job and show up in parliament (but maybe that’s for the better of all of us). the irony of him wanting junior cally disqualified from sanremo when he ain’t even qualified to be a politician smh

Thanos
Thanos
9 months ago

Salvini and all the far right politicians are complete idiots. In the meantime because you are Italian I have some questions to ask you?
1. Is Junior Cally openly supportive of any party/ideology or openly hating one of the two?
2. Is Anastasio a fascist?
I am asking because of the recent controversies so as to understand what the truth is.

Polegend Godgarina
9 months ago
Reply to  Thanos

junior cally never disclosed his political ideologies afaik, but he doesn’t look like your average league supporter / anastasio’s fascism allegiations come from the fact that some time before he became famous he liked the facebook page of a fascist movement called “forza nuova” (a ridiculous anti-semitic group that gets less than 1% of votes, mostly from ppl who don’t even know what it is), i hope he doesn’t actually share those ideologies and that he only did it as a dumb teenager.

Thanos
Thanos
9 months ago

I see now. Only time will tell, we need to hear these two songs and also see their meaning!

HBau
HBau
9 months ago

Why the world keeps sleeping on how absolutely nuts Italy and Italians are I will never know. Still, ti amo Italia!

Tajikistan
Tajikistan
9 months ago

In the days of the internet how does it take this long for people to discover these lyrics? They’ve literally been public for ages but nobody bothered to complain until the last minute

Polegend Godgarina
9 months ago
Reply to  Tajikistan

i guess salvini is trying to distract italians from yet another catastrophic idea his party came up with. he always does that lmfao.

BadWoolfGirl
BadWoolfGirl
9 months ago

That sounds like another leader I know all too well…

Polegend Godgarina
9 months ago
Reply to  BadWoolfGirl

literally every other populist leader lol

khm
khm
9 months ago
Reply to  Tajikistan

Well, the same thing happened to Fedez, when Tiziano Ferro called him out and declared a homophobe because of a song he wrote 11 years ago. Fedez apologized about the song, but later called out Tiziano because he has songs with Fabri Fibra, who also had songs with honophobic text.

Azaad
Azaad
9 months ago

Never thought I’d see the day when Italy seems like the big 5 country in hot water when the others seem to have sorted things out….

Mr Vanilla Bean
Mr Vanilla Bean
9 months ago
Reply to  Azaad

When it comes to Eurovision, they are nothing yet, as we don’t know the songs.

Thomas
Thomas
9 months ago

Oh this tea is hot, wasn’t expecting that.

Mr Vanilla Bean
Mr Vanilla Bean
9 months ago

lol “I am the least sexist person on the face of the earth” is a total giveaway. If you need to pretend to be the least *anything* in the entire world, you are the total opposite, no?

xelx
xelx
9 months ago

It sounds like a statement coming from Mr. Trump.

Loin dici
9 months ago

First: 11 woman as hosts, Amadeus, need we say more of that CHOICE of yours? And you pretend to be the least sexist person in the world?
Second: Junior Cally should not be disqualified because of political reasons.

Joe
Joe
9 months ago

“I’m not sexist! If I was sexist, why would I be married to a woman? Think about THAT.”
See, I might have been able to go along with his apology if he didn’t go and say he was “the least sexist person on this Earth.” If you said what you said, and your explanation doesn’t actually seem to disprove that, you’re not really coming for Gloria Steinem’s title yet.

Arson
Arson
9 months ago
Reply to  Joe

It’s the same argument as “I’m not homophobic cause my cousin’s gay” or “I’m not racist, my sister’s boyfriend is black” and they then think that’s enough. Also, there are tons of sexist men who are married, so he just sounds so f-ing dumb