The history of the Festival is quite long: everything started in 1951. The artists present songs which must be unpublished before and written by Italian authors: these songs are voted by quality and popular juries that determine the winner. At the beginning, the contest was broadcast only on the radio, with few singers who took turns at singing all the songs. Since 1955, though, Sanremo became a TV gala, held every year in the period from mid February to early March.
The Festival, in Italy, is considered as an important showcase for artists, the famous as well as the unknown ones. It launched great successes of Italian music, as Grazie dei fior (1951), Nel blu dipinto di blu (1958), La prima cosa bella (1970), Adesso tu (1986), Come saprei (1995). The popularity of the songs is seldom influenced by the final ranking, which could be approximate as it is based on the first listening or on the notoriety already acquired by the artists. An example: Vita spericolata (1983) by Vasco Rossi did not reach the top 3, but afterward it became a great classic.
There is no edition without long debates about the voting system and the regulations of the Festival went through many changes, one year after the other. But despite all the arguing immediately before and after the contest, Sanremo remains a media event followed by millions of people, together with the national press – newspapers, radio, websites, etc..
This year the organizers decided to dedicate an entire night (one out of five) to the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Italian unification: every artist sang a famous traditional song, as O’ surdato ‘nnamurato, O sole mio, Va’pensiero and the actor Roberto Benigni played a moving and intense exegesis of the Italian national anthem.
Especially in the last years, the impression given by press and people’s comments is that the detractors of this show are much more than the ones who appreciate it. This tendency is not a surprise, considering the low quality of many songs whose topic is love, developed in banal ways, with easy words (heart – sun – flowers etc.) and the fact that the adjective “sanremese” ( = of Sanremo), together with “song”, means this musical genre, is evidence for the discredit brought on the show.
On the other hand, the large audience demonstrates that music, both low and high quality, has such a strong power in gathering people, which is something Italians really need now. As Roberto Benigni stressed out, music was the only thing that helped young soldiers during the Independence wars: also nowadays, a song could help us to stay together and find the strength to look ahead.
From this point of view, the Music Festival still has sense, in order to echo what’s new in the musical panorama, with the hope that at least someone could find “his/her” song, that one that makes you think about how crazy and beautiful Italy is.