1. Raf, “Self Control”
From: Self Control. Carrere 9031 70540-2, 1984, 33⅓ rpm.
Raf (Raffaele Riefoli): vocals; Celso Valli: arrangement.
Although the eponymous album came out in 1984, the actual song “Self Control” had already been released as a single in 1983, when it achieved international fame, thanks also to a cover performed by Laura Branigan that peaked at No.4 in the US Billboard charts. “Self Control” came out in a period when Italo Disco had defined its stylistic paradigm, and — as such — it is a “mature” example of the genre: synths and drum machines are dominant here, as well as a clear sense of melody (there are four different lines, interlaced over the same harmonic progression) and the inevitable English-spoken lyrics.
2. Toto Cutugno, “Azzurra malinconia”
From: Azzurra malinconia. EMI 64 1187401, 1986, 33⅓ rpm.
Toto Cutugno: vocals, acoustic guitar, keyboard; Gigi Cappellotto: electric bass; Lele Melotti: drums, percussion; Gaetano Leandro: keyboards; Lella Francia, Silvio Pozzoli: backing vocals.
This composition, included in Toto Cutugno’s 1986 album of the same title and presented at the Sanremo Festival of that year, is almost a prototype of the Italo-pop features mentioned in the article: a switch from minor to major key in the strophe-refrain transition, a mid-tempo shuffle rhythmic pattern, an ample and rich melody, a one-tone modulation towards the end, and of course a “silly love song”, when it comes to the lyrics.
3. Eros Ramazzotti, “Se bastasse una canzone”
From: In ogni senso. DDD 260 633, 1990, 33⅓ rpm.
Eros Ramazzotti: vocals; John Giblin: bass; Charlie Morgan: drums; Paolo Gianolio: guitars; Celso Valli: keyboards; Antonella Melone, Antonella Pepe, Carol Kenyon, Jimmy Chambers, Jimmy Helms, Katie Kissoon, Lange Ellington, Renzo Meneghinello, Stefano Melone, Tessa Niles: backing vocals and gospel choir.
Taken from the very album (In ogni senso – In Every Sense) that gave Ramazzotti international fame, this song is a very clear example of how a song can be perceived as quintessentially “Italian” even if it is based on a distinctively foreign (“Non-national/Non-regional”) style (in this case American gospel).
4. Andrea Bocelli, “Con te partirò”
From: Bocelli. Polydor 527 569-2, 1995, cd.
Andrea Bocelli: vocals; Alessandro Bonetti, Davide Pondi, Gianluca Cavallari, Grazia Raimondi, Laura Sarti, Liliana Stamenic, Luca Falasca, Sara Sternieri: violin; Nicola Calzonari, Sandro Di Paolo: viola; Enrico Guerzoni, Marta Prodi: cello; Gianandrea Pignoni: double-bass; Guido Corti: French horn; Ruggero Robin: Guitar; Joe Amoruso, Mauro Malavasi: keyboards and drum machine; Andrea Bocelli, Joe Amoruso: melodica.
One of the most internationally successful Italian songs of the recent years, and a recurrent feature in the Sopranos TV series, “Con te partirò” is a typical example of a “National/Non-regional” style, with its mannerist references to nineteenth century Italian opera and Verdi in particular (through Bocelli’s voice, of course, but also through melody and arrangement). The song was presented at the Sanremo Festival of 1995, ending up in the fourth place and doing little in Italian charts before becoming a smash hit throughout Europe.
5. Adriano Celentano, “Azzurro”
From: Azzurro. ACC/LP 40011, 1968, 33⅓ rpm.
Adriano Celentano: vocals; Orchestra Nando De Luca conducted by Nando De Luca;
Music: Paolo Conte and Michele Virano; lyrics: Vito Pallavicini
Arguably Celentano’s most popular song at international level (it was also the tune that the German organization of the 2006 World Cup chose to play to accompany the celebrations of the tournament-winner Italian national team), “Azzurro” is an interesting case of an authorial song that managed to reach wide popularity (and, again, become an “Italian” song by definition) with rather unusual and complex lyrics – written by veteran lyricist Vito Pallavicini – and a clever musical part, co-written by Michele Virano and Paolo Conte, one of the very few Italian cantautori to have achieved significant notoriety abroad (on Celentano, see Prato).
5a. Die Toten Hosen, “Azzurro”
From Azzurro. Totenkopf TOT 11, 1990, cd maxi single.
The song has been covered dozens of times by Italian and foreign performers: this is a 1990 cover by German band Die Toten Hosen.