MÅNESKIN: ITALIAN ROCKERS ON A JOURNEY FOR GLOBAL HUMAN CONNECTION
“Rock and Roll Never Dies!” From buskers on La Via del Corso to Eurovision winners, Måneskin shows what it means to earn a growing global platform and use it well
This year’s Eurovision Song Contest saw major changes from past competitions. Sure, the stadium was slimmed down from tens of thousands to 3,500 masked audience members. But COVID-19 wasn’t the only thing shaking up Rotterdam. Usually known for sticking to traditional, ballad-centric performances, Italy showed up in a fiery blaze (and head-to-toe leather) as one of the contest’s few rock and roll acts, bringing a fresh twist to the television event.
Eurovision scores are combined from two sources: “jury votes” from a board of judges and “public votes” texted in by audience members and viewers (except those in the United States). Votes are counted using the Eurovision System, where the top song receives 12 points, the second gets 10, and the remaining songs ranking from third to tenth receive eight to one points. Looking at the final results, with Italy’s public votes soaring above the rest at 318 points and their jury votes only landing at 207, it seems viewers were hungry for this fresh content. The gap between voting categories reignited a major question that has surrounded the contest for years: is Eurovision a contest for the people? If anything, Italy’s heartthrob rock group Måneskin proves that yes, in fact, it is.
After their Eurovision performance went viral, Måneskin’s song “ZITTI E BUONI” (Shut Up and Behave) has garnered hundreds of thousands of streams across Europe, and has even become the first song in the Italian language to rank in the UK charts since 1992. Their music is now travelling beyond the continent, entering Billboard’s Hot Hard Rock Chart with “I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE,” and their track “Beggin’” going #1 on Spotify’s Global Playlist. But how does a song top charts when most listeners don’t even know what the lyrics are saying?
“ZITTI E BUONI” and many of Måneskin’s other songs are defined by their demanding emotional musicality: the scream of Thomas Raggi’s guitar and pound of Victoria De Angelis’s bass, the booming heartbeat of Ethan Torchio’s drums, how vocalist Damiano David spits out the words with a vengeance. The songs reel the listener in, command attention, and then demand action. The band is angry, it’s proud, it’s fearless, telling listeners to wield power over their destiny and not allow others to decide who they should be. The music raises its lyrics like a protest chant, challenging anyone who feels the same to join in: “I’m out of my mind, just not like them / And you’re out of your mind, just not like them / We’re out of our minds, just not like them.”
At a recent TikTok live show streamed from Berlin, Germany, David and De Angelis matched their outfits, complete with glittering mesh tops and taped-off tits, a comment on what is and is not 'allowed' for men and women in fashion. The bassist and front man were also featured in a photo on the band’s Instagram in 'vice-versa' attire: David wearing lingerie and heels, De Angelis in a sharp suit.
“ZITTI E BUONI” responds to a statement ingrained in every creative’s ear: art is not a job. Even worse for Måneskin is that rock is dead in Italy. It might seem like the every-teen thing to do — grab the eyeliner and start a rock band. But for Måneskin, knowing they wanted to make it in the industry, but with the understanding that it’d first take convincing the Italian people, this was diving into the deep end. De Angelis commented during a recent interview with Quotidien that “people in the music industry try to limit us, they try to ‘avoid doing this kind of music because it was not in fashion’ […] But we wanted to be honest, doing something that really represents us one hundred percent.”
Beginning in 2015 as young buskers on La Via del Corso, Måneskin eventually earned a spot on X Factor Italia, where they finished as runners-up for season 11 in 2017. A year later, they released their first album of all-original music, Il ballo della vita, which gained national success and led to sold-out arena shows in Rome, Milan, and Florence. They even went on a small European tour and played a few festivals. But no matter the success of that first tour, Måneskin was still a small name in the international sense. It would take a considerable leap to break out of the Italian bubble and prove their music’s longevity and power — which is why winning Italy’s 71st Sanremo Festival, then going on to sweep Eurovision with a rock song, is such a massive deal.
Since the contest, Måneskin has become recognizable by their gender-fluid approach to fashion: all of the band’s members interchange dresses and corsets, leather trousers and blazers. At a recent TikTok live show streamed from Berlin, Germany, David and De Angelis matched their outfits, complete with glittering mesh tops and taped-off tits, a comment on what is and is not “allowed” for men and women in fashion. The bassist and front man were also featured in a photo on the band’s Instagram in “vice-versa” attire: David wearing lingerie and heels, De Angelis in a sharp suit. That fluidifying of the gender line is pushed further in their music video for rock ballad “VENT’ANNI,” where one scene shows the entire band bare-chested. Måneskin was even featured in Vanity Fair Italia’s “Pride” edition, strutting in colorful Gucci couture to match their loud persona. In the iconic words of “I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE,” “I know you’re scared of me, you say that I’m too eccentric / I’m crying all my tears and that’s fucking pathetic.”
With its lyrics listing dualities of human sexuality, “I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE” has quickly become an anthem for the LGBTQ+ community. After an energetic run of the song at Poland’s Polsat Festival, David planted a passionate kiss on Raggi. With even more fire than the Eurovision pyrotechnics, he stared down the camera as his bandmates stood beside him and said, “We think that everyone should be allowed to do this without any fear. We think that everyone should be completely free to be whoever the fuck you want. Thank you, Poland. Love is never wrong!”
The gap between voting categories reignited a major question that has surrounded the contest for years: is Eurovision a contest for the people? If anything, Italy’s heartthrob rock group Måneskin proves that yes, in fact, it is.
According to ILGA-Europe, for the second year running, Poland is the worst country in Europe for LGBTQ+ people. President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, has directly called the LGBTQ+ community an “ideology” and “more destructive than communism.” Considering Poland’s history under Russian communist occupation, this statement is infinitely cruel. Måneskin’s performance acts on the promise Italy made alongside forty-nine other countries in a September 2020 open letter calling for an end to Poland’s anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination. The letter states:
We pay tribute to the hard work of LGBTI and other communities in Poland and around the world, as well as the work of all those who seek to ensure human rights for LGBTI and other persons belonging to communities facing similar challenges, and to end discrimination in particular on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Human rights are universal and everyone, including LGBTI persons, are entitled to their full enjoyment. This is something that everyone should support.
Måneskin’s members disclosed their sexualities in an interview with Corriere della Sera in February: Raggi is heterosexual, De Angelis is bisexual, Torchio is “sexually free,” and David is heterosexual but curious. Beyond these labels, fans find the most inspiration from the members’ confident expression of individuality. The band has talked openly about being ridiculed for dressing how they want and behaving in more “feminine” or “masculine” ways, and how that has pushed them to create. David notes during an interview with NOS that the band wants “to talk about our own experience in a very authentic way. We think that doing that, people can feel represented by us, and this creates a huge connection with your audience […] It’s like you’re into people’s [lives] and you mean something for them, so it’s really important for us.” The Polsat performance spread around the world and was called revolutionary, especially by young fans who shared all their love and appreciation on Twitter using #PolandlovesMåneskin. NikkiTutorials, a globally renowned makeup artist and YouTuber who came out as trans in January 2020, hosted Eurovision 2021 and mentioned she was very moved by Måneskin’s openness. She expressed her personal thanks in a recent video, telling the band “you’re opening those doors, showing that it’s okay to love whoever you love, always.”
Eurovision gave Måneskin the platform to reach the distant listeners they’d dreamed of, to be a voice for those who need it most. They have created a space to express themselves while inviting listeners to join them and do the same, and will no doubt continue to do so throughout their musical career. Accepting the award on the Eurovision stage, the band was asked if they had any words. David took the mic, addressing the audience in the stands and at home as he cried, “Rock and roll never dies!”
Carly Lewis is a visual and literary storyteller residing in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia. A graduate of Hollins University’s creative writing and film programs, she is currently exploring the world of words further in the LARB Publishing Workshop. She is an avid music enthusiast with a taste for artists who break the rules, and has even written about a handful of them in Spindle Magazine.