In the space of a short amount of time, Italian artist Mahmood shot out from the shadows to become one of the most talked about artists within the Italian music scene. This can be credited to his at the time controversial win of Sanremo Song Festival – the most prestigious song festival in Italy.
We say controversial since his win certainly was unexpected considering he was against some of the biggest names in Italian music, and furthermore, his winning entry Soldi features two lines in Arabic which seems insignificant to people like me who listen to music in a whole range of languages, but in the context of a nation with a very strong culture and tradition, this was certainly out of the norm.
Now that the initial drama has passed, it’s clear to see that Mahmood is making a big impact in the music scene with his album cruising up the charts to the number 1 spot. It’s also clear to see why.
The album opens with his Sanremo winning song, Soldi. It’s definitely one of the more statement songs of the album with a punchy beat throughout, only breaking during the pre-chorus where he is backed predominately by the piano. The melody of the verses do a great job at catching your attention and leaving you wanting more, while the pre-choruses set up the strong chorus. The double clap of the chorus is a good identifying moment for the song and is bound to resonate in Tel Aviv while he represents Italy at Eurovision this year. There isn’t too strong of a ‘middle eastern’ sound to this song until the bridge of the song, but he manages to blend both languages well and it’s all very subtle – which is a running theme within his music.
Moving into the second song of the album which is the title song, Gioventù Bruciata. Although it’s difficult to select a favourite song off this album, I can say with certainty that this is up there on the shortlist. This song is moody and atmospheric, specifically during the verses which for me are the stand out part of this track. There is something incredibly addictive about the melody of the verses mixed with his unique vocal tone.
Uramaki is another stand out song which while still moody is definitely more uplifting than the previous song. Again, this is a song where the verses are arguably better than the choruses and it’s another clear demonstration that Mahmood knows how to create a poetic and smooth melody. Same goes for the next track, Il Nilo Nel Naviglio which features another smooth melody, this time backed with a very relaxed and familiar beat.
Anni 90 features prominent rapper Fabri Fibra, and this upbeat track definitely feels more ‘Fabri Fibra.’ The song feels both modern but yet still nostalgic, and features a nice pre-chorus build up to a simple but catchy chorus. Fabri Fibra slots into the song seamlessly and provides a more ‘traditional’ rap to the song. Although enjoyable, I’d argue that it’s not the best off the album.
That leads into Asia Occidente which is a return to Mahmood’s effortless vocals in a smooth melody. This song features a subtle Middle Eastern flavour through the beat which is something I think Mahmood has so successfully done. The following track Remo is one I’m less familiar with due to having previously only listened to the EP which omitted this track, however unlike many of his other songs, the chorus is the stand out of this song rather than the verses.
In that shortlist of favourite songs is the next track, Milano Good Vibes. The song is uplifting, and as much as I sound like a broken record, this has a really catchy melody throughout. I could definitely see this as a radio hit.
Sabbie Mobili also falls in the list of lesser known songs due to my familiarity with his EP rather than the album, but this is definitely one of the more boppy songs off the album which leans more towards the traditional pop genre. It’s quite a summery song, and like the previous track, I could see this being released as a single due to its wide appeal.
Mai Figlio Unico is also up there in the shortlist of best songs in the album, and I think its appeal comes from a mixture of the lyrical content, the subtle musical hints to his cultural background as well as how well his voice lends itself to this specific genre. Lyrically this is perhaps one of the best off the album with the first two lines of the song some of the most memorable for me;
‘Oggi taglierò i capelli da Mustafà
Sono di Milano Sud ma sembra l’Africa’
(Today I will cut the hair of Mustafa, I am from South Milan but it seems like Africa)
And furthermore, some of the most telling lyrics off the album;
Sì lo so, ho una faccia da schiaffi
Sono i tratti orientali, dimmi che posso farci
(Yes I know, I have a punchable face, I have Eastern facial features, what can I do about it)
The album closes with Soldi featuring fellow rap artist Gue Pequeno, and there’s not much else to say other than the album closes the way that it starts – no complaints here.
Overall, this is easily one of the best collections of music I’ve heard for a while. Everything has its place and feels well considered. Each track showcases Mahmood’s identity well, and the way the subtle hints to his mixed cultural background is done is so effortless. It makes for something unique within the Italian music scene, and it’s understandable to see why there is a fuss around this album.
Listen to the album on Spotify below: