Long before his songs, Alessandro Mahmoud became known for his cappuccino. To bad, at first: he himself admitted that he prepared a terrible concoction. He ended up, however, as the most skilled bartender in the entire bar, “the king,” as he once said. In 2013, a year after the music had dethroned him from his dream, with the elimination in the television program X-Factor, the boy managed to crown himself between cups. Although, basically, the cappuccino He had taught her not to give up. And less with 21 years. Thus, in 2015, she won a contest that gave access to a parallel section of the Sanremo festival. And, as soon as she stepped on the stage, she didn’t take it off again. Until today. Nothing stops her rise. And no label encloses an unclassifiable musical and aesthetic style. It is simply yours. This Saturday represents Italy in the Eurovision final with the ballad Brividi (Chills), written and sung together with Blanco.
“I have studied since I was 10 years old. But I understood that I could live from my voice only since it happened. I am more and more convinced that music is what I am best at. Surely in the last four years almost everything has changed”, Mahmood interjected in Madrid, a week ago. To begin with, his stage name, a mixture of his last name and the English word mood (state of mind). But, above all, his career. In February 2019 she gave her first concert and released her debut album, Gioventu bruciata (Youth burned). Shortly after, she won the Sanremo festival by surprise, with Soldier (Money), which also took him to second place in Eurovision that year. Millions of listeners arrived on-line, thousands of records sold, fame. And, a few months ago, they followed the album Ghettolimpoa second victory in Sanremo with Brividian international tour that has filled the Parisian Bataclan or Madrid’s But, and the return to Eurovision, this time among the favourites.
A wheel so unstoppable that not even Mahmood himself can stop it. A day to day of success, money and celebrations is not also an abyss? “I haven’t seen a party in months, just big hotel beds. I would like the abyss from time to time”, jokes the artist. And, seriously, he affirms: “Over time you learn to manage it better, you manage to find some space for yourself, friends and family and that helps. If you spend too much time in the maelstrom, you run the risk of losing touch with reality.” Because, today, he is followed by a team of a dozen people, he can wear his shows clothes that travel thousands of kilometers just to be seen and a poster, during her performance in the But room last week, revealed that Amazon Prime Video was filming her. So many people stayed out of the concert, moreover, that their return to Madrid and Barcelona, in the fall, in larger spaces is already being negotiated.
Raised by his mother Soldier Mahmood sings how his father left and the terrible relationship between the two, now somewhat reconciled—, the musician recounts that she helps him not to get lost: “You must remember where you come from and everything readjusts. Principles count, and he has taught me very well. Education is one of the fixed values in my head. You always have to put yourself on the same level as whoever you have in front of you, never think that your problems are worth more”. She says it, yes, in an interview that started 40 minutes late. The artist did not show up for the sound check of his Madrid concert, and they had to go to his hotel. To the barrier of his sunglasses, which he maintained throughout the meeting and the photo session, he added a certain reluctance. So much so that his manager claimed the musician’s extreme fatigue and offered a second talk, by telephone, days later. However, it did not occur.
And that the artist claims to love Spain. As proof, the gastronomic delicacies that he mentions or his admiration for Rosalía. Although, above all, the Spanish version of Soldiersingle Spanish words in various themes and song titles such as Neighborhood either Golden. During the concert in Madrid, Mahmood spoke at various times in Spanish, to the enthusiasm of the local fans.
Along with the success, yes, they have also increased visibility, pressure and questioning. “The most beautiful Italian song?” Matteo Salvini asked himself rhetorically on Twitter before the victory of Soldier in 2019. Perhaps the leader of the right-wing Liga was only talking about musical tastes. For many, however, Mahmood’s dark skin, his African roots and a style of clothing far removed from the male canon had a greater impact on the judgment of the conservative politician. The press was also carried away by stereotypes: he has been considered “half Egyptian” – he was born in Milan, of a Sardinian mother and an Egyptian father – and he has been asked if he respects Ramadan, to which he had to answer that he is not. Muslim. And, time and time again, he has been questioned about his sexual orientation. Because two guys who wear transparent skirts or shirts in primetime, they show chemistry on stage and have a ritual kiss on the cheek before performing —as Blanco recounted— for some they are still a rarity. “For me it is important that it is normal. Nothing more. That it is seen in any other way can become a bit dangerous for society, ”he defends.
Both have explained several times that Brividi It is a hymn to love, without more labels. Thus, in the video clip, Blanco lives an idyll with a woman and Mahmood with a man. It is hard to believe, in any case, that such a connection arose by chance. Because both musicians met in a producer’s office. They composed the chorus together. And then each did their part separately. Despite the distance, everything fits into a coherent, intimate and at the same time universal story. “I think that so many people can recognize themselves in this song because it is not just my point of view, nor theirs, but the mixture of two generations [Blanco tiene 19 años]”, maintains Mahmood. The song also includes a phrase that summarizes decades of masculinity problems – “I don’t know how to say what I feel, it’s one of my limits” -, with which the musician feels identified: “Sometimes I find it hard to express my emotions , I can be cold and hurt, both to others and to myself”. Since his exposure has skyrocketed, in fact, he’s been more careful: “But only in interviews and on social media. In life I do what I want.”
In the music, in the background, too. Because, like other young stars like Rosalía or C. Tangana, Mahmood’s style is different, innovative. rap, hip-hop, ballads, R&B, phrases in the language of Sardinia and much more. Sometimes even within the same song. He has once defined it as “Moroccan pop”. But he now uses the word “free” and adds: “I never think about what genre I’m doing.” “Ghettolimpo It has been almost a therapy, a release. I have tried to unite my roots, such as mythology, with problems such as moving to a social dimension”, he explains. So much so that the album cover shows him as Narcissus, observing a dark version of himself in the water.
In his lyrics, in fact, Mahmood already exposes all his faults. “I don’t put limits on what he can tell, otherwise it would get boring. I do not try to be more handsome or likeable in my songs, but to say what is there. If I sang untruths, I would feel ridiculous”, he argues. He confesses that he has also managed to reduce his “anxiety” by going on stage, and that he is looking for faults. a posteriori, in the videos he finds of his concerts. Although she refuses to cite one, as well as any virtue. She does share a fear: “Sometimes I’m afraid of waking up and not having anything to say.” At the moment, the opposite is happening: on Saturday, half of Europe will listen to him.
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