To Tell You Ciao: My Italiopop Geekout

I have an intense love of Italian pop music.   When I was 22, just back from my first ever trip to Europe, I stumbled upon the international record section of Rizzoli's bookstore, and on impulse I bought a couple of albums because I liked the covers.   I brought them home and listened to them again and again, struggling to decipher the lyrics. It seemed as good a way as any to hold on to my rudimentary Italian and to keep the taste of Italy on my tongue just a bit longer.

Over the years, I grew very fond of that handful of Italian pop stars I'd discovered almost at random.  Now, thanks to the internet, I can listen to Italian radio stations at night as I fall asleep, letting that language with its flourishes and curlicues seep into my mind.  I can watch video after video, discovering new artists on an almost daily basis.  So this year I have stepped up my regimen of Italopop.  It certainly helped me to get in the mood while I was rewriting Love, Lucy, my third novel, half of which is set in Italy.  

Now that I'm almost at the end of my revising, I listen to the music for its own sake...because I like it more than most American pop music.  For one thing, it seems more innocent and melodic than a lot of American pop.  Also, Italy seems to believe in the music video as an art form, in a way that America no longer does.  See, as evidence, the video above, for Tiziano Ferro's song, "Per Dirti Ciao."

And check out this one by Carmen Condoli:

I confess: I've been watching the "Guarda L'Alba" video repeatedly for the last few days.  Her voice just breaks my heart every time. And that moment when her little red train pulls past Mt. Etna?  Be still my heart.


  1. I can't comment on whether American music video makers ever treated the music video as an art form, as opposed to a way of merchandising music for subsequent sale. It's no wonder it's easy to be captivated by these videos. The singers can actually sing, and the video, as I would expect respects a tradition, and understands how art begets art: Per Dirti Ciao has the wit and unselfconsciousness of a Target ad as rendered by David Byrne. And no other film tradition than the one that includes Antonioni and Bertolucci could inform Guarda l'Alba (which is saved from being utterly ridiculous, for me, by being in Italian, a language of which I understand no more than a few gustatory terms... Better that way). Learning Italian would only spoil it.


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