Freedom Of Expression Has Taken Il Volo

Il Volo and the other winners of the Italian Music Sanremo Festival were harshly insulted by the press due to allegations that the voting system had been biased and several other reasons.

The press used — once again — strong words against the third-placed winners of the Sanremo Festival (called this because it takes place in Sanremo, Liguria). The press that should remain objective and direct seemed to have crossed the line to statements purely opinionated and unfounded. If journalists are the watchdogs then who watches over them? This happening opens a debate on why this musical group was attacked, but questions the press’s position.

Criticism highly filled this year’s 69th edition of the Sanremo Festival, a show set to celebrate Italian music. Many have criticized the choice of the music and the artists that entered the competition, the sound system that failed a couple times across all three evenings that this show aired, the dry sense of humor of the two hosts who did not get along too well, and the greatest criticism was directed at the winner(s).

All three winners have been heavily insulted for various reasons since their first exhibition, including the third placed winner: the young Italian group Il Volo, which is formed by three young men — Piero Barone, Ignazio Boschetto, and Gianluca Ginoble. Their music became widely known after their participation in a music contest years back, each competing individually. But then in 2010 they teamed up to compete. They have since remained a trio and won the 2015 Sanremo Festival. In this year’s contest they came in third with their song “Musica che resta” (Music that remains) after Alessandro Mahmood and Ultimo, first and second winners, respectively.

Il Volo and their success abroad

It was in 2016 when they were questioned about their extreme success abroad (especially in the United States of America where they toured with Anastacia and Barbra Straisand, or even in Latin America) and the musical group replied that in their opinion foreigners appreciated their genre and were taken by their young age. They have sung in four different languages (Italian, English, French and Spanish) and, although coming in third at the Sanremo Festival, on iTunes their song has fallen to 14th place.

Their initial success from “Il Volo” (2010-12) came sixth in Italy, but first in the United States’ Billboard Latin Pop Album and sold over 50 thousand copies only in Mexico, resulting in two nominations at the 12th Latin Grammy Awards. They are not the only ones with apparent greater success abroad as Laura Pausini is renown for having won frequent awards at the Latin Grammy Awards.

These young singers have widely been appreciated for their classic genre placed into a modern time, in fact their music has been defined “popera” a mix of opera and pop music. With two tenors (Ignazio and Piero) and a baritone (Gianluca), their talent seems to have been more appreciated abroad.

Il Volo: Gianluca Ginoble, Piero Barone, and Ignazio Boschetto (from left to right)

The press vs Il Volo

It had already happened during the first nights. However, it was especially after they were confirmed as third place winners, as Il Volo approached the press conference organized at the Festival’s venue, Ariston Theater, that the journalists could be heard in a video calling them names and using strong language against them. The video was published by another musician, Francesco Facchinetti (below is the original tweet). Someone even screamed that the young singers should go to “…jail.”

The three singers did not reply until days after when they published the following Instagram post:

“We have required some days to be lucid and express our side of what happened.

Some journalists (and it is well to say “some”) have heavily insulted us. Some have used words like “sh*t”, “f**k you” and “go to jail” that we do consider a result of a true form of bullying, a stadium kind. These people have not brought glory to those that they represent, their behaviour was insulting, first to us, and then to all their colleagues who work in a serious and professional manner.

Over ten years, we have received several criticisms about our music, on the genre that we sing, and we have been accused of being arrogant and spoiled.

We have not given importance to all of this because fortunately we have followers who, on a daily basis, support us and love what we do. However, when we see videos that testify to the evil and lack of humanity from many who could be our parents (if not our grandparents), it bothers us. It bothers us because every artist should have their own space for musical expression. Being called “sh*t” or seeing someone shout “go to jail” only because we are doing what we love, is extremely disrespectful, towards us and against any freedom of expression.”

(You can find this following post public on the musical group’s Instagram here)

Freedom of expression

Protected by the Art. 21 of the Italian Constitution, “…anyone has the right to freely express their thoughts in speech, writing, or any other form of communication.” However, the criminal code Art. 595 restricts this constitutional article stating the defamation of another person is not “freedom” anymore. It has been suggested that Italian journalists self-censor to avoid fines or jail. The Art. 11 of the European Constitution declares that everyone has a right to freedom of expression and that pluralism of the media should be respected. This is similar to the United States of America where, however, defamation is placed only under civil law. If Italians consider defamation so important that you could be jailed for it, what happened with Il Volo this time?

I believe that a highly politicized television (see several of La7’s private channel programming) and a general discontent that has filled Italy for a while now has made its way into a musical contest. Let’s observe the winner’s song “Soldi” (Money) or other cause-oriented songs. Yet, this does not justify the journalists’ behavior. And it is thanks to social media and technology that we exposed this. A wake-up call that we needed to start setting our priorities straight: insulting young musicians is not it, but accurate watchdog journalism and responsible press should be our priorities.