De André is considered untouchable, a unique artist whose songs are not reproducible better than he did
Besides politics and food, nothing like contemporary indie music is capable of dividing opinions among Italian people. This kind of music gradually lost its original independent nature, becoming a way to designate a genre which nowadays is the most popular in the Italian music scene. However, as just mentioned, not everyone loves indie music. Especially when sixteen representatives of this genre get together to record a new Fabrizio De André cover album (named Faber Nostrum), thus reinterpreting this great singer-songwriter and legend of Italian music. Leaving aside quality matters that are mostly subjective, it is interesting to analyze how an artist of such importance can be “modernized.” And why.
Fabrizio De André as a symbol
Faber Nostrum, distributed by Sony Music and supported by the Fabrizio De André Foundation, is a tribute to this great songwriter and “a way to bring young people closer to Fabrizio through his songs,” his widow said. To better understand the deep meaning of this album, it is worth saying that De André is not only an amazing artist whose texts are read at school: indeed, he is a real symbol. Starting from the ’60s, he went on for three decades of Italian history, mostly telling stories about marginalized and rebellious people with a direct and very powerful narrative style.
Are saints touchable?
De André strong personality, together with the undisputed quality of his songs, brought various artists to pay tribute to him after 1999, the year of his death. Nonetheless, he is somehow considered untouchable, a unique artist whose songs are not reproducible better than he did. That is why this new cover album has suddenly come under the spotlight, provoking different reactions among critics and on social networks. Despite the overall positive comments on Twitter, music critics are sometimes ruthless: “The result of this compilation — beyond laudable intentions — is that of an outlandish work, with interpreters who are not always up to par and with many arrangements that distort the true and profound essence of De André.”
The purpose is relevant
In my opinion, those ‘laudable intentions’ should be the focus of our argument as well as the key to go beyond the impasse to which this debate could bring. Let me explain: what is the purpose of Faber Nostrum? What is its target? If this album is addressed to Millennials, namely my generation, there is no need to record a cover album to let us know De André, as all my peers still listen or have listened to his music. Anyway, this is harmless for us, or even pleasant. Quite the opposite if the aim of the album is to approach younger generations. Indeed, those who have never been interested in discovering the music of De André, won’t be immediately impacted by it. On the contrary, they are likely to listen to this album and stop there, avoiding to go deeper.
Is there really need to simplify?
Probably, young generations feel iconic songwriters very distant from them and their life, chalking them up as a legacy of the decades of their parents or older siblings. At the same time, they recognize themselves in contemporary singers, who don’t usually stand out for meaningful content. Nevertheless, the operation to get young people closer to a high-quality music – and this is an actual laudable intention – should not be to simplify it, but rather to let them know that this kind of art is enjoyable and understandable just as it is. In other words, making a cover album passes the idea that De André needs to be simplified to become something for young people, ending up being perceived even further away form them.
The power of classics
Actually, De André’s songs are mostly based on the classic ballad scheme. By definition, these are texts composed for the people, with a simple and essential structure. Of course, songs are not about contemporary social issues, but as classics they are released from time. His music is alive and modern because it is essentially about human beings and basically anthropological, I’d say. That is precisely why there’s no need to modify it or make it simpler, just as much you don’t need to read the Odyssey in prose to understand it.