Home » Loredana Bertè and her angry Sanremo – Daniele Cassandro

Loredana Bertè and her angry Sanremo – Daniele Cassandro

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Loredana Bertè and her angry Sanremo – Daniele Cassandro

06 February 2024 16:06

Loredana Bertè, who returns to the Sanremo festival this year with the song Crazy, is one of the most important performers, authors and pop stars of Italian song. Perhaps she was the first in our country to fully and organically be all these things together. Above all, she was the first to use her body, her history and her personal experiences as material to bring to the stage. Her voice, from the beginning, combines roughness and sweetness, fragility and strength, enthusiasm and discouragement. Bertè always sings about herself, but she never does it in an umbilical or smug way. When Bertè goes on stage she offers herself to the judgment of the public, but she is never docile or complacent: she seeks confrontation with her gaze, with her body language and above all with her voice.

She has often been described as provocative and defiant, wild, incorrigible, difficult, crazy… in reality she has always been, and continues to be, free. And it is this freedom of hers, which emanates as soon as she goes on stage, no matter if she is young or old, that somehow disturbs. Yes, because Loredana Bertè has a peculiarity: she is a much-loved artist but every time she has to win back the love and respect of the public from scratch. Every time it seems like she has to make amends for something, because the only thing she has never really been forgiven for is her freedom. A free woman (free to age as she wants, to say what she wants as she wants, to be ugly or to be sexy, to sing or not to sing) is still scary. Pay attention: how many returns did Loredana Bertè have? How many times has she been given up? How many times has she been spoken of in the past tense as if she were dead? And how many times did she have to prove that she was still there?

In 1994, the year of Silvio Berlusconi’s “descend into the field”, Loredana Bertè was considered finished. As an artist and as a person. Artistically she was a relic of the seventies and early eighties and, according to the tabloid press that dictated the rules of how one should speak about her publicly, she was a broken-down woman who went back and forth to hospitals between depressive crises and suicide attempts. Her marriage to Swedish tennis player Björn Borg was supposed to be a fairy tale and turned into a nightmare. Obviously, her fault was hers alone, her hot Calabrian blood, her excessive sexual exuberance and once again hers, her freedom, always too claimed, always too exhibited. She free is fine but not too free.

Loredana Bertè was not the first Italian singer to be massacred by the tabloid press: it had happened to Mina before her and in a much more sanctimonious and respectable Italy. But Bertè was the first not to hide and to use in her art, in her public persona, what was written and said to demolish her.

For today’s pop stars it is normal that the unhealthy relationship with tabloids and social networks is the subject of songs, albums, tours and cover stories. It is also normal, indeed I would say obligatory, for a pop star today to talk about abuse, trauma and violence suffered. On the one hand it is the sign of more advanced times and more attentive to the mental health of artists and the public which is reflected in their songs, on the other it is inevitably a form of trivialization and standardization of pain, the transformation of discomfort and malaise into a marketing tool.

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Ten years before a pop star like Britney Spears publicly collapsed and then recounted her personal hell in an album, thirty years before the world of music, and also of politics, was divided into fan e hater, Loredana Bertè took to the most visible stage in Italy to sing about her discomfort, her anger at the world and to once again claim her freedom. In 1994 mental illness, discomfort and anger (I insist on this term because I can’t find any better ones) were anything but marketing tools: they were a revolver pointed at the head, the guarantee of commercial suicide on live TV.

I don’t have any friends it is one of the most memorable pieces ever heard in Sanremo. The text is partly written by Bertè herself and the music is by Philippe Leon, an eclectic Italian-Tunisian composer who had already worked with Adriano Celentano and Patty Pravo, among others. Her turn of phrase is the refrain “And I’m not there to look at the stars in the sky” to which Loredana Bertè has attached a personal text on her loneliness, her disappointments and, indeed, her obstinate, tetragonal anger with world.

The 1994 Sanremo was presented by Pippo Baudo (it was he who strongly wanted Loredana Bertè’s return), by Anna Oxa and by the Antillean showgirl Cannelle. The winner that year was Aleandro Baldi with the melodic and somewhat old-fashioned It will pass (not surprisingly taken up in 2004 by the sappy classic crossover group Il Divo). But above all Sanremo ’94 was the launching pad for Andrea Bocelli, not exactly a reckless innovator, who won in the new proposals category with The calm sea of ​​the evening. From the point of view of female voices that festival was the confirmation of Laura Pausini (third place with Strange loveswhich was a huge success) and the revelation of Giorgia’s talent (seventh place in the new proposals category with And then).

It is difficult to imagine performers more different from Loredana Bertè di Giorgia (crystalline intonation and Whitney Houston as a model) and Laura Pausini (athletic voice and muscular technique at the service of sentimental and irresistible pop songs). The new generation of Italian performers is fierce, vocally highly trained and absolutely in tune with the belly of Italy which is emerging from the first republic to slide wearily into the second.

Loredana Bertè, “Amici non ho ne” on the first evening of the 1994 Sanremo Festival

Bertè’s sensual roughness, his love for rock and for great Brazilian music are antiques in the Italy of 1994 which rewards either the most classic melody or clean pop, without too many edges and performed impeccably. The verse of I don’t have any friends in which Bertè sings “it is the general opinion that I don’t know how to sing and that I always dress badly” is clearly his awareness of being wrong for those times of hyper-professionalism displayed and celebrated as a value in itself. Bertè in 1994 is not only too old (she is actually 44 years old, the age that Tina Turner was at the time of her greatest pop success), but also too disorderly, too much of a runaway from home, too indomitable, too unpredictable. And then, if compared to the Giorgies and the Pausinis, she “sings badly”. Her dissonances, her jumps in register, her improvisations, her musical inventions are considered “bad singing” in the golden year of the global success of Céline Dion, the Canadian singer with the steely throat and performer pop with Cartesian rigor.

On the first evening of Sanremo, when Loredana Bertè comes down the steps of the Ariston to be welcomed by Baudo and Cannelle, she is clearly nervous. She is wrapped in a dark evening dress, has raven hair and a somewhat forced smile. She knows well that she is the wrong person in the wrong place and at the wrong time but this gives her a strange strength, a sense of reckless defiance. To give her strength there is also her friend Aida Cooper on her backing vocals, who Bertè mentions and thanks as soon as the piece ends.

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I don’t have any friends it starts with a vaguely hip hop base, very similar to that of many Massive Attack pieces that were very fashionable at the time (this is more evident in the studio version than in the version with the Sanremo orchestra). Then, after a beautiful electric guitar arpeggio, Bertè enters with a first verse that throws us headlong into his solitude: “I’m alone in my house, keeping myself company”. She performs that attack in an ever-different way throughout the festival, as if she were surprised by the song in thought, while she finds herself alone at home brooding.

Not very intelligent, quarrelsome and lonely

Bertè presents himself as an unintelligent person, very quarrelsome and consequently solitary. In the very short exchange with Baudo and Cannelle she only manages to say that she now writes her songs herself because she has argued with practically everyone.

And then the song enters a dimension between the intimate and the political that we had underestimated in 1994 and which today instead seems to us like the fulcrum of the entire piece:

With the photo of Guevara
I go to bed in the morning
pissed off like before.
I shoot in regular headphones
only the International
to dream about the ending.

Loredana Bertè proudly presents herself as a relic of the left, of commitment and politics as well as of the music of the seventies. A few weeks after Berlusconi, with unified networks, signed his “pact with the Italians”, she goes on stage at Sanremo to make everyone understand that the world as we knew it is now over. There is no longer room for commitment or revolutionary dreams in 1994 in which even politics, which until the previous decade was still passion and ideology, is becoming marketing and business management. It is precisely since then that the word “ideology” in Italy has been universally considered a dirty word.

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Bertè is still capable of dreaming about the finale of the International but she does it alone, in headphones, and the photo of Che, stuck above her bed, does not console her but makes her feel more and more alone and angry. Then the song opens with a splendid pop refrain, inspired by the composer Philippe Leon: “And I no longer stand there looking at the stars in the sky, I no longer believe that you can only win with your heart”. Bertè, on the stage of thank you for the flowers, of I’m not that old and of the heart that is a gypsy, denounces herself: she no longer believes in romantic love and not even in friendship. He decided to accept her loneliness, to marry her. His, however, is not a surrender but an extreme, proud act of freedom. And he twists the knife in the wound:

For the national press
my suicide per campare
the hospital as sponsor.

Today we are used to songs that talk about tabloids, about hater and of media lynchings, in 1994 these words sound absurd, immodest, self-defeating. They sound contrary to the pact of devotion that a queen of song signs with her admirers: today pop stars are quick to thank their fans, cajole them on social networks, ride their respective fandoms and arrange them like small armies. In 1994 Bertè is not afraid to say that she too was betrayed by her fans, that she was truly alone. A song like this today, in its crudeness and its absolute lack of victimhood, would be unthinkable.

In an era in which entire artistic (and even political) careers are based on victimhood, on the manipulation of consensus and on the exhibition of a commitment that is almost always purely performative, I don’t have any friends it sounds desperately and prophetically courageous.

Loredana Bertè was the first to do many things. For I’m not a lady she dressed as a bride two years before Madonna did. With And the moon knocked she was the first to do reggae in Italy. She was the first to use her beauty and her naked body as an instrument of expression and liberation and not just as a compromise to be swallowed by force. And with I don’t have any friends she was the first to have the courage to tell us what we were becoming. Because that song talks about the loneliness and disappointments of a person, but above all it talks about the forces and conditions, even social, even political, that created that loneliness and therefore it also talks about us.

Loredana Bertè
I don’t have any friends / Sing Vaya con Dios
Fonópolis, 1994

Loredana Berté, “Amici non ho ne”, studio version, 1994

Internazionale publishes a page of letters every week. We’d love to know what you think about this article. Write to us at: [email protected]

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