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    As Eyes Are on Eurovision, Europe Has Another Song Contest

    The Liet International, a competition for minority and regional languages, lacks the glitz of Eurovision. But its organizers say it helps keep endangered tongues alive.Follow live updates on the Eurovision grand final.TONDER, Denmark — The folk musician Billy Fumey strode onstage on Friday night in this quaint market town in rural Denmark and launched into an intense love song in the endangered language of Franco-Provençal. As he belted out a lyrical description of hair blowing in the wind — “Kma tsèkion de tèt frissons da l’oura lèdzira” — few in the 500-strong audience had any idea what he was singing about, but it didn’t seem to matter. When the yodeling-heavy track came to an end, the crowd clapped wildly, anyway.A few moments later, Carolina Rubirosa, a Spanish rock musician who sings in Galician, got a similar reaction. As did Jimi Henndreck, a psychedelic rock band from Italy who sang a raucous number in South Tyrolean, a German dialect. So, too, did Inga-Maret Gaup-Juuso, an electronic artist singing in a language of the Sami Indigenous people of Northern Europe.All were taking part in Liet International, a European song contest for regional and minority languages. After finishing her entry, Rubirosa switched to English to address the beer-swigging crowd. “This is a dream to be here today,” she said, “with my language, outside my country.” Minority languages are vital, Rubirosa added. “We don’t have to let them die.”The audience for the Liet International song contest at the Culture House in Tonder.Klaus Bo for The New York TimesDoria Ousset, a singer from the French island of Corsica, getting ready backstage. Performers have do their own makeup and hair.Klaus Bo for The New York TimesOusset on Friday sang an epic rock lament for a 17th-century Corsican soldier facing execution by French forces.Klaus Bo for The New York TimesAdri de Boer, a Dutch troubadour, appeared on the show, which was livestreamed on YouTube and will be broadcast on Dutch TV.Klaus Bo for The New York TimesAround 200 million people will tune into the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday to hear music from around the continent. The 25 pop stars who will compete in the final include those performing in Italian, Spanish and Ukrainian. Yet the millions of people in Europe who speak one of its many regional and minority languages are unlikely to find themselves represented on the Eurovision stage, let alone in their country’s pop charts.Since 2002, Liet International has been offering a platform to musicians from these communities — though it is a world away from the showy spectacle of a Eurovision final. Friday’s event occurred in the Culture House, a small hall next to a care facility for older adults in Tonder, which is in a German-speaking region of Denmark. The 13 acts shared tiny dressing rooms and applied their own makeup. The evening’s hosts, Stefi Wright and Niklas Nissen, have day jobs as a teacher and builder.The event, which was livestreamed on the contest’s YouTube page, attracted just 944 views, though a recording will soon be broadcast on television in the Netherlands.Uffe Iwersen, one of the event’s organizers, said its budget was around 100,000 euros, or about $104,000, so the organizers could not afford spectacular stage sets or pyrotechnics. He insisted that didn’t matter. “The languages are more important than explosions and the biggest light show on earth,” Iwersen said.Tjallien Kalsbeek, one of the competition’s organizers, said that Liet International had its roots in a contest started by a Dutch television station in the 1990s. That competition aimed to find new pop music in West Frisian, a language spoken by about 450,000 people in the north of the Netherlands.That contest was a hit, Kalsbeek said, and it became an annual event, expanding over time to include rap and techno entries. For its 10th anniversary, the organizers held a special edition that featured acts in other minority languages including Basque, Occitan and Welsh. This was the first Liet International; Friday’s was the 13th edition.About 500 people watched in the Culture House on Friday.Klaus Bo for The New York TimesMartin Horlock, right, performing in South Jutlandic, a Danish dialect.Klaus Bo for The New York TimesInga-Maret Gaup-Juuso, left, singing in a language of the Sami Indigenous people of Northern Europe.Klaus Bo for The New York TimesRoger Argemí, a singer from the Catalonia region of Spain, performing on Friday night. “When I want to express my real feelings, I use Catalan,” he said.Klaus Bo for The New York TimesThe status of Europe’s minority languages varies wildly. Some, like Catalan, are spoken by millions of people, yet others, like North Frisian, native to northern Germany, have just a few thousand speakers left and are at risk of extinction, according to UNESCO.Elin Jones, a professor of linguistic diversity at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, said by phone that regional languages that were protected by national governments and taught in schools like Welsh were thriving. But in countries including France, Greece and Russia, minority languages were more at risk, because children are usually educated in the national language only.Jones said that all minority languages should be supported. “They are an integral part of people’s identity, like sexuality or ethnicity,” she said.Several of the people participating in Liet International on Friday came from areas where speaking a minority language could be seen as a political act, including Sardinia, where some activists want more autonomy from Italy, and Corsica, the Mediterranean island where this year clashes broke out after a Corsican activist was beaten up inside a French jail.Onstage on Friday, Doria Ousset, a Corsican singer with a six-piece band, sung an epic rock lament for a 17th-century Corsican soldier facing execution by French forces. Afterward, in an onstage interview, the hosts asked about her inspiration. “The French state does not want us to know out history, so we have to sing it,” Ousset said. “It is our mission.”Yet in interviews with The New York Times, four other acts said they sang in regional languages for reasons that had nothing to do with politics. Roger Argemí, a young pop singer from the Catalonia region of Spain, said he wrote music mainly in English or Spanish, “but when I want to express my real feelings, I use Catalan” — the language of his childhood. Catalan sounded “much sweeter, and more melodic” than Spanish, he added.As removed as Liet International seemed from the glitz of Eurovision, there was at least one element it shared with its better-known rival on Friday: a tense voting process. Shortly after 10 p.m., the night’s acts walked onstage to listen as the members of a jury read out their scores one by one.As a leaderboard reshuffled with each new score, it became clear that this was a three-horse race between Ousset, the Corsican singer; Yourdaughters, two sisters from north Germany’s Danish-speaking minority who sang a dreamy R&B track; and Rubirosa, the Galician songwriter.Ousset, the Corsican singer, reacting after she was announced as the winner.Klaus Bo for The New York TimesWith one judge’s scores left to reveal, there were just a couple of points between those three acts. But as the judge read out the points, Ousset edged to the front. When she was announced as the winner, she collapsed into her bandmates’ arms in shock, then rushed to the front of the stage waving Corsica’s flag.“How do you feel?” asked Nissen, one of the hosts, in English. Ousset replied in Corsican with a lengthy, tearful, speech. Very few people in the audience understood a word she said. But they clapped and cheered anyway. More

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    Eurovision 2022: What to Know and How to Watch

    LONDON — The Eurovision Song Contest started in 1956 as a friendly music competition between public service television broadcasters and has since grown into the world’s largest — and perhaps most eccentric — live music event.This year, the competition takes place while there is a war in Europe; in February, the event’s organizers announced that Russia would be barred from competing, citing “the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine.”This week, 35 other countries, including Ukraine, competed in semifinal rounds ahead of Saturday’s final, which attracts more than 180 million viewers around the world. The event, held in Italy this year, rewards live viewership, with clips from performances and reactions spreading quickly across social media.Below are rundowns on hotly tipped acts, advice about how to watch from the United States and views about how the war in Ukraine is likely to affect the competition.Sweden’s entry this year is Cornelia Jakobs, who sings “Hold Me Closer,” a warm and emotional pop track.Alessandro Grassani for The New York TimesHow does the Eurovision Song Contest work?Each country selects an act with an original song that must be performed live onstage. The song is picked either by the national broadcaster or through some kind of contest. (For example, Sweden has the “Melodifestivalen” to choose its entry.) There are a number of rules that entrants must follow, including a limit of three minutes on song length and a ban on lyrics or gestures deemed by the organizers to be political.Despite the name, countries beyond Europe’s traditional geographical borders also compete in Eurovision. Israel debuted in 1973, for example, and Australia has been taking part since 2015. This year, Armenia and Montenegro are returning to the contest after not competing in 2021. Smaller nations are also represented, such as San Marino, a landlocked enclave in Italy with a population of just over 30,000. Last year, San Marino’s entry, performed by the singer Senhit, featured an appearance by the American rapper Flo Rida.The winner of Eurovision is chosen by a combination of votes by viewers at home and by national juries in each country. The scores from the national juries are tallied first, then the fan votes are announced, act by act, starting with the countries that received the lowest jury points. This part of the show can be tense and even uncomfortable to watch, with cameras last year showing entrants from Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain each receiving the dreaded “zero points” from the public.After the two semifinals have whittled the entrants down, the qualifiers join entries from the “big five” countries — Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain — which have an automatic pass to the final because they contribute the most financially to the running of the contest. Twenty-five countries will compete at the final this year.Traditionally, the competition is held in the country that won the previous year. Turin, in Italy, hosts this year after the rock band Maneskin triumphed in 2021.The crowd at Thursday’s semifinal in Turin, Italy.Alessandro Grassani for The New York TimesHow can Americans watch the competition?The streaming service Peacock will be airing the final on Saturday from 3 p.m. Eastern time. The service also streamed the competition’s semifinals. The figure skater Johnny Weir will be providing commentary on the broadcast.The commentary can often add some humor to the many long hours of televised competition. In Britain, the comedy host Graham Norton has become renowned for his reactions and quips.“We’ve got a real range of music tonight,” Norton said while introducing the 2021 competition from the Dutch city of Rotterdam. “Brilliant staging, great lighting, some wonderful vocalists, and others — well, some as flat as Holland.”Oleh Psiuk, center, of Ukraine’s entry, Kalush Orchestra, posing this week in Turin with a group of people protesting the war in Ukraine. Alessandro Grassani for The New York TimesHow has Russia’s invasion of Ukraine affected the competition?Initially, the European Broadcasting Union, which organizes Eurovision, said that Russia could continue to participate because the competition was a “nonpolitical cultural event.”The day after the invasion, however, with Ukraine and other countries threatening to withdraw, the broadcasting union backtracked. Russia could not take part, the union said in a statement, because the country’s inclusion “would bring the competition into disrepute.”Sentimentality, friendly bias and politics can affect the voting. This year, Ukraine is favored to win, with the rap and folk band Kalush Orchestra representing the country. Its song, “Stefania,” is an ode to the mother of one of the band members. The act received special permission from the Ukrainian government to travel for the competition and has performed throughout Europe to raise funds for the war effort.Ukraine won the contest in 2016 with “1944,” by Jamala. The song was a memorial to Crimean Tatars during World War II, but it was also interpreted as a comment on the Russian invasion of Crimea, which took place two years earlier.Kalush Orchestra received special permission from the Ukrainian government to travel to Italy for the competition.Alessandro Grassani for The New York TimesWhat happens if Ukraine wins this year?If Ukraine does take the title, the war and humanitarian crisis in the country would most likely present challenges to its hosting the competition in 2023.In the past, when a country has been unable to host, another has stepped in. The last time that happened was in 1980, when Israel declined to host after winning for a second straight year. The competition was held in the Netherlands instead.If Australia ever wins the competition, the logistical difficulties of hosting a primarily European contest on a different continent mean that a European country and broadcaster would co-host the following year’s contest alongside Australia, according to the European Broadcasting Union.Australia’s entry, Sheldon Riley, during a dress rehearsal in Turin. His track reflects on his childhood experiences, including being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.Alessandro Grassani for The New York TimesWhich other acts should I know about?Sweden has won Eurovision six times (second only to Ireland), with ABBA one of the acts to have claimed victory for the country. The Swedish entrant this year is Cornelia Jakobs, who sings “Hold Me Closer,” a warm and emotional pop track that builds with each subsequent verse.The Spanish entry, performed by Chanel, has also been predicted to do well at the final, with a catchy song, “SloMo,” accompanied by a high-energy dance routine.The prospects for Britain, after last year’s zero points overall, are looking up. The country’s entry, “Space Man,” is performed by the TikTok star Sam Ryder and has been gathering some momentum.There has also been praise for Australia’s entry, “Not the Same,” performed by Sheldon Riley. The song reflects his childhood experiences, including a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome he received at age 6.Maneskin has gone on to global fame since winning the 2021 competition, performing on “Saturday Night Live” and at the Coachella festival this year.The duo Subwoolfer, representing Norway, wear wolf masks, surrounded by dancers in morph costumes, for their act.Alessandro Grassani for The New York TimesAre there any surreal acts this year?Eurovision entrants have a tradition of employing surreal staging, lyrics and costumes to stand out.This year, the Norwegian entry, by the pop duo Subwoolfer, has gained attention. Their song, “Give That Wolf a Banana,” has the pair wearing wolf masks, with backing dancers in yellow morph suits.The Moldovan entry, “Trenuletul,” by Zdob si Zdub and the Advahov Brothers, has built a following by pairing traditional instruments like the accordion with the electric guitar. Their song’s upbeat lyrics are matched by the band’s enthusiastic choreography.Each year, fans travel to the competition to see their country compete. Here, some were in Turin for Thursday’s semifinal.Alessandro Grassani for The New York TimesWhat about North American versions of Eurovision?The NBC show “American Song Contest” reimagines Eurovision for the United States, with 56 entries from 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia. Instead of airing over the course of a week, like Eurovision does, the contest has been airing weekly on the network since March.The final took place on Monday, when AleXa, representing Oklahoma, won with “Wonderland.” The song received 710 points overall from the jury and public voting, 207 ahead of the second-place entry, from Colorado.But underwhelming ratings suggest that “American Song Contest” failed to capture the excitement of Eurovision. In an interview with The New York Times, Audrey Morrissey, an executive on the show, suggested that U.S. audiences might need time to get used to the format. “It is a very different sort of mechanism — there isn’t another show where performance happens and there isn’t a critique right after,” she said.Next year, there will be a Eurovision Canada, where entries from the country’s three territories and 10 provinces will compete in an offshoot of the original. International expansion has been an ambition for Eurovision. Martin Österdahl, an executive supervisor of the competition, told a podcast recently, “We’re changing our focus slightly in our strategy from managing a contest to managing a brand, and that brand will be a global entertainment superbrand.” More

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    How to Watch Eurovision 2022

    LONDON — The Eurovision Song Contest started in 1956 as a friendly music competition between public service television broadcasters and has since grown into the world’s largest — and perhaps most eccentric — live music event.This year, the competition takes place while there is a war in Europe; in February, the event’s organizers announced that Russia would be barred from competing, citing “the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine.”This week, 35 other countries, including Ukraine, competed in semifinal rounds ahead of Saturday’s final, which attracts more than 180 million viewers around the world. The event, held in Italy this year, rewards live viewership, with clips from performances and reactions spreading quickly across social media.Below are rundowns on hotly tipped acts, advice about how to watch from the United States and views about how the war in Ukraine is likely to affect the competition.Sweden’s entry this year is Cornelia Jakobs, who sings “Hold Me Closer,” a warm and emotional pop track.Alessandro Grassani for The New York TimesHow does the Eurovision Song Contest work?Each country selects an act with an original song that must be performed live onstage. The song is picked either by the national broadcaster or through some kind of contest. (For example, Sweden has the “Melodifestivalen” to choose its entry.) There are a number of rules that entrants must follow, including a limit of three minutes on song length and a ban on lyrics or gestures deemed by the organizers to be political.Despite the name, countries beyond Europe’s traditional geographical borders also compete in Eurovision. Israel debuted in 1973, for example, and Australia has been taking part since 2015. This year, Armenia and Montenegro are returning to the contest after not competing in 2021. Smaller nations are also represented, such as San Marino, a landlocked enclave in Italy with a population of just over 30,000. Last year, San Marino’s entry, performed by the singer Senhit, featured an appearance by the American rapper Flo Rida.The winner of Eurovision is chosen by a combination of votes by viewers at home and by national juries in each country. The scores from the national juries are tallied first, then the fan votes are announced, act by act, starting with the countries that received the lowest jury points. This part of the show can be tense and even uncomfortable to watch, with cameras last year showing entrants from Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain each receiving the dreaded “zero points” from the public.After the two semifinals have whittled the entrants down, the qualifiers join entries from the “big five” countries — Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain — which have an automatic pass to the final because they contribute the most financially to the running of the contest. Twenty-five countries will compete at the final this year.Traditionally, the competition is held in the country that won the previous year. Turin, in Italy, hosts this year after the rock band Maneskin triumphed in 2021.The crowd at Thursday’s semifinal in Turin, Italy.Alessandro Grassani for The New York TimesHow can Americans watch the competition?The streaming service Peacock will be airing the final on Saturday from 3 p.m. Eastern time. The service also streamed the competition’s semifinals. The figure skater Johnny Weir will be providing commentary on the broadcast.The commentary can often add some humor to the many long hours of televised competition. In Britain, the comedy host Graham Norton has become renowned for his reactions and quips.“We’ve got a real range of music tonight,” Norton said while introducing the 2021 competition from the Dutch city of Rotterdam. “Brilliant staging, great lighting, some wonderful vocalists, and others — well, some as flat as Holland.”Oleh Psiuk, center, of Ukraine’s entry, Kalush Orchestra, posing this week in Turin with a group of people protesting the war in Ukraine. Alessandro Grassani for The New York TimesHow has Russia’s invasion of Ukraine affected the competition?Initially, the European Broadcasting Union, which organizes Eurovision, said that Russia could continue to participate because the competition was a “nonpolitical cultural event.”The day after the invasion, however, with Ukraine and other countries threatening to withdraw, the broadcasting union backtracked. Russia could not take part, the union said in a statement, because the country’s inclusion “would bring the competition into disrepute.”Sentimentality, friendly bias and politics can affect the voting. This year, Ukraine is favored to win, with the rap and folk band Kalush Orchestra representing the country. Its song, “Stefania,” is an ode to the mother of one of the band members. The act received special permission from the Ukrainian government to travel for the competition and has performed throughout Europe to raise funds for the war effort.Ukraine won the contest in 2016 with “1944,” by Jamala. The song was a memorial to Crimean Tatars during World War II, but it was also interpreted as a comment on the Russian invasion of Crimea, which took place two years earlier.Kalush Orchestra received special permission from the Ukrainian government to travel to Italy for the competition.Alessandro Grassani for The New York TimesWhat happens if Ukraine wins this year?If Ukraine does take the title, the war and humanitarian crisis in the country would most likely present challenges to its hosting the competition in 2023.In the past, when a country has been unable to host, another has stepped in. The last time that happened was in 1980, when Israel declined to host after winning for a second straight year. The competition was held in the Netherlands instead.If Australia ever wins the competition, the logistical difficulties of hosting a primarily European contest on a different continent mean that a European country and broadcaster would co-host the following year’s contest alongside Australia, according to the European Broadcasting Union.Australia’s entry, Sheldon Riley, during a dress rehearsal in Turin. His track reflects on his childhood experiences, including being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.Alessandro Grassani for The New York TimesWhich other acts should I know about?Sweden has won Eurovision six times (second only to Ireland), with ABBA one of the acts to have claimed victory for the country. The Swedish entrant this year is Cornelia Jakobs, who sings “Hold Me Closer,” a warm and emotional pop track that builds with each subsequent verse.The Spanish entry, performed by Chanel, has also been predicted to do well at the final, with a catchy song, “SloMo,” accompanied by a high-energy dance routine.The prospects for Britain, after last year’s zero points overall, are looking up. The country’s entry, “Space Man,” is performed by the TikTok star Sam Ryder and has been gathering some momentum.There has also been praise for Australia’s entry, “Not the Same,” performed by Sheldon Riley. The song reflects his childhood experiences, including a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome he received at age 6.Maneskin has gone on to global fame since winning the 2021 competition, performing on “Saturday Night Live” and at the Coachella festival this year.The duo Subwoolfer, representing Norway, wear wolf masks, surrounded by dancers in morph costumes, for their act.Alessandro Grassani for The New York TimesAre there any surreal acts this year?Eurovision entrants have a tradition of employing surreal staging, lyrics and costumes to stand out.This year, the Norwegian entry, by the pop duo Subwoolfer, has gained attention. Their song, “Give That Wolf a Banana,” has the pair wearing wolf masks, with backing dancers in yellow morph suits.The Moldovan entry, “Trenuletul,” by Zdob si Zdub and the Advahov Brothers, has built a following by pairing traditional instruments like the accordion with the electric guitar. Their song’s upbeat lyrics are matched by the band’s enthusiastic choreography.Each year, fans travel to the competition to see their country compete. Here, some were in Turin for Thursday’s semifinal.Alessandro Grassani for The New York TimesWhat about North American versions of Eurovision?The NBC show “American Song Contest” reimagines Eurovision for the United States, with 56 entries from 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia. Instead of airing over the course of a week, like Eurovision does, the contest has been airing weekly on the network since March.The final took place on Monday, when AleXa, representing Oklahoma, won with “Wonderland.” The song received 710 points overall from the jury and public voting, 207 ahead of the second-place entry, from Colorado.But underwhelming ratings suggest that “American Song Contest” failed to capture the excitement of Eurovision. In an interview with The New York Times, Audrey Morrissey, an executive on the show, suggested that U.S. audiences might need time to get used to the format. “It is a very different sort of mechanism — there isn’t another show where performance happens and there isn’t a critique right after,” she said.Next year, there will be a Eurovision Canada, where entries from the country’s three territories and 10 provinces will compete in an offshoot of the original. International expansion has been an ambition for Eurovision. Martin Österdahl, an executive supervisor of the competition, told a podcast recently, “We’re changing our focus slightly in our strategy from managing a contest to managing a brand, and that brand will be a global entertainment superbrand.” More

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    Mahmood and Blanco’s Eurovision Song Shows Italy’s L.G.B.T.Q. Progress

    The love song, and its video showing the artist Mahmood embracing another man, has been well received in a nation with a spotty history on L.G.B.T.Q. rights.MILAN — In February, the artists Mahmood and Blanco turned to each other onstage at Italy’s national song competition and sang, “I’d like to love you, but I’m always wrong.” It was the refrain of “Brividi” (translated as “Chills”), a song about the vulnerability of love, as experienced by all people — regardless of gender, identity or sexuality.When the song won at that competition, the Sanremo contest, and became Italy’s entry for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, the unexpected happened: There wasn’t much pushback.The two after winning the Sanremo music contest in Italy in February.Ettore Ferrari/EPA, via ShutterstockThere was some grumbling from a socially conservative politician about what he called L.G.B.T. “domination” at the contest, and disdain that Mahmood performed one evening wearing a garter, but Alessandro Mahmoud, known as Mahmood, had been expecting a bigger response, he said in a recent interview.When the musician — who was born in Italy to an Italian mother and an Egyptian father — won the national song contest in 2019, anti-immigration comments followed. But this year, even those polemics normally trumpeted by conservative politicians did not flare up. The 29-year-old artist saw the muted criticism for “Brividi” as a sign that “something has happened in Italian society.”Italy has long been influenced by the Roman Catholic Church, which for generations considered homosexuality as a taboo topic to be either ignored or shunned. In a 2005 text approved by Benedict XVI, who was pope at the time, homosexuality was described as “not a sin” but essentially “an intrinsic moral evil.”L.G.B.T.Q. rights in Italy have advanced after decades of campaigning, but some legal challenges remain. Same-sex civil unions were legalized in 2016, years after other European countries, but same-sex marriage is not legal, nor can someone in a same-sex civil union legally adopt his or her partner’s biological child.On Being Transgender in AmericaPhalloplasty: The surgery, used to construct a penis, has grown more popular among transgender men. But with a steep rate of complications, it remains a controversial procedure.Elite Sports: The case of the transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has stirred a debate about the nature of athleticism in women’s sports.Transgender Youth: A photographer documented the lives of transgender youth. She shared some thoughts on what she saw.Corporate World: What is it like to transition while working for Wall Street? A Goldman Sachs’ employee shares her experience.So when two men sang a love song, clearly engaging with each other, as part of a cherished national competition, it was a first. The track “normalizes what should have always been normal,” Mahmood said.The song’s video more explicitly shows Mahmood tenderly embracing a man, while Blanco sings to a woman. A video of the song on Mahmood’s official YouTube page has been viewed more than 55 million times.Italian society’s approach to sexuality is changing. “Sexual orientation no longer has any importance, nor is it important to label oneself anymore,” said Aldo Cazzullo, a columnist in the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera. In the 1950s and 1960s, many gay people in Italy were not open about their sexuality, Cazzullo said. This was followed by an era of coming out and empowerment, and “now there’s no longer the need to say anything,” he said. He pointed out that two of Italy’s southern regions had voted to elect gay men as regional presidents.Mahmood said that although his songs speak volumes about who he is, he doesn’t define his sexuality: “It makes no sense to make distinctions anymore.”Blanco, the stage name of Riccardo Fabbriconi, 19, said that his “generation is much more open” and that people his age no longer thought in terms of gender identity. In just two years, he has gone from posting videos “singing in my underwear in my bedroom,” he said, to a multicity Italian summer tour that sold out in 72 hours.And Blanco said he also saw Italy as being “more open in general — I hope.”A recent headline in the newspaper La Stampa in Turin captured this sentiment: “Blanco, son of the fluid century, his generation will save us.”“My generation is much more open,” said Blanco, 19, left. Mahmood, 29, says he doesn’t define his sexuality.Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York TimesOn Tuesday evening, the Italian hosts for the Eurovision Song Contest semifinal broadcast included Cristiano Malgioglio, a songwriter and popular television personality also known for his outlandish couture, who riffed on his love life. Speaking of the five countries that automatically get into the final — Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Britain — he quipped, “I have a boyfriend in every nation.” He was a host last year, too.Eurovision has always “had a large L.G.B.T.Q. element in its fandom,” said Catherine Baker, a historian at the University of Hull who has written about the competition. After significant rulings by the European Court of Human Rights in the late 1990s and the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam, which banned discrimination against people on the grounds of sexual orientation, “Europe became associated with the idea of L.G.B.T.Q. rights, and symbolically that had an impact on Eurovision, even if it wasn’t organized by the European Union,” Baker said.The competition has also long been a trailblazer when it comes to L.G.B.T.Q. representation onstage, featuring artists like Iceland’s Paul Oscar, Israel’s Dana International and Finland’s Saara Aalto over the years.L.G.B.T.Q. people face openly hostile environments in several European countries, including Poland, Hungary and Russia. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the powerful head of the Russian Orthodox Church, recently justified Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by claiming that it was part of a struggle against ideals imposed by liberal foreigners that included gay pride parades.Franco Grillini, a prominent Italian L.G.B.T.Q. rights activist, said a song like “Brividi” would once have been “unimaginable” at a festival that normally has Italians glued to their television screens.In the past, homosexuality could also hurt a musical career in Italy, he said, citing the case of Umberto Bindi, a talented, gay singer-songwriter who caused a scandal in Sanremo in 1961 by wearing a pinkie ring (then a presumed sign of homosexuality). He never got the recognition he deserved because “he was brutally discriminated” against, Grillini said.But democracies have a way of righting wrongs, according to Angelo Pezzana, another L.G.B.T.Q. rights activist. “It’s always been like this. Remember that not a century ago, women went to jail for the right to vote,” he said. In Italy, women only got the right to vote in 1945. The Mahmood-Blanco duet “was a sign that things had changed in a positive way,” he said.The track “normalizes what should have always been normal,” Mahmood said of the Eurovision song.Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York TimesThat said, Italy’s record on equal rights for L.G.B.T.Q. people remains spotty. Apart from not having fair representation when it comes to marriage and adoption, in October, the Senate rejected a bill meant to make violence against L.G.B.T.Q. people a hate crime, a label that would have meant harsher penalties. Critics blamed the lack of consensus both on political bickering as well as on Vatican interference, given that a few months earlier the Vatican had openly opposed the bill, saying it infringed upon guaranteed religious liberties.“Italy is still profoundly linked to the Vatican, which conditions Parliament,” said Grillini, who was a lawmaker for seven years.Even under Pope Francis, the message has been mixed. Shortly after his election in 2013, Francis said, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” and he has continued to encourage the church to be more welcoming toward the L.G.B.T.Q. faithful. But since then, the Vatican has rejected the notion that gender identity can be fluid, and it has reaffirmed its opposition to same-sex marriage.But at least at the Sanremo contest, old prejudices didn’t seem to apply.“All my songs speak of my way of experiencing love and sex,” Mahmood said. “The least an artist can do is give an example.” More

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    In ‘American Song Contest,’ It’s About the Songs, Not Just the Lungs

    Ahead of this week’s final round, a writer and photographer went backstage for this state-versus-state competition based on Eurovision. The singers get it. Does America?LOS ANGELES — Backstage at a live broadcast of NBC’s “American Song Contest” last week, the crooner Michael Bolton looked relaxed as ever. He was well aware, though, that he was the odd contestant out.“I’ve been asked, ‘Why would you get involved with a show like this?’” he said after performing his inspirational ballad “Beautiful World” in the second semifinal. “And my first answer is my instinct, which is that my love for writing music is such an indelible, permanent love and passion of mine that it makes perfect sense.”Michael Bolton represents Connecticut in the contest. Unlike several other established stars in the competition, he has made it to the final round.Rosie Marks for The New York Times“It’s a little nerve-racking at times,” he added. “I’m definitely not the youngest person in the room.”Bolton is 69, if anybody’s counting, and he did make it to the final round of this reality competition series, in which representatives from each of the 50 United States — as well as five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia — have competed every Monday night since March 21. (Bolton represents Connecticut.) Inspired by the Eurovision Song Contest and hosted by Kelly Clarkson and Snoop Dogg, the show pits stars against hopefuls for the title of Best Original Song.When Bolton goes up against the other nine finalists on Monday night, most of the competition will be less than half his age, including: Grant Knoche, a 19-year old Texan who toured with Kidz Bop; Jordan Smith, who won the 2015 edition of “The Voice” at 22; and AleXa, 25, who was born and raised in Oklahoma but moved to Seoul to pursue a career in K-pop.Stela Cole, representing Georgia, during a dress rehearsal a Universal Studios. Rosie Marks for The New York TimesIn many circumstances, Bolton’s experience and star power might confer an automatic advantage. Just don’t tell that to Jewel (Alaska), Macy Gray (Ohio) and Sisqó (Maryland), all of whom were eliminated in earlier rounds.“In some ways it’s harder for the more established artists,” said Audrey Morrissey, an executive producer of “A.S.C.” and “The Voice.” “They’re not on competition shows like this. There’s more at stake for them than for someone that no one knows.”Still, it’s not easy for a young artist to perform for millions of viewers with so much riding on the outcome. Perhaps the question that counts most heading into the final is simply: Who has the best song?Grant Knoche (Texas), 19, spent four years touring with the musical group Kidz Bop before entering the contest. He and his song “Mr. Independent” have made it to the final round.Rosie Marks for The New York TimesAmid rehearsals for the May 2 semifinal, and backstage during the broadcast, several contestants talked about their appreciation for the show’s emphasis on original material. The Tennessee-based singer-songwriter Tyler Braden had considered trying out for another TV singing competition earlier in his career, but he ultimately decided against it.Now he is among the finalists, announced Wednesday, with a song he wrote called “Seventeen.” (The majority of contestants had at least a hand in writing their own songs.)“I’ve always believed that the song is No. 1,” Braden, 33, said in his dressing room before the broadcast, wearing jeans and a ball cap. “You can look the part, and your shows can be amazing, but it comes down to the song, and the lyrics and the melody, the feel — and this contest is all about that.”“You can look the part, and your shows can be amazing, but it comes down to the song, Tyler Braden (Tennessee) said. “This contest is all about that.”Rosie Marks for The New York TimesGiven all the talk of American polarization in 2022, I was curious whether any interstate tensions would be palpable off-camera. But everybody I observed appeared genuinely to get along. The word “camaraderie” popped up in every conversation.“I’ve made so many great friends out of this, lifelong friends,” Knoche, from Texas, said. “I feel like the whole show just brings states and everyone together even more.”Tenelle, of American Samoa, practiced in the bathroom before her performance.Rosie Marks for The New York TimesIn rehearsals, I watched the rootsy Chloe Fredericks (North Dakota), the conceptual-pop princess Stela Cole (Georgia) and the EDM-friendly Broderick Jones (Kansas) groove along to the lilting, island-flavored ballad “Full Circle” by Tenelle (American Samoa), then clap enthusiastically. The Latina girl group Sweet Taboo (California) and the dance-R&B diva Enisa (New York) laughed off my wheedling about their place in any costal rivalry (made moot when neither made it to the final).Considering several of the contestants were making their live-television debut, most appeared almost freakishly calm. The most vocal behind the scenes was Tenelle, all revved up after rehearsal. “I don’t want this to be over,” she said. “But I want to win this mother!”Tenelle with Chloe Fredericks (North Dakota), who seemed to have become all of the other contestants’ new best friend. Rosie Marks for The New York TimesExuberance seemed to be Tenelle’s factory setting but still: She knew she had to kill it on the actual broadcast. (And she did; she’ll be in the final Monday night.)Some eliminations have been unexpected, to say the least. (Cuts are determined by a points system that combines audience and jury votes to balance the advantage of bigger states.) The charismatic cowboy rapper Ryan Charles (Wyoming), whose song “New Boot Goofin’” was an early favorite of Snoop’s and proved extremely TikTok-able, did not make it past the semifinal. And I was personally disappointed when John Morgan (North Carolina) and his Taylor Swift-like ballad “Right in the Middle” didn’t make the cut.Jordan Smith (Kentucky), left, and AleXa (Oklahoma) backstage at the semifinals. Both went on to the final round. Rosie Marks for The New York TimesBut such are the realities of competition, and all the contestants received notes from the creative staff after rehearsal to help them improve their chances. “Charm is all,” said Christer Bjorkman, one of several Swedish executive producers, all of whom have connections to Eurovision. He and Tenelle were in a windowless viewing room, scrutinizing the third run-through of “Full Circle,” which involved a not-negligible amount of pyrotechnics.Camera crews were a part of the dress rehearsals. The performances are lavishly produced, often including backup dancers and pyrotechnics. Rosie Marks for The New York Times“It’s all about contact,” Bjorkman he told her. It was about connecting with the camera and, thus, the audience.For Allen Stone (Washington), producers suggested that he tone things down for his blue-eyed soul entry, “A Bit of Both.” “I was trying to put some extra mustard on my vocal,” he said, only to be told, “It’s a really good song; don’t over-sing’” — advice possibly never uttered in the history of “American Idol” or “The Voice.”Whatever Stone did worked; his performance on April 25 put him through to the final.Glow sticks were given out to members of the studio audience.Rosie Marks for The New York TimesDespite the good songs and high production values, the show’s ratings have been underwhelming. I asked Morrissey why she thought they weren’t better.“I know that everybody’s disappointed,” she said, visibly wincing under her mask. “But it is a big, new brand. It is a very different sort of mechanism — there isn’t another show where performance happens and there isn’t a critique right after.” No evisceration from Simon Cowell. No bromantic hugs from Adam Levine.The emphasis on song craft may have added to the growing pains. “That has been a big question for us this whole time: If someone makes it to the final, they’re going to perform the same song the same way three times,” Morrissey said. “Is our American audience going to get that?”Musicians during a dress rehearsal for Tenelle, whose entry is a lilting, island-flavored ballad called “Full Circle.” Rosie Marks for The New York TimesEuropean viewers certainly have, though it wouldn’t be the first time trans-Atlantic tastes differed. Since 1956, Eurovision, in which artists from different countries compete, has been an institution, making international stars out of acts like ABBA (Sweden, 1974) and Maneskin (Italy, 2021). Given the uncertainty, “A.S.C.” producers “made a very purposeful decision to come out of the gate with big performances,” Morrissey said, referring to the show’s lavish production — very much in the Eurovision tradition, though still nowhere near that contest’s camp excesses.Two people who did not need convincing were the “A.S.C.” hosts, who have decades of combined songwriting experience: Clarkson, who catapulted to fame after winning the first “American Idol” in 2002, has even blurted out, “I want to do this one!” after some numbers.Tenelle with her backup dancers and musicians during her performance in the semifinals. Rosie Marks for The New York Times“I didn’t realize how amazing those songs were going to be,” she said while getting made up for the live broadcast. “You have these beautiful ballads from Hueston or Michael,” she added, referring to the mononymic artist from Rhode Island and to Bolton. “And you have these fast ones like AleXa — from fricking Oklahoma!”Finding viable contestants from some states wasn’t easy, but the search turned up some gems. Fredericks, of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, was spotted playing in Hollywood by some scouts. They were happy to learn she was from North Dakota.The contest is hosted by Snoop and Kelly Clarkson, who herself catapulted to fame after winning the first “American Idol,” in 2002.Rosie Marks for The New York Times“They said ‘Well, we don’t have anybody from there,’” Fredericks, 24, said with a booming laugh that may help explain why she seemed to be all of the other contestants’ new best friend.“I was very surprised that I went through the first round because I’m a small artist and some of us here have bigger followings,” she added. She did that and more: On Monday, she’ll be in the finals.Whatever the show’s chances for a Season 2, the concept of “A.S.C.” seems to have pleased the hosts, who volunteered separately that they loved being free just to cheerlead.“That’s the beauty: that I don’t have to be the judge, that I don’t have to put my decision-making on who moves on,” Snoop said during a commercial break. “I can be open and just enjoy the performances,” he added. “I don’t have no dog in this fight.” More

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    ‘American Song Contest’ Puts a Stateside Spin on Eurovision

    Stars vs. hopefuls. State vs. state. Eurovision fans will recognize the format of NBC’s new original song competition. For everyone else, here’s a primer.Hosted by Kelly Clarkson and Snoop Dogg, the eight-week reality competition “American Song Contest,” scheduled to premiere Monday on NBC, is totally new.Its format, however, will be familiar to millions of people across the Atlantic: The show emulates the Eurovision Song Contest, in which countries duke it out in a singing battle for pop supremacy. Eurovision catapulted ABBA’s career in 1974, and the most recent winner, the Italian glam-rock band Maneskin, has gone on to achieve global fame, appearing in January as the musical guest on “Saturday Night Live.”ABBA’s victory in the Eurovision Song Contest of 1974 catapulted the group into international stardom. Robert Dear/Associated PressThe American version will largely follow the Eurovision template, including the live broadcasts. “We are very literal,” the executive producer Ben Silverman, who helped translate “The Office” into American and pursued the Eurovision rights for years, said last week by phone.Fine, but that does not help NBC viewers much since Americans are largely unaware of Eurovision’s intricacies. The headline? “American Song Contest” is not “American Idol” or “The Voice.” It is, in many ways, more layered than those shows — and more combustible: a state-vs.-state, stars-vs.-hopefuls showdown in which group and solo artists compete for the title of Best Original Song.So those are the basics. But in this time of Red State/Blue State polarization, can America handle Jewel (Alaska) squaring off against Michael Bolton (Connecticut)? Sisqó (Maryland) against … Jake’O (Wisconsin)? Let’s dive into the fun stuff.Where are the contestants from?With 56 entries encompassing 50 states plus five territories and the District of Columbia, “American Song Contest” has even more contestants than Eurovision, whose 2022 edition, in May, will feature 40 countries ranging from tiny San Marino (pop. around 34,000) to the much larger Germany (83 million). The scope is similar here: Sabyu, from the Northern Mariana Islands (pop. 47,000), will rub elbows with Sweet Taboo, representing California (nearly 40 million people).Whereas each European country independently selects its entry, the American show’s team relied on a network of music-industry insiders. “We went through the professional community to spread the news; we spent a lot of time having conversations, making sure people really understood what this was,” the executive producer and showrunner Audrey Morrissey (a veteran of “The Voice”) said by phone. “We had a big submission process that lasted for months, with several rounds of review.”Will I know any of the songs?No, because they have to be new. Contestants don’t have to write their own material, though — this is not a singer-songwriter contest.A key criterion is that the songs cannot be longer than 2 minutes 45 seconds, which is shorter than Eurovision’s three minutes. “It’s right to the point, pow!” said Christer Björkman, one of four Swedish Eurovision experts brought in as executive producers and a former Eurovision competitor, from 1992. “The contestants really need to nail it from the beginning with energy and everything.”Wait, what are Jewel and Michael Bolton doing there?“All those people wanted to be on the show,” Silverman said of the American celebrities. “They wanted to represent their state. And they earned it with their songs,” he added, pointing out that it will be fun to watch famous people go head-to-head with up-and-comers like the Brooklyn singer-songwriter Enisa, who represents New York. Once again this is true to the Eurovision format.The singer-songwriter Jewel will represent her home state of Alaska.Duane Prokop/Getty Images Michael Bolton will represent Connecticut.Phillip Faraone/Getty ImagesCelebrities and hopefuls alike must have a strong connection to their state or territory. Bolton, for example, was born and has spent most of his life in Connecticut; Jewel grew up in famously tough conditions in Alaska. And if Oklahoma is represented by a K-pop singer, AleXa, well, that’s because she is from there.“It is different to say, ‘I’m not here to get a record contract or become a star — I’m here to represent my home and I’m proud to do that,’” said Anders Lenhoff, another member of the Swedish special-ops executive producing team, in a joint video interview with Björkman. “We see it in Eurovision all the time but there are no shows like that in the U.S.”How does the elimination process work?The first five episodes, referred to as “qualifiers,” introduce 11 of the songs per show (one busy week will have 12). Through those early rounds, the 56 entries will be progressively winnowed down to 22, which are then split into two semifinals of 11 each. Another vote sends five performers from each semi to the grand finale, on May 9.Viewers will be invited to vote, and the results will be balanced against the votes of a 56-person jury representing all the participating constituencies. Jurors are not permitted to vote for their own states or territories.Do bigger states have an advantage?“The great thing about this format,” Morrissey said, “which we remained faithful to from Eurovision, is that there is no advantage for an artist and a song coming from a more populous state.” Eliminations are made based on a complex points system in which, according to NBC, “every state and territory votes with equal power, regardless of population.”Anyway, as Morrissey noted, “There might be more people voting that know people from Texas than they do Guam, but they haven’t heard that song from Guam yet — it might steal their hearts.”In addition to the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories have also put forth competitors, including Jason J., who represents Guam.NBCThe history of Eurovision (where, admittedly, the voting rules have changed many times over the years) tends to confirm that the votes seem relatively fair: Ireland has won the contest a record seven times whereas France, with roughly 13 times Ireland’s population, has only five.Which is to say: Don’t yet rule out Wyoming.Will there be outlandish contestants?Eurovision is famous for some, er, eccentric entries — this year’s competition will include such numbers as “Give That Wolf a Banana” and “Eat Your Salad,” which live up to their titles. It is natural to wonder whether “American Song Contest” will honor that tradition as well. “We have the diversity of America and the diversity of American music represented,” Silverman said. “One person’s cliché is another person’s truth. Some of them are self-aware, some of them aren’t.”We’ll take that as a yes. More

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    They Won Eurovision. Can They Conquer the World?

    ROME — When the rock group Maneskin won this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, it was little known outside Italy. Then the competition catapulted the band in front of 180 million viewers, and propelled its winning song “Zitti e Buoni,” or “Shut Up and Behave,” into Spotify’s global Top 10, a first for an Italian band.As of Wednesday, the song had been streamed on Spotify more than 100 million times. With nearly 18 million listeners in the last month, Maneskin was performing better on the streaming service in the same period than Foo Fighters or Kings of Leon.Eurovision acts typically disappear from the spotlight as soon as the competition wraps, yet Maneskin’s members are hoping to build upon their existing fame here and newly won international interest to become a rare long-term Eurovision success story.A post-curtain controversy that dogged the group last month has only increased the band’s notoriety. On the night of the Eurovision victory, rumors spread on social media after a clip from the broadcast went viral, showing the lead singer, Damiano David, hunched over a table backstage. At a news conference later that evening, a Swedish journalist asked if David had been sniffing cocaine on live TV, and the singer denied any wrongdoing.David took a drug test, which came back negative. The European Broadcasting Union issued a statement saying that “no drug use took place” and that it “considered the matter closed.”From left, David, is the band’s lead singer, Raggi plays guitar and De Angelis is on bass. Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York TimesSo it’s been quite a world-stage debut for a foursome whose combined ages add up to just 83. (David is 22; Victoria De Angelis, the bassist, is 21; and the guitarist Thomas Raggi and the drummer Ethan Torchio are 20.)“For us,” De Angelis said in a recent interview, “music is passion, fun, something that lets us blow off steam” — no surprise to anyone who has seen Maneskin perform live. The band is a high-octane powerhouse of onstage charisma and youthful energy.One Italian music critic compared Maneskin — which means moonlight in Danish and is pronounced “moan-EH-skin” — to the Energizer Bunny. That may in part explain why “Zitti e Buoni” has transcended what could have been an insurmountable linguistic barrier (though there is already a cover version in Finnish).The song celebrates individuality and marching to the beat of one’s drum, or guitar riff. The refrain repeats: “We’re out of our minds, but we’re different from them.”For Eurovision, Maneskin channelled glam rock in laminated laced-up leather flares, studded leather jackets and gold-speckled poet’s sleeves. Ilvy Njiokiktjien for The New York TimesWith its carefully curated, stylish androgynous nonchalance — accessorized with high heels, black nail polish and smoky eyes — Maneskin breaks down gender barriers and champions self-expression.The band was formed in 2015. David, De Angelis and Raggi knew each other from middle school in Rome. Torchio, whose family lives just outside the city, joined the group after responding to an ad in a Facebook group called “Musicians Wanted (Rome).”There weren’t many venues here for fledgling rock bands, so they busked on the street, played in high schools and in restaurants “where you were expected to bring your own paying public,” David recalled. Small-time battle of the band competitions “ensured that at least we’d be playing front of an audience,” he added.“These are the kinds of dynamics that toughen you up,” said Torchio.The band didn’t win the “X-Factor” final in 2017, but the show offered a springboard for other successes.Romano Nunziato/NurPhoto, via Getty ImagesAfter a couple of years of struggling to find gigs, the band went on the 2017 Italian edition of the talent show “The X Factor.”Anna Curia, 24, said “it was love at first sight” when she saw the group’s audition song on the program; a few weeks later, she founded the group’s official fan club. “From the first, they had a distinct style and sound,” she said. Other fan clubs soon followed follow. There’s even one, called Mammeskin, for women of a certain age.The “X Factor” stint also grabbed the attention of Veronica Etro, of the fashion brand Etro. “They had something,” said Etro, who is the brand’s creative director for the women’s collections. “I was very bewitched.”The fashion house reached out to the group and began dressing its members for album covers and videos. The collaboration evolved into providing the outfits for Eurovision, where the group’s studded laminated red leather looks made you “think Jimi Hendrix-meets-‘Velvet Goldmine,’” wrote Vanessa Friedman in The New York Times.“What I love is the way that they mix clothes for women and men,” said Etro in a telephone interview. “There is something very revolutionary about them, the way they don’t have any fear and they have fun with clothes.”Manuel Agnelli, who was one of the “X Factor” judges in 2017, took Maneskin under his wing. At first, its members weren’t musically mature, he said, “but I saw in them characteristics that can’t be taught, it’s something you’re born with, it’s personality.”“For us,” said De Angelis, far left, “music is passion, fun, something that lets us blow off steam.”Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times“Their image is a big part of who they are, their sexuality, their charisma, their bodies. It’s part of rock, it’s part of performance,” said Agnelli.Maneskin didn’t win “The X Factor,” coming second to Lorenzo Licitra, a tenor whose style is more in sync with the Italian penchant for big melodic ballads. Yet the program proved to be a springboard to greater things.“They are a television phenomenon,” said Andrea Andrei, a journalist with the Rome daily newspaper Il Messaggero. “Without ‘The X Factor’ and the machine behind it that churns out products ready for mainstream success, Maneskin would have struggled for a lot longer, like other rock bands have.”The real surprise, for many Italian commentators, was Maneskin’s win last March at the Sanremo Festival of Italian Song, the national event that finds Italy’s Eurovision act. Until a few years ago, Sanremo had mostly attracted Italians whose musical heyday predated Woodstock, but recent editions have reached out to younger audiences by involving the winners of talent shows like “The X-Factor.”“Nothing could be further from rock than Sanremo,” said Massimo Cotto, an Italian music journalist and radio D.J.So there, too, Maneskin broke ground. “Italy has never had an idyllic relationship with rock music, it never became mainstream,” said Andrei. “Maneskin’s win was unexpected, because they are a real rock band.”Torchio’s look of androgynous nonchalance is typical of the band’s style.Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York TimesDuring the interview, David soundly rejected the accusations that he was caught on camera using drugs at Eurovision, complaining that the speculation had overshadowed their win.The allegations were both infantile and underhanded, he said. And they came to nothing, because drug tests came up negative. “We know we are clean. We have nothing to hide,” he said.Allegations aside, there have been some changes since the Eurovision win.Merchandise associated with the band’s most recent album sold out in minutes. It lent its music to a Pepsi commercial. And earlier this month, the band parted ways with Marta Donà, its manager since 2017. Some newspapers here wondered whether an Italian management agency had begun to feel too tight for Maneskin’s international aspirations, and the name of Simon Cowell, the mastermind behind “The X-Factor,” came up as a possible successor. The group has not announced who will replace Donà.Agnelli, the Italian “X-Factor” judge, offered the quartet some advice for building on its current momentum: Tour as much as possible, get experience under their belts and continue to be themselves.“It’s their greatest strength,” he said. More