When young Italian four-piece Maneskin made their first visits to the U.S. recently, they performed in the club where Guns N’ Roses began their rise to fame, made a handful of large-scale TV appearances and opened for the Rolling Stones.
It’s a significant achievement, no doubt; and it’s also not quite the modern viral sensation that might be expected. In fact, Maneskin – named by the Danish word for “moonlight” – had been steadily building their reputation for five years, plying their classic rock vibe while also embracing modern pop rock and hip-hop. That’s one of the reasons they were recently identified as a major contributor to the resurgence of rock music.
That’s right – despite the done-to-death Gene Simmons claim that rock was “dead” eight years ago (a soundbite he’d previously employed in 1993), the genre has done what it’s always done: spent some time out of the spotlight, then returned in a blaze of new glory. When the analytics service Viberate used stats to prove the resurgence, the report named Maneskin as a major contributing factor due to their ability to appeal to non-rock audiences.
So what are the group doing right? Firstly, they’ve been putting the hours in. Formed in Rome in 2015 by vocalist Damiano David, guitarist Thomas Raggi, bassist Victoria De Angelis and drummer Ethan Torchio, they entered a music contest the following year that required them to write their own songs. In 2017 they came second in the Italian version of The X Factor and went on to release a series of singles that charted well in their native country. In 2021 they won the Eurovision Song Contest, being exposed to an audience of over 180 million people in doing so. Today they’re being streamed 38 million times a month, placing them among the top 40 most-streamed bands in the world.
“In Rome there aren’t many venues for upcoming bands, so it was quite hard,” De Angelis told Variety. “That’s why we played a lot on the streets. Even though we were very young and we didn’t have many opportunities, we took it very seriously from the first moment. We really worked hard and spent every day immediately after school rehearsing and never going out anymore with our friends.”
Despite not being massive fans of TikTok, they realized it was an important platform for connecting with potential fans. “More and more we think that the cool thing about TikTok is that if people like a song, it becomes viral and it’s very natural,” De Angelis said. “It’s not like it used to be in the past where for a song to become famous, it had to go on the radio. Here people can make their own choice.” She added: “What matters is that… they get to our music and enjoy it.” Their organic success, she argued, “means that people are actually just enjoying the music.”
Their work ethic paid off with Eurovision, specifically because they weren’t manufactured for the contest, David said. “Many times the artists that go to Eurovision don’t have an actual catalog. We were an established band in Italy, so we had an album, an EP, and we did a lot of stuff, so we had video clips. When we got out of Eurovision, people had something more to watch and listen to. A chance to know us 100%.”
That reasoning, De Angelis said, silenced the arguments against appearing on TV game shows. “Often people think that they’re fake, but then we thought it was just a chance to share our music with a big audience,” she recalled. “We told each other, before going, not to let anyone change us or tell us what to do.”
Watch Maneskin Perform Their Winning Song ‘Zitti E Buoni’ at Eurovision
Secondly, they’re employing an intelligent blend of influences that mean they appeal to fans of other genres. While their stock in trade is inspired by ‘70s rock, they’re known for covering the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” and the Killers’ “Somebody Told Me” – a move that makes it easier to earn attention. Their biggest hit to date is a funky cover of the Four Seasons’ “Beggin’,” which gives presents the opportunity to at least raise eyebrows from yet another quarter; then another again since it features a rap section.
“They’re one of our three biggest hits of the year, if not the biggest,” Alt 98.7 program director Lisa Worden told the L.A. Times. “It’s so unusual to have a rock band with streams of that magnitude. To have a song like ‘Beggin’ that gets launched on pop and rises in alt and rock, it’s been a while since we’ve had that across formats.” She added: “They deserve to have more of their music exposed. I saw them at the Roxy and they’re a force. I think people will walk away with a new respect for them.”
Watch Maneskin Perform ‘Beggin’’ on ‘SNL’
Thirdly, they’re happy to wear their ’70s and ‘80s influences on their sleeves, hoping that people their own age who don’t know much about Aerosmith, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie or Depeche Mode will be encouraged to go exploring.
“We meet young people that are like, ‘I’m 10 years old, I’ve never heard stuff like this, now I want to buy a drum kit,’” Raggi said. Faithful to their influences, Maneskin went straight to the Rainbow Bar and Grill after arriving in L.A. “We were all sitting on the couch in there, like, ‘This is where Lemmy and Motley Crue used to hang out,’” De Angelis said.
Watch Maneskin’s ‘MAMMAMIA’ Video
Fourthly, Maneskin care. Everyone’s aware (or should be) that the world today is more of a mess than it’s been in some time; and that means younger generations are forced into being more responsible and aware than older generations had to be. While some are perplexed by what seems to be an obsession with sexual identity and pronouns and everything that goes with it, it’s the world the band were born into, and they embrace it fully.
“When we were younger, we were not that confident or sure about ourselves, but we had the chance to grow up together and support each other,” David told Rolling Stone. “We want to share our experience with our fans, and we try to encourage people to be who they are. Everyone should have the right and possibility what they want to share or what they want to be without being judged or sent away.” That’s the message behind “I Wanna Be Your Slave,” the singer added. “The song is about feeling free to be whoever you want and there’s no right or bad things. We wanted to show that in the video.”
Watch Maneskin’s ‘I Wanna Be Your Slave’ Video
Rock may often come close to death but it always manages to regenerate itself, find its core values and return with a fresh young face. Whether that face fits us or not is our own decision; and whether Maneskin fulfill their apparently rosy future is a matter of guesswork. But maybe if we feel rock is dead, it’s because we can’t hear the new music for the old music – which is also our own decision. Rock wants to stay young and is prepared to put the effort in to try… are we? If Maneskin do turn out to be the future, the genre may well be in safe hands.
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