The Italian entry for this year’s Eurovision song contest has already attracted plenty of interest across Europe and the world.
Francesco Gabbani – along with his dancing ape – will sing Occidentali’s Karma in May and there is no doubt it has the potential to give Italy its third victory in the competition.
It is a catchy, modern pop song and 34-year-old Gabbani is a charismatic and lively performer – perfect ingredients for Eurovision success.
And Gabbani is a winner. He was victorious in the best newcomer award at Sanremo last year with the platinum awarded song Amen. And this year, he won the main competition to secure his ticket to Kiev.
Occidental Karma immediately hit number one in Italy and Malta, number four in Switzerland and on the charts with a rocket in Spain, Germany and France.
The song is supposedly based on the book The Naked Ape by British zoologist Desmond Morris.
Gabbani was born in Tuscany. He was playing the drums when he was four and the guitar when he was nine. At 18 he joined a band and recorded his first album.
Italy has not won Eurovision since 1990 and most overcome the clear disadvantage of being in the “Big Five” and not singing until the final.
But Italy has certainly had an impressive record in recent years.
In 2013 in Malmo, it was Marco Mengoni’s catchy L'Essenziale – a highly under-rated song that deserved better than its seventh placing in the final.
Italy’s 2014 Eurovision entry – Emma’s La Mia Città – was a little disappointing and probably deserved to finish 21st in the 26-song field.
In Vienna in 2015, it was the powerful rock opera trio Il Volo, singing Grande Amore. And while it officially finished third in the competition, the song actually won the viewers’ vote.
Italy’s 2016 Eurovision entry was Francesa Michielin’s No Degree of Separation. It was a selection clouded in controversy and deserved far better than its 16th placing in the final.
This year, there is already a lot of momentum for Gabbani. Some European bookmakers have already announced it a favourite. Could this be Italy’s year? And are we headed to Rome in 2018?