Music

Global Force Honoree Annalisa Discusses Gender Equality in the Italian Music Industry

Annalisa arrives at the appointment in high boots and a black tracksuit with the hood pulled over her head. She enters the headquarters of her record company, Warner Music Italy, trying not to be recognized by anyone. She comes out in a D&G sporty tracksuit and heeled boots, with perfectly combed red hair and impeccable makeup. She has a bit of fever but one couldn’t tell.

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This is Annalisa. Confident, professional, a perfectionist. In Italy she achieved exceptional results: 36 platinum records, in 2023 she stayed ten consecutive weeks in the top 10 of the singles chart and was the only female solo artist in the annual top 10. At Sanremo 2024 she finished third with her song “Sincerely,” which followed a particularly successful period of her career that began in September 2022 with the single “Bellissima.” This period was characterized by a more electronic sound, accompanied by freer and sexier image and lyrics.

After the Global Force Award she received at Billboard Women in Music 2024, honored by Billboard Italy, it’s time to fully understand Annalisa (born in 1985 in Carcare, Liguria), going back to her beginnings. She has a degree in physics, but did she ever think about a career in that field? “Never. I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in music, ever since I was a little child,” she says. “I grew up in a small town and my parents are two very rigorous people, both teachers. They pushed me to look for a plan B. They always supported me, but with realism.”

Is physics close to music somehow?

I liked it a lot, although I could have chosen to study something more related to music. But I needed an alternative. There are connections with music, of course, otherwise I wouldn’t have liked it so much: first of all, the fact that it leads you to analyse what’s in front of you. I do it a lot, starting from myself and my sensations. This is how my creative process was born. I always asked myself a lot of questions.

When did you realize you had an innate sense for music?

Since I was two or three years old, because I always sang and was always the first to throw myself into all the school plays. I think it’s also genetic. My mom teaches English but also plays music and sings beautifully. Among her relatives there are many musicians, but no one has ever made it a profession.

You said that all your songs, even the happy ones, are born from doubts and questions. Can you give us an example? It’s definitely not the case of “Sincerely,” because those lyrics aren’t particularly cheerful.

No… [laughs] That’s a song full of shadows but dressed up to seem shiny – a bit like me. An example is “Mon Amour,” because it was born from many questions: why can’t we be as free as we want, in love and in the rest our lives? Why should people judge the others if this freedom doesn’t even concern them? I believe that the goal of music, especially pop, is to instill doubts and convey messages with simplicity and lightness.

Has that happened to you or is it something you feel like doing for what you see around you?

It’s more about seeing what happens to others, although each of us has felt limited and judged for something at some point.

Has the theme of freedom always been fundamental for you, or has it acquired more importance in the last period, from “Mon Amour” onwards?

I’ve always held it dear, but it emerged more from that song onwards. With the work in the studio in recent years I have learned to bring it out at its fullest.

Is it the cause you feel like fighting for the most?

Yes, I prefer to talk about a broad topic like freedom because everything comes from there – even wars and oppression. From the freedom to experience sexuality as one wants, one arrives at the freedom to live in a country without being oppressed.

It is known that you are never satisfied with the results you obtain. What would you have done differently in this last period?

I always think I could have handled situations better and I could have done more on stage, in general. I think I could have rested an hour more, so I would have been more effective, like for interviews. At the Sanremo Festival, for example, things are always exaggerated. Those are tiring days. Almost a month has passed and I’m still trying to recover, but I already have to focus on my future plans.

Annalisa
Annalisa

Do you already have ideas for the tour?

Of course. I will soon start the rehearsals with the dancers. Then I’ll return to the recording studio as soon as possible. I always take note of my ideas because I want to be ready.

Do you want to involve some new producers or songwriters?

No, I have a team I have always worked with, namely Paolo Antonacci and Davide Simonetta. With them I created some magic, it is a rare and precious gift. The main point of the songs is that they have to be true. Sometimes, if there isn’t a relationship as strong as ours, they are not. They can be beautiful but perhaps won’t last over time.

What songs from the past are light and deep at the same time?

Nada’s “Amore Disperato”: light but eternal. Loretta Goggi’s “Maledetta Primavera”: we all sing it when we hear it. All Raffaella Carrà’s songs, which always have a message. This is the history of Italian music.

How much do the places where you live – Milan, Genoa and Carcare – influence you?

Milan is the city of music: it is essential to be there. Even though many people today say it can be dangerous, I like living in a buzzy neighborhood where things happen. Genoa is also a city of lights and shadows, even more than Milan. It has incredible places of tradition and history, but also unsafe alleys. And then there is the sea. For me it is a poetic place, of great inspiration. Most of my musical ideas are born there. I must also mention Savona. It is a seaside city, smaller, but it lacks nothing. It’s not rough like Genoa, it’s simpler. There I had my first musical experiences, I participated in the first music contests with my band. And then there is my hometown, Carcare.

You were the only female solo artist included in the top 10 of the most successful singles in 2023 in Italy. The female presence is always small and is a symptom of a much broader problem within the music industry: that of violence, which is not only physical but it is also psychological, economic, of exclusion and abuse. Has this ever happened to you?

I have never suffered harassment of any kind, fortunately. What I can denounce is the immense effort to gain credibility. There continue to be preconceptions about what is considered suitable for a woman or for a man. However, with a bit of pride I can say that I have seen some things change since I started.

Is there more awareness?

I believe that the effort that I and my generation made is useful to the next one – the effort to make others accept the fact that I write songs myself or that I judge things from a technical point of view. Little by little these prejudices will be overcome.

Are there any younger artists you particularly like?

Madame. I appreciate her credibility and the technical aspects of his work. I hope she passes the baton to those who will come after her.

Annalisa
Annalisa

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