Home / Song Reviews / Eurovision 2019 / Italy: Mahmood – Soldi

Italy: Mahmood – Soldi

Loud booing and jeering filled the Ariston when the Sanremo top-3 was revealed. Il Volo somehow made the cut despite being noticeably below par since their first night peak. Ultimo was no surprise given his following and his performance. More of a shock was seeing Mahmood in the top-3 given he was shown to be in the lower-tier of the public vote after the opening show. There was a lot of head scratching and amazement that a perceived also-ran toppled the likes of Simone Cristicchi, Irama, Loredana Berté, Daniele Silvestri and Ultimo. This wasn't an unconventional Francesco Gabbani-type rewriting of…
Song Appeal
Vocal Strength
Staging Potential
Likely Televote Appeal
Likely Jury Appeal


What is causing punters to back a song that only received 14% of the public vote on the night?

User Rating: 4.13 ( 54 votes)

Loud booing and jeering filled the Ariston when the Sanremo top-3 was revealed. Il Volo somehow made the cut despite being noticeably below par since their first night peak. Ultimo was no surprise given his following and his performance. More of a shock was seeing Mahmood in the top-3 given he was shown to be in the lower-tier of the public vote after the opening show. There was a lot of head scratching and amazement that a perceived also-ran toppled the likes of Simone Cristicchi, Irama, Loredana Berté, Daniele Silvestri and Ultimo. This wasn’t an unconventional Francesco Gabbani-type rewriting of the rules when he nosed ahead of Fiorella Mannoia 2017. This is the equivalent of a college runner, who has finished mid-pack in every 100-meter race, suddenly beating Usain Bolt at the Olympics – or at least that’s how it appears from someone who watched all five nights of Sanremo.

Mahmood promptly accepted the ticket to Tel Aviv and will now adapt his song, Soldi’ for Eurovision. So what of this song and the subsequent market reactions?

When Mahmood was confirmed as the winner, Italy’s outright price drifted to over 40/1. It has since been yo-yoing between 20/1-30/1. What is causing punters to back a song that only received 20% of the public vote on the night and supposedly won on the other metric in a planned attempt to stop Il Volo and Ultimo winning? The press had 30% of the vote last night. The professional jury only had 20%. Moreover, on the first night of Sanremo, Mahmood only attracted 1.75% of the televote, finishing 21st out of 24 acts!


There’s no doubt that Mahmood possesses a certain gravitas, but that doesn’t quite translate into the sort of charisma required to win Eurovision. The bopping and gesturing choreography typical of this genre will require much more visual variation to maintain the interest of Eurovision voters. Italy should be able to improve the presentation with backing vocalists and LED graphics, though to what extent?

Mahmood’s vocal is reliable within the confines of his monotonous song. And by monotonous I mean there isn’t isn’t much variation throughout the song, which is probably why the public didn’t vote for him. Last year Ermal Meta and Fabrizio Moro won with 54% of the Sanremo televote. This might be why Italy ended up 3rd in the Eurovision televote, as Non mi avete fatto niente – along with Meta and Moro – appealed to the vast Italian diaspora. It’s difficult to make a case for a similar result in Tel Aviv where there won’t be a manufactured jury score to overcome the televote drag.

If they sort the staging and make Soldi a more compelling 3-minutes to watch, then 8th-12th might be within reach. Without significant visual improvements I see Italy finishing 15th-20th.

About Gavster

ESCtips Owner   I’m a qualified designer and dedicate a lot of my free time to keeping the ESCtips show on the road. My family routes allow me to support the UK, Ireland and Italy.


  1. I’m not entirely sold on Soldi – but I’ll give first impressions:

    Positives – The song has a modern feel and grabs attention from the first second. It will surely benefit from losing the orchestra for Tel Aviv. So far it is by some way the best of the ‘big 5’ and Italy do have voting friends.

    Negatives – I disagree with your vocal rating, Gav. In the winner’s reprise, Mahmood’s vocal was flat. He was better in competition I grant you, but I would put him at no more than adequate. At the moment the stage feels empty. Also, the song comes across as rather ‘samey’ all the way through. Maybe better staging will improve that?

    One version of the song I saw had a rapper. What happened to him in the reprise? His reintroduction might help introduce some variety. Mind you, that runs the danger of making Soldi look like an inferior version of The Middletonez’ Roses, although the A Dal jury seems to be doing its damnedest to make sure we don’t have to worry about that comparison come Tel Aviv in May.

    • I’ve just read an English translation of the lyrics and that takes the entire thing up a notch. I don’t know if Mahmood wrote Soldi but, understanding the lyrics, it feels highly personal to him. The challenge for Eurovision is to get that meaning across to an audience of non-Italian speakers. Madame – Monsieur had a similar challenge last year and never fully mastered it. Knowing what I do now, it is clear that in its current state Soldi is not entirely working live.

    • if you refer to this version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xzXlaPhs-k, then it was the duet for the fourth night of the Sanremo. Every other artist had to do it – Cristicchi had Ermal Meta, Ultimo had Fabrizio Moro and so on.

  2. Nice profit for me on San Remo. Never listened to nay sayers on Il Volo and I already had Ultimo. So final 3 – a nice top up on Mahmood.

    This is a strong song and the backing track is much slicker and punchier than the live orchestra. Throw in some part-English to lyrics and this can do OK. Lower Top 10 it’s main aim 😉

  3. Its the first SR in about 7 years where i finished underwater and had a fat red on Mahmood.My bets were 4th,5th,6th,7th,8th.That podium was a shock due to tight voting and when the press room had their votes in the final 3 they did everything to counter Il Volo and Ultimo and give the victory to Mahmood.Its simply one of those occasions where a few points here and there ended up with a podium where the press room acted to stop 2 acts winning.The fact is they did their job with what was in front of them in the last three.They voted for what they thought the best package.The fact he only got 14% of the televote will make a lot of people wonder if the press room now has too much power,but i dont think so.The make up of the podium forced their hands,nothing more,and as a backer i simply missed getting one onto the podium to do anything about it.
    However for ESC i think this is a decent entry.Mahmood is talented,he knows how to perform,no worries with the vocals.The song itself though shouldnt really of won a SR and it will be interesting to see how it does .

    • I’m not completely sure if this system is the best one for San Remo. If televoting is used, but still a song with only 14% of the televotes can win with the system, it’s quite predictable that it leads to many unhappy reactions from the audience. Let’s be fair, 14% in a field of 3 is statistically absolutely a horror score.

      I wonder if the televoters in the rest of Europe will be more eager about this song. Last year Italy surprised me with their high score, so maybe I’m missing it again. But for now I don’t see much more than somewhere in the middle of the scoreboard.

  4. It’s an extremely bold entry for Italy. And music-wise it’s wonderful that this indie-music-with-a-message and a slight modern rap vibe goes to Eurovision. I am not surprised that Italy votes for these kind of statements in the wake of left- and right-wing populism. It’s radical, and I could even hear this playing among some antifa-supporters.

    Also personally I like it. Not on first listen, but that’s never bad. The process of listening to such a song on more occasions keeps adding new interesting layers in my experience.

    However, we talk about Eurovision here. Bold as in Portugal 2017 is off course wonderful. But Salvador managed to lure Europe in this wonderful jazzy atmosphere. And let’s face it, it still was a good coherent song with dito melody.

    I think in this case however it’s not coherent enough to appeal to mass audiences. Perhaps juries will appreciate it, but I am not sure yet about televoters. ‘Soldi’ is a wonderful song, but also a difficult song. Hence I say this is now already certain of not winning Eurovision. But I could see this ending on the left hand side of the scoreboard. Say 7th to 13th?

    • Sorry Gert, I don’t wish to descend into political discussions on here, but just to correct a few points:

      Only 14% of the public supported Mahmood. It was not a left-wing reaction to right-wing populism, as if populism is solely a right-wing phenomenon(!).

      Mahmood was born in Milan. He doesn’t talk to his Egyptian father. It has nothing to do with migration. Any comparisons made in the press are a confected narrative.

      If you’re holding up the likes of antifa as some peace-loving group, I suggest you embark on some wider research.

      Soldi definitely isn’t indie.

      • Well, Eurovision is also a lot about feeling no ;-)? Mahmood’s song ‘Soldi’ gave me that feeling to be honest. And I didn’t mean to point this out in a negative way (I was talking about both left- and right-wing populism in equal fashion. In case you didn’t know, politically I consider myself a radical-centrist. The fact that I mentioned antifa to me is logical, as I live in Gracia, Barcelona and Mahmood looks a bit like that. But I meant it as a positive thing. I am by no means left- or right-wing, but in local politics here I had the most wonderful respectful debates with people on both the far-left and far-right. Anyway!).

        Let’s stay on topic hehe. I think Italy this year is a wonderful entry. But looking at how Eurovision works, I don’t see this as a TOP 5 candidate….yet. Let alone a winner.

    • What Gert says about being a grower, I might like it (or not) after few listens but viewers will get only one chance on Italy as a big5 member (which got awarded great running order spot last year so it’s unlikely to happen in 2019).

  5. I do believe juries will get behind this but the televote will hold it back. At the moment I’m in agreement with Gav in regards to predicted result.

  6. I’m not sure what to make of it but there are too much warning signs.
    Low televote in your own country is one of them and this was an extremely low one.
    While he had a surprisingly high jury score that press anti-vote thing casts a shadow of doubt. Another doubt is that esc juries don’t have a great record of supporting foreign language songs (to put it mildly).
    The song is modern alright but nobody has a clue wtf he is singing about (except references to Ramadan, champagne and Jackie Chan 🙂 ), there is no real musical or emotional impact… and so on…

    • That’s an important point Boki, the lack of emotional resonance. It’s just a guy singing a song.

    • Yeah seeing that televote is a major red flag especially when it was that low, not even close to winning the televote. I do think juries should get behind it if he improves his performance but I do think a top 10 atm is the ceiling.

  7. This doesn’t float my boat I am afraid. I think Gav is right to home in on that incredibly low televote and the language is also a barrier (even though he is singing in a beautiful tongue…it simply hinders communication of the narrative.)

    I think it will do well to manage any left side finish. Mind you, so far, I haven’t heard ANY entry that I am sure will end in the top 13…..!!

  8. News flash: Mahmood came 21st on the first evening with the televote.

  9. Hi Gav – I love your site. I’m flying to Tel Aviv this year and I can’t wait!

    Agree with all the comments. I would add that when I listed to this I was suprised that the song sounds a bit kind of ugly at times. The Italian language can make most songs sound endearing. I think many televoters expect this characteristic from Italy. I see Albania and Greece vote heavily for Italy every year, and the former certainly doesn’t have a big Italian population – maybe they vote becuase they like the style of Italian songs in general. Soldi is a cracking song but to me it doesn’t seem very Italian. And I think this could harm the televote further. I agree with othrs that it seems to lack emotion on the first watch too.

    • Hi Sam. You will love Tel Aviv. Make sure you travel to wider Israel if you have the time. It’s not at all like they make out in the press.

      As for the Italian language, I think you’ve hit on something there. It’s what I argued when folks were comparing Grande Amore to Amaury Vassili’s Sognu. Visually there are obvious differences, but Italian has a way of transcending Eurovision’s language barriers. But I also think there’s a certain passion with the way Italian singers perform their songs. That is somewhat lacking this year, and in my opinion, it will seriously hamper their ability to score big points.

      • Hi Gav – yes we are hoping to see most of Israel bar the Negev Desert and Eliat. The press is nonsense – I have many issues with the Israeli government, but Israel is a great country to visit, I’m so excited! First eurovision too. My only wish for every slection now is that it’s banger I can bop to haha!

  10. Word from the Ariston is that the Italian HoD’s preference was Mahmood for Eurovision. The expectation was that Ultimo would win, turn down Eurovision and RAI would internally select Mahmood. So this suggests that RAI’s team already have a plan for Soldi at Eurovision and won’t be madly scrambling to make it fit.

    The song could work. Cut out all the Sanremo staging tics (who wants to see a middle aged violin player clapping on the beat?) and bring in something edgy like we’ve seen from recent Belgium acts.

    The song was co-written by Mahmood and possibly relates to his absentee father. A similar path as Stromae’s Papaoutai? If there’s a story, that could add extra emotional to the performance, but they’d have to find a way to get the story across.

  11. So this review is on hold for the time being. Mahmood is having second thoughts citing that he is thinking about how much work is required for ESC. https://www.lastampa.it/2019/02/11/spettacoli/mahmood-italiano-al-cento-per-cento-ma-alleurovision-non-so-se-ci-andr-qiS65K3wrrYAZNQY0xzrWL/pagina.html

  12. I dont know where you are looking at, but you got the percentages wrong. Mahmood got 20,95% of televote. Deserving winner.

    • I am aware that some of the early stats to emerge were slightly off. Even so that still doesn’t sufficiently answer televote deficit.

      On night 1, for instance, Mahmood only got 1.75% of the vote, finishing 21st out of 24 acts. That’s two short of a Eurovision lineup, so for gamblers still backing Mahmood at 20/1 on the outright market, what makes them think he’ll stand out more at Eurovision given he doesn’t tick the typical winer boxes.

    • He was 8th, 4th, 5th and 3rd and never won a night. Also 3rd in the televote in the three-way final. So how are the stats off? And how could he win the ESC? Song is not jury-bait.

      • There is more data available now, not just Sanremo stats. For example, Mahmood is in top 40 World Spotify and he is charting across Europe. The reality is that we see in stats only things we want to see and select bits of data that support our assumptions. The hammer sees the nail.

        • 41st actually, with 1.65 million streams, 1.55 coming from Italy. The fact is that he did not win a single night in Sanremo, except for the “final 3”. Practically, you are betting on him winning the juries on Saturday night at the ESC.

      • What do you mean its not jury bait? It crushed the juries in San Remo. It will do the same in Tel Aviv. Might not win still, but jury win is possible. Who would beat him in the juries?

  13. Im quite shocked at the money for this on the markets.Ukraine’s mess was a pain having a good position,but how does this gain from Ukraine doing what they have?.The big gainer is Russia and any other bangers that come along.(incredible Ukraine end up helping the very country they shafted Maruv over).
    Im amazed that people dont seem to see what happened at SR.The press did a hatchet job,nothing more,against the other podium acts and probably the government.
    This years SR result was an outlier,the televote was terrible.In the Giovani selection show he came 7th in the televote getting 5%.La Rua got 35% who he beat thanks to the jury.In the first night of Sanremo he was nearly last in the televote and the other Giovani act Einar was higher.

    • Just some ideas: Millions of streams which is probably Italian public but it maybe it makes his poor SR vote irrelevant; Other acts had a fanbase; 31 mill YT views; Maybe more suitable for ESC than SR.

      • The Italian song attracts massive YouTube hits and Spotify streams every year.

        • And in the last 8 years, since they returned to ESC, they’ve had 6 T10s including 2nd and 3rd.

          I hope there’s some good stuff in the unannounced but atm the field is poor.

          • The field is very poor and id agree it was a stunning result with a very small fan base if he had a good televote score,but it was terrible.On the first night he came 19 out of 22 with the demoscopic jury and 1st with the press.In the televote for every vote he got Il Volo got 10.The ESC record is very strong,but they were all televote winners at SR or scored very highly.As you say we really need some decent stuff from the unannounced.

  14. Question for Gavin: Do you think the Italian entry is a bit too….alternative to actually win the contest? Does Mahmood have the telegenic skills to let televoters and juries alike rise up and vote for him?

    • I expect the juries to show it some love for the reason that its a contemporary song. Though I don’t expect him to do well in eastern Europe or the more English speaking nations in the west.

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