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(Credit: Måneskin)

Music

One of the year's biggest hits was actually a Frankie Valli song

@TylerGolsen

The winner of the biggest hit of 2021 was the Eurovision Song Contest victors Måneskin, who rode all the way to the top with ‘Zitti e buoni’, which Google tells me means ‘Shut Up and Behave’.

The big narrative that I’ve seen around this victory is that an actual rock band beat out a bunch of weepy balladeers who usually sweep the contest, especially considering that the last Eurovision winner was the Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence and his pretty awful song ‘Arcade’. I’m not totally convinced that Måneskin are any more rock and roll than Olivia Rodrigo is punk rock, but hey, it’s cool to hear loud guitars in the mainstream regardless, so I’m all for it.

But after their victory, something strange happened. Oddly enough, a song probably isn’t going to go global unless it’s sung in English – although that is changing more and more, especially with the rise of acts like BTS. ‘Zitti e buoni’, with its Black Keys-lite riffs, didn’t really hit outside of its association with the contest, but another one of the band’s songs sure did.

Want to know where my scepticism for Måneskin starts? It’s mainly rooted in the fact that they were teenage contestants on the Italian version of The X-Factor. Hey, no shame in trying to make it big through mainstream singing shows, but it does make me automatically a little suspicious. But all the way back in 2017, Måneskin performed the song ‘Beggin’ on the programme. It was a funky, loose, and incredibly catchy song that launched the band all the way to… second place.

Obviously, there was something to ‘Beggin’ though, because once Måneskin made some global ripples at Eurovision, the now half a decade old recording started to gain traction. Luckily, we live in a world where linear time doesn’t affect a song’s popularity, hence why ‘Last Christmas’ and ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ will likely be number one songs until the end of time. With this, ‘Beggin’ began to become the global hit that ‘Zitti e buoni’ probably never could have been. It was in English, it had a bigger hit, and it had the advantage of being familiar, even if most people didn’t exactly know from where.

That’s because ‘Beggin’ is a cover, and two previous versions have been released, with one being a major hit in various European countries. The original version of ‘Beggin’ was by the Four Seasons, with Frankie Valli taking on the song’s lead vocal. That version of ‘Beggin’ is remarkably similar to Måneskin’s, plus or minus a few orchestral touches and ’70s production flourishes. Valli’s version is piano-driven and features prominent backing vocals from the Four Seasons, but it’s largely got that same gritty vocal that Måneskin are riding to global chart success.

But Måneskin weren’t the first to get a hit out of covering the song. Back in 2007, Norwegian electro-rap duo Madcon dusted off the four-decade-old song, added some rap verses, and took their own cover of ‘Beggin’ to the top of a few European charts. Madcon’s version is even more stylistically faithful to the original (minus the rapping), and their version found its way into commercials, trailers, and the back recesses of quite a few consumers’ minds.

That’s why it was so easy to gravitate to the Måneskin version. Subconsciously, tons of listeners had actually heard the song before, even if they couldn’t have picked it up immediately. Sure, Måneskin gave it a pretty unique makeover, but it’s still unmistakably the same song. Frankie Valli, at nearly 90 years old, helped shepherd in one of the biggest songs of the year. Valli walked like a man so that Måneskin could run all the way to a global hit song.