Alessandro Mahmoud, known as Mahmood, will represent Italy at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv with his song “Soldi”. It’s a strongly autobiographic trap influenced R’n’B track. Filled with sounds from the Middle East, it will most definitely make your hands clap.
Italian broadcaster RAI chose Mahmood through the historical Sanremo Music Festival selection show. He survived a field of twenty-four finalists and emerged triumphant in a super final against much more established artists Ultimo and Il Volo, both of whom were considered strong favorites.
As we count down to Israel, we’ve compiled 10 facts you need to know about Mahmood. Are you ready? Let’s do this!
1. His stage name is a play on words
Mahmood is a portmanteau of Alessandro’s surname Mahmoud and the English expression “my mood”. It represents the singer’s main goal: to bring his personal story and, therefore, his state of mind into his songs. “It’s a more complete version of me,” he said to Freeda.
2. He got a “familiar” tattoo
On the wrist of his left hand, Mahmood has a triangle tattoo. Many people think it is an esoteric symbol, a reference to the Illuminati. Well, they are wrong. It is a stylised letter A. “In my family, our names begin with this letter. I am Alessandro, my mother Anna and my father Amed”, he revealed.
3. He has a strong bond with Sardinia
Mahmood’s mother Anna comes from Orosei, a little town on the Italian island of Sardinia. Besides Italian, Alessandro also speaks Nuorese, a sub-dialect of Sardinian, often considered the most conservative of all Romance languages. “There is a phrase that my mother says several times, because I am always a bit late: ‘a ti mofese’. It means ‘hurry up!’” said Mahmood to Radio Italia.
He also told L’Unione Sarda: “I go to Sardinia every summer. If I miss one I feel sick. There is my grandparents’ house there and it is always nice because we are a very large family. My mother has 11-12 brothers (I never remember exactly how many!) and many cousins. The time I spend in Sardinia is really useful because I am very attached to Sardinian culture and folklore. And when I am on the island, perhaps because of the place, maybe because I hear the language, I feel truly inspired. Every time I breathe in Sardinia, all I do is writing”.
4. He is the king of cappuccinos
Like many others, Mahmood had to make a living doing jobs besides music. He worked as a waiter and bartender for three years in a cafe in San Babila, a neighbourhood in Milan. Interviewed by weekly gossip magazine Chi, the singer said: “At first my cappuccinos sucked: customers offended me more than once. Then I became the king of cappuccinos”. Mahmood also revealed that he wrote the lyrics of some songs on customers’ orders and during his commutes on the Milan metro.
5. He loves Pokémon
Mahmood calls himself a nerd. And his obsession with Pokémon has become an important part of his artistic expression. On the cover of his first album “Gioventù bruciata” the singer wears a shirt with a picture of Rayquaza, a legendary Pokémon from the third generation of the video game series. Pokémon also appears in the lyrics of “Gioventù bruciata“. Mahmood sings: “Giocavo in macchina con la Nintendo e i Pokémon / E ti lamentavi se non volevo più parlare” (I used to play in the car Nintendo and Pokémon / And you complained if I didn’t want to talk anymore).
6. His lucky star is Freddie Mercury
“I am a pacifist, I believe in the lucky star and perhaps my lucky star is Freddie Mercury”, says Mahmood in an interview by Chi. “The evening before Sanremo Giovani” — explained the singer — “the contest that allowed me to compete among the big names, I saw Bohemian Rhapsody. I cried three times because of the beauty of the movie. It gave me energy, a particular boost. I am convinced that it brought me luck”.
7. He entered X Factor Italy
When he was 20, Alessandro auditioned for X Factor Italy. He reached the Judges’ Houses stage, but failed to make it through to the live shows. However, the rules of the sixth edition allowed a previously eliminated contestant to return to the competition in the third live show. Unfortunately, the adventure of Mahmood — mentored by TV hostess Simona Ventura, who also coached Giusy Ferreri and Francesca Michielin — lasted only one episode. The singer was kicked out in the sing-off by Romina Falconi.
8. He attempted Sanremo previously
Before winning Sanremo with “Soldi” against all expectations, Mahmood had already taken the stage at the Ariston Theater. It was 2016 when he took part in the Newcomers category of the long-lasting Italian music festival with the song “Dimentica”, placing fourth in the final. Two other acts competed with him, that perhaps you might know: Francesco Gabbani, who won with “Amen“, and Ermal Meta, who placed third with “Odio le favole“. Should we check the list of 2016’s Sanremo Newcomers to find the next Italian Eurovision representative?
9. He took part in the Summer Festival
One thing is for sure: Mahmood is not afraid to prove himself and competitions do not scare him at all. In 2017, he participated in the Emerging Artists category of the Summer Festival, a musical event held in Piazza del Popolo in Rome, broadcast since 2013 on Canale 5. The show offers the audience the most successful summer songs in Italy and a contest dedicated to rising artists. His entry “Pesos” reached the final, but first prize went to the duo I Desideri with the song “Uagliò“.
10. He writes hits for others
Mahmood’s was an in-demand songwriting talent even before this year’s exploits. The singer has in fact written some successful songs, such as “Hola (I Say)” for Marco Mengoni (Italy’s 2013 rep) and Tom Walker and “Nero Bali” for Elodie and Michele Bravi. He also composed two other songs, “Mille lire” and “Rivoluzione“, for Marco’s latest album Atlantico. In addition to that, he wrote and sang “Presi male” with Michele Bravi and “Luna” with rapper Fabri Fibra.
Do you think Mahmood can give Italy their third Eurovision victory? Let us know in the comments.