This was actually harder for me to put together than the French and Spanish ones, as I don’t listen to much “modern” Italian music, and I feel that’s what learners would like to have some advice on. In the end, I mostly went for classics, I hope you can forgive me ;) As usual, the playlist is only half-serious, and I tried to include links to videos featuring both the Italian lyrics and the English translation when I could. Enjoy!
Mina – also known as the Tiger of Cremona, she’s been called the greatest Italian singer of all time, so I’d say her songs are definitely worth a listen. Famous titles are Tintarella di luna [x], Se telefonando [x]and Città vuota [x].
Fabrizio De André – probably the most famous Italian songwriter ever, and a crowd favorite for sure. Listen to his works if you’re looking for melancholic tunes and thought-provoking lyrics; I’d recommend Il testamento di Tito [x], La canzone di Marinella [x] and Fiume Sand Creek [x](but honestly I’d recommend his whole discography and I’ll always be glad to translate his songs if anyone wants me to).
Francesco Guccini – another great songwriter. L’avvelenata [x] is what you want to listen to if you wanna learn some swear words (or if you just need to vent), Canzone per un’amica [x] might kill you inside if you’re like me, and Auschwitz [x] is a powerful but delicate ballad about the death of a boy in a concentration camp.
Mia Martini – one of the most soulful voices in our musical history, who died in the Nineties under circumstances that to this day are still not completely clear, many great lyricists wrote for her. In her repertoire you’ll find hits like Minuetto [x], Almeno tu nell’universo [x] and Piccolo uomo [x].
Lucio Dalla – keeping in line with the Italian songwriting tradition, here’s another household name. Listen to 4/3/1943 [x], Caruso [x] and L’Anno che verrà [x] (here sung in a duet with Francesco De Gregori, yet another singer-songwriter).
Tiziano Ferro – so, here’s an artist that’s still consistently active nowadays (I’m more versed in his earlier songs, though). If you know how to scream-sing at least the chorus of Sere nere [x] you’ll blend among Italians in no time; Non me lo so spiegare [x] is also a classic, as can be said of E fuori è buio [x].
Laura Pausini – possibly one of the best known Italian singers worldwide right now. Her big breakout song, La solitudine [x], is now a cult. Strani amori [x] and Simili [x] are also worth mentioning.
Caparezza – the first rapper on this list! Cool lyrics and quite far from stereotypes, but not the easiest to understand, I’d recommend him (strongly) to more advanced learners. Among his older songs I like best, Vieni a ballare in Puglia [x], Eroe [x] and Legalize the Premier [x].
Elisa – beautiful, melodic voice. Luce [x], Ti vorrei sollevare [x] and Eppure sentire [x].
Rino Gaetano – a voice with a raspy quality to it with which many a generation has fallen in love. Listen to A mano a mano [x], Ma il cielo è sempre più blu [x] and Gianna [x].
Fiorella Mannoia –Quello che le donne non dicono [x] and Il cielo d’Irlanda [x] are old hits of her, a more recent one is Combattente [x].
Jovanotti – funky, alternative hip-hop, pop. Check out Penso positivo [x] (old and upbeat one), Sabato [x], and A te [x] (the song everyone was dedicating to their friend/significant other/cat when it came out).
Baustelle – indie rock group. Personally, I like Gli spietati [x], La guerra è finita [x] and Le rane [x].
Eros Ramazzotti – he was only twenty-one years old when he first competed in the Sanremo festival with Terra Promessa [x]. You can also check out Adesso tu [x] or Più bella cosa [x].
Gianna Nannini – have a look at Fotoromanza [x], Bello e impossibile [x] and Sei nell’anima [x].
Max Gazzè – I almost forgot about him! Witty, generally upbeat and fun (but also interesting) to listen to. La vita com’è [x], Sotto casa [x] and Teresa [x] are cool songs of his.
BONUS – random songs I like (and more)
Alice [x] –we mentioned De Gregori, and this is one of my favorite songs of his (but there are many more! Rimmel, Niente da capire, Generale…).
Per Elisa [x] – singing this one is an artist called Alice, haha. You’ve got to watch the video, she makes the funniest/most badass faces.
La terra dei cachi [x] – by Elio e le storie tese, pretty emblematic as far as the Italian spirit is concerned. Might be a little tough to catch, though.
La bambola [x] – there had to be some Patty Pravo in this. “The girl from the Piper club”, as she was known at the beginning of her career, is a true icon of Italian music.
Ti regalerò una rosa [x] – a touching ballad that won the Sanremo festival in 2007.
Controvento [x] – I’m not the biggest fan of Arisa’s songs, but I really enjoy this one.
Per tutta la vita [x] – I really like Noemi’s voice. Fun fact: she was the soloist in Disney Pixar’s Brave!
Luci a San Siro [x] – melancholic hymn to a lost romance and youth.
Notte prima degli esami [x] – Antonello Venditti making high school seniors emotional since 1984.
Triangolo [x] – the song that comes to every Italian’s mind whenever show writers throw in a daring love triangle.
Il gatto e la volpe [x] – Edoardo Bennato’s take on two well-known character from Pinocchio.
50 special [x] – a classic, you’ll end up singing it to the top of your lungs with your high school friends sooner or later.
Gli anni [x] – basically, same as above (and it’s a rule that has a tendency to be valid for every 883 song).
Monna Lisa [x] – Ivan Graziani in one of his best performances.
Maledetta primavera [x] – come on, it’s called “Damned Springtime” and was covered in way more languages than I thought.
E la luna bussò [x] – sung by Loredana Berté, Mia Martini’s “edgier” younger sister.
…I could go on forever, but here’s a list I made featuring a bunch of songs that marked my childhood [x] (and probably those of many others Italian twenty-somethings).
I also translated I promessi sposi in dieci minuti [x]. You’ll find a thorough explanation of what this is in the link, but let me tell you that this epic mash-up features a lot of Italian hits, albeit with different lyrics, so it’s a great resource! If you want me to, I can write you down a list of songs that appear in it.
as I was making this list, I noticed that @langsandlit had just written a post suggesting many artists definitely worth checking out [x]. Give it a look, it’s really helpful and I agree with what he wrote (plus, there’s a significant section dedicated to contemporary artists).
There’d be many, maaany more (and I might make a second post soon, maybe slightly more concise haha), but that’s it for now!
“We are the kings and the queens of the new broken scene! Yeah, we’re alright though!”
She’s Kinda Hot grew on me so fast and it’s such a fun song and I am absolutely loving this concept so I had to draw this really quick.