Chartbreaker: Inside Måneskin’s Unlikely, TikTok-Assisted Journey to Rock Stardom

Chartbreaker: Inside Måneskin’s Unlikely, TikTok-Assisted Journey to Rock Stardom

On a Thursday afternoon in July, Italian rock quartet Måneskin are busy working on their new album in a villa in the town of Garlasco — where, their team notes, they will have to remain in their private area for their Billboard interview and photo shoot, lest they get mobbed by their fans on the streets of their home country. “It’s, like, a lot worse than it was before,” bassist Victoria De Angelis says of the local Måneskinmania.

“Or better!” singer Damiano David interjects.

“Worse in the sense of just… bigger,” De Angelis clarifies.

“Bigger” has been the story for Måneskin (David and De Angelis, along with guitarist Thomas Raggi and drummer Ethan Torchio) since May, when the quartet took home top prize at the Eurovision Song Contest with the riotous rave-up “Zitti e buoni.” In the two months following that win, “Zitti” took off globally, reaching a No. 22 peak on the Billboard Global 200 songs chart. Meanwhile, their newer single, the stomping “I Wanna Be Your Slave,” proved even more explosive, rocketing all the way to No. 13 on the chart, and making waves with the gender-bending fashion and the inclusive sex-positivity of the song’s music video.

However, it’s not either of these new songs, both found on the group’s 2021 album Teatro d’ira: Vol. I, that’s marked the group’s biggest global hit — or the lone song that’s broken them stateside onto the Billboard Hot 100. Rather, those honors belong to the band’s 2017 cover of The Four Seasons’ 1966 soul-pop hit “Beggin’,” which went unexpectedly viral on TikTok and crossed over to streaming services domestically and internationally. The song later peaked at No. 3 on the Global 200, and No. 35 on the Hot 100.

“From the video creations and covers on TikTok, to a continuous flow of user generated content on YouTube, the music is finding new listeners each day and quickly converting them into fans of the band,” says Arista’s SVP of marketing, Brian Vinikoor. “It’s not just that people are discovering the music, it’s that they are engaging with the band, interested in learning their story, connecting with them on socials and continuing to dig deeper into the band’s music.

The “Beggin’” cover dates back to Måneskin’s earliest band breakthrough, as contestants on the Italian version of music reality competition The X Factor in 2017, just two years after the band formed as high schoolers in Rome. The quartet’s lithe, muscular rendition of the funked-up pop classic on the show was well received by audiences — “It was our first standing ovation,” David recalls — and though the band ultimately finished as the show’s runner-up, the song stuck in their catalog, appearing on their debut EP Chosen, released by Sony Latin later that year (in July the band signed with U.S. label partner, Arista, as well).

Their local fans stuck, too. Despite Italy not having much of a rock scene historically, the band made enough of an impression to top the Italian album charts with its 2018 debut full-length Il ballo della vita, and eventually to win the Sanermo Music Festival 2021, which earned their entry to Eurovision as the Italian contestants — a rare feat for an Italian rock band. But while Eurovision is often a springboard for artists to find greater European success, it’s much rarer that it takes them all the way to America.

However, the timing is fortuitous for Måneskin, since they’re arriving at a time when popular music in the States has been more amenable to traditional guitar-based rock than it has been in many years. While De Angelis jokingly answers “no one” when asked about artists they see as current peers, the band does salute fellow classic rock revivalists Greta Van Fleet (“really great musicians”) and singer/songwriter Olivia Rodrigo, whose pop-punk-tinged “Good 4 U” (“We always dance to it!”) has been dueling with “Beggin’” at the top of the Global charts. “It’s coming back,” Damiano agrees about rock’s return. “But it’s kind of never gone away.”

Though the quartet is grateful for all of their global success and the new fans they’ve picked up, they’re a little ambivalent about “Beggin’” being the song to put them over the top.  Måneskin doesn’t have any plans to further promote “Beggin’” — though the song is being worked to pop radio, where it’s currently on the fringes of the Pop Songs top 40 — instead turning their focus to “I Wanna Be Your Slave.”

“Right now, we are focused on making sure [‘Slave’] continues its upward trajectory and follows “Beggin’” as another No. 1 streaming record,” Vinikoor says. “Having success with ‘I Wanna Be Your Slave’ alongside ‘Beggin’’ only helps to solidify Måneskin as a band with a long and veritable career ahead of them.”

In the meantime, the band is working on new music — which David says “represents us better than that song that came out four years ago.” They also have a handful of European festival dates to play this summer, and then they’re set for an arena tour of their home country, where they’ll be able to properly greet the rabid fans they’ve picked up since becoming global stars over the past few months, for whom the band’s appeal is hardly limited to just one hit.

“There’s unquestionably a massive audience stateside for Måneskin and we’re seeing that begin to unfold,” says Vinikoor. “What truly separates Måneskin from other [classic rock] acts is the makeup of their fans, [who are] predominantly teenage and college-aged females. It’s their attitude, their ideals, and what they represent that is speaking to an entirely new audience for rock music.”

A version of this article will appear in the August 7, 2021 issue of Billboard.

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