The subtitle for Spencer Kornhaber’s assessment of the latest album from the most well-known Italian rock band in the world is “Mneskin looks a lot cooler than it sounds.” The 17-track album Rush!, which served as the X Factor’s overseas paladins’ crowning achievement, was released at midnight. To celebrate, the band got married symbolically at Palazzo Brancaccio in front of longtime friends Alessandro Michele, Machine Gun Kelly, Baz Luhrmann, Fedez, and Paolo Sorrentino. And while the occasion did as intended in highlighting a band’s recent release, which has set lofty expectations for itself in terms of international charts, the critics had an even more specific target in mind: the album.
Since winning Eurovision, the group has rapidly risen to prominence and is poised to break records. Mneskin’s cover of the Four Seasons’ “Beggin” has been a smash on US radio and ranked second globally in TikTok usage in 2021. Iggy Pop, Tom Morello, and The Rolling Stones, some of the band’s major influences, have become partners and supporters, and they may even win a Grammy next month.
In a time when hip-hop and electronic pop predominated, the rise of a rock band looked to be a startling sign of a significant generational shift in popular tastes. The new album supports the idea that Mneskin never believed that form was more important than content or even that it was content in and of itself. Every cliché associated with Rock ‘n’ Roll is included in this song on a silver platter, but drugs, specifically cocaine and marijuana, are emphasized. This storyline sounds a little absurd in light of Damiano’s self-righteous and funereal “we don’t do drugs” declaration at Eurovision.The lead singer calls himself “a lion tamer of indecent conduct” and says he “makes love to danger” while simultaneously “masturbating in the shower.” Seventeen appealing but forgettable songs about nothing demonstrate that Alessandro Michele’s appearance is all that remains of the band’s progress from its days of singing in the streets of Rome to its arrival in Los Angeles.
So what caused Mneskin to break out? The New York Times quoted Italian journalist Andrea Andrei as saying, “They are a TV phenomenon,” and the prognosis is accurate: the appeal of X-Factor, Eurovision, and TikTok is immediate and conveyed through androgynous and seductive looks, fetish accessories, and a lot of gossip. The idea of the band initiating a culture war between rock and pop and with it, clichés about reality and deception, passion and product-seems pathetic at best,” Kornhaber fumes in the pages of The Atlantic. “Mneskin’s songs are so obviously unoriginal, so brazenly poor. As a result of the criticism coming from overseas, Italian journalists now feel empowered to dispel the notion that Mneskin was the band who revived rock without running the risk of being once again accused of lacking the ability to celebrate their own “national pride.”