How Italian Rockers Måneskin’s Terrible Four Seasons Cover From 2017 Took Over Spotify
Måneskin, a darkly glammed-out and transcendently trashy hard rock quartet from Rome, have been ruling the internet this summer. For the past week, their version of the Four Seasons’ “Beggin'” — a cover Måneskin released four years ago — has been #1 on the global Spotify chart and a mainstay of the US top 10. It even cracked Billboard‘s Hot 100, becoming the first Måneskin song to do so, almost entirely on the strength of streaming. Before you declare this a victory for rock, consider that Måneskin’s “Beggin'” cover is just atrociously, offensively bad — a jittery, feral scat attack that I refuse people are listening to for non-ironic reasons. It’s truly the pits.
So, how did an Italian rock band’s unlistenable cover of a 1967 Four Seasons hit, released on an EP in 2017, become the biggest song in the world on Spotify in the summer of 2021? It has to do with TikTok, of course, but also the Eurovision song contest, and I guess the perversity of fate. It’s a very strange story, and my appreciation for it is inversely proportional to my hopes of ever hearing Måneskin’s godawful rendition of “Beggin'” ever again. So I’m going to do my best impression of my colleague Tom Breihan’s Number Ones column in an attempt to explain what has transpired here.
Fifty-four years ago, Bob Gaudio was at an impasse. Gaudio, born in the Bronx, had been a child prodigy, studying under jazz pianist Sal Mosca and giving a piano recital at Carnegie Hall as a seven-year-old. His family moved to New Jersey as he entered high school, and by age 15 he’d found fame as a member of a rock band called the Royal Teens, whose membership sometimes included a teenage Al Kooper. The Royal Teens’ single “Short Shorts” was a #3 hit in 1958. You know the song: “Who wears short shorts? We wear short shorts!” Maybe you caught it in a Nair commercial or a Simpsons episode. Wherever you encountered the song, it likely imprinted itself upon your psyche. It’s pure novelty, but an impressive achievement for a teenage rock band nonetheless.
As AllMusic Guide tells it, after some touring and the release of some less successful singles, Gaudio quit the Royal Teens in 1960 to work at a printing company back home in Jersey while looking for his next gig. On tour with the Teens, Gaudio had met Frankie Valli, who was about a decade older than Gaudio and was fronting a group called the Four Lovers. In 1960 Gaudio’s friend Joe Pesci — yes, that Joe Pesci — re-introduced him to Valli. Gaudio auditioned to join the Four Lovers, who were staying busy with session work and nightclub gigs in Jersey. Gaudio got into the band, who soon renamed themselves the Four Seasons, and quickly became central to their success.
Beginning with 1962’s “Sherry,” their first #1, Gaudio wrote a remarkable string of hits for the Four Seasons, usually with lyrics by producer Bob Crewe. The list included subsequent chart-toppers “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like A Man,” and “Rag Doll.” But after 1965’s “Girl Come Running,” Gaudio had gone two years without writing a Four Seasons single. He and Crewe had been focusing on writing Valli’s solo tracks like “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and letting other songwriters supply the group with material. The songs they had been writing for the group, in an effort to piggyback off pop’s move toward more socially conscious themes, had been album tracks like the anti-protester polemic “Beggars Parade.”
When Gaudio finally refocused himself on writing Four Seasons songs for the Four Seasons again, the result was the #16-peaking “Beggin’.” For the first time in years, he teamed with a lyricist besides Crewe, working instead with the Angels’ Peggy Farina of “My Boyfriend’s Back” fame. If “Beggin’” represented a pivot back to the Four Seasons’ love-song comfort zone, the track wasn’t exactly a return to the group’s old doo-wop sound. Its arrangement merged brisk fast-paced rock and psychedelic soul, its flurry of piano and horns powered by the kind of contagiously upbeat drum part that’s just beggin’ (sorry) to be turned into a breakbeat by some hip-hop DJ.
Party Supplies actually did sample the track on Action Bronson’s 2012 mixtape Blue Chips, but the most prominent “Beggin’” sample was more of a cover: The Black-Eyed-Peas-esque “Beggin’” rework by Norwegian hip-hop act Madcon went to #1 in several European countries in 2008. The year before that, French DJ Pilooski’s remix of the Four Seasons original topped the UK dance chart. “Beggin’” has been covered a bunch of times over the years, by artists including Shocking Blue, Timebox, and California band Monophonics. But no one since Madcon has caught fire with the song like Måneskin.
Roman high schoolers Damiano David, Victoria De Angelis and Thomas Raggi formed Måneskin in 2016, naming their band after the Danish word for moonlight. Soon after recruiting drummer Ethan Torchio to round out the lineup, they won a local battle of the bands, the first of many such victories for the group. After some time spent busking in the streets of Rome, they auditioned for the Italian version of X Factor, where the “Beggin’” cover first emerged alongside takes on hits by Franz Ferdinand and the Killers. The band finished second on X Factor, but their run on the show made them stars and consistent hit-makers in Italy. It also led to a deal with Sony, who released their Chosen EP — with an assortment of Chili-Peppers-flavored party-rock songs including “Beggin’” — in December of 2017. An album, a documentary, and more domestic hits followed.
The real breakthrough for Måneskin, though, was a pair of wins at major televised competitions this year. First, in March, they were rare rock champions at Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival. This qualified them to represent Italy at the famed Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam, where they also claimed first prize. Their winning song “Zitti e buoni,” which translates to “Shut Up And Behave,” is funky aggro rap-rock that sounds like it could have popped off at American rock radio in 1999 alongside, like, Loudmouth and Buckcherry. After Måneskin’s Eurovision win in May, “Zitti e buoni” posted the biggest one-day streaming total ever for an Italian artist on Spotify. Eurovision also sent Måneskin’s music flowing onto TikTok, where one meme involved users switching from scrubby or mild-mannered looks to slithering leather-clad rock ’n’ rollers at the drop in “Zitti e buoni.”
But you never know what’s going to catch on within the bizarre TikTok ecosystem, and for reasons unknown, sometime last month “Beggin’” came to overshadow “Zitti e buoni.” The song’s virality on the video app in turn drove Spotify and radio plays around the world, sending “Beggin’” to the top 10 in countries including the UK, Australia, and Germany (where it reached #1). On July 3 it even overtook Olivia Rodrigo’s “good 4 u” to become the #1 song in the world on Spotify, a position it has yet to relinquish more than a week later. It even held off the new BTS song this weekend! According to Billboard, the song even notched some spins at Philly pop station WTDY, suggesting there’s potential for Måneskin to leap right over hard rock radio and become Top 40 sensations in America. Meanwhile another single, the cowbell-laden come-on “I Wanna Be Your Slave,” has been popping in and out of Spotify’s global top 10. Everything’s coming up Måneskin.
This is weird, right? Like, it’s not so surprising that a band of Måneskin’s ilk would catch on in Europe — I don’t even claim to understand people’s taste on the continent — but I am kind of shocked at the way “Beggin'” has been twitching its way into the American consciousness too. David’s ostentatious growl sounds like a parody of a singer who spells rock r-a-w-k. The whole band looks like they’re dressed up as Orgy for Halloween, and their music sounds like a sleazy Sunset Strip act’s flavorless impression of early Incubus. I am praying that their emergence is an isolated incident and we’re not about to see a revival of this kind of dire hard rock as a mainstream proposition in America. Because honestly, if this stuff is what’s gonna catch on, rock is better off dead.
Last week, this column took a week off for the July 4 holiday. But the Billboard charts did not take a week off! The big news was that Tyler, The Creator’s Call Me If You Get Lost debuted at #1 with 169,000 equivalent album units and 55,000 in sales (his second straight #1 album following IGOR) and Doja Cat’s Planet Her entered at #2 with 109,000 units and 10,000 in sales (her best chart position yet, improving upon Hot Pink‘s #9 peak). Over on the Hot 100, BTS’ “Butter” spent a sixth straight week at #1, while Ed Sheeran’s “Bad Habits” debuted at #5, becoming his eighth top-10 hit.
This week, Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album Sour is back at #1 on the Billboard 200 for a third nonconsecutive week at the top, notching 88,000 equivalent album units. Last week’s chart-topper, Tyler The Creator’s Call Me If You Get Lost, dropped to #6, but Doja Cat’s Planet Her maintained its #2 spot with 68,000 units. Lil Baby and Lil Durk’s The Voice Of The Heroes is #3 and Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album is #4. At #5 is the sole debut in the top 10 this week with G Herbo’s 25 at 46,000 units. As mentioned, Tyler is at #6 and the rest of the top 10 is rounded out with Polo G, Dua Lipa, Migos, and Moneybagg Yo.
Over on the Hot 100 this week, BTS’ “Butter” is #1 for the seventh week in a row. The song notched 29.1 million radio airplay impressions, 10.8 million US streams, and sold 108,800 copies in the past week. Steady at #2 in Olivia Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U.” Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” and Doja Cat’s “Kiss Me More” are at #3 and #4 and Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” shot back up to #5 after a few weeks in the lower half of the top 10. Ed Sheeran’s “Bad Habits”, Bruno Mars & Anderson .Paak’s “Leave The Door Open,” Justin Bieber’s “Peaches,” the Weeknd and Ariana Grande’s “Save Your Tears,” and Olivia Rodrigo’s “Deja Vu” round out the top 10.
Post Malone – “Motley Crew”
Interesting! Just when it looked like Posty was ready to pivot away from rap altogether, he comes back with the most strictly hip-hop single he’s released in a while. Not sure how I feel about that snarl thing he’s doing with his voice here.
Billie Eilish – “NDA”
The way this morphs into an emo industrial banger about a minute in is something to behold. We’ll be lucky if the Halsey x NIN music turns out this well. And the little recurring melody that sounds like a piano but is maybe not a piano? Sublime.
BTS – “Permission To Dance”
The jubilant One Direction-meets-Bruno Mars vibe of these English-language singles is really working for me. Co-writer Ed Sheeran should try having this much fun in one of his own songs some time. Would not be surprised to see BTS pull a 2018 Drake and replace themselves at #1. Also, very fun video — the waitress tearing off her mask at the end is a nice touch.
The Kid Laroi & Justin Bieber – “Stay”
Post-SoundCloud pop-rap as effervescent Justice-style ’80s pop is a lot more appealing than the gravelly Laroi power ballad currently saturating the radio. Also would not be surprised to see this one become Laroi’s first chart-topper, assuming he can get past BTS.
J Balvin & Skrillex – “In Da Getto”
It’s so refreshing when Balvin raps over something other than a reggaeton beat, and this exhilarating rhythm bomb from Skrillex would be a hard one to mess up.
Tinashe – “Bouncin”
Pop Five bonus track! With so many superstars dropping heaters this week, I almost didn’t have room for “Bouncin,” but when you don’t have room for the new Tinashe single in your pop column, you make room. I’m ready for 333 whenever she is.
NEWS IN BRIEF
- Diplo is being sued by a woman who alleges he forced her to perform oral sex and recorded it without her consent. [Vulture]
- Kesha scored a victory in her ongoing legal fight with Dr. Luke; thanks to New York’s anti-SLAPP statute, Dr. Luke will have to prove actual malice on Kesha’s part. She’ll also be allowed to seek compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys fees. [THR]
- Saweetie explained why she released songs with Dr. Luke both before and after learning about Kesha’s allegations: “When I was put in the position to work with him, it was a bundle deal.” [Vulture]
- Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton got married over July 4th weekend in a ceremony officiated by The Voice co-star Carson Daly. [Instagram]
- Lil Nas X shared a trailer for his debut LP Montero. [Twitter]
- Here’s Olivia Rodrigo with a marching band on “good 4 u” from her SOUR Prom concert. [YouTube]
- Dua Lipa is being sued for posting an unlicensed paparazzi photo of herself to Instagram. [Billboard]
- Ed Sheeran went to “cowboy school” on The Late Late Show. [YouTube]
- Ariana Grande partnered with BetterHelp to give away $1M in free therapy. [Instagram]
- Here’s the trailer for Prime Video’s Cinderella starring Camila Cabello. [Instagram]
- Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga filmed an MTV Unplugged in NYC. [NY Post]
- Coldplay performed “Higher Power” for Macy’s Fourth of July Spectacular. [YouTube]
- Travis Scott and Meek Mill got into a fight at Michael Rubin’s Hamptons “white party” where guests also included Jay-Z, Beyonce, Lil Baby, Lil Uzi Vert, Quavo, James Harden, and Jon Bon Jovi. [Page Six]
- Missy Elliott directed a video for City Girls’ “Twerkulator.” [YouTube]
- BTS will do back-to-back nights on The Tonight Show this week. [YouTube]
- Bebe Rexha appears in the trailer for Queenpins, a movie about a real-life counterfeit coupon ring starring Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste. [YouTube]
- Twenty One Pilots escape a sea monster in the video for “Saturday.” [YouTube]
- Nicki Minaj appears on a new remix of BIA’s “Whole Lotta Money.” [YouTube]