Malika Ayane: "You have to be as authentic as possible"

Malika Ayane: “You have to be as authentic as possible”

Malika Ayane he has a Moroccan father and an Italian mother and today is his birthday. He released his first album, named after him, in 2008. Since then he has released five more, the latest of which, “Malifesto”, in March 2021. A record that highlights the Milanese girl’s state of excellent artistic health and which she had described as ‘authentic’: “It is anti-music to try to chase a current situation that is this today and tomorrow will be another. You have to be as authentic as possible.” To celebrate her 40th birthday, below we present our review of “Malifesto”.

While others, in an identity crisis or to revive the fortunes of entangled careers, turn to reggaeton and Latin pop, she looks to the Franco-Belgian scene and Northern Europe. She cites artists such as Sébastien Tellier and Charlotte Gainsbourg as references for the style and sound of the new songs. And she writes a long sheet to tell in detail how she constructed the arrangements of the album and used the various instruments used. Anyone who, after “Domino”, the 2018 album which by her own admission did not particularly shine in sales, and her stint on TV as a judge on “X Factor”, expected a turning point from her, probably doesn’t know Malika Ayane well. The Italian-Moroccan singer has always played in a league of her own and continues to do so with “Malifesto”, the sixth of a career which, although not systematically taking her to the top of the charts – in 2015 “Senza fare seriously” was a pounding hit from three platinum records: it is her greatest success to date – it has made her a point of reference for those in Italy who try to make quality pop, refined to the right degree and at the same time light.

Malika here recovers the sound research of “Domino” and puts it at the service of songs that aspire to high rotation but without coming to terms: “It’s not arrogance, but necessity”, as she sings in “Ti piaci cos”, the song that presented in the competition at Sanremo 2021, between the 80s and French touch. So chic that it wouldn’t look out of place in the soundtrack of a French arthouse film, so irresistibly pop that it would work the same way in a scene from “Baby”. The album is the singer’s first made in Italy after the Berlin experience with Axel Reinemer and Stefan Leisering of Jazzanova for “Naif” and “Domino”. It’s pop that even those who don’t listen to pop like.

At his side, in “Malifesto”, there are Antonio Filippelli and Daniel Bestonzo, former producers of Levante and Annalisa. And among the collaborators, alongside the British Shridhar and Sidh Solanki (“How it will be”) and the Belgian Shameboy (“Formidable”), there are Italian authors such as the now very successful Colapesce and Dimartino (together they signed “Telefonami”, a potential next single extract from the album, while Dimartino also co-signs “Peccato origine” and “A mani bare”), Leo Pari, Luca Serpenti, Congorock (used to ranging from Baby K to Bloody Beetroots – there is his hand in the same “Ti piaci like this” and in “Without blushing”) and the “usual” Pacifico and Alessandra Flora.

The cover of “Together with you I’m not there anymore” which closes the album, more like a bonus track than a real epilogue, as well as being a tribute to Caterina Caselli (it was she who discovered her when she was still singing in the theatre) it is also a tribute to Paolo Conte and Vito Pallavicini, who were champions of pop art (from “Azzurro” to “Mexico e Nuove” passing through the 1968 success of the former Casco d’Oro): it is in that way to make songs that Malika tries to return to (last night, as a guest on Propaganda Live, she sang a cover of “Maledetta Primavera”, Loretta Goggi’s 1981 Sanremo success).

But it is above all in the sound of the songs that the singer tries to make a difference, in her own small way.

The arrangements mostly revolve around the sound of the Hofner bass (which recreates a dancefloor atmosphere even in the living room at home) and that of the piano, keyboards and synthesizers, possibly embellished with Mellotron and strings. Very few electric guitars, while more space is given to acoustic stringed instruments such as the classical guitar, the ukulele, the acoustic guitar and the AutoHarp. A nice mix between analogue and electronic made mainly through tight drums recorded with very few microphones, filtered in tape simulators and drum machines such as the Linn or CR-78, which create the rhythmic carpet. It’s easier to listen to it. Too sophisticated? I wish pop records were all written and sounded like this.