Jovanotti

Backup 1987-2012: Il Best

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Jovanotti had not released a proper greatest-hits collection in Italy since 1995's outstanding Lorenzo 1990-1995. In the meantime, he had continued to make records which typically hogged the Italian rankings' top spot for months, as he restlessly tried out new stylistic directions and, much to his own surprise, eventually became one of the country's quintessential pop cultural icons of the late 20th and early 21st century. By the time his career reached the 25-year mark, Jovanotti decided it was the right moment to put his house (or rather, his PC files) in exhaustive order with the aptly titled Backup 1987-2012. Released in late 2012 just in time to entice hordes of Christmas shoppers, Backup is a colossal anthology project offered in three physical and two digital editions. The standard two-CD edition (also available digitally) contains 39 tracks, and could be considered an expanded version of Lorenzo 1990-1995, as it includes all of his hits as well as a couple of new tracks. The deluxe four-CD edition (again, also available for download) ups the ante to 75 tracks, while the limited Box Edition simply goes bananas: 123 tracks on seven CDs, an 8-GB pen drive with everything Jovanotti ever recorded in mp3 format (about 600 tracks), two DVDs, the first with all of Jovanotti's influential video clips and the second compiling all of his TV appearances (offering an involuntary but revealing overview of contemporaneous Italian TV history in the process), a photo album, an autobiographical 100-page book in which Jovanotti tells his own story, plus of course the artifact, the box, which is an object d'art in itself.

As for the music, the first three discs of both the four- and the seven-CD editions are the same and essentially improve on the two-CD version, adding another 20 tracks culled from Jovanotti's studio discography. Two things should be noted here: contrary to Lorenzo 1990-1995, Jovanotti's first two albums are also (if scantily) represented here. While the first time around Jovanotti was still striving to be taken seriously and thus trying to disassociate himself from his juvenile efforts, now he can comfortably afford to embrace his early novelty hits, such as "Gimme Five" or "La Mia Moto," with a wide grin and a wink that all of his fans will share -- some doubtlessly with a tear in the eye and memories of adolescence lost. Secondly, since Jovanotti's weakest point has always been his lack of editing abilities, his albums are usually cluttered with unnecessary tracks. Streamlining his output to three discs, this compilation stands as the definitive portrait of the artist. Fortunately, it has always been fairly simply to tell his killer material from his filler, so there is very little room for debate about controversial inclusions or scandalous exclusions -- a lament may arise over the absence of only two fine album tracks: “Mario" and "Libera L'anima."

The remaining material of the Box Edition is divided as follows: CD-4 includes rare studio and live tracks and CD-5 compiles Jovanotti's collaborations with other artists such as Benny Benassi, Jorge Drexler, Sergio Mendes, Ornella Vanoni, Cesare Cremonini, J-Ax, Ligabue, and Piero Pelù, Jarabe de Palo, and Amadou & Mariam. CDs 6 and 7, the only ones that can be considered throwaways, contain remixed versions of Jovanotti's many hits. As for the Deluxe Edition, the fourth and last CD includes a mix of CDs 4-5 of the Box Edition, i.e. the crop of the rarities and duets, but no remixes. Throughout the entire project, Jovanotti scatters nine previously unreleased songs (all fine, none essential), often at the beginning and end of each individual CD. These all sound like recent efforts, conceivably either brand new songs or outtakes from Safari and Ora, and are typically fairly eclectic, from the electro single "Tensione Eolutiva," the folky "Estate," and the piano ballad "Terra Degli Uomini" to the swinging "Tu Mi Porti Su" and the closer "Rimbalza," in which Jovanotti goes back to rap (and the reason he began making music 25 years ago to begin with). In summary, regardless of the edition of choice, Backup 1987-2012 is a superlative encapsulation of one of the biggest names in Italian pop music. Better still, considering the high quality of his most recent work, this is an artist who still has plenty to give. Expect an even more monumental anthology in 2037.

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