Lorenzo 2002: Il Quinto Mondo

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From its very title, Il Quinto Mondo signals Jovanotti's further involvement with the world at large, both musically and thematically, already in evidence in his previous two records. If 1997's L'Albero represented Jovanotti's attempt to introduce South African elements into his music, Il Quinto Mondo can be said to do the same thing with Latin-American music, particularly from Cuba and Brazil. Ubiquitous Latin jazz piano and horn arrangements, samba airs, son and salsa carga y descarga patterns, background vocals in Spanish and Portuguese, as well as percussion by Ernestico Rodríguez (other guests include Carlinhos Brown, Jarabe de Palo, and Kenny Garrett) are all added to Jovanotti's trademark hip-hop vocal delivery. A few of these extended pieces are quite good, particularly the two-part "Salato" suite, but ultimately the album and many individual songs are far too long for their own good, and become tiring after a while. Lyrically, this is one of Jovanotti's most politically minded releases, with at least half the songs denouncing with self-righteous anger the disparities between the First and Third World in a globalized economy, often paired with urgent ecological concerns. The best example is probably the controversial first single, "Salvami," the subject of a media debate in Italy due to its subject matter and its saturating promotional campaign. Curiously, the album's outstanding tracks are the ones devoid of any world music influences, such as the aforementioned "Salvami," an out-and-out rock song based on an elemental guitar riff, and most especially, the lilting country ballad "Ti Sposerò." If with 1999's "Per Te" Jovanotti had managed the improbable task of singing about his first child without sounding schmaltzy, here he repeats the feat with marriage in a superbly delicate manner. The true gem of the record, "Ti Sposerò," is one of Jovanotti's greatest songs, and is alone worth the price of this otherwise patchy effort. Il Quinto Mondo was a number one record in Italy.

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