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In the fairly conservative context of the Italian music industry, there was a time when Jovanotti was perennially considered a new kid on the block. Such is certainly no longer the case, and the release of Safari, his 11th studio album in a 20-year career, only confirms Jovanotti's firmly consolidated place in mainstream Italian pop music. Traces of his early rapper identity still remain in his vocal delivery, although he is also singing much more than before. The music, however, rarely depends on hip-hop beats anymore. Over the past decade or so, Jovanotti's music has progressively taken two different directions: either drawing its inspiration from world music beats from Africa or Latin America (Safari's guests include Sergio Mendes and Sly & Robbie) or simply getting closer to standard pop/rock songwriting. Perhaps the most surprising element of Safari is the length of time one has to wait to listen to a trademark Jovanotti pop-rap song. The first three tracks, for instance, are the acoustic guitar-driven ballad and hit single "Fango" (with guest Ben Harper), the straightforward rock number "Mezzogiorno," and, most unexpected of all, an absolutely straightforward romantic piano ballad, "A Te." Considering Jovanotti's rebel persona and his modern reinvention as an itinerant world peace fighter à la Manu Chao, it is hard to associate him with a song that sounds like an adult contemporary staple. Yet what is most astonishing about "A Te" is not its alarming resemblance to MOR, but the fact that it is far and away the best song in the album, the newest entry in Jovanotti's classic love song catalog. The rest of Safari is not bad, either, but it seldom matches the intensity of the first three or four tracks. Jovanotti albums used to have quite distinctive highs and lows: absolute classics, good songs, and a few duds. His latter-day production is more uniformly consistent and much more carefully arranged (the "professional" adjective also comes to mind), but it consists mostly of songs of the middle category. If unspectacular, this newfound consistency certainly has not hurt Jovanotti's popularity. On the contrary, as with his previous three records, Safari went straight to number one in the Italian charts. Safari was simultaneously released in four different formats: as a 12-track CD; a limited-edition CD with three bonus tracks, and a DVD; a 14-track digital download, and a USB pen drive.

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